The question of disabling comments on a blog has been bouncing around for at least three years to my knowledge, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the debate started much earlier. My first reaction was that comments go with a blog post forming a discussion in one place for the community to keep up with, and closing comments would discourage discussion. Upon further thought, I realized this isn’t necessarily true. The biggest concern I have is noticing that in general comments tend to be quick responses lacking thoughtful discourse.
Weeks after reading the post by author, and regular blogger, Icy Sedgwick, “Should you close your comments on your blog?” (posted in April), I gave it more thought. Sedgwick pointed out the benefit of forming a cohesive discussion without breaking it up all over social media, which is tougher to follow. I agree, especially for blogs that are more community oriented. My comment on her post was a quick response, as comments usually are, and could have benefited from more thought. I pointed out the need for a product to bridge social media services together to help form a more cohesive discussion without the reader having to do more work. At the time, I hadn’t truly yet considered the benefits of turning comments off.
Conversations are going to continue on other services or blogs anyway. They should. That’s what happens to interesting conversations. Discussions spill over into other communities and other homes.
A post linked within Sedgwick’s post, “The Argument for Keeping Those Blog Comments Open” by Deb Ng, makes the strong case of interacting with other blog readers. A few blogs have conversations. Mine do not. Bloggers engage with each other through their blogs, email, and social media. Comments aren’t necessary for engagement.
On Sedgwick’s post, validation comes up as a benefit of having comments. The commenter acknowledges reading the post, and the blogger knows someone read it and cared enough to respond. I agree, and I like comments. However, my sites get far more visitors than comments. Kandy Fangs sees regular traffic from several reader sites including Friday Flash and Webfiction Guide, and occasionally the stats will show a visitor reading every single episode over several hours without commenting. That stat encourages me to write more, and it’s validation that an anonymous reader truly enjoyed my stories.
Two of the best responses to my stories I have ever received were on Twitter, and provided the same validation, but more openly. A recent tweet by Miss Alister linking to my story is an example. Very much appreciated.
Consider this: a comment doesn’t necessarily mean the reader cared all that much. Some bloggers comment for more selfish reasons such as SEO linking, a comment-back out of belief it improves their platform, or for simple back-slapping community support. I suppose much the same could be said about face-to-face conversations. Some just like to talk.
I refer to back-slapping in response to a comment by Jason Coggins on a Kandy Fangs episode:
This series is a tour de force and in this age of mutual internet back-slappery I really do mean it when I say I can’t wait to read Kandy Fangs in a collection somewhere. The memory-thief concept has turned the vampire shtick on its head…
Coggins summed up how I feel about many comments I have read on fiction posts. It seems like the majority in the writing community are just patting each other on the back. Naturally, Jason felt the need to try to convey he truly meant he enjoyed my story.
Back in 2011, another writer and blogger, Matt Gemmell, posted a very thoughtful response to this topic and his decision to close comments on his blog. Two reasons he gave stand out. “Comments encourage unconsidered responses” and “comments on the web don’t contribute very much.” As a software builder of social media data mining and analytics, I can confirm that the vast majority of comments on blogs contribute next to nothing. There are a few blogs where good conversations are happening, generally ones on academic topics or established community blogs. This means readers shouldn’t waste their time reading comments, and many don’t leading to a non-community, or a group of back-slapping talking heads trying to help each other feel better.
Gemmell links back to several other well written posts on the same topic. One is by John Gruber on Daring Fireball where he makes fine points in second half of his post under, “regarding using submitted comments” ending with the slammer:
Comments, at least on popular websites, aren’t conversations. They’re cacophonous shouting matches.
I stopped reading comments on mainstream sites, but I may read editor’s picks if the site includes them. Gemmell followed up his decision pointed out that the quality of responses to his posts have improved after turning off the comments. In this case, closing comments didn’t discourage conversation.
If bloggers form a community by linking to each other’s posts with thoughtful responses, they gain both SEO benefits and an improved community encouraging readers to follow the conversation and discover new blogs. Posting a more complete response on your blog includes your followers in the conversation, opening to a greater audience.
With so much noise in today’s world, both writers and readers could use more time to create and enjoy creations.
Kandy Fangs is entirely my fiction without discussion. The best reason for comments I see for a fiction site is a choose-your-own-adventure style where the readers decide. Otherwise, readers can share their appreciation or criticism in their own way. The majority of fiction readers want the site to load fast and be easy to navigate. And the fiction pages appear better without the extra clutter at the bottom.
I appreciate your feedback, and even better, I enjoy reading your thoughtful posts. What I like most is thoughtful criticism, something knew to learn, and responses given after some thought. The comment box may not be the best place for that.
If I receive a great response on social media that really adds to the discussion, I may update the post (or follow up with another) with a link and quote for others to follow.
You may respond in the following ways:
- Write a response on your blog. I may link to your thoughtful response, so readers may choose to follow and learn more than possible in a tiny comment box. And I’d love to read your post.
- Just want to say you like my story? Share, “like” or retweet. Or buy my book.
- Review my Kandy Fangs fiction on community sites like Webfiction Guide.
- Respond by tweeting at me (@dracotorre) publicly. If you only have something quick and short to say, a tweet is perfect.
- Send me email dracotorre on gmail.