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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Ron Chester on Webmentions

Ron Chester:

I have only one reservation about the development of this IndieWeb stuff. While it is in progress, most of these websites have disabled regular comments, if they ever had them. Often there is also no contact information given, or it takes a lot of hunting on their websites to find it. So if one doesn’t have webmentions working on one’s own website, there is no obvious way of communicating with these folks about things they post. I have found that if they’re also on the Microblog website, one can post a message there, addressed to them. But that seems pretty round about, when an old school place to post a comment on their original post would be very easy to leave.

Please go to his site and read his entire post.

I read Ron’s post before making my decision to turn comments back on. Also, my email address is available on every page of my site. So if anyone would like to comment on anything on my site they should be able to do so both publicly and privately with ease.

Side note: One of the reasons we all turned off comments, aside from the benefits of disabling comments like more traffic to your site (I wrote this post 10 years ago!), is that people claimed that moderating comments is too much work. I no longer think that is an issue. Even if my blog became a popular place to comment I think I’d be able to keep up with it with the tools we have available now.

As a result of this decision, I’ve now opened commenting up on all posts so far in August 2017.

Replies from Micro.blog and oh hai, comments

If you visit my site at all you may have noticed many of the recent posts have replies showing up on them from Micro.blog. Here is one example post. That is because webmention works pretty well on Micro.blog.

However, this is causing me a bit of frustration because it feels as though the conversation about a post is happening on Micro.blog rather than on people’s own blogs. Even if those people have their own blogs they are using Micro.blog to reply*. It is an interesting thing to see. Effectively, Micro.blog is feeling a lot like Twitter – replies to my posts are on there so I have to go there to reply to those replies.

To that end I’ve decided I’ll start turning comments on some posts (like this one). I’d much prefer people reply to my blog posts on their own blog or – starting today – on my blog. Even though I like Micro.blog better than Twitter or Facebook doesn’t mean I want to have to navigate to that web site each time I want to reply to comments on my posts.

* I’m unsure if that is what the M.b team wants to happen. But that is what is happening right now. Also, M.b is supposed to be a host for blogs if people want it to be. But, again, even people with their own blogs are using M.b’s reply feature to reply to posts.

E9: Follow up, Blog comments, and personal blogging

Danny and I enjoyed listening to ourselves talk so much that we did it again this week. Our conversation is mainly about blog comments and personal blogging. Riveting stuff. Listen to all of it.

Download MP3

Comments are not dead

Tina Roth Eisenberg on Twitter:

Comments are not dead.

She’s right, of course. However, I don’t have comments on my blog for the following reasons.

  • I do not want to manage them
  • I’d much rather people respond via their own blog, Twitter or email
  • I do not want to manage them

This topic will simply never go away though. So, rather than reiterate what I’ve already said I’ll simply link to all of the other times this topic has come up.

If comments are not dead, surely blogs aren’t either, right?

 

 

 

Push notifications are the new blog comments

Craig Hockenberry opened the kimono on development of Twitteriffic 5:

Personally, I find myself actively disabling notifications in most of the apps I install these days. Notifications are great when used in moderation, but it’s very easy to use them to the point of distraction. Since I read Twitter as free time permits, I don’t need a reminder. Similarly, a constant flow of streaming tweets interrupting my day sounds more like a bug than a feature.

So do I. And I’m doing it more and more. In fact, I run my iPad in Do Not Disturb mode more often than not. I wonder if we’ll see this as a trend; that app developers decide enough is enough and simply remove the ability for push notifications from their apps.

Perhaps push notifications are the new blog comments.

/via Stephen Hackett.

More benefits of turning off comments

Over four years ago whether a blog should or shouldn’t have comments was a heavily debated topic in the blogging community. Back then I wrote about one possible benefit of disabling comments.

One of the benefits I see coming from disabling comments is the number of links you end up getting back to your site.

Almost a year ago I wrote about the fact that blogging was ready for disruption. (I still think it is.) And that the new “pro blog recipe” was a blog without comments.

Lately this topic seems to have risen its head again yet not in the same way as it has in the past. In fact, rather than there being a debate for or against a blog having comments it appears that most independent bloggers have resolved that a blog without comments is simply much more enjoyable and manageable while larger outfits still see the need to engage the community.

Matt Gemmell, who recently shut off comments on his personal blog, added a few reasons to the fray. Here is one of his reasons that I have also enjoyed since turning comments off on my personal blog.

I feel more willing to publish short pieces, and to write more frequently.

When I had comments on I wouldn’t publish anything that I thought may not start a conversation. Which ended up leading me in a direction I simply didn’t want to go in – I was starting conversations for the sake of starting conversations. That isn’t why I have my personal blog and I don’t want it to be. So, off went the comments.And it isn’t because I don’t want to hear the opinions of those that read my blog. It is because I don’t want to write simply for the gratification of receiving comments. It has been very liberating.

