As I often do, I threw the question of whether to keep comments or simply turn them off on this site and I got a lot of great response.
The whole comments issue/question has been around for a long time, (you can even block them on a site basis with Ad-Block if you want) but for sites such as mine – extremely modest levels of traffic, very specific audience of design folks, no issues with spam that I can’t easily handle and generally sensible, considered feedback there’s still a nagging desire to turn comments off.
Why turn them off if there’s no problem with content or spam?
I have no intention of insulting any of the people who’ve kindly taken the time to comment on any of my posts over the years, as I said, I’ve no real issue with spam or low quality YouTube style comments from idiots anyway.
I’ve always been lucky here where the folks who have commented do so in response to the question or issue, don’t get sidetracked and share their thoughts in a reasonable and constructive manner. Still there’s this nagging feeling that I don’t really want them enabled anyway.
I’ve dabbled a few times, turning them on and off and the thing I notice most is that for the most part, people want to comment more when the form isn’t there.
To put things into context, right now there are 164 posts on this site with a total of 423 comments spread over about 4 years of blogging. That’s less than 3 comments per article and I know a couple of articles combined account for more than 100 of those comments so it’s not like any of my posts generate wild amounts of discussion in the comments.
Do I blog or have a “journal” now anyway?
As I mentioned in my 2012 Todo list post, one of my main aims is to become a better writer.
I outlined that I typically write 3 types of post and it’s very rare I actually a technical/code post (which is a post type I feel benefits from comments) so thinking about this site/blog/journal last night perhaps I don’t really run a “blog” so much as a journal which I use as a brain-dump these days, hence the (hopefully) variety of topics I write about compared to a couple of years ago.
Do I write to generate comments?
It was interesting reading one Seth Godin’s reasons for turning off comments (I wouldn’t dream of comparing myself to him of course)
Instead of writing for everyone, I find myself writing in anticipation of the commenters.Seth Godin
I’ve got to admit I do the same and I’ve often found myself signing off a post with a leading “…and what about you?” type line. I’m not sure that’s entirely necessary for what I write which is mostly opinion posts rather than “how to” or “you should do it this way” (I do write the occasional one of those).
It’s a common way of wrapping up a post but often I find it a little pointless for this site because while I’m thrilled more than 2 people read my posts, there’s never any significant commenting afterwards on the site and I find it equal measures depressing and pointless having a commenting system available and most posts sitting there with “no comments yet” at the bottom all lonely.
Conversation is the best thing about the internet
As @Mark_Skinner rightly points out – “conversation is the best thing about the internet“. I agree, but I find that the conversation about the things I post on this site tend to happen offsite on Twitter rather than in the lonely comments section.
I like this, it fits with the way I use Twitter and WordPress (to post here). I often find myself writing reactionary blog posts because I’ve observed something or followed a discussion and had a thought or idea. Usually this is from Twitter.
I’m starting to think that if someone has something to say, they can do the same as me and write their own thoughts or talk about their angle on a subject rather than in a comment.
So turning off comments is a design thing?
A little bit, yes. I’ve always struggled with styling up comments and as I mentioned above, I think I’d rather “clean up” a little more and remove the big form, the empty area where discussion might go and complete the transformation from “blog” to “brain-dump journal”. For this site, that “content”, while providing the opportunity to users, doesn’t get used much at all.
The empty comments section on smaller websites always feels a little like that spare room in people’s houses that’s fully made up for “friends to stay over” but when it actually comes to it, they only stay over once or twice a year.
I’ve always been open and willing to discuss my thoughts on Twitter and that remains exactly the same, in fact, I’d like to embrace that more.
What I’d prefer to concentrate on is to encourage more sharing of content to try and get people to blog their thoughts rather than dash off quick comments a minute after reading what I’ve written because that’s what I enjoy doing more than adding comments to be honest.
I’m going to deploy my ultimate sharing button™ which will no doubt send sharing through the roof but in the meantime, I hope you don’t feel offended that I’m not going to invite comment at the end of a post anymore.
Pretty much everyone only missed it when I took it away anyway!