a companion discussion area for blog.codinghorror.com

A Blog Without Comments Is Not a Blog


#1

James Bach responded to my recent post, Are You Following the Instructions on the Paint Can?, with Studying Jeff Atwood's Paint Can. I didn't realize how many assumptions I made in that post until I read Mr. Bach's pointed response. The most amusing assumption I made-- and I had no idea I was doing this-- was that I ran a painting business in college! The paint can instructions make sense to me because of that prior experience. Pity the would-be handyman who has never painted anything before and has only a few paragraphs of text on the back of a can to refer to.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2006/04/a-blog-without-comments-is-not-a-blog.html

#2

“His latest post, in response to this one, cites that he doesn’t like spam, yet proceeds to give out his, his wife’s, and his Mobile number, among other information. Very odd indeed…”

He probably feels that email anti-spam tech is significantly more advanced than blog measures (although they’re only a generation behind these days), especally if his email travels through a corporate anti-spam engine, like a barracuda. Or maybe he just wants a more personal level of interaction, or a higher bar of entry. Who knows, it’s his blog and his decision.

On the other hand, his wife might hurt him if she starts getting all his personal mail. :smiley:

I find that comments are as much a way for your readers to interact with each other as with you, and not everyone wants to babysit a mini-forum.

“I concur with Jeff. A blog w/o commenting is a mere website.”

A topical column or newsletter would be more precise.

“Also, commenting if not enough. Blogs should allow anonymous comments.”

So make up a pseudonym, or a common name, and if you’re really paranoid, change it everytime. After all, I presume you’re already using proxies and a random user-agent if you care about anonymity.


#3

Jeff, I agree with you. Although I don’t know (or care) if a blog without comments is still a blog, it strikes me as awfully elitist. And I’d like to add something more: imagine the frustration if you want to reply something to one of those bloggers, make a great post on your blog replying to them, correcting the error of their ways and so on… and all you get is ignored, because the man doesn’t read your blog, doesn’t know of your existence.

Is a harsh life for us KEWL KIDS (but not famous) out there… =)


#4

I blog and I have a love hate relationship with the comment feature. Commenting can lead to unintended flame wars, and is guaranteed to require investing time in anti-comment spam, which has been getting better only slowly. Many of the early anti-comment spam techniques were quickly hacked. Not everyone has enough time to keep their blog entries updated, let alone delete a hundred poker spam entries every day or install the blog patch of the month. Admitedly this is a developer website, but not all developers want to spend their time specificly in web development.

Only when the blog technology is effortless can we assert a lack of blog commenting means the blogger is unwilling to take what he is dishing out.


#5

sending an email to the author of the blog - isn’t this more or less equivalent to a letter of the editor, where it may or may not be selected for publication?

In theory. But aping the old conventions of print media isn’t what makes blogs interesting, either.

I think it’s unreasonable for you to expect a publisher like this to do anything in particular. If you don’t like their words/product/whatever, stay away.

Of course-- and I probably shouldn’t even have to say this-- people are free to run their own websites/blogs as they see fit. But I get the highest value from blogs where either A) the author’s writing is so outstanding that the lack of comments isn’t material (eg, Paul Graham, Joel Spolsky, etc) -or- B) a combination of good writing and good comments.

Preachers are almost always available in the narthex (lobby) right after the sermon. People with an opinion or question will often chat with him (or her) within minutes of their “initial post”.

Yes, but that’s not a public dialog which can engender discussion amongst all the participants; it’s analogous to emailing the author.

you’re arguing the definition of the word “blog”

Possibly. I have strong feelings about what makes blogs worthwhile, and what makes blogs unique. And comments play a very important role in that.

Blogs should allow anonymous comments

It’s a question of how high you want the barrier to entry to be. Although I agree with you, I don’t think registering is setting the barrier TOO high, and it’s certainly preferable to no comments at all!


#6

I’m really glad he doesn’t have comments, as if you’d replied there I’d have completely missed the discussion.

A blog with comments has a different social dynamic from one without. But I think to say that one’s a blog and one’s not is unhelpful. The term ‘blog’ covers such a broad range these days that your point here comes across as a bizarrely arbitrary rant!

