May 29th 2009 Why I Don’t Allow Comments (Anymore)

I’m torn on the value of comments on blogs and similar sites, because I’m skeptical that the Internet is truly a good medium for two-way communication between writers and readers. Comment systems are primarily anonymous, which makes it easy for a reader to leave a thoughtless or downright insulting comment. Unless carefully designed, comment systems don’t facilitate a dialogue. For example, on Monkey Robot, the comment system was not threaded, and there was no way to be notified that someone had responded to a comment; I’m skeptical that many commenters checked back to see if they had received any replies.

Responding to blog posts via email or on your own blog is a much better, albeit less direct, way to promote discussion. You actually have to think about your response, and you risk getting a reply back (or, in the case of a blog, having your thoughts publicly dissected). Such a system is much more asynchronous than a simple comment, but I think it can open up a more thoughtful dialogue between writers and readers. If nothing else, it prevents trolls and spammers from using your blog as a platform for their mindless drivel.

I’m not saying comments are always a bad thing. Some Internet communities thrive on comments. I occasionally find value in Reddit comment threads, and I’m an aficionado of online forums. But those communities are fundamentally different from a site on which a single writer (or small group of writers) post creative content (i.e., a blog). And even I have to admit that Reddit/Digg/SlashDot comment threads and online forums generally exist more for entertainment than as a truly compelling medium for “enlightened” discussion.

So I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth is (so to speak), and remove comments from my blog.

That said, I appreciate the comments I’ve received from readers over the past several years. Rest assured that your comments still exist in the website’s database, even though I no longer display them. And I do enjoy getting feedback, so if you read something interesting or controversial on Monkey Robot, feel free to email me, call me up to chat, or respond on your own blog (and send me the link, of course). I always enjoy a fruitful dialogue with readers.