I’m Considering Requiring A Website URL on All PFRE Blog Comments

April 2nd, 2015

URLonCommentsI’ve been considering requiring all comments on the PFRE blog include a website URL. This inclination has evolved over many years. The fundamental issue for me is anonymous commenting. Currently when leaving a comment you must supply a email address but other readers can’t see that e-mail address, only I can see it. Comments by people that supply a URL on their comment allow any reader to just click on the name and it takes you to the commenters website. The current PFRE WordPress theme doesn’t have a way to force commenters to enter a website URL. Here are some of the reasons I don’t appreciate anonymous commenting:

  1. If no one knows anything about you are then the natural tendency is to be too unrestrained in your comments. Anonymity enables trollish behavior. Trollish behavior isn’t a huge issue on the PFRE blog. In the course of 8 years and going on 5,000 comments I can only remember about 3 or 4 issues that I took any action regarding comments. Also think anonymity allows people to be less concerned that their claims and assertions be grounded in facts.
  2. When someone makes assertions or gives advice I like to see their website. A website says a lot about you, particularly when you are talking about photography. A website establishes important credibility, context and background to comments. Everyone can easily see the difference between an accomplished professional and a newbie BSing
  3. Several times readers have requested that I give them a commenters e-mail address so they can get in contact with them and discuss something in more detail. For people that supply a website URL there’s usually a way through the website to contact the person because that URL is visible to everyone. So a website URL would enable discussions outside the blog comments.
  4. I think that anyone commenting on the PFRE blog should have a website, even if you are just beginning in this business. Websites are trivial to create and free and there are even social network sites that work as a website. If you don’t have a website, you are hiding. Comments from people that are hiding have very little credibility.

Given all this, I’ve asked Cristi, my WordPress mechanic to look into modifying the PFRE blog so that anyone commenting must supply a website URL on the comment. Cristi says, “it’s easy to do.” But I’d like to get more user feedback before I have Cristi implement this feature.

Yes, I know there are some that won’t comment if they can’t be anonymous. But, I can live with that. I think that conversations here on PFRE will be much more valuable if people aren’t anonymous. Currently, about 75% of commenters put a website URL on their comments. Many of the commenters that don’t fill-in the URL have a website because I can see it on their email domains.

I’d like to hear reader arguments for and against requiring a URL on comments. Even if you don’t have an argument please take the poll below. I’m not promising to follow your advice, I just want to understand readers point of view.

Update 4/5/2015: Thanks to everyone for all the input on this issue. I appreciate it! A lot of good discussion. I’ve decided to go ahead and have Cristi implement the feature to require a URL on comments. I’ll do a post explaining the feature more when I turn it on. Don’t know exactly when that will be. It’s up to Cristi’s schedule. I’ll also give a list of ways that anyone can easily create their own site if they don’t have one.

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49 Responses to “I’m Considering Requiring A Website URL on All PFRE Blog Comments”

  • What prevents someone from using an html that is not their own website?

  • I have been rather shocked to see the level of “comments” on open FaceBook discussions and happily have not seen such pitiful comments on this blog. I would support anything that precludes such eventuality and I for one have no problem in supplying my URL even if my site is far past needing a spring cleaning and updating. But then, I have little time to work on my site when I have my hands full with client’s work. I currently rely more on my Houzz.com as a portfolio than I do my website which is full mainly of my commercial advertising work rather than my real estate work. Another chore that awaits any spare time after learning how to make my Phantom2 fly properly. A long winded way of saying, yes, do it.

  • Yes, require a website url. The only downside I can see is a “commenter’s” website is either bogus or is trying to sell something totally unrelated, such as, “My pregnant cousin with three kids and a deadbeat husband made $10,000 last week working from home on her computer.”

    If you want an analogy, in days of old, one had to be very careful about what he said and even the way he said it, lest he be cut down by sword in public or a dark alley. This evolved to a more refined method of being forced to face a challenge with dueling pistols. What do you think the prevalence of trolling would be if you had to put up the Google Street View of your abode, as well as the verified street address, before penning commentary?

    BTW, I haven’t delved into RE photography yet, but I find a lot of the techniques used herein can be applied to other genres of photography; product, automobiles, automobile interiors and even architecture. PRFE is a must visit site.

