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Blogging with or without Comments?

Posted By Darren Rowse 8th of February 2006 Pro Blogging News 0 Comments

Mathew Ingram has an interesting discussion going on around the topic of Is a blog without comments still a blog? after the flack that Russell Beattie has gotten from not using them.

Russell decided to cut comments largely for time reasons as far as I can see it – he was sick of dealing with spam and flames and wanted to put his time into other activities.

I read of Russell’s experience and can quite honestly hear what he’s saying. Comments have the ability to build up in the time that they take to manage as your blog grows and as more and more bloggers enter the blogosphere.

On the other hand I feel strongly that one of the best things about blogging is the interaction and conversation that it creates.

So is a blog without comments a blog?

While I know some blogging purists who believe a comment-less blog is not a blog, my own opinion is not quite as extreme. Here are a few random thoughts that come to mind that I’ll throw into the mix:

  • Some topics generate more conversation than others – this is pretty obvious but worth considering when making the decision of whether to activate comments. ProBlogger is my most commented upon blog (by a LONG way). This is partly because I’m writing about a topic that it seems everyone has a comment on. I’m also writing to an audience who are used to writing and expressing opinions. Not to have comments on this blog would be quite bizarre.
  • Different writing styles impact comment numbers – I intentionally write in a voice that invites interaction. I go out of my way to ask questions, to add their experiences and to help in the learning/teaching process. Other bloggers do not write in this voice and will there for have less response from readers and might actually find comments to be more of a distraction than anything because they want to be the voice of authority on their topic. I guess this comes down to your blog’s goals also.
  • Traffic levels impact comment levels – different ends of the spectrum of traffic tend to struggle with comments for different reasons. Bloggers with low traffic often express to me embarrassment for having post after post with no comments on them (not a great first impression for readers perhaps) whereas at the other end of the spectrum – highly trafficked blogs struggle to administer comments (deleting spam, monitoring flaming, responding to questions etc). I understand the feeling from both ends and think that while it’s easy to be critical of bloggers who turn off comments it’s worth considering the reasons that might have led to the decision.
  • Not having comments can actually be an advantage – One of the bloggers that I read daily who uses his lack of comments to his advantage is Seth Godin. While I personally find it frustrating not to be able to tell Seth what I think at the end of posts the advantage for him is that he gets a lot of people linking to his posts because their comments happen on their own blogs. This vast amount of incoming links helps him achieve higher Search Engine Ranking. I bet he also gets a few more emails than many bloggers get – I know I’ve emailed him numerous times over the last year or so (and he responds!).
  • Changing the Rules Halfway – I’ve seen a number of bloggers switch off comments have get criticized heavily for it – yet there are other bloggers who don’t have comments (and never have had them) who don’t seem to get the criticism. Perhaps the secret is to think through this issue before you start your blog and to not change the rules halfway? Of course it’s difficult to know what work comments will bring to your life a couple of years into the future – but it’s worth considering.
  • Middle Ground? – One strategy that I’m surprised more bloggers don’t experiment with is having comments turned on with some comments and off with others. I do know of some bloggers who have comments switch off after a certain length of time to deal with Comment Spam (there is a whole debate around this too) but another approach would be to pick those posts which might be more appropriate for comments to allow them and to keep others shut off. This isn’t a strategy I’ll be employing but might be middle ground.

Like Russell says though – it is his own blog and ultimately is his decision and ultimately he has to live with the consequences of that (maybe more time, probably more direct emails, perhaps less traffic from those seeking community and maybe a different style/voice of blogging).

What do you think about blogs without comments?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

  • I’m seeing more of the on or off approach depending on particular posts e.g. Matt Cutts turns comments off when he really doesn’t need a personal interaction on the subject of the post – like the removal of BMW’s German website from Google.

    I think with increasing trackbacks, and with comments happening across blogs, the ‘0 Comments’ on posts are not as embarassing as they might have been a year or two ago.

