June 20, 2003

Blog without Comment

A blog without comments is wrong. I feel a twinge of discomfort when I come across such a blog. I think I'm beginning to understand why.

Blogging is an act of egocentricity: come read me because I have something interesting to say. Come back again because I'm regularly interesting.

Adding comments to a blog softens that. It's a willingness to listen, an invitation to conversation. Blogs without comments, on the other hand, twist the dagger: I'm interesting, I've said all there is to be said, and you couldn't possibly say anything worth hearing.

For instance, I'm probably going to drop the Reverse Cowgirl from my reading list. She's been a fun, guilty pleasure for some time. In recent months, she has leveraged her blog presence into one of minor celebrity. While visiting today, I noticed the comments had disappeared. I felt an axis-tilting change in the relationship. I didn't feel like a welcome guest anymore.

As another example, Halley publishes a blog I've never enjoyed. Best I can tell, Halley's claim to fame is she blogs a lot. A lot of people read that blog because ... ummm ... I don't know. I've just found it irritating. To test my theory I went and visited her blog, and sure enough: no comments.

David has a thing for skewering A-List bloggers. I understand and share some of his irritation, but not all of it. There are some A-List bloggers I enjoy reading, such as David Weinberger and Larry Lessig. These guys have comments on their blog. Maybe there is some correlation. The fact that they are willing to listen makes me feel welcome. Totally not irritating.

So far, I've only found one comment-less blog that I want to keep on my reading list. That is Ed Felten's blog. Although he doesn't accept comments, he does take trackbacks. That mitigates things a bit; it at least gives somebody a chance to respond. Still, I get a small whiff of that, "I don't care what you have to say" thing whenever I visit.

What I'm realizing is that--good, bad, or otherwise--I'm insulted by blogs without comments. It's the same feeling as going to a party, having somebody yack at you for five minutes, and then they turn tail and run before you can say anything. I think it's rude, and I don't enjoy hanging around those sorts of people.

Posted by chip at 03:57 PM to: Blogging 'bout Blogging
Permalink | Comments (10) | Trackback (1)


Ironically, I found your site via Halley.

I think you're one of the few that don't pussy foot around bashing people you don't like. I like that. Keep it up.

And yes, comments are necessary. It's an HUGE part of blogging. It builds a community and is just plain fun.

Posted by: Brendyn on June 21, 2003 08:32 PM

Tim Bray is the one other commentless blog that I like. He comments on other people's sites, so he participates in the conversation.

I wish Felten had comments; it would have been a lot easier to keep him up to date on the Texas SDMCA.

OTOH, I stopped reading Brad DeLong's blog, despite occasionally interesting political, economic, and historical essays, because of the long, horrible flamewars in the comments. His blog would be better if he turned the comments off sometimes.

Posted by: Adina Levin on June 21, 2003 09:17 PM

Agreed. While commentless blogs often provide email addresses, there's an immediacy and inclusiveness to commenting that I prefer.

It's not usually my style to critique another blog openly and negatively and link to them. I guess I fear a bit of backlash or something. But I find your forthrightness refreshing.

BTW, I finally logged on for a quick check of email and blogs while up here at my parents. You get the honor of being the first blog I checked (since you recently updated). I've got four words for ya: Grandma Brown's baked beans. Mmmmmmm! ;)

Posted by: Kathryn on June 21, 2003 09:50 PM

I think you're right that commentless blogs can be annoying, but I still don't have them on mine. I think you have to take some things into consideration, and I would like, ironically, to comment in defense of the commentless. 1) As a writer, I like to write my posts and be done with them--they are my finished pieces of work, kind of like poems. There are different reasons for writing blogs and different ways of writing them. Some blogs lend themselves to debate or conversation, others don't as much. You can call that egotistical, but maybe it's just obsessive compulsive or artistic license. Regular old writers don't have to be immediately answerable for what they write. 2) I don't want to spark the kind of "flame wars" that have been mentioned. It's my site, and I don't want to host the views of people like that. 3) I am a student who wants to maintain a little anonymity. Having open comments would allow someone I know to let certain things slip like where I go to law school or who I had for Contracts, etc. 4) I do provide email, and I've found that method of communication to work very well. I always respond personally and I think that's ultimately more satisfying.
On another note, this is my virst visit to your blog, and I'm enjoying it. That Son Volt album you're listening to is good, but not as good as Trace.
Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Bekah on June 22, 2003 09:08 AM

I like blogs that offer commenting, but I can see why Web pages that discuss more personal issues would not want to allow comments. (What Bekah said.) The email responses I receive to my online journal postings are frequently not conversational or polite. Unfortunately, I absolutely understand why someone might disable commenting, so I can't censure those sites myself for that reason. I suppose a lot of it depends on the attitude: "I'm too good for comments" would annoy me too, but "I can't deal with one more hate-filled, rude comment right now" elicits my sympathy.