Moreover, blog comments are hugely flawed as interaction mechanisms go. They’re inconsistently and poorly integrated into most RSS readers. Comments also tend to suffer from exactly the same “write only” problem that you accuse us comment-free bloggers of - a lot of comments will be hit and run precisely because blog comments are such a poorly conceived social software construct.

One of the main reasons I don’t have comments on my blog is I think they’re such a disaster as social software goes. I want to do something better. For me, given the choice between something as bad as blog comments and nothing, nothing is clearly the better option.

And I love the irony of how your post is such an eloquent example of why you really don’t need comments to be able to reply to a blog…

(And BTW, I think your religion/newspaper/blog argument is rather obtuse, and well below your usual quality of writing. It’s easy and free to set up a blog. I know loads of non-techies who have done it. I don’t know anyone who has successfully started their own newspaper or religion.)


#7

I also agree with Jeff. I also have to warn Jeff that the online arguments / discussions I’ve witnessed with James over the years are strange at best, and confusing at worst. Hopefully in this case, you two can come to a clear conclusion.


#8

Try this, a blog without comments OR TRACKBACKS enabled is just a website with a datetime stamp at the bottom. Comments I can see, but not allowing trackbacks or showing referrers just means you’re an isolationist.

“a very simple captcha probably isn’t the best. for instance one that uses the word “orange” all the time :)”

You’d be surprised at how effective a single word is at being a magic anti-spam word. It’s like locking your screen door in a bad neighborhood where everyone else leaves their door unlocked. If the barrier to spamming someone elses blog is much lower, they’ll always go for that first.

See, my first thought when reading James response to what will forever-after be known as the “paint can post” was in response to this statement he made.

“My colleague Michael Bolton…”

Is that really his name? “How can we write software when we can’t be friends? How can we de-bug when the fighting never ends?”

[Jeff A:

I was curious what Scott was referencing here, so I looked it up: http://www.martylloyd.com/artist_m/michael_bolton_lyrics/how_can_we_be_lovers_lyrics.html

Which Michael Bolton song wouldja say is your favorite? :wink:
]


#9

Just yesterday I received an email because the person couldn’t navigate the TypeKey registration I turned on for comments on my TypePad site. I decided to remove that requirement and deal with comment spam as you described. Fortunately, TypePad has recently added a CAPTCHA option for comments.

How about people that leave annonymous comments or don’t have a blog/website to link to? Is that akin to someone sticking their head into a room, stating their position and leaving without a trace?

In general, I agree with you. People can certainly choose to disable comments and I may even subscribe to their feed but a blog DOES imply a different level of interaction.


#10

One of the main reasons I don’t have comments on my blog is I think they’re such a disaster as social software goes. I want to do something better. For me, given the choice between something as bad as blog comments and nothing, nothing is clearly the better option.

Nothing can’t be better than something. (Ironically, James Bach himself wrote about this. “A comparison is offered between something and nothing. Who could prefer nothing? Nothing is a void.”)

Half the stuff I find on the 'net is because of insightful comments like yours. Given the choice of nothing and Ian Griffiths, I choose Ian Griffiths.

But you’re absolutely right that this is a weird discussion because it’s so meta-meta on a couple different levels. :wink:

It’s easy and free to set up a blog

Ah yes, but actually writing one? Not so easy! At any rate, I think there’s a huge difference between a formal blog entry on “your blog”, and a paragraph or two written in the very same browser window that the article is in.

the online arguments / discussions I’ve witnessed with James over the years are strange at best, and confusing at worst

That’s unfortunate, but this is hardly an argument-- I basically agree with everything James wrote. And my post has more to do with the meta-topic of blogging itself than the actual content, anyway.


#11

"It’s unreasonable to expect people that disagree with the tenets of your religion to build a church and start their own religion."
unreasonable maybe, but has been done many times


#12

Funnily enough, I was having the same discussion yesterday with a colleague of mine, and my exact words were ‘a blog without comments isn’t a blog, it’s a website’.

