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4 Reasons You Should Encourage, Foster and Harness Dissent on Your Blog

Guest Post: Muhammad Saleem is a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites.

Over the past couple of years I have had many dozens of incredibly negative comments on my posts which I have often marked as spam and not posted. After I do so, I often receive a follow-up comment from the same person saying ‘I’m sure you will censor this comment too,’ which I usually do. This is not because I don’t like people disagreeing with me, but it is because most of these people who are ‘disagreeing’ usually say things in their comments such as ‘shut the %#@! up you terrorist’ or use different words to the same effect.

This phenomenon can easily be explained by the following graphic from the penny arcade:

Disagreement

That said I really appreciate anyone who takes the time out to comment on my thoughts (regardless of whether they agree or disagree with me), and think that we should never underestimate the importance of truly legitimate dissent for the following 4 reasons:

1. Disagreement makes you a better writer

If your community continues to agree with whatever you say, you don’t grow as a writer and don’t get exposed to other ideas or different views on matters. By giving serious consideration to other people’s disagreements with you, you can broaden the scope of your writing, incorporate multiple viewpoints, write more thoroughly, and ultimately improve your unique value proposition to your audience.

2. Disagreement makes your community think

A group of sheep is not a community. Most of us write because we want to comment on new ideas and have conversations rather than simply have people agree with us. By encouraging dissent on your blog you are encouraging each community member to think for himself or herself and write their opinion on the matter rather than just echoing your thoughts. Eventually you help your entire community’s intellectual capital grow.

3. Disagreement makes for better conversations

One-sided conversations are no fun for the author and they are no fun for the community. If everyone is agreeing with you, you might as well turn the comments off and call it a day. Multiple, opposing viewpoints offer colorful conversation for everyone and ensure that there is enough debate for people to want to come back for more. This not only gives people to return to the same post again and again, but these opposing viewpoints also create opportunities for further posts and more conversations on previously covered topics.

4. Disagreement increases engagement

Quite contrary to polarizing people, disagreements can be a very powerful tool that can draw an even larger audience in. When people realize that there is room for them to have their say, be heard, and be correct in their own right, more people are likely to participate. People are often hesitant to do so because either they feel there is no room for contrarian viewpoints, or because they feel that if they disagree, they must be wrong.

Ultimately, by encouraging and fostering dissent on your blog you can improve conversations and increase community engagement, and by making your community think and harnessing their collective power you can improve your own writing as well.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. arshad says:

    i agree with u . disagreement definitely leads to the ultimate development of the bloggers and the blog .

    hey , darren — it seems u r posting frequently these days — i find the rss updating regularly nowadays .whats the matter , pal ?

    its nice to see ur feed subscribers increasing day by day .

    congrats .

  2. Wonderful points, Darren! For those of us who like to avoid conflict.. this is a challenge. *=) However, it is all very true. Good stuff!

  3. tanya says:

    I run a food reviews site and as you can imagine opinions vary and so do the comments. I welcome different opinions, but if the tone of the comment is derogatory, I don’t hesitate to delete it.

    That said, I remember getting a borderline “you must be nuts if you think that” type comment, and instead of deleting it I made it part of the next review which was on a similar product. The same person then replied and was a bit apologetic for the harsh tone of his previous comment. So I guess some people just get caught up in the heat of the moment and 1 click of a send button later, it’s published.

  4. Great post Muhammad. I also think it’s great to have disagreement on posts. One of my articles upset some people and they had many opinions to express. Obviously these were my most commented on articles.

    -Andrew

  5. Yeah its good to have some disagreement within the blog comments but it isn’t nice when the tone just goes downhill as you mention in the first part of your post – that sort of thing seems to be particularly bad within the social media circles which is why I suspect you get a lot of it on your blog Muhammad.

    It would be nice to figure out exactly how to get a good debate going without it turning into a silly flame war.

  6. difference of opinions is what you will always get especially in my view if you post a linkbait piece which offers an opinion and asks a question

    and debate is good ,

  7. Lucy Dee says:

    The blog author and the tone of the post (or the “feel” of the blog) usually creates the community organically. On occasion, you’ll get trolls.

    But I’ve always been told that you know how popular you are by how much dissent and backlash (negative comments) you are receiving. It’s a good way to measure the size of your audience and your readership. One negative comment for every 1000 readers. (That’s a guestimation, but a testament to your blog reach.)

  8. Controversy is for sure a great way to get people talking, but it can also be bad so be careful how you use it!

  9. Sumesh says:

    I like #3, 4. Especially, #4 has helped me personally. But just one question – wouldn’t new readers be influenced by rogue comments? If we choose not to respond to such comments, new readers might think that the crooks have a point, and if we do respond, it might be understood as being overly aggressive and rude. New readers are a fragile group, you know.

