To comment or not to comment?

The unwritten rules for commenting online.

Having your say and engaging in comments online can be rewarding, but if you are not used to doing so it can feel awkward. What can you say? When should you not bother?

Here's a simple visual concept to help you get the most out of online discussions and understand the unwritten rules for commenting on people's posts.

Lets make a graph!

And include time ...

The X axis represents time. The left corner is when the post, the one which you are considering commenting on, was created. You have discovered the post somewhere in its journey along the arrow of time.


The Y axis represents value. Specifically the value of YOUR COMMENT to the person who made the post.

If you do not know what constitutes "value" to poster then you should keep your comment on topic. A post is not an invitation for you to start an unrelated conversation. It's an invitation for you to comment on the subject of the post.

Minimum value

The "minimum value" is the hurdle your comment needs to clear to not be considered spam. The height of that hurdle will vary and is set by the post owner. Personally comments that fall below the minimum value for me are comments such as: "Hi" or "First". 

Note: all "unwelcome" comments are spam. 

It is not something commenters have any say in. The post owner decides what they consider to be spam.
  • The value of the first comments are key for setting the tone for any following conversation. 
  • People will raise or lower the height of their minimum value hurdle depending on the post topic. Frivolous posts: low hurdle. Serious posts: higher minimum comment hurdle. 

Minimum comment value over time

The height of the minimum value hurdle increases over time.


Early comments need less value to be welcome. On this graph anywhere and anywhen above the line is welcome. The nearer you are to the post publish time the lower the commenting point of entry. 

Comments which fall below the line: below the minimum comment value, at any point in time, are unwelcome. 

Value shift

A comment with the same value: i.e. the same comment, may be welcome early after the post was made, but the same value comment would be unwelcome at a much later time.

The same is true in real life: we wish people "Happy Birthday" near their birthday, not three months afterwards. 

Putting this into practice.

It's easy to keep this graph in mind so you can map where you feel your comment falls. Comments should have enough value. If not move on, don't comment.

Tip: If you discover a great post late on and wish to interact with it try sharing it with a comment instead!


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