Paul Haine got in touch with me and asked:
“I’m being idly curious whilst at work, and wondered - how come you don’t have a commenting system on your journal entries?”
Well, basically because I don’t particularly want to run a community on adactio. I think that there’s quite a bit of responsibility involved in having a commenting system and that one should be prepared to put some effort into it.
I already run one community site and that takes up quite a bit of my time. I have quite a lot of experience in moderating discussions, deleting off-topic/abusive comments and posting comments myself. I’ve been doing it at The Session for years. It’s probably no coincidence that Matthew Haughey, who has the unenviable task of running Metafilter, doesn’t have comments on his own site.
To be honest, I don’t think comments would be suitable or welcome for about two thirds of the stuff I write about on adactio. There are times when I would like to actively solicit feedback but that’s usually when I want a specific question answered and, in those cases, mailing lists are usually the more suitable place to ask.
Then there’s comment spam… I don’t even want to go there.
To be honest, most of the comments I see on blogs just seem to repeat the mailing list paradigm: the same people making the same remarks. The real gems turn up once in a while when someone stumbles across a blog post (possibly via Google) and, by coincidence, has something very relevant and new to offer. I don’t see too many of those though.
Mostly I see comments by people who, at least to some extent, know the blogger. I leave comments on other people’s blogs and those are usually chatty in nature because I know the blogger either personally or professionally.
They don’t make for very interesting reading though. I wonder sometimes if they would be better suited to email or instant messaging… which is pretty much what visitors to my site have to do if they want to respond to something I wrote.
I have seen some blogs where the comments themselves are more important than the original posts. But then I have to wonder, is that really personal publishing any more? I’d be more inclined to call it a community rather than a personal, site. I wouldn’t like to get into a situation where an audience literally dictates what I should write. Adactio is very much a personal site.
I know it’s pretty unusual to have what is obstensibly a blog without having comments (or trackbacks). Some would say that they are part of the blogness that makes a blog bloggy. Then again, I’ve never claimed to have a blog. I use the term “journal” which I think is more accurate.
Jessica uses the same home-grown CMS as me but with comments enabled. Again, they’re great for people who know her already and for complete strangers who stumble across single entries that they really connect with. But a lot of the time, they can be more hassle than they’re worth: some of the comments posted by kiddies who haven’t figured out how to use the shift key can bring down the tone of the site. The control freak in me would find that hard to accept.
I guess with any decision regarding a personal site, it comes down to personal preference. So the most honest answer to the question “why don’t you have comments?” is a bit of a cop-out. The answer is simply “because I don’t want to”.