There is still a place for comments on blogs. Even personal blogs. Some blogs have very good reasons to have comments on them. In fact, even Jason Kottke turns on comments from time-to-time when they are needed. But there are better examples like Horace Dediu’s Asymco. He has made it plainly clear that he runs Asymco in order to work with his community on figuring out a problem. He wants feedback, questions, answers, rebuttals to his hypothesis and blog comments is his primary way of accomplishing that.

So while the debate rages on – and all debates are good when they furnish constructive conversation – unlike Gemmell I firmly believe it is a matter of choice by the publisher rather than a cut-and-dry answer. There are pros and cons to having comments on or off and, once weighed, the publisher can then make a decision on how he or she would like to run their own blog.

Regarding blog comments, again

I’m behind in my reading and even further behind in my writing. Which is why I’m just now finally writing about something I’ve wanted to since earlier this week even though the original post was written in late February. Ugh.

Alex Payne, one of the many talented people behind Twitter, recently wrote on his blog his thoughts on blog comments. In a nut, Alex felt that by leaving comments off he’s elevating the level of conversation. That, if he had comments turned on, there would be less than desirable comments written on his blog. That, by turning comments off, it forces people to reply to his blog posts from their own blog. Since people don’t want to write stupid things on their own blog the level of conversation would automatically be risen. Smart.

Alex isn’t the first person to share this sentiment. I’ve written about blog comments in 2004, again in 2007, and have thought about it many times since I began blogging around the turn of the century. In 2004 I was commenting on the indirect benefits for turning off comments. The main benefit I highlighted was that by not allowing comments, you’d be forcing people to link to your site from theirs, creating more link backs to your site, increasing your blog’s audience, and improving your site’s Pagerank on search engines. All very good things for any writer. I suppose those benefits really just improve Alex’s reason. Improving the conversation while at the same time doing well for yourself.

In 2007 I was, in an ironic sort of way, responding to Jeremy Keith’s thoughts on leaving blog comments off. He said that he didn’t like having them on because of they were “examples of antisocial networking”. He made examples of YouTube and Digg being saturated with worthless comments. I’ve recently reread my post and I think I worded my response quite well, so if you’re interested, give it a read.

I think my thoughts hold up, two years later, that Digg and YouTube are, well, Digg and YouTube. Digg, generally speaking, is meant to act as a human filter for the world’s news. The comments on a Digg are, for the most part, about whether or not that particular news item, link, photo, video, or whatever should be worthy of being on Digg at all. Digg has gotten so much better than it was when it first reached critical mass. YouTube, however, still has a lot of maturing to do. The community is so vast that as you browse around the site you will see that thoughtful videos usually are rewarded with thoughtful responses while not-so-thoughtful videos are not. The nature of the beast I suppose.

There are edge cases, of course. Where you have a thoughtful video that gets the attention of the trolls. Where dumb people with nothing to do flock to a particular video and, for no other reason than their own personal entertainment, tee off in the comments in a tirade of incredibly distasteful, worthless, and (even I’ll admit) humorous commentary.

I suppose my main reason for agreeing to disagree with Jeremy was because, well, my site isn’t that popular. This isn’t Digg. This isn’t YouTube. I don’t have the problem of having millions of troll-like morons looking for an excuse to yell things like “first” or, well, any other worthless response (let alone the off-color ones). If I did I’d probably deal with that in my own way. This is, afterall, my house. I very much doubt I’d ever turn comments off entirely. One of my core beliefs, which I mentioned in my 2007 note, was that I thought of blog posts as the beginning of or the response to conversations. I still feel that way. I wouldn’t write anything on my blog, ever, if I didn’t in some way want someone to think about what I’m writing about and, if they chose to, respond to it. That is why I write.

Daring Fireball, one of my favorite Weblogs of all time, which made my Best of 2008 list, and is run by my friend John Gruber, also leaves comments off. John, who recently linked to Alex Payne’s thoughts, has covered this topic a few times. Based on what he’s written publicly about this topic I can safely say that he is in agreement with both Alex and Jeremy. And he has reason to. Jeremy’s main point about how there are too many worthless comments out there has a lot to do with scale. Daring Fireball has enough scale, though no where near the scale of Digg or YouTube, to create those types of moderation problems for John. You see, John curates Daring Fireball like a rooftop garden in a busy city. He cares for it. Every pixel. He cares for it as though it has very limited space. He uses that space efficiently. It is like he needs to get the greatest quality vegetables possible from the absolutely least amount of area. Besides John’s writing it is probably the biggest factor in the success of Daring Fireball. With as much traffic as he gets (which is about 1.2M hits per month according to his Sponsorship page) he would probably run into the problem of trolls. When John goes off on jackasses (which are some of my favorite posts, by the way) I’m pretty sure other jackasses would chime in.  With regards to Alex’s main point, about the fact that Alex really enjoys well thought-out discussions rather than terse commentary, John also tends to link to many people that mention his site in thoughtful posts. John enjoys good writing as much as anyone. In other words, I can see why blogs like Daring Fireball leave comments off.

