I've been meditating lately on the topic of comment moderation, chiefly in regard to blogs (though obviously, not this one, as comments are disabled due to its nature), and chiefly, because the notion of comments seems to be of questionable value.
It seems to me that the chief value of comments in social media is giving site visitors the opportunity to contribute to the conversation. A "good " comment suggests a revision to the content of the page that will ultimately improve the quality of a site, or suggests a point of view that the author may not have considered. I'm generally glad to get these comments, though there are still a handful of kooks and trolls in the woodwork who are either amusing themselves or trying to provoke an absurd reaction.
Sadly, the reaction I get when I post such a remark to another site is generally less than grateful. It tends to be along the lines of "how dare you disagree" - or at best "gee, thanks" from someone who doesn't intend to consider what I've attempted to contribute. That could be in the nature of blogs, in which entries are dated and, once a person clicks "post," they feel that their job is over, and that the content will be preserved as written as a historical document, regardless of any errors or omissions. Which is probably the reason I seldom bother, anymore.
The majority of comments I see on blogs are flattery - which say "what a good post you've written," and add nothing at all to the topic. My sense is that people like to get praise as a reward for their work, and consider the praise of others to be a credential for their ideas, which is probably the reason that so many posts have a long queue of hollow praise in which any substantive comment is well buried.
When a company does this, it flows from the same spring, but my sense is that companies are more cautious than people, and people are more critical of companies. A corporate blog that contains only positive comments (and excludes any unflattering remark) seems untrustworthy and disingenuous. I don't think that it's any different when it comes to personal blogs, but we're more forgiving of vanity when it comes to individuals.
In blogs where comments are accepted, I've taken to rejecting comments that contain only hollow praise. There was a brief period of time when it seemed to me that people were posting positive remarks without even having read the blog entry, because they expected that I would be eager to publish praise of myself - and because most blog comments contain a link back to their sites, flattering others can be an effective form of self-promotion.
The problem is that, when you weed out all the spam, there doesn't seem to be very much at all left over. In my "convenience sample" of the comments I've received in the past week, 72% were either outright spam, or "good post" spam. Looking around at the other blogs I follow, including a number of topic-driven blogs, I have the sense that the proportion is much higher - though admittedly, these are only the "approved" comments, after the authors have decided to weed out comments they didn't feel merited posting (though if they consider hollow praise to be worthwhile, I'd have to question whether their judgment is worth considering).
It may be a while before I get around to coming to a firm conclusion on whether this practice is worthwhile - but for now, I'm lumping hollow praise in with the rest of the spam. I expect a few people may feel offended at being ignored, but if they have nothing of value to say, and are just looking to get a link to their site by flattering me, perhaps it's not high-value traffic anyway.
And so, my sense is that I have more thinking to do and more data to collect - and the topic of comment moderation is to be continued ... sometime.