The Argument for Keeping Those Blog Comments Open

“The comments are what differentiates a blog from a website, ” they told us. “Engage!” they said. “It’s about building community…”

…And engage we did. Ever since I published my first blog post in the late 90′s, I lived for the interaction. It was the spirit of community that really made it all worthwhile. I’m a chatter. I like to talk to people. So when people I didn’t even know became regulars -first on my humor blog, then on my freelance writing blog – it was a great rush and a truly valuable experience.

I can honestly say I owe my entire social media career to the people who commented on my blogs over the years. So why would I shut down comments?

To me, shutting down comments is silencing all the people who helped me to become a success.

You matter

Compared to my past successful blogs, this one here receives very little traffic and fewer comments. In fact, I’ve gotten so busy lately that I don’t always have time to respond to the people who do comment on my sporadic posts. Still, I see comments here  and value every single one of them. When someone has a question, I am there for them and I hope I always will be. Comments tell me people are reading and they care what I have to say. They also tell me when I’m off the mark. I have received the most awesome feedback from people all over the world via  the comments on my blogs.

So now closing blog comments is a thing and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Actually, no, I do know how I feel about… I’m not a fan. It smacks of “I don’t need you anymore.”  While this probably isn’t the case, as a reader of popular blogs that closed their comments sections, the option to participate is what makes the experience more pleasant, educational, and memorable. Knowing I can ask a question or interact with others,or just read more tips and ideas from other blog readers is the best part of a blog.

Now I know folks can interact elsewhere, but I’m not a fan of “read it here and talk about it there.” If I have to go somewhere else to comment, I’ll probably pass and I know I’m not the only one.  Unless it’s something I’m passionate about, I don’t want to have to Like a Facebook page just to comment and I certainly don’t want to join an exclusive community just to comment. It’s a very rare blog post that incites my passion anymore, anyway.

I get some of the reasons for not wanting to deal with comments. Spam and negativity certainly put a damper on things. They’re an inconvenience but not so much that I would tell all the people who followed me since day one that they can no longer comment on my blog.

Community Last?

I guess what really worries me about cutting off comments is  whether or not it signifies a decline in community. People gave up forums for the social networks and now even the social networks are changing the way brands can communicate with their friends and fans. Algorithms are changing, social networks are getting spammier, and it’s getting more difficult to find a true conversation that isn’t centered around links and promotion. Retweets are now more important than comments, blogrolls, and the general sharing that endeared blogging to many of us back in the day. Maybe I’m just too old school for all of this anymore.

I don’t have a wildly popular blog, I don’t have a huge Facebook page, or an influential Twitter account, and I have never been a person who sells, but there are people who honor me by reading what I have to say every time I post. In return, I will continue to honor them by giving them a place to have a voice, even if it’s not so convenient for me at times.

 

Comments

  1. wendikelly says:

    I can’t think of a single time when we have shut down comments. I WANT to interact with our readers! I too, am not a fan.

    • Deb Ng says:

      The comments used to be what it was all about.

      • wendikelly says:

        I am wondering if the tide is going to turn again. With FB Pages shifting to a paid ad model, and businesses feeling less secure about their conversations being seen, will it occur to them to bring the conversations back to their own Real Estate? It would be smart business not to expect any Social Media to do your relationship building for you forever- and for free.

        • Deb Ng says:

          I’ve wondered the same thing, I think it may cause some brands/bloggers to rethink closing comments, but I don’t think those who already closed will open again.

          • Lisa says:

            I think it’s possible that we will regain the Internet from the social media people, if the open source community starts to put out widgets like Discuss, or maybe a cross-platform Liker, that let us have the features of social networks, on our own terms. This may have to be led by people over-35, who remember life before Facebook;).

  2. I also strongly disagree with the move to shut down comments, and I think it’s a specious argument that battling spammers takes so much time; Akismet and other spam-fighting software work just fine.

    Scattering responses and comments all over other social networks makes no sense to me, either. I keep self-hosted blogs because I want to own my own web real estate, not cede everything to Mr. Zuckerberg or Google. Why would I give them my readers’ comments?

    • Deb Ng says:

      I couldn’t agree more. What I find interesting is that we’re so concerned with driving traffic to our interests but doesn’t sending people to Facebook defeat that purpose?

