Why no comments

When I first converted my journal from Movable Type, I converted all the comments with it and planned on adding comment support, as a long-term goal. But I've increasingly found that not having comment support is nice, and recently after reading several different takes on this topic, I've decided to take this off my long-term to-do list.

A point made by both people involved with sites with strong commenting communities (Making Light and John Scalzi's Whatever) and others who have turned off comments is that maintaining a good comment community in the face of significant interest is a lot of work. One of my goals right now is to do less work that isn't directly interesting so that I can reserve my energy for things that I consider more core.

I've now added a link to my explanation for why there are no comments to all of my journal posts and indices.

A few more thoughts in addition to the ones there:

I've been reading a lot of comments recently, mostly from following the debate in the US about health care reform, and I've been struck at how rarely comments are meaningfully addressed to the original post author or show intent to participate in a discussion. On political topics, most comments appear instead to be taking advantage of the comment platform to post one's own opinion in public, sometimes with the additional gratification of forcing that opinion to show up in the space of someone who obviously disagrees. I'm not interested in participating in or enabling that. If you want to make a controversial statement or take a political stance, own your own words and take that stance in your own space.

I also suspect that one of the reasons why this happens so much in comments is that comments are considerably more anonymous than journals. Even if one's journal isn't openly connected with one's real name and life, like mine is, there is some persistance and history to most journals. I'm a strong believer in anonymous speech for a variety of different reasons, but one of those reasons is not to permit drive-by content-free attacks on other people. And that's the standard behavior in both political blogs and comment pages on newspaper sites. The anonymous speech I have the most respect for is the type that creates and builds reputation for an anonymous nom de plume, presenting a consistent public image and taking responsibility for one's previous beliefs. This isn't what happens in comment threads.

Finally, I consider all of my web site, including my journal, to be to some extent permanent. I mostly do not take down pages, and I wouldn't want to take down comment threads. But for the most part comments, particularly on controversial topics, don't fit into that model. There's nothing wrong with that, but it makes me want to redirect them to a more appropriate forum.

If I felt like there was some lack in the world of places where people could anonymously publish controversial opinions, I might feel more obligation to provide one in my journal, but I don't. It's also not something that I'm good at; other people are doing a much better job. So I'm going to stay out of hosting that type of on-line discussion and leave it to people with more interest and time.

I welcome e-mail replies to journal posts, and have had several good discussions in those e-mail exchanges. That's what works best for me.

Posted: 2010-03-27 17:56 — Why no comments?

Last modified and spun 2013-07-22