You know what’s rubbish? Going to a website and seeing a dozen entries in a row all with the text “comments (0)” at the bottom. It’s like walking down that street in your town centre that used to contain shops and businesses but now the Woolworths is boarded up and even the pound shop looks empty. What’s even worse is the occasional entry with one comment. You click on it and it’s someone saying “great post!” or “I know!” or “I have a great Russian based pharmaceutical website”. That’s like seeing a light on inside Woolworths and finding out it’s just sunlight glinting on the broken pick ‘n mix display. The point is, having comments enabled on a website rarely adds anything attractive for a person visiting the website. Having zero comments obviously adds no content. Having one comment adds the promise of more content, but then you click through and find your journey wasted.
But isn’t this quite a low view of your website and your readers? Sure, if no-one ever comments and when they do it’s nonsense then comments are pointless, but you reader are going to find intelligent things to say frequently enough right? Let’s assume that happens, say a thriving comment community develops. Now every article contains the text “comments (14)” at the bottom. Now when you finishing reading an entry you have to decide whether to click afterwards on the link to read the comments. And when you have to make that decision you’ve immediately lost the elegance of knowing once you’re read the entire front page you’ve read all the recent content there is. There isn’t one page to read, there are however many articles with comments greater than zero pages to read. And that may not seem like much of a hassle but it’s hassle I’m not bothering people with.
They aren’t the only reasons though. A reason I probably take too much pride in is that it’s nice that every single word on this site that is not in quote marks was written by me. It means I can’t blame someone else for what I say; I have to take responsibility for it. But more it means everyone knows who wrote this content here.
There are other things too, all the niggles. Spam comments, offensive comments, comments that aren’t technically spam but are nonsensical. Ethical problems with deciding whether things get culled or don’t get culled. When a big part of this website is collecting and curating things that are interesting, having to do that to comments that turn up becomes a real effort. These things are a hassle that I can’t be bothered to deal with.
But what about a right of reply? Well, obviously you can reply, but you might have to do that by email, or on your own web site, or via twitter. And I’ll probably reply to you, or link to you, or quote you in full here. And then we’ll actually be having a thought through conversation. It’ll be nice.