#comments

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.

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.

Read More

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.

Read More