One of the most common questions I’m asked about blogs and blogging is how to manage comments. My stance has always been that it’s your living room, so your rules apply. I haven’t really thought about not having comments at all. Sure, I have comments turned off on my About pages and such. I don’t think comments on Pages really do much for anyone.
One thing I’ve always wondered is why Daring Fireball by John Gruber doesn’t have comments. I’ve wanted to leave a well-reasoned comment (fine maybe it might have been a “me too!” comment) in the past, found that I couldn’t and was rather miffed about it. I didn’t get John’s premise until tonight though reading a post that covered a lot of bases, but why no comments is one of them. Here are some sections from the post that get to the heart of it:
Used to be, back in the early days of DF, that those complaining about the lack of comments simply were under the impression that a site without comments was not truly a “weblog”. (My stock answer at the time: “OK, then it’s not a weblog.”) Typically these weren’t even complaints, per se, but rather simply queries: Why not?
Now that DF has achieved a modicum of popularity, however, what I tend to get instead aren’t queries or complaints about the lack of comments, but rather demands that I add them — demands from entitled people who see that I’ve built something very nice that draws much attention, and who believe they have a right to share in it.
In fact, I’d argue that Daring Fireball is, in a way, a deeply “conversational” site. When I write, I try to write well, and the incoming attention is mine. When I link, though, I try to send my readers away. I share every bit of my traffic that I can. Do I tend to link more frequently to pieces with which I agree, or which I think are correct? Of course, because those are the ones I tend to consider most worth my readers’ time. But it’s certainly not true that I never link to pieces with which I disagree — or which are written by people who disagree with me.
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.
link: Daring Fireball: I’ll Tell You What’s Fair
This made me think about how I do (and don’t) comment on posts (and why), and how the culture of “online conversation” has changed. Maybe John’s on to something here. Think about this, when was the last time you were going to leave a comment on a relatively popular site and found that there were already 10, 20, 30, more comments already and realized that maybe you didn’t have anything to add to the conversation. Or on the other hand you didn’t want your comment lost in a sea of “Me too!” and other comments that I would call “cacophonous shouting matches” as John said. Yes, I feel very uninspired to leave a comment on a post that has tons of others because I figure what ever I have to say is going to get lost in the noise.
This line of thinking made me realize that I while I might not comment often, I do try to tweet (and retweet) posts I like. On the other hand I think I could also find a good way to revive the idea of the link blog post. I also want a much better way to share items with you as readers and Twitter followers. Dumping all my shared items into my main Twitter feed does get to be a little much (since I check RSS feeds and read other posts in fits and spurts). Well I’m going to cross the “how do I share stuff I find on Twitter” bridge in a while, but I certainly think zapping off a couple lines about a post and dropping it into the Asides category might not be a bad thing.
So bring this full circle, I get why John doesn’t have comments. The comments on his posts probably wouldn’t encourage real conversation as much as lots of “me too” and “you’re a moron” comments. While not having comments does encourage other ways to continuing the conversations (tweets, other posts, link blogs). So while I’m not going to turn off comments here any time soon, I think blogging and linking more might just be something that I can get (back) into…yeah I started off like that, might as well try it again.