Following a spat about the Google/Apple rivelry, Joe Wilcox complained about John Gruber’s Daring Fireball not having blog comments enabled. Apparently, turning comments on on your blog makes you ‘a man’. Although what sort of definition of manhood this implies is beyond me. This led to a rather sparky rant from John about blog comments, and it’s one that I’m almost entirely in agreement with.
Comments, at least on popular websites, aren’t conversations. They’re cacophonous shouting matches.
Of course, when I had commenting available on various previous incarnations of this blog, I wasn’t so overrun with readers and commenters that it ruined the commenting system. However, it really doesn’t matter how many readers you have, comments as a system rarely encourage even good writers to create their best work, or put forward their best arguments. That little bit of extra effort you have to go to craft your own response, on your own blog, often means that the end result is much, much more considered. Tumblr encourages this form of interaction, and I approve of it.
Comment sections, not least because of the anonymity they often provide, are regularly overrun with with utter idiots who use the cloak of anonymity to write angry, pointless drivel.
Various others have chimed in following John’s post. Parislemon writes:
I suppose my time at TechCrunch (and VentureBeat before that) changed my opinion. I came to realize that the vast majority of comments on popular sites are useless — or worse.
Like Gruber, I much prefer when people use their own sites to respond to something. That small barrier to entry seems to ensure that the quality of the discussion will be higher.
There are exceptions, of course, but they’re few and far between. And I feel like the comment problem on the Internet is getting worse, not better.
My experiences with comments haven’t been as positive. Blogs with good comments do exist… but they’re unusual.
One of the extremely rare good things that has come out of blog comments (or in this case a semi-forum type system) is Speak You’re Branes - a blog which shows the utter inanity of what people chose to spout. The site focuses on that goldmine of stupidity, the BBC’s Have Your Say page, but it’s worth remembering that the BBC themselves sensibly herded all these loons onto a separate part of the site rather than letting them ruin the content on the news section of the site.