  • JT

    I do not think a blog is a blog unless it allows commenting. I hate it when I see a post that I want to reply on, and the comments are turned off. Dissappointing.

    Now I know Darren that you are getting a lot of comments on this site and some of your others, but I find on most blogs and many of mine that comments are down… at least on the new blogs. They do not get the same amount of commenting as used to happen when I first blogged on . Now that site has changed and is not a blog like it once was, but it was huge with a large number of comments daily.

    In fact that is where I first met you Darren back in 2001 I believe.
    Well, so as blogs are becoming so abundant, real comments are down it seems. Spamming of course is not.

  • Yes.

    I consider that a blog is a collection of a person(s) thoughts that’s why wether comments are allowed isn’t a criteria in determining what is a blog.

    The notion that the conversation needs occur or be controlled on the original site is absurd. Trackbacks and social bookmarking type services easily allow for people to follow discussions that may originate from a blog post and it should entirely up to each individual blogger to ascertain wether they allow comments without being ostracized from the blogosphere.

    Managing comments involves time and also desire to be involved in a discussion. Some bloggers might not want to talk but instead just post. Each person is in this great game called blogging for different reasons and we shouldn’t judge people negatively because they want a different experience out of it.

  • A blog is still a blog without comments. Every blog is different and some don’t require or need feedback. Blogs started off as “link logs” and evolved into just about anything. Blogs aren’t even blogs anymore – they are news rags, product placements, journals, magazines, rumor mills, propaganda machines and everything else you can think of. They are just another way to publish a web site and comments are not required. I do hate going to a web site that is conversational and there is no way to take part in the conversation.

  • A blog is a blog without comments, but less so.

    One thing I’ve noticed, at least in the field of U.S. politics, is that “conservative” blogs tend to allow comments far less often than “liberal” blogs. Go through Technorati’s top 100 Politics blogs and rank them this way, and you’ll see the striking difference.

    But on that note, very large blogs such as Think Progress will get hundreds of comments on a single post. There’s almost no way for a blogger to keep up with that sort of volume, not without a full-time staff!

    But in respect to spam, I don’t think that’s a legitimate reason for turning off comments. I’ve personally convinced at least two people to continue blogging who had quit or were about to quit because of spam:

    Well, it was BB that stopped me from throwing in the towel when I first got fed up with the spam comments on my blog. I have, for a long time now, enjoyed spam free blogging and only in the past month or two I have seen spammers penetrate my blogs outer later of defenses (BB, that is) only to be swept up by the second layer – SK2. — Cyrris

    We’ve got lots of smart people working on the spam problem. Take advantage of their work, and don’t let them get in the way of your conversation with the rest of the world.

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  • [pet peeve]

    Your attention please:

    If it has regularly updated content displayed in reverse chronological order, it’s a blog.

    [/pet peeve]

    I have to admit that I don’t consider a weblog quite as “worthy” without comments – it seems a bit conceited, as if you’re giving us the word from on high and have no interest in what mere mortals say about it. I often could elaborate on the topic or make a correction, but don’t because there’s no easy way to comment.

    Having said that, when you get to 10,000 visitors a day or so, things change – you have to limit comments somehow, or spend lots of time controlling them. Even with spam out of the picture (which it isn’t) there are a ton of social issues to deal with.

    I like the way Kottke and Matt Cutts handle it – some posts have comments, others don’t, and if one has comments, they’ve committed to reading them and dealing with any issues. It’s a good compromise when a blog gets busy.

    Here’s hoping that having so many visitors that comments get out of hand is a problem I have to deal with on several of my weblogs this year. :)

  • As you know I turned off comments on my blog several months ago (after seeing over 3700 comments posted in my first year of blogging). At the time it was not an easy choice, but in retrospect I believe it was one of my better decisions. If I had it to do all over again, I would have turned off comments much sooner. In fact, my wife just started blogging and deciding to disable comments from the beginning, based on her knowledge of my experience with them.

