Considering Comments

One thing I love about the Internet is the potential for falling down several rabbit holes as you poke around in the hypertext – maybe not so great when you have a finite task to accomplish, but as a leisure activity it beats channel surfing for me any day of the week.

One such recent excursion led me to this post by Matt Gemmell, a Scottish iOS and Mac developer (not my usual reading fare).  In his post “Comments Off”, Matt outlines his reasons for shutting off comments on his blog (in the interest of brevity, I’m just quoting the major points with my responses in between; click through to Matt’s post for his full explanations):

They’re for a tiny minority. Compared to page-views, only the smallest fraction of people will actually leave a comment on the article itself.  Twitter mentions (for my particular readership/audience) are at least three times as common.

This has been my experience as well.  Whenever I publish a post, I advertise it on Facebook, Twitter, and more recently, LinkedIn.  While I occasionally get some comments on the blog, more discussion tends to take place on Facebook and Twitter.  I guess that’s where most folks “live” these days, and it’s easier to comment under a link on the site you’re already on than to click through and comment on another site.

You should never read the bottom half of the internet. This doesn’t tend to apply quite so much to this blog, but generally speaking, comments on the web don’t contribute very much. […]

Comments encourage unconsidered responses. […] If your blog allows comments, you’re inviting people into your house – but sadly, some of them don’t conduct themselves appropriately.

Comments allow anonymity and separation of your words from your identity. […]

I grouped points 2-4 together because they’re all variations on a common theme.  Love the first sentence above.  Never really thought about it that way, but maybe there’s something to it.  Most comment threads on the news sites I read end up devolving into “lol republicans” and “lol democrats” and drown out the discussion.  As for anonymity, I think it can be a good thing – it allows for frank discourse without fear of retribution, but certainly we know the flipside of that particular coin.

Comments create a burden of moderation on the blog owner. […]

Not such a big problem for me and this little ol’ blog, but for more widely read blogs?  I can see this.  The Akismet WP plugin has done an excellent job of keeping the spam at bay with only a handful of false positives in the three years or so I’ve been using it.

Matt suggests three alternatives to commenting: writing a response on your own blog (as I’m doing now), discussing on Twitter (follow me there!), or sending the author an email.  I’m OK with the first two – I’d even add Facebook as another venue for discussion, if you have such overlap in audience – but I can’t recall a single blog post I’ve read in the five years I’ve been reading them that inspired me to send an email to the author.  I guess if you feel strongly enough…

Look, I’ll be honest: I don’t get a ton of comments on this blog, so it’s probably a bit presumptuous for me to even go here, but Matt’s post got me thinking about whether or not to shut off the works over here as well.

As a reader (and perhaps writer) of blogs, what do you think of this?  Are comments superficial conversation, or do they allow for constructive feedback?  Have Twitter and Facebook made blog comments obsolete?  I haven’t shut off comments (yet), so please weigh in below!


  • I think that Twitter and Facebook have made blog comments obsolete. Two of the blogs I follow, also have FB pages, which I subscribe to and comment on their posts rather frequently. I will also say with Twitter and FB, you don’t have to deal with the “captcha” drama of trying to make a comment. I have considered shutting off comments on my blog simply because although my metrics tell me differently, I feel sad when no one comments. I’m very “emo” I guess 😀
    Mo´s last blog post ..Review • 4 – The Behavior Code

  • Ha, yes, comments always make me happy too, but I think I hit a point about 2 or 3 years ago where I realized there was a difference between posts that engendered a lot of comments (e.g., Top Ten Web 2.0 Apps, etc.) and posts that I felt helped me reflect on my practice in a useful way (see any of the posts under the “Damian’s Favorites” category).

    Given the choice between the two, I know which one I’m going to pick every time.

  • Though I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is a direct relationship between comment activity on my blog and my commenting activity on other people’s blogs. The more I comment elsewhere, the more people seem to find their way here to leave a message.

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