colinramsay.co.uk

Are Blog Comments Dead?

18 Apr 2007

I was recently reading Steve Pavlina's excellent website and came across some post which detailed Steve's decision to disable comments on all of his posts. It was quite timely, because I'd recently revamped the single post page on this site to better display large articles and I didn't have time to implement the comment form. At the time I wondered if that was such a bad thing because I wouldn't have to worry about comment spam, but after I asked for feedback on my recent Monorail screencast I'm not sure I was correct. Exactly how were people supposed to give me feedback?

There can be no question that comments on a weblog can be valuable. Lifehacker regularly highlights valuable posts and invites further discussion, fostering a community around the site by getting people communicating. There's no doubt that this increases return traffic, but it probably also increases the value of the discussion by developing a sense of commenter loyalty.

Then again, Lifehacker has staff to moderate their comments. What about popular personal bloggers? Zeldman is discovering that enabling comments can be problematic, and that maybe Akismet's effectiveness in combatting spam is decreasing. Going back to Steve Pavlina's post:

No blog comments means no administration of comments, handling comment spam, legal liability for what people post in comments, having to decide whether to respond to questions or ignore them, people posting false information, commenters flaming other commenters, marketing abuses, tech support for comments (Can you fix my typo? Can you delete my double post?).

There's a more worrying aspect to this topic which has been highlighted recently by Kathy Sierra's experiences. Is it really worth giving people a platform to twist your opinions and turn them into personal attacks?

So I'm in a quandary. Do I enable comments, or do I just rely on email feedback and trackbacks? If you'd like to contribute to the discussion.... well I suppose you can ping this post!