    @ Terra Anderson: This post was by Muhammed Saleem, not Darren.

  10. You can write new posts to better clarify your point when someone discagrees with you. Disagreement gives me more material.

  11. I totally agree with your disagreement policy Darren. And not too long ago, I had the opportunity to practice everything you said practically, with me giving one of my local blog syndication networks a really negative review.

    But the funny thing is, I allowed all the comments that didn’t need censorship.

    If anyone’s interested, they can read the post + the comments here.

    A great thought provoking article as always.

  12. LMAO at the dickwad cartoon!!! :D

  13. Maria Rivera says:

    I am a new blogger, but I am not new to “dissent.” I am still waiting for it to develop in my blog which is fairly new. I think dissent is good as it pumps you up in whatever you are doing… whether it be blogging or in corporate world (as in my case).

    Very good post.

    Maria of bloggingmama.com

  14. Black Zedd says:

    It’s easy to encourage dissentif you’re writing something worth discussing. But if you’re writing post that doesn’t, like jokes or humorous writings, then there’s really nothing to infuse disagreements.

    Is there any walkaround for this?

  15. And yet.. people still censor comments they don’t like – and I don’t mean “dickwad” type comments, but simple and quite cordial disagreement.

    I’ll only censor if it’s pointless. For example, if someone leaves “This sucks!” as a comment, I’ll probably delete it. But if they say “This sucks!” and then go on to explain WHY they have such a negative opinion, I’ll leave it.

    Fortunately I don’t get much of that :-)

  16. Buy Website says:

    It is one thing to have a point of view and another to argue for the sake of arguing (or getting attention).

    I don’t mind comments that question my posts or challenge my writing. But I do get annoyed when someone attacks just to get attention.

    Michael

  17. suresh says:

    Not accepting the author view is fine.

    Expressing it in a polite way will be nice practice.

    Hatred can not be accepted in any way .

  18. Mike King says:

    I guess NOT to many people are taking your advice here. I was hoping to see some people NOT agreeing with you. Oh well. The part I don’t agree with is the cartoon to start off the post, inappropriate and not needed to make your point. May that was intentional considering the topic? Are you messing with us?

  19. Tom Beaton says:

    A disagreement as part of a conversation is fine – infact its great! It is of course very different to people just being obscene and rejecting what you have to say.

    You dont want everyone to disagree really. That often means you were wrong to start with.

  20. I strongly disagree–dissent is always bad. OK, just being ironic; I actually think a little dissent is good. I’m not a fan of overly sanitized “let’s all love each other no matter what” environments. I think a little disagreement keeps things interesting, as long as people keep it respectful.

  21. I *love* the idea of writing dissenting blog posts, mainly because I like to challenge other people’s views on… well, everything. However, I do think you have to pick your battles with dissenting – there’s a difference between being creatively controversial vs. a dissenting view hyped up and overblown for the sake of causing a stir. In addition, some topics appear to get a LOT of dissent no matter who decides to blog about it (and we all know topics like that almost always lead to comment wars and Madness).

  22. Andrew G.R. says:

    Agreed! There are too many sheep out there. They are easily identified as the folks who write, “Great post Darren!” – even when Darren hasn’t written the article.

    My controversial posts can land dozens of comments, while the run of the mill stuff only garners a few.

    Don’t be afraid to disagree with your audience, just don’t be such a dick where they head for the hills.

  23. Ashish Mohta says:

    I agree to this. Controversies are serious things where ppl get down to talk. If you talk all good they know its all good and few comdown but if you a good thing is not that good you will see how people come down to get in war with you .

  24. I disagree with everything you said.

    JK.

    Here’s a question. I’ve seen someone come into a comment section and post up dissent. Then often one of a few responses:

    - blog fans deride the dissenter endlessly
    - the author makes a long counterpoint that has a smackdown feel to it
    - the author concedes way too much, effectively giving up their previous position
    + the author engages the poster, still disagreeing, but in a fashion that encourages further participation

    How do you avoid the creating one of those first 3 situations? How does one encourage the dialogue to continue?

  25. Abhijeet Mukherjee says:

    Muhammad…I agree with you when you say that dissent should be encouraged on the blog…however it takes a good amount of courage to post the comments and display them when they are overwhelmingly negative.And thats the test which not everyone can pass.

  26. You know, I’ve actually written an article about dealing with criticism

    I wrote because on another blog of mine, I received some harsh, hateful blacklash laced with explicitives from a “d*ckwad”

    I deleted the comment not because I can’t handle heat but because his criticism was not constructive in anyway not to mention the lot of the comment was meant to hurt my feelings, not to contribute to the discussion.

    Controversies are useful for discussion but I excercise my right as the author to censor the unrelated nonsense. That person can vent elsewhere.

    Otherwise I’m fine with a strong disagreement from someone backed up with his own reasons.