Posted by: Jette on June 22, 2003 10:38 AM

Brendyn - I want to be clear that I may be bashing blogs, but I don't want to be bashing people. I don't know Halley. It just happens I don't like her blog. Stuff like this kind of irritates me.

Kathryn - That's five words. *pffht*

Jette - I think you've got something. It's another piece in the is journals blogs? debate. Comments may be less necessary for people who are writing diary-style journals, as opposed to blogs where people write about stuff. Still my spider sense starts tingling at some journal sites. Not yours, though. May be because your writing is so personal, I'd be more inclined to send email than post a public comment.

Posted by: Chip on June 22, 2003 05:07 PM

I responded to this post on my site, but because most likely no one will read it there i thought it should be ok to copy-paste it here as a comment:

I thought quite a lot about the implications of allowing comments on my site from a webmasters and bloggers point of view and decided not to include this feature for three reasons (actually for one of the three reasons, because the other two only apply to widely popular sites, but perhaps i'll have to deal with these issues some time in the future):
1. If you start a blog that you don't really promote and that isn't accidentally linked by an a-list blogger, it's likely that very few people will visit your site. This usually results in links below your posts that read something like "comments(0)". I personally think that there's nothing more pitiful than a site with lots of posts on its frontpage drawing no single comment. My current traffic statistics imply that i wouldn't get many comments, so my site doesn't feature them.
2. You risk to lose control over your site to some degree and more important, to lose control over your traffic. This happened to kottke.org short time ago and i'm not willing to pay a 10 gb traffic bill just because i allowed comments. It's not very likely that something like that happens to my site, but you never know, perhaps i'll get /.ed someday (though in that case my traffic bill will most likely go through the roof even without comments).
3. Comments on widely popular sites tend to become unreadable and useless because people won't read myriads of comments, but feel obliged to comment on the topic anyway, resulting in constant repetition of already voiced opinions. Just try to follow the comments on /. for a while and you'll understand what i mean: even though they offer a magnificent community-driven comment-rating system it's still almost impossible to follow a discussion: if you set your threshold too high, you won't be able to follow the discussion thread cause you'll miss a lot of comments, but if you set your threshold too low you'll be flooded by mediocre comments.
Of course there are lots of weblogs that benefit a lot from comments, but i don't see that for my site right now. As soon as it seems appropriate, i'll add them, but even then it's unlikely that i'll allow comments on all my posts because there are things that just don't need to be discussed or should be discussed in a more appropriate place. Therefore i understand perfectly well why some people feel more comfortable without comments on their site.

PS: I see your site benefit from comments.

Posted by: christoph on June 24, 2003 08:07 PM

Another point is that it can be _difficult_ to find and add a comment system to a weblog. Blogger, for instance, doesn't have built-in comments. And the free comment systems tend to fill up quickly with users and work sluggishly or go mysteriously offline.

Posted by: Zelda on June 25, 2003 05:26 PM

I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels less inclined to read comment-less blogs/journals. To me, a blog without comments is more like a newspaper, and it has to have really fine writing in order for me to read it. A blog with comments is more like a conversation, where there's a give and take that reading the paper just lacks (barring the editorials page, but even then not all submissions are printed, and they're not immediate).

Posted by: Addlepated on July 10, 2003 09:55 PM

Tom Matrullo, in a totally unrelated post, expands on addlepated's above point. He wrote:

"...This makes me want to emphasize the proactive component of blogs. Conversation is all well and good, as are comments and trackbacks, etc. But one of the reasons I read blogs is to find folks who are more interested in bearing witness to something, anything, that they have experienced in the wooly irregularity of their singular consciousness - before it's been smoothed to fit the implified conventional channels of public intersubjectivity - than in taking up the well-worn tokens of shopworn debate."
Posted by: fishrush on July 12, 2003 10:05 PM
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