Steve Pavlina has taken the step of closing down his blog’s comments system because they were more trouble than they were worth. He writes:
‘The main factor in making this decision was the time and energy freed up by not having to deal with comments. No blog comments means no administration of comments, handling comment spam, legal liability for what people post in comments, having to decide whether to respond to questions or ignore them, people posting false information, commenters flaming other commenters, marketing abuses, tech support for comments (Can you fix my typo? Can you delete my double post?). These are minor problems if you only get a few comments a week, but with more than 10 a day — every day — it quickly adds up.’
So would you ever consider switching off the comments on your blog?
I would answer this question on a blog by blog basis and would make the decision largely around the topic of the blog and the voice in which it is written in.
I have a number of blogs that are focussed upon reporting news and information to readers. These blogs are not about creating community or interactivity – rather they present information. I’ve wondered a few times whether it might be appropriate to switch comments off on these blogs because they rarely get a genuine comment and regularly get spammed. Of course with the increasing effectiveness of comment spam protection features of the main blog platforms I find it is rare that spam gets through.
I have other blogs, like ProBlogger.net, which would suffer greatly by switching off comments. I cannot imagine this site without the discussion and community that comments helps create. This blog is read by some very wise bloggers and their opinion and experience is at times more central to what happens here than my own writing. If anything I’d like to find ways of elevating the profile of comments on this blog as they are quite often brilliant.
I guess all I’m arguing is that there are many factors that should be considered before switching comments off. Some of these may include:
• Blog topic – As I write above – some topics create/need more dialogue than others
• Comment spam levels – If its a massive problem for you then turning comments can be a good solution
• Traffic levels – I know of some very highly trafficked blogs who have turned off comments just because they can’t keep up
• Levels of time available by blogger to interact with readers – Comments do take up time. If you don’t have time to interact with readers you’ll just frustrate some of them by not responding to them
• Readers Tone of Commenting – Some blogs tend to breed negative, personally attacking and abusive comments leavers. If things get too heated and start bringing down the tone of your blog maybe its appropriate to turn them off for a while
• Nature of traffic – I find blogs with loads of SE traffic tend to get less comments than those with loyal readers)
• Voice of the Blogger – Some bloggers write in a much more inviting and interactive voice than others
It will be interesting to see what happens to Steve’s blog over the coming months. While some of his readers will no doubt be frustrated by not being able to have a say – there can also be interesting positive side effects.
Seth Godin has talked on numerous occasssions about his decision to turn off comments as being a very positive one because he finds that people tend to respond more to what he writes on their own blogs – which always brings with it a link to his posts. This of course adds to the viral nature of what he’s doing and helps build search engine ranking.
What do you think about turning off comments on a blog? Are you a purist and argue that if there are no comments it’s ‘not a a blog’? Have you been tempted to turn them off? Have you already? In what circumstances would you consider it appropriate?