  • @Devil – Nothing, I still can delete comments if I see fit and in the long run I thing the majority of people won’t do this.

  • Yes–require a URL.

    All of your points are valid, Larry, but I’d highlight #3. For those of us involved in the Flickr or Facebook groups, we can easily click on any other commenter/participant’s profile to learn more about them and get in touch if we’d like. As active and helpful as the blog comments can be here, it would be great to contact the other commenters with a click (and save you the admin hassle of trying to connect folks).

  • The only downside of this policy that I can see is that sometimes questions are asked here by people in response to a point being made by someone who knows what they are talking about. Not having a website would mean that question could not be asked and people of all skill levels will lose the benefit of that conversation.

  • I like the idea but agreeing with Rob, would not want to exclude a newbie because they don’t have their website up yet. I send a lot of newbies here and to the Flickr group to learn.

  • I’m torn on this..on one hand, folks have a right to be annoying, even anonymously. And Larry, you yourself have already stated, that you have only had 3 or 4 issues in 8 years (how many other sites can say that)..so is it really a pressing problem..? Since your “mechanic” has already told you its an easy fix, then it could easily be implemented if it should become a more prevalent issue. Since this is a very narrow genre of photography, buy its own nature, it does a good job of filtering out those who simply want to be annoying. For the most part, its only going to attract those who are either already doing it, or are looking for info on how to do it.

    On the other hand, the posters above make some very compelling arguments for having it..

    One only has to look at Facebook to see that having “real info” (i.e. names/profiles) really does nothing to quell “annoying” or even hurtful comments..

    “I still can delete comments if I see fit”…problem solved….

  • Why not? My only issue would be that you have fans of this blog that are not necessarily professional RE photographers. I am an agent and follow your blog because I am also an amateur photographer. I have no problem sharing my website, http://www.denboerhomesshowcase.com, just not sure your other readers will find it interesting. Love the blog and read every morning! Thanks!

  • I don’t think it should be required. If you find that any post doesn’t align with your TOS, you can delete them – as stated above. You’ll definitely get fewer responses and, maybe, miss out on something epiphanal.

    If you start getting a whole bunch of trolls, I could understand. If not, leave it free and open.

  • I really do N other think that is fair. Not everyone has their own website. A website cost money to setup and run. So basically you would be forcing your readers who can’t afford a website no way to leave a comment. There has to be a better way. Why not tell people if they want to leave a comment they have to share their email address. Most people have multiple email addresses so they can pick the one that works best for them. I look forward to interacting with fellow photographers through your website. If this change happens you will be loosing one reader for sure. I will not read an email that I can not leave a comment on.

  • I say yes to requiring a URL. I understand Rob & Carolyn’s concern, but Larry has that covered with point #4. These days who doesn’t belong some type of social media site? Sure, your 95 year old grandmother probably doesn’t….but, I doubt she is going to be following this blog either.

  • I’m in favor of the url. If a newbie wants to learn from PFRE, it’s worth it, they can just read the site, it’s free. The url requirement for commenting doesn’t prevent that. Otherwise, many websites can be had for free for posting photos and information and as mentioned, social media.

  • I am in favor of adding the website information. People who don’t have a dedicated website can still use their Facebook page or Houzz profile, and I agree any professional should have at least one of those.

    To be frank, this is YOUR website. If adding this feature makes it more convenient or helps your functionality, then do it. You have avid followers who will not let this small change be a deterrent.

  • I like being able to visit the websites of other photographers based upon their comments. It gives me a better idea of their work and helps me learn new things, too.

  • YES!
    One can only judge the value of someone’s opinion in the context of their work.
    If their work is impressive I’ll give much more credence to their opinion.

  • I think if you want to continue to grow this site it should be accessible for open two way communication between experienced shooters as well as newbies. Interactions on this site has been invaluable in my development as a photographer… even ones I did not contribute to.

    I am currently building out my website, but I do have other online presence including flickr and 500px. I think anyone who is serious or loves photography would have some online record of their photos for sharing. IMO, that should be enough to be invited to ask questions or comment.

    As long as the user would be allowed to link to their online presence in order to “validate” their identity it should be fine.

