Are Blog Comments Worthwhile?

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on June 23, 2014 in Internet |

As the owner of a weblog I take some interest in ensuring that what I write, what I publish, is not just of interest to me, but also to the many hundreds of people who visit here each and every day. If I didn’t this weblog would disappear very quickly: vanish into the ranks of those with no ranking, no visitors, no outside interest. I would also, undoubtedly, lose interest myself, as so many other people have done since the first blog appeared on the Internet scene, and probably will do until there is no more Internet or a better idea takes over.

Part of the interest, for me at least, is seeing exactly what it is that people have found interesting, either through the list of clicks to certain posts or through comments people leave when they feel something needs to be said. Admittedly, comments here tend to be confined to a few hardy and well-informed people who constantly return to catch up with the latest news, my newest thoughts.

Photo Credit: duncanCreative Commons

In several online forums – especially the WordPress ones – there has been a heated debate about whether comments are even relevant for blogging, alongside information on how to turn comments off and, something which surprised me, a long list not only of why comments should be disallowed, but also of major websites and news media who have already gone down this path.

As far as the latter is concerned, I can understand their reasoning: comments tend to be more in-fighting, abuse, trolling and take up a good deal of time to moderate, when moderation takes place. When I look at Yahoo, for example, I see next to nothing of real interest amongst the many hundreds of comments which accompany even the simplest of stories, but a lot of Internet trash, verbal dross, noise. The comments tend to add absolutely nothing to the original article, enhance it in no way at all.

But what about with a normal, everyday blog? Are comments, even critical or abusive ones, acceptable? Should a blog owner consider closing comments for their posts either immediately – not allowing any at all – or after a certain period of time?

Photo Credit: Maia CCreative Commons

For most blogs there is a considerable amount of work involved. We not only write the posts, trying to find interesting subjects each day, but also have to moderate what follows. We have updates to perform, keeping our software up-to-date, making sure that the more subversive elements on the Internet do not manage to find a way inside. When you keep a regular blog, posting upwards of three times a week, it is almost a given that you’ll spend up to two hours each day making sure everything is in order, including the writing time. There is a certain dedication involved, a blog owner has to be interested in what they are doing, has to be prepared to devote time to their work, to their Internet presence, even when there is little real activity on the blog from outside.

A blogger has to be prepared for the abusive as much as the supportive, for the spam and rubbish which gets caught in the filters. At the same time, they need to be prepared for real criticism, real comments, otherwise there is little point in the whole.

I would never consider turning off the comments here, not for one moment, not even for the oldest of my posts. For those coming here for the first time, through a search engine linking to a specific subject, the information offered, my opinions and experiences are new. Hopefully, even after many years, much of what I have written is still relevant, still worthy of the time someone spends reading. We’re no longer in the typewriter age where everything has to be copied out, laboriously corrected and prepared for publication. A few clicks and the work is done for us.

Comments are, for me, a major part of the whole. There may be relatively few – certainly compared to the major websites out there – but they add a great deal. They tell me when something is of real interest, when someone has thought about what I’ve written, what they’ve read. They tell me that the visitor has spent more than just a few seconds on the site, and that I am doing something right.

Would Twitter be such a success if people didn’t, or couldn’t retweet what is published? Would Facebook or even Google Plus still work if nothing could be shared? Social media – and that is mainly weblogs and not just the social networks – is all about sharing. Comments are sharing your opinion, sharing your thoughts and feelings. They are about interacting one with another and, as such, are an integral part of blogging. Anyone who disables the comments on their blog is losing out on a major source of interest. There may well be a little extra work involved, but it really is worth it. Otherwise, what are you doing? Talking to yourself. And that, after a while, can be exceptionally boring.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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  • François Demers says:

    Even on major sites, online publications, and news sources, comments have very high value. They allow the site owner to gather a lot of data about their users and not (only) for commercial purposes. As you point out here, a high ratio of seed to weed is an indicator of quality or fitness for purpose.
    It seems to me comments are intrinsic to the concept of a blog: without them, a simple website with content refreshing would be easier to put up and maintain, especially now that WordPress is both blogging software and CMS. Less demanding as well: there is no pressure on a website to behave like a periodical print title.
    All the above, I put in the “nice to have” category as it can all be done on social networks. However, Facebook and others have an intellectually lazy culture of positive reinforcement built into their DNA.
    The true magic of blog comments comes from three or four people commenting and commenting on comments.
    Admittedly rare… but unique.

    • Sadly rare here, but it does sometimes work. The comments and their further comments on comments give much more feedback. A blogger is then able to gauge not just the thoughts of one person, but many different constructive ideas and experiences. This is what really makes blogging worthwhile!

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