The Comments Controversy

There are certain hazards in running a weblog. There’s the GOSH I DIDN’T KNOW MY MOM WAS READING moment. There’s the JESUS YOU MEAN I HAVE TO TEST MY LAYOUT ON MULTIPLE BROWSERS weekend. Then, there’s the I AM TURNING COMMENTS FOREVER AND EVER realization.

In order, my advice for each situation is as follows:

First, your Mom probably knows you’re bisexual.

Second, HTML is never easy no matter what Macromedia tells you.

Lastly, when you decided to turn comments off, you’re basically choosing to stop engaging in a conversation your weblog was supposed to start. That’s ok if you think you rule the weblog planet, but, chances are, you don’t.

Comments in weblogs are a burden. For every fifty coherent replies, there is one which, for some reason, gets under your skin. Maybe it’s an angry ex-lover, maybe it’s a co-worker who happens to be right, or maybe it’s just that incessant troll who just won’t shut up.

More often than not, when faced with a comments controversy, webloggers bail on comments completely or fall back on Trackback-like solutions to improve the credibility of those they allow to comment. Either choice does the same thing, it hinders the conversation your weblog was intended to begin. This is a direct contradiction to the reason you started weblogging in the first place… to share your own little version of reality with the rest of the world and see what the rest of the world thinks.

You ask, “Rands, I don’t care what the rest of the world thinks.”

I respond, “Then save yourself a lot of time and sanity and move that journal back to paper.”

There are three obvious ways to figure out if what you’re saying via weblog is relevant. Hits, links, and comments. Ego surfing your access logs gives you visibility into what how many people are visiting your site and what they’re looking at. Link review via referral logs or Technorati-like services gives you another dimension on who cares about what on your weblog, but it’s still simple content… THEY LINKED TO ME. ALERT THE MEDIA.

Folks may choose to write about your entry in their weblog, but that is still within the comfort of their own home and for their own gratification. Actually taking the time to comment on the weblog where the entry resides, is a selfless act of creativity and, let’s face it, that’s a big deal in a world where the limelight is so readily quantifiable.

A comment on your weblog takes actual thought. A comment means that someone took a few minutes out of their day to string together some words in response to something you said. Given the tremendous amount of incomprehensible crap present on the Web and in weblogs, a comment is a big deal. However small, you altered the day of a person you do not even know.

22 Responses

  1. I think this varies based on the type of weblog a person is running. It seems a vast majority of weblogs fall into one or both of the following categories: posting links, pictures, and bits of interesting news from the web; writing small but interesting bits about one’s life on a mostly superficial level.

    Considering these, I’d say you were correct. But, for other types of blogs, such as creative writing exercises or something more personal, comments are not only unnecessary but are just annoying.

    This is because, in general, comments fall under one (or more) of the follow categories: Oh, yeah, I know exactly what you mean; You are an idiot, that is totally wrong; Hey, you left your Gameboy Advance at my place; HAHA I JUST LEFT A VERY PUNNY REPLY!!!!!!

    I would never put comments on my online journal (which, I suppose, is different from a weblog) due to the fact that what I write isn’t up for discussion or debate, at least not with me. I welcome people asking questions in e-mail, which they often do, but outside of that, the average comment holds no meaning for me and is more of a distraction than a dialogue.

    At the same time, in a forum where commenting is encouraged, I expect the blogger to be capable in handling all manner of comments and not just positive affirmations and friendly jokes. Sometimes you’re going to write something that is going to piss someone off and you should be ready to deal with it. I don’t agree with censorship of comments just because you don’t agree with the commentary.

    In other words, just because you “own” the journal doesn’t give you the right to write what you want and censor everyone who bothers you.

  2. wow… commenting feels awkward now. it’s like all of this was kind of already understood between us (the commenter-commentee relationship) but now that it’s all out in the open i am exposed! you know, like something out of curb your enthusiasm.

    ok i’m not making sense but this is my verbose way of saying “damn fine weblog entry.”

  3. You spelled “you’re” as “your” TWO TIMES. CHRIST.

  4. SO MUCH FOR THE SELFLESS ACT OF CREATIVITY THEORY.

  5. daron 13 years ago

    I find commenting to be a little too easy to really be indicative of you having made a difference (case in point, slashdot). If someone takes the time out of their schedule to email then that’s a different matter, in addition to which some people feel they’d rather preach to the pulpit and some people prefer to just read than comment. I’d actually bet most do, unless they’re friends of the author in which case you end up with comments similar to Randy’s example.