    Requiring people to have a dedicated website I think is too strict.

  • I have nothing against links per say, but there are 3 important issues:

    1 . Google may perceive the link as spam and penalise the commentator’s web site.

    2 . Office politics. For example I do contract work for a property marketing company. Based on having been in the world of work for a few years it is not always wise to raise concerns in public if you still want to be working next week. Its not right but that is the way it is. Nb I am not or referring to trolling here, but genuine problems.

    3 . Spamming as others have noted above.

  • The only thing I wonder about is whether spambots will find the info and flood our in-boxes with even more ads for Enzyte.

  • I’ve struggled with making a website for months and finally gave up and posted to a Facebook site and Smugmug for people to see samples of my work. I would never call having a website trivial. It requires time to create and maintain that I don’t often have. On the other hand, maybe having this requirement will make me take the time.

  • The one issue I see with requiring URLs is that it discourage honest and frank discourse on topics beyond basic technique and other trivial subjects. As a professional photographer who cares very much about his public perception, I’ll be less inclined to “tell it like it is” without the protection of anonymity.

  • Very simple, I have more value in what I read if the person writing is someone who is experiencing or has experience in what they are writing about. A web site lets me at least, somewhat, verify what they say. Everything on the Internet is subject to question. At least it’s no different from whatever else is seen and read on the Internet.

  • I think that its important to include a URL in that most use this site to get better at their craft. Without an ability to see others work, how do you know the comments come from those who know what their talking about or just blowing smoke?

  • Larry:

    I’m not sure if your WordPress theme supports this, but it’s something else to consider.

    Many themes allow plugins that have a unique set of features for commenting. I believe one of them is called disqus, and it requires commenters to comment via their facebook, google+, or other social account. Just an option you might want to look at.

    I’m in Favor of requiring a URL.

  • I have a domain name but not a website. I’ve tried setting one up many times over the years and even the so called easy to set up sites gave me loads off problems. My brain can not grasp the idea of it to make it work right. Anyone here can see the quality of my work can click on my name and it will take them directly to my Flickr site were there is about 1,600 of my RE photos.

  • I see the argument for requiring a website. But as Peter and Al above me said, there are office politics that have to be considered. Here’s a great example…when I google my company name, a PFRE blog comment comes up in the top ten results. I didn’t even link to my website in that comment. I just put my first and last name in the name field. But that combined with the real estate photography keywords on this website makes my comment pop up when clients search for me. Now that comment was harmless BUT what if I was outlining a bad experience with a client or something to that effect. I don’t post on here often but when I do, I stay anonymous because of how Google search works. I don’t want clients and potential clients seeing everything I post about online and potentially getting the wrong impression because one silly comment ranked higher than others. I’m not hiding from people on PFRE, I just don’t want my name or my companies name attached to everything I do online. My company photographed over 100 homes last month. I have several people on staff here and they have families to feed. I have to guard that carefully. Most of the time it just means keeping my mouth shut online but when I do have something to say, I like to say it without attaching my company to that. Just my two cents.

  • Almost everyone has an email address but (as pointed above) not everyone has their own web site, especially if they’re new to real estate photography. WordPress supports MySQL database functionality that could be used to only allow registered users the ability to add comments. If someone wants to comment, get them to pass a CAPTCHA test then send them a verification email. They click on the link in the email to verify they’re a real person THEN they can login and comment. You could store users’ details on their own computer so they’d normally only need to login once (but give them the option to not store it if they’re on a shared computer, like in an internet cafe).

  • @Jerry Kelly illustrates an excellent approach – a flickr account as a “website” – works nicely and would work even if he didn’t have a domain pointed at his flickr account.

  • Do it.
    If I’m in a “physical world” social setting, and someone who wants to talk with me refuses to say their name, or insists that it’s “Foto4Fun” — I’m not really interested in whatever it is they had to say. And it’s always the anons that behave the worst on forums.

    If you’re not prepared to ‘own’ the things you say…..then don’t say them.

  • Hi Larry, while you are considering this change / enhancement I would also ask that you add like and share buttons to comments. I see a lot of comments that I would add my “like” to affirm that comment. (I am not talking about a Facebook Like.) Also a share button should be a consideration. Enhancing conversations will only grow this great website as the important resource that it is. Thank you for your consideration.

