Commentary

I’m still thinking about blog comments so I thought I’d get a few hyperlinks and blockquotes out of my system.

Dave Winer promotes the idea of blog-to-blog conversations rather than the easier solution of providing a comment form:

That’s what’s important about blogs, not that people can comment on your ideas. As long as they can start their own blog, there will be no shortage of places to comment.

That’s exactly what Tantek does on his blog by displaying any Technorati links (reactions) back to his posts.

Joel Spolsky expands on the problem with comments:

They are a part of the problem, not the solution. You don’t have a right to post your thoughts at the bottom of someone else’s thoughts. That’s not freedom of expression, that’s an infringement on their freedom of expression.

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.

This issue of taking responsibility for, and hosting your own words also lies behind Andy Rutledge’s attitude to feedback:

Anyone who feels the need to comment on what I write may send an email to me just as easily as writing a comment in some form on my site. Further, if someone takes issue with what I say, they may write about it from their own website and take responsibility for what they put forth, as everyone should.

But perhaps the best justification comes from John Gruber during a podcast chat transcribed by Shawn Blanc:

I wanted to write a site for someone it’s meant for. That reader I write for is a second version of me. I’m writing for him. He’s interested in the exact same things I’m interested in; he reads the exact same websites I read… If I turn comments on, that goes away. It’s not that I don’t like sites with comments on, but when you read a site with comments it automatically puts you, the reader, in a defensive mode where you’re saying, “what’s good in this comment thread? What can I skim?”

The comments over on Digg are, of course, an extreme example of just how puerile comments can be but at least they’re quarantined over there. I’ve never understood why a site owner would actually want to get Dugg and invite those kind of people over to piss on the furniture. As Jason Kottke put it:

Digg sents lots of traffic but IMO it’s mostly useless. They usually read only one page, send stupid emails, and never visit again.

And yet, again and again, I see sites like Digg and YouTube held up as paragons of community and interaction. I was chatting with Andy at work about how many potential clients treat community as some kind of checklist; comments: check, ratings: check, tagging: check. Thomas Vander Wal has come up against the same attitude. His solution is to point people to this Kevin Federline page on Amazon and ask Now, do you still want tagging?

I’m always impressed when site owners can provide a new, different way of fostering interaction. I really like the way del.icio.us uses the proto-machinetag syntax of for:username to allow sharing between users. It’s so much more discreet than the pre-filled emails that most sites use for user-to-user communication. It allows for a network to develop in an understated, organic way.

Have you published a response to this? :