Yes, I’m linking to Penthouse, but it’s a good interview by Kara Wahlgren of Matthew Inman, better known as The Oatmeal. In particular, I like this part:

Wahlgren: I noticed you have comments disabled on your website.

Inman: I used to think it was an integral part of being a writer or artist—that you have to read comments, and you have to react to them, and you have to mold your work around them. But that doesn’t make me a better artist—if anything, it just makes me doubt myself. So I just don’t read any of it, because I can’t help focusing on that one negative one where some guy writes something awful. I’ve found that my comics are becoming more and more of a rhetorical performance. I just want to draw things that I hope are funny and put them on the web, and that’ll be the extent of the communication, to preserve my own sanity more than anything.

It’s official: everyone hates comments.

Speaking of comments, here’s Suzanne LaBarre on Popular Science decision to get rid of them:

If you carry out those results to their logical end—commenters shape public opinion; public opinion shapes public policy; public policy shapes how and whether and what research gets funded—you start to see why we feel compelled to hit the “off” switch.

A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to “debate” on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.

I love it. Getting rid of comments to save science.

Tomasz Tunguz:

Whether on-site or off-site, comments aren’t the right communication vector. Instead, a redesigned, curated section for Letters to the Editor or one step further, Letters to the Author might cultivate a reading community much more effectively than the commenting platforms in use today. 

This is a part of what I like about Tumblr’s “Ask” functionality. It’s not that I don’t want to hear from my readers, it’s that typical blog comment systems are a horrible way to facilitate any sort of meaningful discourse. I much prefer to straight-up publish insightful comments sent my way and respond to them as necessary.

Josh Constine has a few ideas for how to fix commenting on the Internet

None are bad, but all have been tried to varying degrees before. They don’t seem to fix the underlying problem of some people just being sketchball idiots. 

I actually think number 3 — dedicated comment pages for each post — is the most interesting. Some sites, like MacRumors, seem to use this to good effect. It turns your comment section into a forum. 

I’m reminded of Coffee Talk. “Talk amongst yourselves.”

Wow. When I read this post by Cody Fink talking about comments and the future of Macstories I was not expecting this:

In consideration of the reader, how we want the site to look, and due to the amount of time we can spend keeping an eye of this stuff, we will be removing comments from the next iteration of MacStories. And yes, it’s the nuclear option for keeping the site clean. Removing comments also means that we’re doing an incredible disservice for the readers who’ve already left great comments, and we hate having to remove those from the discussion. Decisions like this are tough because we have to do what’s best for us while minding our reader’s thoughts.

Good for them. I love Macstories and the bottom line is that the removal of comments will do nothing to change that whatsoever. I’m sure I’m not alone there.

Still, this is an impressive stand. It’s one thing for a single person site (like this one) to make a call to remove comments. It’s another for a larger team blog to do so. In fact, I can’t think of any without comments. 

Right or wrong, the mentality is that to build a next generation media publication on the web, you need comments. That’s why we never got rid of them on TechCrunch (believe me, plenty of us wanted to — Facebook comments were a compromise). 

Even more interesting is the psychology behind “needing” comments on big sites. Let’s be honest: most of these sites defend comments because if they don’t, it will seem like they’re taking a shit on their readers. It’s along the lines of “the reader is always right” — even when only half a percent are commenting and the vast majority of those are trolls.

So good for Macstories taking a stand and doing what they think is right for their site. This is ballsy and I hope it works for them. If it does, it could be the first real step towards the reinvention of online feedback and discussion that the space desperately needs.