Blog Comments – Are they really passée?

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According to Mashable, popular gadget site Engadget has recently shut down comments. According to Engadget it’s a temporary measure but the blog took it because the “tone in comments has really gotten out of hand.”

As Mashable point out, John Gruber’s blog has famously always shunned comments.

For me the whole point of blogging is the social side of it. I don’t see it as a broadcast medium.

So what do others think…are comments really passée?

Should we rely solely on reactions on Twitter, Facebook etc to fill the comments void?

  • http://www.mattchedit.com/Blog.aspx Matt Chatterley

    We definitely get more spam than valid comments on our posts – however some of the insights offered by the real comments are such gems that I would be very reluctant to ‘switch them off’.I can imagine it being a lot more hassle with a higher profile site, though.To some extent I think it depends what you’re looking to gain from comments – perhaps they are passee for large publishers, but from a business point of view I feel they offer valuable audience engagement..

  • http://www.zeezaw.co.uk Jahnzilla

    I think they should be carefully vetted. You shouldn’t stifle the freedom of speech, but you also need to be sure to censor those who just like to talk smack or stir without contributing anything positive.

  • http://rich-baker.com Rich Baker – MD Conversational UK Ltd

    Interesting post Ross – thanks for sharing. Funnily enough I took the same decision to shut down comments on a post at my site for the same reason. Got some grief for it too!I agree blogs shouldn’t be broadcast media – they should be all about the conversation. My guidance to website owners is that bloggers should take care to not let debate descend into personal attacks or anything that doesn’t add to the debate.Stephen Fry mentioned the issue on QI recently. He said there is a unwritten rule that once anyone comments along the lines of ‘hitler wouldn’t do that’ then comments are automatically shut down; once things descend that far it’s pointless continuing the conversation.

  • Ross McCulloch

    Good point about audience/customer engagement Matt.The only place where I really cringe at comments is on the websites of the major UK newspapers. Even then I wouldn’t like to see comments turned off but, as Jahnzilla points out, I do think they need to be properly monitored. There’s nothing worse than a keyboard warrior!

  • Rob Dyson

    In my humble blogging on third sector issues, I kind of rely of comments to a) let me know if I’m talking crap or b) illuminate new light on the topic. For me it’s nice to have prompted someone not just to read the thing, but want to give their two-penneth worth too. The comments on my recent posts have been brilliant because (for one issue in particular) people who have lived-experience of the issue and people that have been in the industry a lot longer than me have added their voices. Comments are generally the thing that turns a broadcast (as you say) into a fluid conversation. Yay for comments. Without comments you don’t have a blog – you have a website.

  • Ross McCulloch

    Rich and Rob…Glad you both agree that it’s all about the conversation.Rich is right, knowing when to close a comments thread is key. I literally picked the first story on the Daily Mail site knowing it would be a good example: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1248188/Teacher-sacked-bullying-female-colleague-died-bulimia.html"Name and shame" seems to be the Daily Mail reader mantra.

  • http://twitter.com/ClaireatWaves ClaireatWaves

    I think it’s really down to the content provider. If they were passée no-one would comment. There are moderators out there who can help. Lets hope its temporary, but I can empathise with the problem. Even my small blog gets spammed horrendously, so engadget must be a prime target.

  • http://straightfromtheden.blogspot.com @fromtheden

    On high profile sites the sheer volume of comments can render them somewhat meaningless. I’m thinking of instances like the Sartorialist: http://thesartorialist.blogspot.com/ This no longer really feels like a blog.However if debate gets going comments can be interesting and informative. I’ve been following with interest blogging and comment-ary on the launch of the Caledonian Mercury, particularly with regard to its design.As a small-time blogger I am delighted when someone leaves a comment. Especially if it is constructive, critical or otherwise!Oh and Moderation. ALWAYS!

  • http://straightfromtheden.blogspot.com @fromtheden

    since i posted i went and had a look at the sartorialist (hadn’t in a few days) and there is some engagement! *backtracks a wee bit*

  • Ross McCulloch

    @fromtheden Just peeked at http://thesartorialist.blogspot.com/ – European people are so much more stylish than us Brits.

  • http://straightfromtheden.blogspot.com @fromtheden

    @ross yes, and for this reason it is all the more interesting that europeans are often such anglo-gaelo-style-philes . barbour may only have returned to the glossies of this country recently, but it has been a strong staple of the italian wardrobe in the interim!

  • Roberto Kusabbi

    Sorry to chip in late, interesting debate. Very similar to any community and forum management I think. It is a tough one to know when to step in. This isn’t the first time that it has happened on big sites, I think the BBC took big steps on their forums and though I know Engagent is a blog it kind of works like a forum really, each post gets so many hits and sparks debate, much like a messageboard.I think that there is a good point above about there being a point where a comment is made and you know that you may as well stop the conversation. If comments are a conversation I guess sometimes in real life we have to sometimes walk away from them so shutting off comments is much like walking away. I dont think there is a right or wrong answer really, it seems to be case by case. I think there is a lot to learn from forum management and that kind of community. It is a hard job for sure. Think it was Tim Berners Lee (sp?) who said at a Nesta event a few years ago that the internet was in its teenage years, a bit fussy and rebellious but will calm down and become more (for what of a better word) sensible. Maybe that will help in trying to moderate. Then again not all teenagers turn out to be sensible adults! Not sure if any of that made sense! Also the Startorialist is a great blog.

  • Ross McCulloch

    Good points Roberto. Hopefully once the internet ‘grows up’ keyboard warriors will be more frowned upon.I like what you said about knowing when to walk away. There’s no hard and fast rules but it’s usually obvious when a comments thread should be closed. Knowing the situation he’s talking about, Richard made the right decision to close comments on a particular post on his blog.

  • Roberto Kusabbi

    I think its definitely a case by case, I dont see anything wrong with stopping comments if it gets to a point of no return as it were. Unfortunately the internet is always going to be a mirror of the people of society (in many ways). There were some forum/blog guidelines in the database of policies from some of the biggest companies in the world, maybe thats a good place to learn: http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php Either way, great post Ross and a good set of views