    In my mind there are so many platforms where you can create a free web presence that requiring a URL is a no brainer. Even newbies can create a free web presence, what a great way to learn and grow your business at the same time. Best Regards, Ron

  • Also… every single one of us has said something stupid and offensive in the past. Live on, admit your mistakes, learn from them and don’t look back.

  • @Devil’s Advocate: You mean URL, not HTML. I had no clue what you were talking about until I read Larry’s reply. But good point!

  • For those that have had a hard time building a website, take another look at WordPress. You can put together a limited free site on WordPress.com to try it out. With your own domain and hosting account that supports WordPress (pretty much all of the mainstream hosts) you can choose from many templates that only require you to upload your words and text to make it go. If you are still baffled on how to make it work, get an account at Lynda.com or purchase a course from CreativeLive. Both of those have several very good beginner courses and some programs dedicated to things like photo galleries.

    I don’t consider social media sites such as FB as proper business websites and do not access them. By uploading anything to them, you grant them free use of anything you upload. Not the greatest move if you make your living in the creative arts. By signing up for an account, you give them free use of your personal information. If you can navigate FB and make pages look close to what you can live with, you should not have a problem with WordPress where you can make your site look exactly like you wish. It also looks more professional to have your company name (or in my case, my proper name) as your URL.

    I like the idea of having the requirement of posting a URL with comments. I do and I stick my foot in my mouth occasionally and word things ambiguously all of the time, but I am not hiding behind an avatar.

  • I’m not so sure its good idea…I’ll tell you why. I think it would discourage newcomers. Getting involved on the comments thread helped me a great deal. So requiring a url might defeat your own purpose. However, I do understand the frustrations. I have a real estate website that was inundated with spam. Although I screened entries, it was a nightmare to go through all the irrelevant comments.

  • Does a picture hosting site like Flickr count as a URL? If not, I vote no. The majority of people that use PFRE for resource purposes don’t have their own website.

  • I tend to ignore anyone who claims to be a professional photographer or real estate professional and won’t identify themselves and show their website.

  • @Eric E – Yes, Jerry Kelley above just pointed out a the way he uses his flickr. That works fine. If you just have photos of your dog there you won’t have much credibility.

    I think you are wrong about the MAJORITY of PFRE readers not having a site… just look at the comments. The majority of commenters do have a website and may of the commenters that don’t put a their site URL in the comment have one and don’t post it because they don’t have to.

  • Maybe full names like other forums such as Reduser. A link to a flickr account at least isn’t asking too much

  • @Larry – Thanks for the reply. In that case, I would vote yes to have someone include a URL to their image hosting site or the personal business URL. I’m probably wrong about the majority of PFRE visitors having a URL, I was referring to personal websites for business in that situation. A lot of people come here for information and to learn. I just felt they should be able to comment and ask questions regardless of URL.

  • Based upon the results of the poll, the majority of pro comments and Larry’s initial idea…

    Looks like Larry has a clear winner of an idea 🙂

  • Wow… Great Idea. If a newbie hasn’t got a website, in today’s techie world, they need to have one, it’s so simple. On these anonymous blog postings on various sites are often “In Hiding” persons trying to act smart.

    Great Idea Larry. Let’s all be out of the shadows.

    Tom Everitt http://www.everittphoto.com

  • I am a newcomer to the PFRE community and in my mind there is a difference between making a comment and asking a question. Requiring all users to have a website will specifically penalize PFRE members like myself, who are new to real estate photography, from asking questions. (And this is why I joined PFRE in the first place) I do not feel that anyone should be required to have a website to simply post a question to this experienced community of photographers. However, it is very helpful when those who respond to a question have a website link that I can refer to and learn from their work. Isn’t there anyway we can meet somewhere in the middle? Everyone was once a newcomer to their profession at some point and didn’t have the wealth of images in a portfolio to display.

  • Worth while pointing out here that just because someone has a website, does not mean they are a professional. Slightly off topic but I know a few wedding photographers who have full time jobs and havnt shot a wedding in over 2 years. You wouldn’t know that from the website though.

