February 12, 2007

The Fast Company Blog: Deleting Negative Comments

I've enjoyed reading Fast Company since the go-go internet days of the late 1990s.

During the past year, I've been an avid subscriber to their blog.

Today, Fast Company wrote about personalizing Kleenex tissue boxes. In fact, the writer was critical of the idea.

I found the criticism unfair, because Fast Company generally supports marketing innovation, promoting those who try new things. So, for the first time ever, I wrote a comment on the Fast Company Blog. I stated that I found it unfair that Fast Company pushes companies toward marketing innovation, only to then bash innovation when it doesn't meet Fast Company expectations. I did not use profanity, I simply used similar text to what I describe here.

For the next hour, my comment was listed first. And then, it mysteriously disappeared.

I guess my mistake was to criticize Fast Company. Maybe if I had discussed whether the actual strategy was good or bad, my comments would not have been deleted.

Now that I know that Fast Company does not encourage an open discussion among its loyal readers (a decade of loyalty, on my behalf), I have chosen to unsubscribe from their RSS feed. I'm certain they won't miss me.

This also causes me to feel uncomfortable about the motives of other business blogs. Who knows how often comments are deleted, all in the spirit of promoting a 'conversation' that is perceived to be open and honest? Because this problem also happened when I left comments with a Seattle-based business blogging organization, it could be more widespread than my naive mind perceives it to be.

Am I stupid to allow all comments, positive or negative? Am I stupid to leave comments on other websites that may be critical? What do you think the right strategy is, brand protection or open commentary regardless of the content?

UPDATE: 10:41am PST: A reply from Fast Company suggests the omission was part of a spam filter. Let's take them at their word, and appreciate the fact they responded to me in a positive way. Here's what they said:

Hi Kevin, Comments are never removed based on content. If the comment posted, then disappeared, it was inadvertently deleted. I'm so sorry about that! We welcome diverse opinions and would never remove something because it was critical of the magazine. I hope that you will re-post the comment. Again, I'm very sorry about the inconvenience. We get a lot of spam, and it sounds like your comment was accidentally removed as part of an overzealous spam purge. Best wishes, Leslie.