Why I Don't Use A Commenting System

I’ve gone back and forth between supporting commenting and not supporting it. I’ve decided that I will not, for a variety of reasons. The primary reason is the utter lack of thought that goes into comments. Reading some of the items left by readers at places like Hacker News, Reddit, or Gawker sites either fail to contribute to the subject or are downright nasty. I don’t allow commenting here not because I don’t want to engage with my readers, but rather if someone will be leaving a comment I want them to own that comment.

Which leads to my second point: anonymous commenting breeds much of the nastiness on the web. Typically, readers who have responded to me through Twitter, email, or blogs have done so civilly. I know (perhaps strangely) that technology can generate intense positions, but I’d prefer reasoned and in-depth responses rather than knee-jerk reactions. The time it takes to respond through email forces us to really consider with care what we’re writing and how we’re writing it.

I’d also argue that a site that doesn’t allow commenting is deeply conversational – all the incoming attention belongs to the writer, but in other cases links send readers away. I share links frequently, often to pieces with which I agree. This makes sense since these are links I consider worth my time and my readers’ time, though I have no problem sharing items with which I disagree. Comments are not conversations, especially on popular sites. They’re shouting matches and noise generators. Certainly there are comment threads that fly in the face of my critique, but they’re rare. Rather than police spam or useless comments, drop me an email, reach me on Twitter, or start your own blog. We can have a real dialogue.

UPDATE: My thoughts are largely in line with John Gruber, who explained in MacWorld Podcast #68 why Daring Fireball is comment-free:

I wanted to write a site for someone it’s meant for. That reader I write for is a second version of me. I’m writing for him. He’s interested in the exact same things I’m interested in; he reads the exact same websites I read. I want him to like this website so much that he reads it from the top to the bottom, and he reads everything. Every single word. The copyright statement, what software I use, he’s read it all. If I turn comments on, that goes away. It’s not that I don’t like sites with comments on, but when you read a site with comments it automatically puts you, the reader, in a defensive mode where you’re saying, “what’s good in this comment thread? What can I skim?” It’s totally egotistical. I want Daring Fireball to be a site that you can’t skim if you’re in the target audience for it. You say, “Oh, a new article from John. I need to read it,” and your deadlines go whizzing by because you have to read what I wrote. If I turn comments on I feel like it’s two different directions. You get to the end of my article and you’re like, “let’s see if there’s anything interesting. Let’s see if there’s any names I know.” That’s really it. Sometimes a design decision is what you don’t put in, as opposed to what you put in.

March 01, 2011 @jaheppler