  • I don’t have a commercial photography website but am posting my real estate website URL – FineLuxuryLivingDOTcom – in order to be able to add my 2 cents to this discussion. I’m like Kathi above…a budding newbie. And, similar to Larry L many years ago, my wife and I got our real estate licenses awhile back but she became the front end of the business – listings, contract negotiations, etc – while I handled the back (pooper-scooper) end – marketing, listing management, website, troubleshooting, inspections & repairs, etc. I started shooting my wife’s listings about 2 years ago when we became dissatisfied with the point-and-shoot/HDR processing quality we were getting from our “professional” photographer using a 7D. Since then, I’ve aspired to improve the quality of my photos and the process of getting to a real pro level. In order improve my skills, I eventually found a fantastic blog (maybe you’ve heard of it – PhotographyForRealEstate.com) which allows me to learn how the pros shoot, what equipment I need, and – more importantly – to ask questions.

    I know I’m not ready for prime time. I certainly don’t consider myself qualified to judge anyone’s photos, not even my own. But, I DO know quality. I know it when I see it. This site has EVERYTHING I need to be able to learn about the business. And I want to learn everything I can to produce those award-winning shots the rest of you already do. Eventually I may even be able to shoot for other agents. That’s my goal.

    In the meantime Larry, please DON’T take away the ability for newbies to participate. That’s how most of us learn. And, that’s what makes this site better than any other. I believe registering to view this site would provide some measure of protection against too many spurious comments. But, requiring a photography website? I’m still working with our website designer to revamp our real estate one for mobile viewing.

  • @Bill and everyone else – Please read what I say in the post! I’m not not in anyway taking away newbies ability to participate. I’m saying comments will require a URL period. It could be a flickr account with a few of your favorite photos, it could be a FB or other social media page. There are hundreds of ways a newbie can take 10 or 20 minutes and create a web presence. And what this does is gets people going to do what they need to do anyway… build some online credibility.

    An no, just because you have a URL to point at doesn’t make you professional. The whole point is that in PFRE discussions you’ll be able to click on the name at the top of a comment and get some sense of whether this person is a newbie on a jaw-dropping professional. And if you want to remain anonymous just create a flickr account with nothing in the profile and a few real estate photos or just one photo of your dog and use it to remain anonymous.

  • Although I realize I am in the solid minority opinion on this.. To me at least, this is one of those situations where you have a solution in search of a problem…a very minor problem at that.

  • Hello Larry, et al.,

    Yes. Do it.

    This would not be unlike other trade associations I participate in, that require strong identity confirmations. Interestingly, turns out some people act out even when everyone knows who it is. They simply get disregarded, eventually blocked.

    Your most recent post, Larry, along with a couple related, echoed my own thoughts. Almost everyone in the first world now has their own online identity site. Even my kids 70 year old grandmother could meet this requirement.

    A G+, FB, Li, flickr, and others provide a no-cost way of generating a unique URL for identity purposes. Some like Live, G+, FB, even help by requiring some for of confirmation. Not that you couldn’t defeat it, but most won’t exert the effort.

    Personally, I find it very useful to simply click on a poster’s name to go see more of what they’re talking about and/or to get context. I’m dissappointed when I see a good post and can’t dig further to learn more.

    https://www.facebook.com/ShootingMichiganRealEstatePhotography
    http://www.torbenphotography.com
    http://www.jtpedersen.net

  • I’m confused by this. The idea that having an online presence somehow makes you “real” and if you don’t, your not? If you can remain anonymous by simply posting a couple of real estate photos or a picture of your dog then whats the point? What problem is this solving?

    If you don’t want anonymous responses require people to use their full name, then choose to take them at their word or not. It is nice to be able to simply click on a link to learn more about someone but it hardly proves anything about them. Your only learning what they want you to know. I know people with great websites who can’t tie their shoes.

  • I’m not currently in any photography business and I do not currently have a website. I am completely in favor of you requiring a related website. I’m in the learning and planning stages of a possible career in real estate photography. The web has tons of information, but so much crap when it comes to just about any subject. PFRE is an oasis of thoughtful and useful information in a sea of name-calling, trolling, and just plain wrong information (see just about every other photography/video website or blog). Do it! PLEASE! Require a relevant URL. I’ll comment again when I have website!

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