  6. T RANDS I WILL ALWAYS COMMENT ON HWHGLUAHGHA OH GOD

  7. actmodern 13 years ago

    OMG YOU BEAT ME TO THE HWHGLUAHGHA COMMENT I WAS ABOUT TO MAKE, NOW MAKE IT UP BY REACHING INTO MY PANTS AND PULLING ON MY DONG, KTHANX

  8. So then, what, again, does it mean if no one comments? ever?

  9. You’ll leave comments on but disable Trackback pings?

    Also, “If someone takes the time out of their schedule to email then that’s a different matter.” And yet, you don’t seem to respond to email. 😉

    And no, I’m not some weird stalker.

  10. Well, I *am* some weird stalker, and I would like to know why Tristan hasn’t answered any of the trillion nonsensical emails I’ve sent him.

  11. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD RANDS LET US LINK OUR SAUSAGES TOGETHER *DINK DINK*

  12. why do people post comments like they are trying to be in a jerkcity comic? You sound like fucking tards.

  13. I’ve got a friend who categorically refuses to turn comments on in his weblog. But he used to be one of the main writers on Slashdot, so he’s kind of discouraged by the idea.

  14. Imitation is the highest form of flattery.

  15. T SERP ILL MEET YOU IN THE BACK OF THE BUS [OPTIONAL- PANTS/BONGS]

  16. actmodern 13 years ago

    T SERP STOP OR I WILL HAVE YOU ARRESTED YOU FOR FONGCHONGERY (AND SOME DONGCHONGERY)

  17. I don’t do comments on my blog because it’s an aggregation of local news stories, with only occasional editorializing by me. It takes at least an hour a day to do. The thing would need more like 3 hours a day if I tried to respond to debate. Do you think this means I don’t have enough time to devote to it and ought to shut it down? Email and hits suggest not, but your point is persuasive.

  18. Comment functions facilitate drive-by slimings. If people want to talk to me, they can use snatchmail and instant massage. If they want to talk *about* me, they can start their own damned sites.

    See, inter alia, what Pilgrim did (it was someone else’s idea) to his comments section.

    http://diveintomark.org/policy/comments/

    I gave up Googling his original posting on that topic. Life’s too short.

  19. I understand that it’s important to make sure everyone feels comfortable in the environment of a message forum, but I really think that free speech if is the height of the internet. Instantanious and free communication on forums (and other means) is what I feel makes the internet so valuable.

  20. It seems that commenting on other blogs is a way to get yourself noticed in a few ways:

    1. It gets you a link from another site to your site raising your value in search engines. 2. It gets the author of the entry to check out your site. 3. If the comment is intelligent, someone reading the comments might actually click through to your site.

    Since these are all true and if you are after traffic to your own site, it doesn’t seem too altruistic or selfless. no? yes?

    I’d think that an owner of a blog would prefer that someone else comments on the entry on the commentor’s own blog. This way all of the benefits that I described before would benefit the blogger that wrote the original entry.

  21. About the only restriction I have on people commenting on my LiveJournal (allowing people to angst about stupid shit since whenever the hell LiveJournal came into being) is that they actually be LiveJournal users (which, let’s face it, everybody and their mother is at this rate). Other than that, I really honestly don’t care who comments, no matter what sort of comments are left. You agree with me, or feel sympathetic? That’s fine. You think I’m a WHINY LITTLE PRICK WHO NEEDS TO SHUT THE FUCK UP? That’s fine too. Just the fact that you actually took time to read my little angstings is enough for me, thanks.

    Also, on the subject of the people posting replies on here as if they’re in Jerkcity: part of me thinks “hey, this is intelligent discussion, there’s no need for that,” while the other part says “YOU’RE A JERKCITY FAN YOU BIG FAG HURRRHH PRICKS IN MY FACE (ALSO MOUTH)”

  22. I should’ve altered my post to say that I welcome posts that sound like they were created by actual people as opposed to bots. (BUT BOTS HAVE FEELINGS TOO THEY CAN’T HELP IT IF THEY HAVE TO DO SHITTY ADVERTISING FOR UNSCRUPULOUS SITES FOR A LIVING)