    Obviously you lose something when you disable comments. But in my opinion the gains are worth significantly more than the loss. The time I used to spend managing comments is now spent creating more original content, and I believe that’s a much better way to serve my visitors. A new post is of service to all my visitors, but only a tiny (vocal) percentage actually read or posted comments.

    I’d also agree that my site is getting more trackbacks (links) than it used to.

    Comments provide value, but that value is more easily realized in other ways. You should consider what you’re giving up to support comments. The sacrifice is significant and IMO, not remotely worth it.

    If you want to send me feedback, you can use my contact form. If you want to publicly comment on my posts, you can post your thoughts on your own blog. If you just need someone to chat with, get a dog. ;)

    Even so, if you really want to build a community, forums are a better way to do it.

  • A blog is a web log, a listing of log entries, an online journal, etc. It doesn’t matter that one can’t comment or not. My new blog site is a place for me to offer samples of my own writing from book projects of my own, and not really a place for discussion. However, I do have a separate questions and suggestions page for those who want to have some input and interaction, and I will have other blogs in the future that will be more discussion oriented.

    My blog is spiritually oriented, and as you can imagine there are lots of strong opinions about spirituality, so I have comments off on most of my posts because I’m not interested in a debate, and if I were to get any flames or such, I would just delete them from the word go. There are about billion opinions in the world on any topic, but my current blog is for my own views. I could put them up as a non-blog web site, but this is easier to post to and for visitors to browse.

  • I feel having comments is a good way to get feedback from the user, and like you said, “interact” with what was posted. Although it is good to toggle some articles’ comments on/off, the general use of comments should be allowed.

  • Forever, we’ve called the traditional media sites “web sites”. People are writing but they are one-way. Others may comment on their own site about something on a traditional site but we don’t then call those media sites blogs just because there is a commenting taking place off-site. So, to me, a personal site is just a web site if it is just one way with comments off. Comments off-site are not “conversations”, they are just islands of comments.
    As far a reverse chronological order, that’s just a display issue that any old website could implement.
    There’s my half-cent worth ;-)

  • When the first websites called weblogs were around, there were very few with comments. Comments aren’t necessary for a “log” of things on the “web,” but of course, comments help to build a community around your weblog.

  • Just a note on Russel’s fiasco – people were really upset not so much because he disabled comments, but because in doing so he removed _all_ past comments on all entries. A lot of great discussion was lost. I think the lesson is that its fine to turn comments on or off if you feel like it, but when you remove all past comments your readers may feel betrayed.

  • I agree with Russel: It’s his blog and he can do whatever he wants with it. Trust me, comments can take time to answer and even more time to moderate. Sometimes people don’t have as much time to blog as others do.

  • I can clearly see an advantage in comments as they offer an exchange and thus a stronger user binding. Other companies have to install 0800 numbers for “information” hotlines which are often nothing else than a chat with a customer.

    There are more technical “Middle Ground”solutions. You may ask users to log on (become a member) to post comments, you may offer a forum plugin or bridge witihn your site for further discussion; e.g. open source blog / CMS can do that.

    What could be better than having a good forum to acompany your blog? There will certainly be people to volunteer for moderator.

  • I mentioned this exact point a few days back in response to your “What’s Wrong with Blogging” post, but as everyone else had moved on, I had the last word on the subject, so to speak.

    I have a problem with the premise of the original question (Is a blog without comments still a blog?) because it implies that every blog had comments functionality. Some of us who publish our blogs without blog software. That hardly renders us unfit for the blogosphere.

    I wrote a response to this question in January here. In brief, a blog is, at its heart, a web log, discrete chunks of content organized in reverse chronological order. The bells and whistles can be fun, can be distracting, but are hardly necessary to a blog’s basic function.

  • I remember reading somewhere that Seth Godin only allows trackbacks so that people will have to be accountable for their comments, because after all, you’re publishing those words on your own blog.

