Blogs Without Comments

How do you feel about blogs without comments? It seems that lately it is fashionable to say that “comments don’t scale“. I guess Joel Spolsky is probably the most quoted individual who argued against having open comments on your blog. His position is a bit extreme:

When a blog allows comments right below the writer’s post, what you get is a bunch of interesting ideas, carefully constructed, followed by a long spew of noise, filth, and anonymous rubbish that nobody … nobody … would say out loud if they had to take ownership of their words.
(…)
I don’t know how many times I’ve read a brilliant article someone wrote on a blog. By the end of the article, I’m excited, I’m impressed, it was a great article. And then you get the dribble of morbid, meaningless, thoughtless comments.

This is little harsh. I do not think this applies to this blog at all. Most of the comments I get here are insightful, funny and worth reading. Many of them actually complement the post, adding new content that I simply missed. I would argue that comments here generally add value to the post. But then again, my average traffic load here is relatively low and signal to noise ratio is very good.

I totally agree with Jeff Artwood when he says:

I firmly maintain that a blog without comments enabled is not a blog. It’s more like a church pulpit. You preach the word, and the audience passively receives your evangelical message. Straight from God’s lips to their ears. When the sermon is over, the audience shuffles out of the church, inspired for another week. And there’s definitely no question and answer period afterward.

I don’t want to be preaching to my readers. I want a conversation. I want to get to know my readers, and find out what they think on a given subject. We all blog for different reasons, but ultimately we all want people to read our stuff. So having a mechanism that lets your readers give you feedback is really important.

I view comments as a community building tool. Right now I have small group of regulars around here who frequently read and comment on posts, an comment on each others comments. And I think it’s great. I love that we have our small community growing here. And as such we still need to work on some inside jokes, and memes btw. ;)

I do not believe that you can have an insightful conversation using the “everyone posts on their own blog and links to eachother” methodology. What you get then is bunch of people preaching from their respective soap-boxes and cherry-picking arguments they want to discuss. Furthermore these commentaries are now spread over many websites, with no organized way of jumping from one to the other. If you disabled comments then you probably also do not allow tracebacks. So the only way I can know that someone commented on your article, is to randomly visit their blog. Does that facilitate good discussion? No.

With comments on the other hand, you get chronologically sorted, organized conversation right below the original post. In such setup it is easy to have actual debates with arguments, counter arguments, ripostes and etc. So while comments can be a mindless random drivel, they can also be an insightful discussion.

Not to mention that comments provide me with instant gratification/validation mechanism. When I get 0 comments on a post, I kinda know that no one was particularly interested in that one. And even if they were, they just didn’t have much to say about it. But when a topic sparks a conversation I instantly get that “Oh, people are actually reading this stuff!” feeling. And no amount of looking at the server logs, or website stats can compare with actually reading what people thought about your post.

Of course if you get few hundred comments per post, the nice benefits I outlined above are greatly diminished. It’s easy for discussions to turn into bickering and flame wars, and with high volume of posters it is usually difficult for the blog author to effectively moderate.

Still, we are not without tools to combat crappy comments. Take Slashdot for example – if you brows it with a filter that only shows you the posts moderated above certain threshold you can cut out most of that “noise, filth, and anonymous rubbish” that Spolsky seems to despise so much. Same goes for Digg for example – crappy and unpopular comments get buried and hidden increasing readability of the thread.

Community moderation combined with regular ant-spam measures does work – and it works well enough. All you need to do is to slap something like the Digg inspired Comment Karma plugin onto your blog, and the signal to noise ratio increases instantly.

A blog without comments is like a public panel without a Q/A session. I personally find that comments add value to the original content more often than not. What do you think?

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What would you rather have – a high traffic blog with comments, even if they tend to be a bit chaotic, or pristine church pulpit blog that allows no comments? Given a choice, I’ll always pick the former over the latter.

[tags]blogging, blog comments, comments, feedback, user feedback, joel spolsky, jeff artwood[/tags]

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10 Responses to Blogs Without Comments

  1. BeachBum UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    I love comments on my blog. It helps to reinforce that what I am doing is worth something to someone. Comments also help drive the direction based on suggestions from readers.

    BeachBum

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  2. Starhawk UNITED STATES Mozilla Ubuntu Linux says:

    I hate blogs without comments, comments add a lot of value esp in a blog like yours where the comments are often well thought out and relevant. While it is true at web sites like youtube or Digg comments can often be ah how shall i say it absurd and childish maybe most of the blogs i read do not have that problem.

    When I get 0 comments on a post, I kinda know that no one was particularly interested in that one. And even if they were, they just didn’t have much to say about it.

    ah that is not always so, i always enjoy your blog. I may or may not comment but there may be many reasons for that. I read alot of blogs online and have an “active online life” and simply might not have time or i might be tired or brain dead from whatever it is I’ve been studying or reading or i might feel i’m just repeating the obvious something you or your readers know already and so on.

    Anyway i do like turtles ;) but i voted for the first entry. lmao

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  3. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    True, I also don’t comment when I don’t have anything meaningful to add. I do try to comment on the blogs that I like as often as possible though. :)

    Oh, and I don’t particularly like turtles… Zombie kid, on the other hand… Well, he likes them a lot it seems.

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  4. Starhawk UNITED STATES Mozilla Ubuntu Linux says:

    lol, cute video.

    I’m a hillbilly luke I played in the woods as a kid and any animal i could catch i thought was a toy. And turtles were a hell of a lot easier to catch than rabbits or squirrels and far safer than most snakes… tho i played with them too. I’m excluding snapping turtles which even as a kid i kinda knew better than to play with anything that looked or acted like that.

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  5. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Zombie kid is a bit of an internet legend these days.

    My brother used to have a turtle as a pet. It wasn’t a very entertaining animal. All it did was eat, sleep and poop. My guinea pig was much more awesome to play with. :)

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  6. Dax UNITED STATES Opera Windows says:

    Sometimes, I enjoy comments on blogs more than the original post. There are two big things I love about comments. First, when a blogger posts the extent of his knowledge on a topic, I love to see commenters who have a bigger breadth of knowledge about a topic elaborate and extend the blogger’s post. The extra information really helps me become informed on whatever topic was presented. Second, when a blogger states his/her opinion, I often wonder how other people feel on this topic or how someone with a different background views the topic. Comments accomplish this.

    I totally agree with Luke’s assessment of comments creating a conversation. Typically, blogs that don’t allow comments tend to not have any personality. Personality of a blog is what draws visitors. There are exceptions though (RudePundit comes to mind). But, in general, I don’t pay much attention to non-commented blogs.

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  7. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I voted for “I like turtles” (I actually seem to have tipped into the leading position) but I agree with the top one.

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  8. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Turtles are winning. This was totally expected as per the Chuck Norris rule.

    It seems that the Chuck Norris rule applies for every internet meme.

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  9. Jake UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    I love reading through the comments on intellegent sites, such as here and Slashdot. The quoted guy here seems to be looking at the typical comments of a Youtube user in my opinion.

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  10. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Speaking of which… I noticed that Youtube started using a digg like thumbs up / thumbs down comment rating system. And yet, the comments are still dumb as hell over there. Sigh. If the users are to dumb to “burry” stupid comments then this system won’t really help. lol

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