#comments

Bile

Last night I came home after watching Michigan’s most excellent Sugar Bowl win and read Matt Gemmell’s follow-up on why he turned commenting off on his blog a month ago. “It was definitely the right move,” he writes. And I agree with all of his points, so I linked to his post from here and followed up with a few brief words of my own on the topic.

This made some people mad.

Above, Fred Wilson says I’m missing out by “dissing” comments, commenters, etc. Not stated in that tweet is that Wilson is an investor in Disqus, a leading blog commenting system (though they view themselves as more — more on that in a bit). I don’t fault Wilson for not mentioning this very vested interest because a) 140 characters is 140 characters b) I know that he really believes in Internet comments or he wouldn’t have made the Disqus investment in the first place. Still, context is important.

Wilson’s blog, A VC, is a testament to the best of Internet commenting. It shows that on a case-by-case basis with some work, commenting can be productive and perhaps even useful. But I still disagree with Wilson that I’m missing out on anything by not allowing comments here. Because, as I wrote last night, the vast majority of the time, comments are bile. Or nonsense. Or useless. Or some combination of the three.

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Here’s the thing: while some try to paint comments as a form of democracy, that’s bullshit. 99.9% of comments are bile. I’ve heard the counter arguments about how you need to curate and manage your comments — okay, I’m doing that by not allowing any.

I welcome feedback. Just do it on your own site or on Twitter, Facebook, etc. That small barrier alone removes most of the idiots. 

Let’s be totally honest here: anyone worthwhile leaving a comment should do so on their own blog. Very few read blog comments anyway. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Commenting is a facade. It makes you think you have a voice. You don’t. Get your own blog and write how you really feel on your own site.

Earn your voice.

Update: Bile.

John Gruber:

Now that DF has achieved a modicum of popularity, however, what I tend to get instead aren’t queries or complaints about the lack of comments, but rather demands that I add them — demands from entitled people who see that I’ve built something very nice that draws much attention, and who believe they have a right to share in it.

They don’t.

I love this. My view on comments has certainly changed over the years. I feel like I used to be suspicious of any site that didn’t have them. But now I don’t have them on this very site. 

I suppose my time at TechCrunch (and VentureBeat before that) changed my opinion. I came to realize that the vast majority of comments on popular sites are useless — or worse. 

Like Gruber, I much prefer when people use their own sites to respond to something. That small barrier to entry seems to ensure that the quality of the discussion will be higher.

There are exceptions, of course, but they’re few and far between. And I feel like the comment problem on the Internet is getting worse, not better.

And yes, I’ve tried all the various third-party commenting platforms. Some work really well. But the fundamental problem remains that most people on the Internet are idiots — especially when they can be anonymous in some way.

Plus, comments tend to make sites look ugly.

Why This Is News

A few people have pinged me about the comments in the latest Calacanis/Facebook story (part III from last night). Basically, there are a lot of comments amounting to “Why Is This News?” Certainly there’s an argument to be made there — at first the story was about just how hard it was to quit Facebook. Then it was about how it was harder to quit Mahalo. Finally, it became about Facebook calling Calcanis a liar. I think it’s interesting, but I realize not everyone will. And that’s fine, feel free not to read that post.

All that being said, don’t worry too much about the commenters. Two things to always keep in mind:

1) Commenters are a very, very (did I say “very”?) small percentage of the overall readership. In every respect they are the vocal minority. I’m sure there have been case studies about why that is. And I’m sure there will be more. But anyone on any blog would be foolish to let this vocal minority affect the editorial process — partially because of #2.

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