Blogging

Is It Really Time to Consider Closing Comments?

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For years, I’ve watched a growing trend of bloggers closing comments on their sites. I’ve always argued against doing so.

The notion of closing comments on blogs is not remotely new. Bloggers debated the question for years.

Back in 2017, I wrote about the comment problem. There was a time, I said, when blogs regularly received comments. When I started my blog back in 2004, the number of comments I received routinely amazed me. But things were different. Back then, I was on AOL’s blogging platform, which was a more close-knit and smaller group. We commented on each others’ blogs. You posted something and people responded. Posts rarely went up without someone responding.

As the number of blogs increased and the number of other distractions — like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — increased as well, people seemed to have less time to comment.

That left bloggers talking about closing comments and blaming “high numbers” of spam comments for the decision.

I’ve used a pair of WordPress plugins, Akismet and Bad Behavior, to all but stop comment spam in its tracks. So that rarely presents itself as an issue for me.

To encourage more comments, blogging gurus started spouting the infernal “solution” to the problem of dwindling comments: End each post with a question.

Great idea. Except for one thing. When everyone ends each post with a question, you’re right back to the same problem: too many posts (now with questions) across the blogosphere, too little time.

Coming Soon
How often do you comment on blogs you read?
How often do you comment on blogs you read?
How often do you comment on blogs you read?

Dwindling totals aren’t the only commenting problem.

Some argue that the conversations that were typical in blogs years ago have now moved to social media. Maybe that’s true. But social media sites — which some like to refer to as “microblogs” — aren’t the same as an actual blog site. (Trouble is, bloggers feel that way; followers don’t always agree.)

Bloggers face a challenge in trying to get followers on social media to comment on their sites instead of only on social. Not all of your readers necessarily have a Facebook account. But anyone can get to your site, regardless of what social platforms they use.

Blogger Seth Godin decided closing comments was right for his site last year. In giving three reasons to justify his decision, one of them jumped out at me:

Instead of writing for everyone, I find myself writing in anticipation of the commenters.

I don’t ever write that way. I write what I want to write and the only thing I try to “anticipate” is whether (and how) my points might be misunderstood. I’m not out to win a popularity contest on the blogosphere (and I’m not trying to imply Godin is, either). I try to argue my points as carefully and throughly (and/or as humorously) as I can.

If it’s a controversial topic, I try to consider alternative points of view and I usually address some of those if I feel they’re applicable.

But I don’t allow what I think commenters might say influence what I’m writing before they have a chance to say it.

If anything, I assume most of the posts I write will receive no comments. Often, I find that to be a safe bet.

The latest comment ‘trend’ seems to be rudeness.

Over the last four years or so, I’ve seen a marked increase in online hostility. You don’t have to wade very far into social media platforms to find examples of blatantly rude behavior. People talk to one another via screens in ways they know they’d get a bloody nose for if they spoke that way face to face.

Our society has lost its manners. We’ve become more and more rude to one another.

You can come up with your own reasons for the change. If necessary, I may choose to politely agree to disagree and move on to another topic.

I’ve stated before that I have no problem with deleting comments that didn’t meet my most basic comment rule: Be respectful.

I’ve done so plenty of times before. Even recently. I consider it to be taking out the trash. You’re not obligated to keep someone else’s dreck in your blog’s parlor for the world to see.

So with all of that in mind, why discuss closing comments now?

Mack Collier Blogchat
Mack Collier

You may recognize the name Mack Collier. He was the creator and moderator of the weekly #Blogchat event each Sunday night on Twitter for years. I interviewed Mack last year when he decided to close #Blogchat after 10 amazing years.

I have great respect for Mack and the way in which he tries to encourage and foster the craft of blogging. (And let’s face it: done well and for the long haul, it is a craft!)

Mack just recently published a post that caught my eye. He called it, “Why I Turned Off Comments.”

He said, in part:

“…I think in many ways, social media has hurt our ability to communicate more than it has helped.  And I think that’s readily apparent when you look at the comment section of most blogs.”

But he also said he wants to expand the topics he writes about and doesn’t want to worry about “some person who has never read this blog before commenting and saying I am an idiot simply for taking a stance they don’t like.”

That goes right back to the fact that we’ve lost the civility that used to be the norm. The majority of those who comment here regularly are both respectful and civil. But the handful of trolls, unfortunately, stand out. You don’t see them because I don’t allow them to spout their nastiness on my site. But I see them.

I almost wish my comment battle involved spam. Those are merely annoying.

The rudeness from that bad-mannered minority produces a different response that’s hard to describe. Other than to say, it’s quite tiring.

If Mack feels it’s time to shut off the comments — though he hints that he may reconsider that — maybe closing comments isn’t such an unreasonable idea anymore.

For those who still read, whether you’ve commented or not, I always value and appreciate your time. Many of you — the clear majority, based on analytics — read without commenting. That’s fine. I don’t mind that at all.

As a little experiment, I’m going to turn off comments here.

Like Mack, I may rethink that.

But for now, I’m going to try it. I’ve added reaction buttons, which you’ll see below. Maybe that will give some degree of interaction. If those get no use, I may disable them, too.

If you’d like to respond to something in the meantime, the Contact form is always there.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.