      • The real answer is that building and nurturing community takes time, and some folks would rather spend that time writing squeeze pages to sell stuff. Fine for them, but don’t blow smoke up my skirt telling me that it’s because dealing with spam is “too hard.”

  3. TXWriter says:

    Deb,

    I’ve already written my own post about blog comments, and yes I agree that they’re important.

    One of the things that attracted me to blogging in the first place was the give and take of the format. I watched while a small (okay, tiny) community grew around my small blog. Some of the folks who left comments there are still people I keep in touch with.

    I have toyed with the idea of turning comments off on old posts after a period of time–say several months. But I haven’t even done that.

    And I also agree with you that the blogs who shut down comments probably won’t open them again. That’s a loss, but oh well. Life goes on. :)

    Thanks for writing this.

    • Deb Ng says:

      Hi Laura,

      I’ve also toyed with shutting down comments on old blog posts, but you know what? The spam rarely goes through on those posts. Disqus or Askimet filters them out so while it can be a pain to go through the spam to make sure there are no legitimate comments, again, it’s not worth the expense of this community and comments.

      • TXWriter says:

        Deb,

        I actually think I would be okay with any blog that shut down comments after a period of time. In fact, I think a few of the blogs that use my writing services do that. Most of the most relevant comments come when the post is first published–at least in my experience.

        But, as you point out, it’s really not necessary.

        I also like Sheila’s point about web real estate. I understand social media companies want good discussions on their platforms, and I have had some good discussions on social media sites. In a way, though, that just proves the importance of comments. If they’re valuable to a social media site, they should be valuable to a blogger as well.

  4. Miss Dazey says:

    I wonder if anyone as a book, online class or whatever on how do best do a self-hosted blog?

    • Deb Ng says:

      @missdazey:disqus, My friend @BobWP can help you with that. Check him out. – but he’s WordPress. If you’re referring to Blogger, I honestly don’t know.

  5. Sal Dilenio says:

    This is exactly how I felt when Copyblogger told us not to comment anymore. They suggest we go to G+ or Twitter. Well there’s no one else talking to them on G+ and I don’t want to always have 140 character conversations.

  6. Diana says:

    I love comments, though mostly I get crickets. I can understand the fighting the spam thing, it’s become huge these days. I use webdefense to cut down on the attacks, but you do see your numbers go down – probably numbers due to spam though so who cares. Book reviews and recipes don’t inspire comments too much;still I’d rather hear from people and have conversation. Most of my traffic comes from pinterest rather than facebook and G+, so posting those other sites aren’t helpful anyway.

  7. Icy Sedgwick says:

    There are a couple of blogs I’ve stopped reading because they not only ask me to go elsewhere, they also ask me to sign up for a separate forum where people can have discussions based on the posts. Problem is, the discussions end up being conducted by readers, and not the original writer of the post. It’s as if the blogger is saying “here are my ideas, now go and talk about them amongst yourselves but for God’s sake don’t bother me with them.” I also don’t want yet another set of login details to remember (and, er, Heartbleed, anyone?) I love being able to comment then and there on someone’s blog.

  8. Lisa says:

    I keep my comments open. I don’t reply to each one, but I read them all and I answer those that seem to need it. That said, I closed comments last week for the first time, on a post that I suspected might engender conflict, and it was remarkably good for my peace of mind. Blogging can be tough, people say really mean things, and maybe the closing of comments is the best way to keep one’s sanity. I’ll keep mine open, because I have such intelligent well-spoken readers, who often contribute more to the discussion than I do, but it’s at some cost.

    • Deb Ng says:

      I find it’s the most controversial posts that inspire the most interesting comments and engaging discussions, but I do understand what you’re saying.

  9. Adding this to my growing pile of ‘to comments or not to comments’ posts. Because I can’t say it any better than this: “To me, shutting down comments is silencing all the people who helped me to become a success.” You nailed it.. that’s kinda how I feel about a lot of social gaming moves.

    I know everyone does social their way and it’s not for me to tell them what or how or where or why. We’re all coming at this from different places; our own goals for being social will evolve and change over time; and sure if we were getting slammed w/ insulting tweets and blog attacks.. we might rethink things. For some sites that are basically platforms for ads and clicks and eyeballs, the ones where the comments are no longer relevant and running spam blockers is too much like work.. I see the business strategy. For now (and perhaps until I get nailed w/ spam and troll attacks) I’m keeping comments open. FWIW.

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