Commentary

How Much Blog Would a Blogger Blog If a Blog Chucked Its Comments?

Now here's a question that, surprisingly, turns out to be more than rhetorical: Is it OK for blogs to get rid of comments?

This is not rhetorical because Engadget has just done it, at least temporarily. The editors of the popular tech blog explained their decision yesterday by saying: "What is normally a charged -- but fun -- environment for our users and editors has become mean, ugly, pointless, and frankly threatening in some situations... and that's just not acceptable." (I first read about this on Mashable, where people have, of course, commented on it. Maybe this is a bit obvious, but the Engadget post was closed to comments about shutting down comments.)

As a blogger in several locations, I'm intrigued by this issue, partly because it gets at a central question about what a blog is: is it a publishing platform first and a social media platform second? And also, do comments add anything to the experience? Most of the time, when people comment on my posts, I'm pretty damn happy about it, but sometimes I just wish I had the phone number of a good psychiatrist so I could have a few of the nut jobs who've stalked me work out their problems in a private environment. Ha!

advertisement

advertisement

I can't answer these questions in a straightforward way because I don't know the answers. It does seem, however, that blogs are increasingly publishing platforms first and foremost. They are easy to use, and any business and/or aspiring publisher of real-time content can quickly get up and running. In that context, comments are a value-add.

For an example of what I mean, let's compare comments on The New York Times' Media Decoder blog to those on "Bitten," the food blog written by Mark Bittman. Does it mean a whole lot that "Bitten" seems to be getting a lot more comments than "Media Decoder?" Not necessarily. I put two posts from the last 24 hours on both blogs through tracking on bit.ly.

Here are the results: it turns out that a blog about the retraction of a Reuters story has been clicked on via bit.ly links 503 times and so far has gotten one comment. A recipe for coconut-braised beef has been clicked on via bit.ly links 209 times and got 10 comments. Which post would you rather call yours?

There are other questions raised, such as whether we're so busy sharing links that we have no time to comment on them -- maybe sharing is a form of commenting in and of itself. But let's get back to another question. Are we substantially worse off if comments, particularly on some of the more-incendiary blogs, sometimes go away? As a reader, checking out comments can sometimes be an incredibly amusing diversion. It can also be anxiety-producing and depressing. It is, for me anyway, almost always a time-suck that brings little to my personal bottom line or the bottom line of the blog I'm reading. It's a huge job just to stay on top of comments at some of the larger blogs, with limited reward except for silencing a troll now and then.

And it's not as though the voice of the people would be muted if what Engadget just did became a trend. As Mashable asks: "How important are comments in this age where a lot of commenting is happening off-site -- on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks?"

So now it's your turn. If a blog decides not to have comments, is it still a blog?

19 comments about "How Much Blog Would a Blogger Blog If a Blog Chucked Its Comments?".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Bruce Murray from TravelBlogger.com, February 3, 2010 at 7:18 p.m.

    For right now it is a Publishing environment not a Social one. I've turned commenting off on my new travel blog for several reasons. Top of the list is that content outside of my control could possibly reduce my SEO control over the pages text. Since I cross post/mirror the content on a Facebook fan page some readers could make comments in that environment.

  2. Charlene Jaszewski from The Content Fix, February 4, 2010 at 1:25 a.m.

    I hope this isn't beginning of a trend. I count on comments for value-add for issues; like "well if you like X, you'll love Y" or "the suggestion in this post didn't solve my problem but [link] did."
    And yes people can continue conversation over on Twitter but Twitter is a crappy client for trying follow many-threaded conversations with multiple participants. You know, besides the 140 character limit.

  3. Drew Mehl from Binary Pulse Technology Marketing, February 4, 2010 at 1:30 a.m.

    I also think blogging is first a publishing platform aimed at providing valuable content to interested readers. I think the decision about commenting should pass the same litmus test. Specifically, if a blog doesn't provide value, you don't read it. Likewise, if a comment doesn't extend value, it shouldn't be allowed. A clear, shared social policy -- appropriately shaped to the forum and subject matter -- should help to define what "value" is on both sides of the post.

  4. Bex White from Bubblegumkitten.com, February 4, 2010 at 8:06 a.m.

    This is a question I have asked myself of my own blog. Are the comments valuable?

