The conventional wisdom is that comments drive traffic. They probably do, but I don’t allow them on my blog and you shouldn’t, either.
Comments are a black hole. They’re part of the “social web” and like almost everything “social,” they’re more about posing and jabbering than anything else. Comments are cathartic, and they make people feel better about what they’ve read, but they rarely add anything.
Blog comments are for that guy in class who has to raise his hand after every lecture and tell everyone something he knows or something he thinks, while everyone else rolls their eyes. You know the guy. He loves the sound of his own voice, and he thinks he knows a lot more than he does. Sure, sometimes he really does have something to add, but a stopped clock is also right twice a day.
As an author, every minute you spend responding to comments is a minute you could be reading or writing. You could be at the gym. You could be creating something. You could be marketing or making dinner or having a drink with that buddy you’ve been meaning to catch up with.
But no, you’re sitting there explaining to this anonymous person why he’s wrong about what you wrote. Half the time, he probably just skimmed it and responded based on some trigger words or his “impression” of what you might have written.
What’s more, many avid commenters seem to feel entitled to a response. Americans are taught that their opinion always matters—no matter how stupid it is—so a lot of guys seem to think that you owe them a response. Some of them will go so far as to call you a coward for not responding to (or for deleting) every single anonymous dipshit who appears out of the ether to scribble their VERY IMPORTANT OPINION on the door of your Internet toilet stall.
If you found a link to something I should read, email me. (See the contact page).
If you want to say you “like” what I wrote, share it on Facebook, or Google+, or Tweet about it. Post about it on a message board and discuss it with your friends. In fact, please do those things. I appreciate it. All of those things will probably help me out and spread my ideas more effectively than moderating a thread of comments.
If you don’t agree with something I wrote, GET YOUR OWN FUCKING BLOG.
BLOGS ARE COMPLETELY FUCKING FREE. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE.
I criticize what other writers have to say all the time. I criticize all kinds of things. People love reading a rant about why someone they already disagree with is WRONG. That’s a big chunk of what blogging is. I love proving why someone is a hypocrite or an imbecile or a liar. It’s good for a thumotic nerd-gasm.
What makes me different from anonymous commenter #1,234,654 is that I’ve been blogging in some way or other for about 7 years. I blog under my legal name, and when I speak my mind, I’m putting myself out there. I’m taking risks, and I have to take responsibility for what I type. I’m accountable. I can’t just spout off some ridiculous bullshit half-cocked. I have to say what I mean and mean what I say. Even bloggers who use an anymous handle have to maintain a certain logical consistency if they want anyone to take them seriously.
Commenters who can’t be bothered to maintain a blog or a track record or logical consistency—but who MUST BE HEARD!—often complain that bloggers who refuse or moderate comments are afraid of “honest debate.”
Like you, I have Google. I actually have Google alerts set up for my books and my name. If you type my name on the Internet on a public site, I probably see it. You are free to say whatever the hell you want, and I can’t do a damn thing about it. The difference is that when you write something about the content of something I wrote (or about me personally, which is probably more common), you at least have to own your words. You have to try to make sense. You have to try to maintain a consistent point of view, like I do. Because you’re opening yourself up for criticism, too. That’s “honest debate.”
If you can’t take the time to own your words, there’s absolutely no reason why I should take the time to read them.
I don’t stop to talk to random crazy people on the street, and I don’t host comments.
Here are a few more reasons to stop hosting comments and to encourage your readers to start their own comment blogs:
- Cherry Picking - Your lazy enemies will step over your carefully thought-out arguments and fish for the craziest and most provocative comments on your blog to misrepresent YOUR views.
- Slander & Gossip – Why the hell any man would allow strangers to personally insult him or his friends on his own site that he pays to maintain is beyond me. It’s like letting homeless people walk into your living room and talk shit.
- Expand Your Community and Make It Look Like Something is Happening - If you’re trying to encourage ANY kind of movement, it needs to look like it has some kind of presence. One site with 20 commenters looks like a one site with 20 readers. 20 blogs that link to each other and exchange ideas based on a common theme looks like a movement. 20 blogs is a subculture. People will take notice, and take you all more seriously. One blog with 20 readers can be dismissed as “one lone nut” with some enablers.
- Let People Use Social Networks to Network Socially – If people really just want to kick around ideas with a few like-minded pals, no one is stopping them from posting a link to your post on Facebook and discussing or debating it with their friends ALL DAY LONG. If they do, think of all of the NEW potential readers they will expose to your work. Probably more than those same 20 guys who wait for you to post something so they can argue about it with each other on your blog.