    Probably the wave of the future when you think about it… a lot less hateful comments fueled by anonymity.

  • As a fairly new blogger (86 posts so far) my blog has had precious few comments. As a matter of fact, I have one faithful reader who comments to each post. Even my kids and close friends have been hard-pressed to manage a comment even when they made those infrequent visits.

    So, I essentially have a blog that almost has no comments, but I’m not discouraged and it hasn’t inhibited my writing one bit. Since blogs are journals for sharing your ideas, no one needs to comment for your blog to be effective. You get your thoughts out, share information, enlighten the world and that feels good. Even if your blog is intended to bring in revenue, clicking on the links back to your site and your Google or other ads is what makes money, not the comments.

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  • hmm… true. But my blog is the worst in the world internet blog webmaster ever make, infact, doesn’t have much comments from visitor, really envy problogger that always have other commenting on post. Salute to ProBlogger

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  • A blog is a log of stuff, on the web. Comments are secondary. I reckon it doesn’t matter too much as long whatever CONTENT is there is quality.

  • I think you should leave comments on.

  • I get more frustrated with blogs I have to register to comment on than those with no comments on all. The first is like “bait and switch.” The other states clearly that there isn’t discussion on the blog.

    It depends on content, though. Some things just can hardly be commented on, so there is no point to comments. But others seem a natural place for comments. I think when there are over 100 hundred comments on an entry, most people realize that the blogger cannot possibly monitor them all and don’t worry so much about spam and other things that happen in those blog comment boxes!

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  • I think a blog without comments isn’t a blog at all. It destroys the community feel of things.

  • I remember reading somewhere that Seth Godin only allows trackbacks so that people will have to be accountable for their comments, because after all, you’re publishing those words on your own blog. :S

  • Hello,

    I can relate to this one real well. When I stated, I didn’t have any comments section at all. I found a lot of blogging sites wouldn’t exchange links or interact under any circumstances. BlogRush is just one example. I put the Comments section in and litterally the same day I had 1,500 hits. I have very few commwnts but the fact that the section is present seems to help drastically…. live and learn I guess.

  • Good day! IMO, comments or no comments, I think it comes down on how interesting and informative the topic is. No matter whether you leave the comments on of off, people will talk about your blog if it’s interesting. Be it in the comments section or some other blog as the case with Mr. Godin.

  • Hello,

    I can relate to this one real well. When I stated, I didn’t have any comments section at all. I found a lot of blogging sites wouldn’t exchange links or interact under any circumstances. BlogRush is just one example. I put the Comments section in and litterally the same day I had 1,500 hits. I have very few commwnts but the fact that the section is present seems to help drastically…. live and learn I guess.

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  • Darren hi,

    Before I started my blog, I spent considerable time reading and watching a couple (actually several) of your video-posts. I also read some of Yaro’s Starak’s. The general consensus – except I am mistaken was to start with a ‘Comments’ Section. My impression was that starting without a ‘Comment’s section or facility was not on.

    The best way to find out anything for oneself is to experiment; advice by itself is static at best, experience is live and provides valuable feedback.

    It has been my experience – after 12 days of blogging – that blogs with a “comments’ section or facility is not only helpful but critical.

    Comments of feedback from visitors (traffic) allows a blogger to determine if what he or she writes resonates with others. And that is the key. If you want to build a dedicated audience, it is important that you have an idea as to what and how that audience thinks. It is the age-old concept of ‘feedback’.

    Feedback lets you know if you are on the wrong or right track. Of course it is possible to have a heavily-trafficked blog with minimal feedback since feedback or comments are not the most effective way of measuring traffic.

    Nevertheless the nature of comments – positive or negative, agreeable or disagreeable – helps bloggers fine-tune their message.

    We have a saying in my country, Ghana, West Africa; ‘the one hewing a path through the grass cannot tell if he is hewing a crooked or straight path’. Except, of course, there is someone standing behind him (Feedback) telling him if the path is crooked or not.

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