What right do you feel you have to to interact and engage with content other people publish?
There’s been an interesting undercurrent to the recent discussion on whether people who blog should enable comments or not and that’s the almost automatic sense of entitlement we can sometimes feel when we simply have to add our thoughts to an article or post we’ve seen on a site. It got me thinking about what sort of obligation people who create content have to keep it archived and available for the good of humanity.
Removing the ability to add a comment directly underneath one of my “thoughts” (and the same argument applied to other writers who’ve decided not to enable commenting on their sites) meant one of the things people hinted at was that there was a sense of being denied the ability to comment (you still can, on any number of mediums, just not directly below the “thought”) on anything posted because a comment form isn’t right there, all cosy and convenient at the end of an article.
Comment form crack fiends
Perhaps we’ve all been a spoilt over the last few years with comment forms and surveys, everyone always wanting to feel part of a crowd and doing the whole social sharing thing to the limit and only now are a few people starting to think about reducing the access we have to make immediate comment or share your “thoughts” that
We’re starting to behave like comment form crack fiends who’ve had their stash taken away and are going through a withdrawal.
Interestingly for my site, I found when comments were enabled I either posted really boring stuff nobody cared about and hence rarely commented but when I turned it off … boy did I hit a rich writing vein of form when it came to my (much appreciated) readers wanting to comment!
Without readers you’re nothing
Of course that’s true in most senses and as such, those readers are probably quite right in feeling they are part of the content process by creating an audience. Still, what I’m thinking about is the actual content and the choices the creator of it makes when putting it out there. Sure, readers can go elsewhere in theory but if it’s original content, that’s not so easy right? The reader however is also nothing without the content creator because without the content, there’s nothing to consume so it’s a symbiotic relationship in a way. Who should decide how that content is initially presented?
Testing and feedback takes over in the longer term if you’re that way inclined but for many non commercial site owners there’s not always a need for taking this into account and personal decisions often remain top dog.
Ignore usability and archiving for a minute
Looking beyond the usual usability, archiving and open sourcing rationale (they’re all fine reasons) for not altering and removing content and consider if a content creator decides to pull / remove / alter or delete something, what sense of entitlement do we have as humble consumers to ask it’s put back?
Mark Pilgrim created and shared all his content, then took it away. There’s no argument it was a massive loss of great resources (salvaged by others thankfully) but should we feel entitled to rely on the goodwill of content creators to simply leave stuff forever in case we need something we once bookmarked and is now gone at the decision of the creator?
I know there’s the argument of “changing history” and creating a flaky archive of unreliable data but there’s no law against changing what you own is there? It’s certainly not helpful but as a consumer of the content are you entitled to any guarantee it’ll be there in a month / year / decade? Probably not.
At the end of the day, there’s still some openness to the web but after taking a bit of time to think about why I subscribe to and follow certain people and unfollow others, I’m making a bigger effort to not feel entitled to add to their sites unless they ask me to and I respect the content and effort first, and the offer of being able to contribute if it’s there but I’m going to try harder not to demand it.
Image: A welcomebrand holiday snap!