    The answer is yes and no - yes they can be when commentors post up useful information relating to or extending the post itself. But more often than not comments are spam, argumentative content (see every thread on Youtube ever for examples of this) or just a few words and a link back to the persons own site.

    I have seen blogs where the comments have encouraged positive debate, interaction and extended the conversation - but they tended to be industry related blogs where the readership are professionals.

    I would suggest that blogs should have comments, but perhaps a more stringent vetting policy should be taken. And for larger blogs where this would be a fulltime job, they might be best closed shortly after the article has been submitted to ensure it is predominantly the loyal readership who is commenting rather than keyword hunters looking for posts to link back to themselves from.

    There is no ideal answer, but just elaving them open and unmoderated rarely produces a good result so I can see why engadget have taken this approach - I think asking people to subscribe before they can comment would have been a better middleground to test first though. We will see if the comments stay off - or if they try this approach in the future.

  5. Ellie Becker from E.R. Becker Company, Inc., February 4, 2010 at 8:13 a.m.

    It's fun to be commenting on this particular post -- for the obvious reason. From my observations -- as I browse comments on the blogs I visit -- for the most part, people comment from a personal agenda: Get found online, post links to their own stuff, get on the radar screen of the blogger. Less often do I find that comments contribute anything of additional value to the post. Interestingly, the comments that precede mine here are a refreshing exception to that rule. I believe that a blog can still be a blog -- in the sense of valuable content -- without comments. I can understand where bloggers might opt to share their perspectives and their experience without making it a conversation.

  6. Rick Graf from Digital Communications (Graf Inc.), February 4, 2010 at 9:15 a.m.

    Like most things, blogs come in many different favors. Yes, I'd put the blog in the publishing category, but whether to have or not have comments should be up to the author, the personal or commercial purpose of the blog.

  7. Tara Thomas from KWWL-TV, February 4, 2010 at 9:31 a.m.

    Comments make my blog. Often they are more entertaining than some of my content. And they spur future posts... plus entice others to keep reading because of the potential comment backlash. As a news anchor, I even share my favorites on the air.

  8. Neil Binkley, February 4, 2010 at 10:06 a.m.

    Well, your post made me want to comment! I think the comments are fine, especially for those who want to take the time to explore the blog or article's content further.

    Yes, Twitter and Facebook have become ways to comment in and of themselves, but that's like commenting without listening. So it's potentially less of a dialogue and more a "look at me" environment. Of course, our business Tweets and Facebooks (is there a hip phrase to make Facebook a verb? "Facing"? "Booking"? Ugh.),

    And the comments, in the right environment, allow true discussion in some cases.

    On the other hand, there are the flames. And speaking as our blog's administrator, I decided to approve all comments because of the ridiculous, irrelevant spam. It's one thing if someone wants to promote their URL. Which is usually not quite on topic, but not as offensive as someone selling shoes or watches on our photography blog.

    I like Bex White's comment above, suggesting that comments should be more of a priority in the interactive process. Publishers might want to devote more time to weeding out the irrelevant comments.

    I think the most succesful and useful "commenting" process in my personal life is Amazon's personal reviews. Real users devote a bit of time to provide very helpful and surprisingly specific shopping insights.

    And that's what makes me want to continue using their site. So let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  9. Brian LoCicero from Kantar, February 4, 2010 at 10:18 a.m.

    Absolutely it's still a blog. Just because a blogger allows comments doesn't mean the readers have been given the "right" to comment, they've been given a privilege.

    The digital age seems to have given a false sense of importance to some people and some of those will troll and create havoc. Engadget was pretty clear that the commenting had turned into something much more ugly than witty banter between peers and as such, since they own the content, it's their right to do with it as they please.

    Clearly though there might be some PR fallout by this decision. Those who weren't posting threatening comments are mad that something was taken away and those who WERE posting those things are probably ramping up, just waiting for the day it re-opens to blast Engadget to kingdom come.

    It's like we said when we were kids, it only takes one idiot to ruin the fun for everyone else.

  10. Chris Davies from Enquiro, February 4, 2010 at 10:26 a.m.

    We'll see how it works for Engadget, but there have been many examples in the past of sites that don't allow comments being the subject of conversations on sharing sites like Digg/Reddit and Facebook. Engadget doesn't have an offline brand to protect the way many companies do, but they'll set an interesting precedent that other firms may not be able to duplicate in the same way.