  27. Dr. Pete says:

    Related to #2, disagreement makes me think. Every once in a while, someone takes issue with a point I made, and I realize they were right, and I learn something from the discussion. For me, one of the appeals of blogging is to learn more about my area of expertise, both by research and engaging with readers.

  28. Ty Brown says:

    Disagreement can be good. I do get a lot of people who comment on my youtube videos that disagree in a nasty way. I always delete those because it isn’t respectful but if someone respectfully disagrees I don’t have a problem with that.

  29. Tanya Ryno says:

    I publish my own blog and my audience ‘gets me’ so I don’t find many derogatory comments, even when I do push the limit. However, that said, I also write for Weblogs and the AOL audience does not find my humor funny at all. I once received a comment that said “AOL must be hiring trained pigs these days.” Which, btw, made me fall off my chair laughing. And another person started an attack against me, which was followed by many supporters (for her) stating that I was a hater of mother’s because I simply ended a post by saying “now if only I could get my mother to stop calling”. Mind you … I am a mother!

    There is a difference between a disagreement and an attack … and what I quickly learned is that you need to know your audience, especially when they have no sense of humor at all!

  30. Ian Denny says:

    This post made me stop and think. But ironically to agree and endorse it.

    I really enjoy blogging – but more as a hobby. And the mutual back-slapping that goes on is quite nice.

    But maybe I’m not alone in thinking “there must be more to it than that”.

    It’s kind of an unsated hunger for more, but lacks a clear definition of that lack.

    And I think this one word defines it – DEBATE. Not ranting at each other that you get in some blogs. Although some of that can be fun, it’s more entertainment than anything with real substance.

    Probably in the category of humour.

    Debate has disagreement in its foundation stones. And a lively debate is like a conversation you’d have with your mates down the pub.

    It’s pretty dull if you completely agree on everything. It’s good to have your own opinion endorsed, but much more fun when you disagree. Unless of course you get sloshed and end up in a fist-fight at the end of the night (which I haven’t done [yet]).

    Apologies in advance for this next bit. I only know of “problogger” via Cath Lawson. And I may have been here before, but not regularly.

    But I don’t know where you are from unless I navigate away from this comment and lose the momentum.

    But I’m from Liverpool in the UK. Home fo the Beatles. And in many corners (but not all) of the globe famour for football or rather soccer as it’s referred to elsewhere.

    There are two soccer teams, Everton and Liverpool FC (Football Club).

    To find agreement between two opposing supporters is as rare as having a disagreement with a Dodo in the local pub.

    But to have an agressive argument is equally as rare.

    It’s good-humoured but rational debate with disagreement as the under-pinning foundation.

    It’s healthy. It’s fun. And as an Everton supporter, long in the shadow of the success of Liverpool, right now, we’re enjoying the debates now even more.

    For years, Everton have been in Liverpool’s shadow. And that has developed some incredibly creative debates from the Everton side – i.e. how can we salvage some pride and point out differences between the two when there is little foundation?

    Right now, Everton are doing amazingly well, sitting above our rivals in the league despite a lack of investment of tens of millions that our arch-rivals have enjoyed.

    And this article made me think. Should I stop the back-slapping? Should I ask the 3 or so regular readers of my blog to stop being polite and disagree?

    And the answer is “YES”.

    But then again, to enter into the spirit of THIS debate, a counter-argument which shows you are talking a load of dung could easily be put forward.

    Especially as I’m a creative Evertonian, seasoned in disagreeing without real foundation.

    But I’ll leave that for another day…

  31. Jul says:

    I just wish I could get a dissenter with something half-intelligent to say. As it is, they usually leave comments on the order of “Meat meat meat meat I love eating meat.” (I write a vegetarian blog.) Boring!

  32. @Jul

    I’m sure you should delete most of them, but every now and then you might let one through and have some fun with them, like:

    “Yumm.. burnt dead stuff definitely is appealing! And who cares about health: you’re going to die anyway, right? “

  33. MR says:

    Most importantly disagreement causes heated discussions and comment wars, thus more hits! :-D

  34. An interesting post, and i love the angle you took with this. i haven’t seen posts on this matter before.

    Me personally, i will approve negative comments, but if they make things personal, use swear words etc, i think you have every right as a blogger to keep your site clean, and to deny such comments.

    Thats just how i see it.

  35. Sonia Simone says:

    My blog just starting to get some negative comments. I am gamely trying to see it as a sign of growth! My personality is pathologically averse to conflict, but I think it’s important to open the conversation for any reasonably respectful point of view. So I just writhe and deal with it.

    The annoying bit is when someone comes in and reads about every tenth word, then posts a criticism of what you didn’t say.

