I read a whole bunch of posts today on the topic of comments on blogs, triggered by some critiques of Gruber’s Daringfireball which hasn’t ever had comments. Gruber wrote a post about the Google/Admob/Apple drama, and was called out for not having comments on his blog, and how that’s bad form. Gruber responded with this:
You write on your site; I write on mine. That’s a response.
Comments, at least on popular websites, aren’t conversations. They’re cacophonous shouting matches. DF is a curated conversation, to be sure, but that’s the whole premise.
He’s right. Comments aren’t really conversation or discussion, at least in the way we (meaning the general edublogger community) talk about them. They are often just asynchronous tangents, or even rambling snark fests. Comments are clumsy bits of text, misunderstood or misinterpreted very often.
Now, I have no interest in having a “curated conversation” – whatever the hell that is – but, along the lines of the commonplace book concept, this is my outboard brain. Comments distract from that. With comments, I think – even for a fraction of a second – about potential responses to a post before posting. I’ve deleted dozens of posts, because I figured the comment threads would go astray.
Marco Arment describes blog comments as many-to-one feedback:
A blog post is a one-to-many broadcast. Comments are the opposite: many-to-one feedback. A true discussion medium would encourage more communication between the commenters, forming larger quantities of many-to-many interactions and de-emphasizing the role of the blog post’s author. In practice, that rarely happens.
If comments are behaving as many-to-one feedback, there’s minimal value to showing them to the world, because the world largely doesn’t read them. But the act of showing them to the world — your world, not the commenters’ — creates a setting in which commenters are encouraged to behave negatively.1
We already have a widespread many-to-one feedback medium that avoids this: email. So that’s the feedback system that I allow on my site. Anyone can email me, and I will read it.
Those who truly want to start a discussion usually have their own blogs, so they can write their commentary to their audience.
More, from BoingBoing’s perspective as an absofrackinghuge blog community with comments:
(unrestricted blog comments result in a) a milieux here whereby the comments should be an unfettered, energetic free-for-all. But it’s not just about entitlement … more practically, that results in a noisy, infested mess that drowns out anything of quality.
This, from Derek Powazek, perfectly describes the weight of comments on writing:
I turned off comments in the last redesign of powazek.com because I needed a place online that was just for me. With comments on, when I sat down to write, I’d preemptively hear the comments I’d inevitably get. It made writing a chore, and eventually I stopped writing altogether. Turning comments off was like taking a weight off my shoulders. It freed me to write again.
A weight off my shoulders. Interesting.
And this, from Ian Battleridge, on how comment “discussions” break the “link economy”
Comments also massage your ego. “Look,” you can say, “500 comments! I’m popular! And successful!” Comments also break the link economy, because they encourage others to comment directly on your site rather than writing on their own site, linking to you, and potentially getting linked to in return.
So, I thought about these posts. And about how I’ve been thinking and feeling about my blog and how I want to continue using it. And I’ve decided that comments are not helpful for that. If this blog is my Commonplace Book, if it’s my Outboard Brain, I need to be able to write whatever the hell I want, without thinking, even for a second, about what might happen in the comments. I’m not writing stuff here for comments, or for the ego stroke that goes along with them. I’m doing this to think out loud and to document stuff.
I’m really easy to get in touch with. I’m not dropping out or disappearing. If you have something to say, say it. If it’s worth saying in a comment post here, it’s worth anteing up and posting it on your own blog rather than burying it in a comment thread here.
So, for now at least, comments are turned off. I don’t know if that will last, but it’s worth trying.