  11. Neil Ferree, February 4, 2010 at 11:46 a.m.

    I've read some interesting articles on Blogs that encourage comments on why USG (user generated content) is a GOOD thing and how the next generation of UGC sites will likely overtake the more mundane self serving bloggers who prefer to pontificate vs. collaborate.

    I subscribe to the notion that to be a winner in anything, its wise to mirror and model someone or something who has proven to be successful in that niche or vocation.

    Mashable, ReadWriteWeb and other top tier blog sites use comments lavishly, so what's this debate about?

  12. Amy Fanter from Odds On Promotions, February 4, 2010 at 1:17 p.m.

    Not unlike newspaper editors used to do ... blog publishers have to moderate comments - after all, not every letter to an editor needed to be published.

    While I'd prefer to have all of our content open to comments the truth is human nature isnt wine and roses.

  13. Rob Birgfeld, February 4, 2010 at 2:19 p.m.

    Pardon the brevity, but this seems obvious to me.

    No.

  14. Sallie Goetsch from The Author-izer, February 4, 2010 at 2:42 p.m.

    Of course it's a blog if it doesn't have comments. Just ask Seth Godin. But is it as valuable to its readers without them? That's going to depend a lot on the comments and the commenters.

    I don't allow anonymous comments on my blogs, but blogs produced by an individual are less likely to attract hundreds of pointless, stupid, vicious comments than, say, newspaper columns. A blog like Engadget is more like a newspaper than a blog already, which (in addition to the sheer size of its readership) is one reason it has more problems with the nature of the comments it gets than most of us do with our own blogs.

    Any site that allows comments should have a clearly stated comment policy, and enforce it. For a site with the kind of traffic Engadget gets, that might mean hiring someone just to handle comment moderation, at least the first cut of what meets the criteria, before the post author even sees it.

  15. Swag Valance from Trash, Inc., February 4, 2010 at 4:47 p.m.

    A blog without comments is called a billboard. If it isn't two way, it's not social media.

  16. Liz Hover from National Screen Institute, February 4, 2010 at 5:16 p.m.

    Comments are what makes a blog part of the social web. If we can't share thoughts and opinions on a blog then it just becomes a boring one way street.

    Where's the fun in that?

    And if I'd read the first comment on this post I would have been able to say 'ditto.'

  17. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, February 5, 2010 at 3:50 a.m.

    I would have unsubscribed from Media Post in a heartbeat if it weren't for the comment section. That is what makes this a community. I learn that important influencers are reading this precisely because they comment...and sometimes their comments add more value than the original article. On top of that, I and others get to politely correct things a little when we see authors trying to foist their political or personal social views on us - which is what the broadcast media and newspapers were doing all along. If left totally out of a broadcast, I would just tune out like I tuned TV and newspapers. The horse is out of the barn. We Americans now want things to be interactive.

  18. Arnold Waldstein, February 6, 2010 at 8:28 a.m.

    Great post. Clever title.

    And thnx for starting this discussion.

    I kind of assume that the question in the blog is rhetorical and somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

    Comments are the extended content that makes a blog social. That makes it interesting. That creates the community.

    Blogs are ideas in search of a community of response. Sometimes the idea connects with your population. Sometimes it doesn’t.

    If you turn off comments, nope, it is nothing more than a digital broadside. Nothing wrong with it but one sided communications. Very 20th century in my opinion.

    There is magic in true blog communities. The great ones, led by block rock stars @ www. avc.com; www.bothsidesofthetable.com; www.cdixon.org are communities in the truest sense of the word where posts drive comments drive conversations drive community…and that all drives value.

    And these comments when wired together on dynamic structures like Disqus (www.disqus.com), not only morph comments into communities but also connect communities and commenter’s and bloggers and readers into an ecosystem.

    All this starts to draw a picture of the promise of the social web. It is a great promise that gets bigger and draws nearer all the time.

    I think and blog on these topics @ http://arnoldwaldstein.com

  19. Holly Hamann from TapInfluence, February 9, 2010 at 12:41 p.m.

    Very interesting question. I think what readers want to do with commenting is outgrowing how most commenting platforms work. Commenting works well for readers to communicate with the author but it sucks at allowing readers to interact with each other. Readers have outgrown wanting to only communicate with the author - they want real community.

    My prediction - community forums will take over commenting.

Next story loading loading..