TechCrunch, one of the most popular blogs right now, has comments on. It has some troll activity. It has some comments that, in my opinion, aren’t worth all that much. But, some people have used the comment area on TechCrunch to do a great job of responding to not only TechCrunch’s commentary but also to the TechCrunch audience. Gary Vaynerchuk, someone I consider a dear friend, runs a Web site called Cork’d. (You can read my interview with Gary about Cork’d, if you’d like). When Cork’d got hacked, and TechCrunch promptly reported on it, Gary took the opportunity to directly communicate what was going on through his own blog and through TechCrunch’s comments. I’d love to hear Michael Arrington’s thoughts on comments on TechCrunch and why they’ve chosen to leave them on for the majority of their posts. I’m positive he has an opinion on this matter.

Again, I’ve been blogging for 10 years. Longer than it has been called blogging. Longer than there has been any form of personal content management systems. This topic of comments, and whether or not to have them on my site, has been debated in many conversations with other bloggers at blogging meetups and conferences, with myself in the shower, with the road while I’m driving, in my own brain, and many other places over those years. I struggle with it. All. The. Time.  My strategy, as of today, is that if it even became a problem where I began to regret having comments on – where the comments I get on my site do not have a value to quantity ratio that I’m happy with – or when my goal is for people to link to my site from their own sites for the sake of getting linkbacks – then maybe I’ll turn them off. But not until then. And neither of those situations have happened in all of these years an
d I doubt they will any time soon.

I’m just happy to know that other people think about these sorts of things still too. That, even after 10 years of publishing on the Web, we’re all still struggling together with the same fundamental issues that the Web, in all of its social greatness, has imposed on our efforts of sharing ideas. No matter how good the tools get, no matter how many people jump online worldwide and join the conversation, we will always have the decision to make of how we’d like interact. What we’re comfortable with for us, for our companies, and for our Web sites. The learning curve is, as far as I see it, infinite. And I’m okay with that.

One possible benefit from disabling comments

There has been an ongoing discussion as to whether or not blogs should always have comments enabled to allow its readers to be part of the conversation. I myself firmly believe that each blog post should be thought of as a starting point of, or a response to, a conversation.

Some deal with this issue from an ideological perspective in that they disable comments because they feel that people will behave differently when commenting than they would if they wrote from their own Web sites. Jeremy Keith recently said:

“Choose a random video on YouTube or a random story on Digg, read each and every comment and then tell me that the comments contribute to any kind of community discussion. They are shining examples of antisocial networking.” — Reflection

I feel this is a blanket statement, which has some validity, but I do not believe that YouTube or Digg comments are completely “examples of antisocial networking”.

Sure. Many comments found on Digg threads are a bunch of teenaged boys (the proof is in the statistics) yelling back and forth about whether or not that specific article is digg worthy – but I believe those threads are there exactly for that reason. Should the commentary on Digg be about the article itself? Or should that conversation be reserved for the article’s origin? I believe it is up to the community to decide and it seems like they have.

Not that Jeremy’s point isn’t a valid one. Someone leaving a comment on my blog may indeed be a little looser with their speech than they would if they were responding, like I am right now, from their own Web sites. And if the author of the site is not willing to weed through the comments – then perhaps it is best to disable the comments for that very reason.

But I believe there is a completely different angle to consider.

One of the benefits I see coming from disabling comments is the number of links you end up getting back to your site. It is always nice when someone writes a blog post in response to something you said or wrote and have them link to your site or post as a way to direct people to the rest of the conversation. I’ve been fortunate to have a fair amount of people doing that very thing with some of my posts here on my personal site – and everytime I enjoy it when they do. I wonder, if I disabled comments, would the number of “linkbacks” increase because I was no longer providing a way for the conversation to continue on this site?

In the spring of 2004 I published a poorly written post entitled: “Disabling Comments, The Pros” wherein I spoke about a few sites that were good examples of this “theory” at work. Some of the most popular personal weblogs to date have been those who rarely, if at all, enable comments on their posts. I don’t believe this to be “the formula for creating a popular personal blog” but I believe it may help in some cases.

I leave comments enabled because I suppose I’m not as strict as Jeremy. I don’t care if my readers (all 11 of you) comment in a little different form than they would if they had written an entire response on their sites. So I guess I’m willing to moderate, though I very rarely do, in order to keep the conversation somewhat centralized.

What do you think? Have you ever considered turning off comments? Why? You may answer in the comment form below. 😉