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. 😉

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