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10 January 2012 7 Comments

On Comments, And Comments On

There’s an interesting debate raging in parts of the tech blogosphere at the moment, about the wisdom of courting commenters and whether bloggers might be better-served by switching off comments altogether. Many of the arguments for and against are neatly summarised in Matt Gemmell’s post Comments Commentary, but in brief: the no-comments argument seems to be that it encourages people to write more considered, interesting responses on their own platforms rather than commenting on other peoples’ posts. It encourages people to form their own voice, instead of diluting it in the comments sections of a dozen different blogs.

That’s all well and good, as far as it goes – and look, it’s worked; Matt Gemmell’s comments-off policy has prompted me to write my own post in response, instead of merely commenting on his. However, this is probably the only time I’ll ever make a post in response to one of his, regardless of how many I read, and how many I’d comment on if he were a comments-on blogger. Because I may write a blog, but it’s not a tech blog – it’s a gaming blog. Crew Skills would quickly lose focus if I blogged about tech interests as much as SWTOR.

And what about if I threw in all the other spheres of interest where I follow – and comment on – blogs? Should I start a different blog for each thing I’m interested in? Or write a general blog, knowing that any given post is probably going to be of little interest to half or more of my readers, given the disparity in some of my interests? (I doubt many of my SWTOR readers would be interested in my recommendations for The Avengers fanfic, for instance.)

So the comments-off policy excludes casual participants from the conversation – you’re obliged to:
a) maintain a blog in which to do so, and the involvement that that entails;
b) restrict yourself to short and insubstantial commentary, via Twitter;
c) restrict yourself to private commentary which doesn’t build the community, via email; or
d) not comment.

Only A is an appealing choice, and it’s prohibitive in terms of time requirements for people who are already active in other blogospheres or online communities. The implication is that comments-off bloggers are only interested in talking – by means of blog posts – with other people who are as involved as they are, and casual voices are relegated to the sidelines.

(Needless to say, I will be remaining comments-on. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations I had with commenters at Banana Shoulders, and I’m looking forward to more of the same here.)

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