    I will say, I’m actually amazed at how civil 99.9% of blog commenters are. I came from The WELL, which is a very tough, very unforgiving environment. The blogosphere is a bunch of lovable kittens in comparison. :)

  36. Sampath says:

    I totally agree with you. I could make many of my mistakes from negative comments I received. I think negative comments are the secret for our success if you can handle them with care and patience.

  37. That’s a very good point. Sometimes, you might feel passionate about what you write and that could lead to being defensive if you don’t want to hear an opposing point of view.

    If a dissenter is really being rude after a while they’ll settle down and realize you’re not playing ball. But you have to refrain from getting in the pigpen.

    On the other hand, a good disenting point migth help you view your point from a different angle. Maybe even change your mind.

    If wouldn’t mind a dissenter. I just don’t have any readers….

  38. Muhammed:

    Not long ago I received a bunch of negative attacks on a story I had written about an experience I had in aviation (I’m a deaf pilot – yes DEAF, believe it or not). 99 percent of them included name-calling and other put downs. Are you saying those should be allowed? If so, I disagree.

    However, I do agree that having dissenting comments, if provided respectfully, is GREAT. The question is, how do you encourage this?

  39. Alison says:

    I got a couple of negative comments on a recent post which made some good points – but what I didn’t like was that both of them ended by telling me “Don’t post your opinion as facts”. Which seemed strange to me – if I’m posting something as a fact, I’ll be sure to make that clear, and to back it up with statistics, research, quotes from experts, etc. If I’m writing about a topic I believe in based on my experiences alone, I’ll post my opinion and offer my advice, but I don’t expect anybody to take it as a fact . . . In any case, it’s made me think that when I write those opinion posts, I might need to start with a disclaimer.

  40. Only the constructive criticism type of dissent is beneficial. When people just use swear words for the sake of it then it’s a waste publishing their comment. So I wouldn’t really recommend encouraging dissent, in general. Because no matter what we say, we never like negative comments even if they have the potential to change our lives…

  41. Yes, I do agree with you but dissent is sometimes good. In the long run………well?……….. no.

  42. cheryl klein says:

    I read and found your style of writing very refreshing and I think it is great advice, just what I need right now, to help me stay motivated and improve what I writing. A month ago I didn’t even get the concept of what a blog was. I am open to your ideas and will experiment.
    Thanks ,
    Cheryl Klein

  43. Donna Hammett-Tooker says:

    For some people, the right to be contrary is their personal way to upset the applecart and fit into the conversation. I have been reading a lot of blogs and posts on those blogs which address “fitting into” the world of the blog host but this is the first I have read about being controversial.
    I have joined a couple of networking sites (Gather.Com and Eons.Com) to enter the cyberworld of age-appropriate (Eons – over 50) and focus (Gather – writers, poets and photographers) and Gather is undergoing a trust loss phase in which one site member has submitted another member’s photo into a contest as their work. Now, many are pulling their submissions offline to prevent another such incident. But the bulk of the blogging is now centered upon loss of trust, false representation of words and pictures, false representation of online friendship and generally the darker end of human emotional connections.
    Blogging on most sites is an affirmation of the site and its members but to set up one as a potential battlefield seem to be asking for so much confrontation that it might spiral too far from friendly differences of opinion to all-out confrontational writings only allowing the worst of the participants to be amped into the areas of racism, ageism, sexism and all of the things that make coexistence less likely.
    One person I have read recently, James Brausch, describes the blogging ettiquette of commenting as the same process as visiting someone in his/her home. You either look for signs of expected behavior in the other comments or ask for guidelines so the process is smooth and less rife with potential pitfalls and uncomfortable moments. Always being in agreement is not only boring but mind-killing but controversy can have the same affect if there is a continuous failure to ever produce a positive response.

  44. Sir Ventalot says:

    You probably won’t post this but I disagree.

  45. Disagreement usually leads to many to and fro commenting.

    Fueding is a great way to build traffic!

  46. Christi says:

    I found this especially true when I was blogging for a mortgages website. Things that I said about the current mortgage and real estate conditions (it was 2005 at that point!) really created a stir – because the topic struck a nerve.

    You can’t be afraid of striking that nerve in people, especially if you are speaking (or blogging) the truth. But even in things that you may need to learn – negative comments can be helpful.

    It’s the beauty of opinion – if we all had the same opinion, none of us would grow. As Darren said, those negative comments can make you grow as a writer, too – but sometimes you have to be willing to listen to what the comment is really saying in order to grow.

  47. Keith says:

    I agree totally…it is one’s ability to disagree that makes one able to maintain a position on an issue. If we “flounder” then what we say has little validity. Great article, and many thanks for sharing. Regards, Keith J, Author “365 Great Affirmations”

  48. As Caroline mentioned “It would be nice to figure out exactly how to get a good debate going without it turning into a silly flame war”

    I actually think she and i accomplished just that recently, we disagreed , stated our positions and we are still friends, it could happen people , it could happen