When Merlin Mann closed comments on his blog, he said:
“The quality and care of visitor contributions everywhere has hit what I truly hope is rock bottom. Stupid, venal, ignorant, self-linking comments from people who couldn’t be troubled to actually read the article… Nonsense tagging, meta-commenting, ass-kissing, trolling… Please. It’s nuts and it’s pointless and it’s really cynical on the part of almost every publisher that allows that crap to go on.”
Mann captured pretty well what goes on in the comments section of most top blogs.
Just a few examples from the blogs I’m following (needless to say, all these comments link back to the commenter’s own blog):
“Very inspiring, I’ve been wondering about a few of the points for a while. Have a good day mate.”
“Thanks.” (Yes, this was the entire comment).
“Your articles are officially the best of their kind. Its good to see that there is actually a structure to something that reads so easily and provides so much content in such a short amount of words. Definitely something I can apply. Thanks.”
“Hi Dareen [his name is Darren v.d.], Absolutely correct. This is very-very useful article. Thanks.”
“Excellent article Darren. All very true points.” [The article was not written by Darren. It was written by guest Tim Brownson v.d.]
“Such an incredibly helpful post. It was perfect timing for me. So much of it was exactly what I needed to hear and reflect on. Thanks!”
Life coach Tim Brownson, who’s always refreshingly honest, recently said in a comment he left on Writer Dad’s blog: “I agree that some of the ‘A’ listers don’t have communities as such – it’s just a rush for people to get the link back to their own website up first. Anybody here indulge in that game from time to time? ”
Err yes. Especially in the early days.
I was curious to know what the “A-listers” thought about the comments on their blogs, so I emailed Leo and Darren to ask why they choose to leave comments open despite this ridiculousness.
Leo thinks that for the most part, the discussion on Zen Habits is a good one. He says:
I’ve been lucky at Zen Habits — I can’t speak for other blogs — in that I have a large and very wonderful group of commenters. Sure, I get the occasional spammer or “check out my site” comment, but for the most part I have a lot of thoughtful, smart, interesting people who are encouraging, supportive, and genuinely interested in the subject.
I believe allowing others to speak is invaluable at Zen Habits. Sure, everyone wants to read what I have to say, but often the most interesting advice, commentary, tips and information is found in the comment. I learn at least as much from my commenters as readers do from me. And that freedom of expression at Zen Habits — from the people who love my writing to the thoughtful dissenters — has opened up a whole range of thought that I never imagined possible.
Darren sounds a bit more disillusioned with the commenting scene on Problogger:
I am torn on the issue of comments on a blog.
At their best I love them and for me they encapsulate what blogging is all about – community, dialogue, shared learning and immediate communication.
At their worst they degenerate into pointless fights, point scoring, self promotion and downright spam.
Unfortunately over the six years that I’ve been blogging I’m seeing more and more of comments at the worst end of the spectrum. I’ve strongly considered switching them off or at least being more aggressive with what comments
are allowed to go live or even who is and isn’t allowed to comment.
To this point however, I’m unwilling to let my comments sections be closed – although I can see that there will come a time where I’ll need to take a different approach.
So now I’m asking you. What’s your take on A-list comments? Do you ever comment on top blogs? Do you sometimes engage in the “rush to comment first” game that Tim mentioned? How do you feel about the empty comments on these blogs? Do you think these bloggers should close comments – do you agree with Mann that “it’s really cynical on the part of almost every publisher that allows that crap to go on”?