Wednesday, July 29, 2009

... but nobody reads blog comments anyway.

For me the ability to comment on other peoples blogs is a privilege which greatly enhances the whole blog reading experience. If you write something which pulls a string with me I like being able to tell you with a quick comment.

I am aware however that there are limitations. In particular it seems to me that commenting works better for less popular blogs with a small numbers of readers. If you leave a comment on my blog for example I will be delighted and in reply I will certainly read it and probably reply unless you are advertising WOW gold (mind you in quiet weeks I have even been known to reply to spam bots). I have pretty much given up commenting on the big commercial blogs though like Rock Paper Shotgun. Who on earth reads all 119 comments to a post like this. I certainly don't and I doubt the authors do either.

Even popular non commercial blogs have way too many comments to read. Tobold's posts often attract 100+ comments sometimes involving heated discussions. Or so I believe. Let me tell you a dirty little secret. I don't read the comments to Tobolds posts.

You see blogging is not a public discussion forum. It is a personal diary made public. Commenting on a blog is a public reply to the author of the blog. The only person you should expect to read your comment is the blog author himself or herself. Third party discussions really have no place in blog comments. I think that a some people forget this.

Tobold has cited the the the level of abuse and antagonism from a vocal minority of commenters as one of the main reasons he decided to take his current break from blogging. I do hope he returns and I hope that he doesn't take the decision to turn off comments.

Bill Harris does not allow comments on his blog Dubious Quality. I wrote to him about it and he explained that he consciously took the decision to avoid hassle. It's a shame. For me a blog without comments isn't really a blog. Every time something he writes catches my eye I get frustrated by the inability to comment and swear to knock Bill off my reading list but the quality of his stuff keeps me reading ... so far.


DM Osbon said...

Got me thinking, mbp - good post. I'm one for comments on blogs too but who has the time to read through 100+ comments?! I may scan through to see how the 'conversation' has developed but there's the inhert problem. By scanning, I may miss a reply that has covered what I'm about to comment about.

I can see the logic to posting a comment only to reply to the author but who would adhere to that? Not many, I fear...

BTW I tweeted your post, so I hope it brings in some 'comments'!

mbp said...


I haven't gotten into twitter myself. I can certainly see the attractions of a 140 character limit but I generally struggle to get across my point in 140 words never mind 140 characters.

Aaron Miller said...

With my small blog, sometimes I don't immediately respond to a comment because I hope others will join the conversation. I don't want them to feel like they're intruding on a one-on-one conversation. But it is nice having a manageable number of comments and usually knowing the people commenting on my blog.

Another benefit of having a small blog is that I can practice a no-nonsense policy with the comments, deleting anything that's just hostility, and not have to worry that the trolls will come back to post again... because they quickly forget about my blog.

Twitter helps me to keep an eye on many blogs without having a clogged RSS feed or avalanche of bookmarks (though I still have too many).

Loredena said...

I mostly don't read comments, unless something struck a chord with me and I want to see how others reacted as well. But I do like to comment on posts that really catch my eye -- and I've noticed that while some blogs make it easy to do so, others make you jump through hoops to get registered. It is rare indeed that I bother with the latter!

Crimson Starfire said...

Nice article.

I stopped commenting on the big blogs (Tobold, Keen, Syncaine etc) some time ago. I get frustrated with bloggers who don't reply to comments. I understand that it can be difficult to reply to so many people, but the top bloggers don't even bother commenting on other blogs.

What irritates me even more is the bloggers who delete comments. I don't mind if they delete insults or slander, but I've had bloggers delete my comments when I simply oppose their own opinion (with good reason). That's just not cool. To me, feedback is more important than the posts themselves. It make blogging worth it, even if the comments are negative.

Anonymous said...

This being the Internet, you always have the right to reply to another post by writing one on your own blog, of course.

I think the reason that comments are so often used for abuse on big blogs like Tobold's is that it is a very easy, visible and direct vector for attack. Therefore, I can certainly understand some authors’ reasoning behind disabling comments, as it is a very easy way to remove that attack vector, but I wonder if they don't lose more than they gain because they're also preventing those people who would reply with a sensible and reasoned argument that highlights a different perspective, and which might in fact inspire the author to expound upon their post to make their point clearer, or to reinforce the foundation of their argument where it has been weakened.

Comments are certainly a fine example of the proverbial double-edged sword.

Chappo said...

I certainly don't read many other people's comments but I know many blog authors encourage debates in their commenting sections.

mbp said...

Wow, a lot of comments on a post about comments! Hello all.

Aaron, I guess when you have a small blog comments are like people coming around for a chat and of course its ok if they talk to each other too. The shouldn't ignore the host though!

Loredana, I think some of those hoops are to stop spam bots but in fact the spam bots are rarely the most objectionable of comments. Indeed lately I have noticed spam bots have gotten a lot cleverer are are likely to start off praising your blog and agreeing with your opinion before recommending you to visit WOWXXXGOLD.COM

Crimson I know it is probably impossible for the superstars of blog-dom to acknowledge the 100's of comments they get. I understand that I guess but its still niggles.

Melmoth not being able to leave comments is certainly a downer for me almost a deal breaker in fact. A blog needs to be very entertaining to keep me reading without the ability to comment.

Chappo if a blog author chooses to encourage debate thats fair enough, its a bit like inviting folks around for a chat. I stick by my contention though that the only one you can normally expect to read your comment is the blog author. If you are lucky others may read it but that is far from guaranteed.

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