On Comments

Jeff over at The Shape of Days (what, him again???) recently decided to close down commenting on his blog.. Before he made this decision, he posted about it, asking for opinions as to what he should do.

The downside seems to primarily be the policing that is required, such as getting rid of spambots and trolls. (I assume that’s what he meant, as he didn’t actually specify; personally, I get spammers, but no trolls to speak of so far…). He also argues that even though there are good comments… “it seems that the majority of good comments contributed here come from other bloggers! You guys have your own blogs, and frankly youâ??re wasting your time commenting here. Send me a trackback instead and post your opinions on your own blogs. Cross-blog discussion is where all the best debateâ??s been happening lately anyway.”

I read his blog regularly, and used to both comment and link to him fairly regularly as well. Over the past week or so since he shut them down, however, it’s as though the tone of the blog has shifted. The writing hasn’t changed — it’s the same blog — but when I read something that warrants a quick response… oh well. I’ve dropped him a few emails, and generally he drops me back a quick response, but it still feels far more “distanced”. There is none of the cross-talk among readers that can generate a lot of good discussion. None of the spontanaety.

I have to make a distinction between when I used to comment or post here and trackback — basically, if I had something extensive to say, or something that essentially stood on its own independently of the post that inspired me, I would post here, and link back to him. If, however, what I had to say was entirely dependent on the reader having read Jeff’s post, then there is no real point in making a whole post on my blog that basically restates his entire post and adds some one or two-line comment on the end. It’s far more hassle than it’s worth, generally, it doesn’t produce the aforementioned crosstalk that to me is a large part of the enjoyment of comments and blogs in general, and quite frankly most people (as far as I can tell) don’t follow trackbacks anyway — probably because so many of them are reiterations of the linked post with a “me too” tacked on the end.

As an ironic aside that partially defeats my own argument, damn it, it’s not unusual for me to comment and then not go back to check for further responses to my comments. Earlier today I Google’s myself and, wouldn’t you know it, up popped one of Jeff’s old posts that I had commented on. Below my comment were two people either commenting on my own statement or asking me a question — neither received a reply because I never went back to the page. Some blogs have a “subscribe to comments” function that helps with this, but most do not.

Well… I for one am sad to see them go. Better than losing the whole blog (as happened with Steven Den Beste — for whose return to blogging I would trade the ability to comment on any other site, anywhere…) I suppose. Somehow a blog just doesn’t feel like a blog without commenting. The interaction is part of the strength of it all.

Comments are invited and encouraged

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