20 Nov

ZOMG, No Comments? For reals?

Update, you can see the results of what has happened due to this here here

Over the last few months I’ve been toying with an idea, one that I’ve broached a few times over beers with friends: turning off the comments on my blog.

Among people with lesser trafficked blogs or who believe that every writer has to have a twitterfacebookblogweb2.0presenceandplatform the reaction is usually “ZOMG everyone will stop reading you & traffic will plummet & you won’t be loved anymore & how could you even think about it & it will destroy your writing career & everyone loves comments.”

And among my friends who blog professionally or have a lot of traffic the reaction is usually “yeah, hard call to make, I understand your issues no matter what direction you go.”

Here’s the straight dope: I used to have open comments. Anyone right away could plunge on in. I was a lesser known person, struggling my way up through the publishing food chain. I knew most of the commenters on my blog personally. Then, over time, more and more people started showing up who I didn’t know. Most were great, awesome (like you reading this right now. Yeah, you), and some were not.

In fact, some people were kind dickish.

So WordPress launched this awesomely cool new future that put comments by anyone who’d never commented before into moderation. Yay. I could screen comments, because people who’d been around on the blog long enough were usually pretty cool.

But moderating new comments took energy. And back in the day, it was no problem. I could spend that time reading comments, approving them, deleting the crazy ones that wandered in. But after 2009, it cost. It cost me mental effort. I always wondered: was I being fair? Was I reacting to someone critiquing my point, or just being crazy? For each comment.

Nowadays I only get so many golden hours a day where my mind is quick, sharp, and I’m physically full of energy. Do I want to spend that time creating new worlds, writing new words, or weighing the pros and cons of a comment to death?

I’ve tried to reboot this blog into my regular multiple-post-per-day place where I share a bit of my self with the world. Lived on the wire. As I did throughout the early 2000s. But I found myself often thinking ‘this would be a great post,’ and then after a paragraph, imagining the usual replies that I’d have to vet, and feeling… tired.

It wasn’t that my ego would be battered. My peers keep me humble. I don’t think I’m the last word on any situation. I don’t mind being wrong. I live a fairly public life. I’m often wrong. It’s part of learning (I’d still love to launch a blog called ‘Things I Thought I Knew’ devoted to letters from random people about things they were wrong about). But it was just that the idea of losing precious energy to cultivating the comments was becoming a brake.

It’s a sign that I chose Twitter to brainstorm the pros and cons of turning off blog comments, and not this blog.

What are the cons? That people will cease to come. That there will be less of a feel of a ‘community’ here. And I’m sensitive to that. When I fell sick, 330+ people felt compelled to comment. When we discussed Amazon and eBooks, the comments were lively and interesting.


On the upside, maybe I’ll feel compelled to post more.

Maybe I’ll write things I never would have written before.

And besides, my email is always up on the website there for you to contact me, and I’ll remain on twitter.

I was reading about a blog I really enjoy, Daring Fireball, here, where many of the same arguments were made. They resonate strongly with me.

So, for the next couple months, I’ll be turning the comments off. What will come out of that, I’m not sure. If I’m happy with the results of the experiment, I’ll make it permanent, if I’m not, maybe I’ll look for a way to bring back comments (find a moderator, or just allow comments without moderation so I don’t have to curate). We shall see.

Whatever happens, it’s always worth trying new things, testing your assumptions, and not just blindly doing what you’ve done because it is what you’ve done.

And I hope you’ll continue reading, even without comments.