Here’s something nobody warned me about. When you’re blogging, particularly on a controversial topic, there’s something unpleasant that happens when you start gaining popularity. It involves people coming to your website and telling you in comments how you’re doing everything wrong, and you must do what they say instead. You’ll notice they don’t talk nearly so much about what you’re saying as how you’re saying it.
If you’re in “the customer is always right” mode, you might think they’re sincerely telling you what they want, and that you should listen to your audience. But, as I learned the hard way, that’s not the case with at least some of them. In fact, some of them may even be your competitors.
When they’re your competitors, one of two things can happen. If they’re really smart, they might see you gaining popularity and figure they’d better knock you down before you take over the niche. I don’t think deliberate sabotage is common, but it does happen. You should keep it in mind when you try to figure out what these people are doing.
They may not be consciously out to get you. They may just be sick of their own commenters citing you in comments. They may be sick of hearing about your site at blogging conventions. They may be green with envy, and this may motivate them to lash out at you in the only way they can: you have typos! You misused a word! You should’ve included a photo! You let a mean person’s comment through moderation! This is a stupid topic! You should write about the same crap you were writing about (when your site wasn’t doing so well), it was all so lovely then!
The problem is, sometimes they arguably have a point. Maybe you do have typos. Maybe you did moderate comments unfairly. Sometimes you think long and hard and put a lot of energy into worrying about what these people are telling you.
It’s essential to listen to criticism and learn from it. But it’s also essential to distinguish between constructive criticism and someone just being an asshat. These people actually fall into that “not quite troll” territory I talked about in Making commenters work for you: the comment policy. You don’t need to post their comments anymore than you need to let them discourage you from doing what you’re doing.