Paul Krugman, in his capacity of Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times, recently felt the need to remind his readers to stay on topic when commenting on his posts.
The admonition to stay on topic is found in every article on the subject of web comment etiquette.
etiquette: the customary code of polite behavior in society; good manners.
“Stay on topic” is one of the five basic rules offered by the editors at WordPress.com:
1. Be specific.
2. Don’t leave a link.
3. Stay on topic.
4. Be nice.
5. Keep it brief.
In Online Community Management for Dummies, Deborah Ng offers a longer list of rules; “stay on topic” is in there, as are these two useful recommendations:
Practice respectful disagreement, not personal attacks.
Be brief and don’t turn every comment into your own personal blog post.
In her article “Are You a Blog Hog?”, blogging coach Molly Greene gives this definition of a “blog hog”:
You might be a blog hog if you hijack someone else’s blog and use your comment to toot your own horn, discuss your accomplishments ad infinitum without being asked, hog the thread, dominate the conversation vs. join it, or take it upon yourself to jump in and reply to every question or comment other visitors make.
She follows this definition with specific remedies for bloghogitis. Two of her recommendations are to tailor comment length to the type of post being responded to, and to avoid turning the comment into a lengthy rewrite of what the author of the blog has already written.
Although the term “blog hog” isn’t used, Leigh Alexander seems to be describing one in an article about the kinds of comment people leave:
The Person Who Wants To Talk About Something Else Entirely. This individual typically devotes several paragraphs to a personal anecdote tangentially related to a sentence or two in the article. They seem oblivious to the fact that they are spiraling off into their own universe.
Readers’ comments are a valuable addition to a blog. The most appreciated comments are the good-natured ones that focus on the post topic.