For me, blogging is all about the conversation (which means that it’s a lot about the comments, but also the emails and the phone calls and the face to face discussions).

Perhaps that’s just for me though. I know when I’m blogging I’m not trying to speak from the pulpit. Mostly I’m trying to learn as much as I’m trying to share with others. Comments are integral to a blog like that.

If you’re positioning yourself as an expert, then I can see how you’d be less likely to open yourself up to be challenged…

Meanwhile, on the spam front, I was also suffering from comment spam to the point that it was almost taking all the fun out of blogging. I’ve recently installed Akismet, and it’s gold. Comment spam doesn’t bother me at ALL anymore. If you’re a Wordpress blogger, you should definitely check it out.


#13

Jeff – I’m curious about why the ability to post or not to post comments on James’ blog arise now? Have you ever read his blog before? Did you not know that he had comments disabled before his post? Did you have James’ email address before your post?

James must have evoked an emotion that was perceived by you to require a public defense - or else the entire discussion would be moot. Did you feel that James was attacking you in some way? I know I would if I came under a pointed analysis by him on something I wrote. I suppose another perspective I would take, after I calmed down, is that James was attempting to help clarify my position and make it stronger.

I’m curious to know what you gain by posting a response at the source as opposed to your own forum? Is it that defense was not allowed at the source that is really the problem? What would have happened if you could have posted at the source? What exactly would have been your response to James? You seem to be keeping prviate for a face to face meeting? Why not put it on your blog as well?

Posting at the source - Would it evoke an emotion of happiness or revenge when all the “KEWL KIDS” could point and say “Look what Jeff put on James’ blog”. Is it that you want James’ to recognize that you are offended by his post? I ask – because that you start out coming across as offended but then you state in your comments later on that “I basically agree with everything James wrote. And my post has more to do with the meta-topic of blogging itself than the actual content, anyway.” So you agree with James – why didn’t you say that at the beginning of your post? You must have known that you come across as extremely offended and upset in your first paragraph.

Back on the topic of blog comments - Is it possible that James could ignore your response if you post it on your blog instead? I doubt it – since he read your original post. Is it possible that if comments were enabled on James’ blog that he could delete your comment without reading it? Is James worried about your response or his he working on his own analytical skills? If these were the cases would they be an acceptable use of a blog in your elitist view of what blogging means? Why does James write a blog? Have you ever asked him? Would any of these make James an irresponsible blogger? What would it make him? Why do you care?

I think you took the appropriate approach by responding on your own blog – your point comes across loud and clear. Your point was to attempt to talk about blogging by using James’s post as an example for the “KEWL KIDS” – wasn’t it? Making this point would be understandable if you hadn’t just been the subject of a Bach Analysis/Teaching (BAT for short) and responding in a defensive manner under the guise of the meta-topic of blogging.

If you were to actually tell your blog readers your thoughts on the content and theory of James’ post your blogs comments could help furthre your argument that comments make blogs more worthwhile

Cheers,

Adam

“I don’t care if they believe me – I just want them to think” – Marshall McLuhan


#14

Adam, you’re going to break your question mark key. I don’t know if I can answer all those questions, but I’ll try.

I’m definitely not mad or upset; if anything, quite the opposite: I’m flattered that someone like James, who has a long history in the software industry, would care enough to write an entire blog entry based on something I wrote. That’s high compliment, not a slam.

What motivated this post? It’s very simple: after reading James’ post, I wanted to leave a public comment on it. I couldn’t. And that’s frustrating, because IMMEDIATELY after reading something is when the desire and impulse to comment on what I’ve read is strongest. The longer I wait, the more I forget, and now I’ll have to go back and re-read the entire thing again to formulate a response. It’ll be a better, more thoughtful response, of course, but it takes longer.

That’s it.

Trackbacks don’t appear to be enabled on his site, either. So, if comments were enabled, I could post a comment with the URL to my response as well.


#15

Comments are graffiti.

Sometimes graffiti is art, but most of the time it’s unskilled and uninspired vandalism.


#16

“And it’s unreasonable to expect people to start their own blogs to make a public reply to your post.”

I think it’s unreasonable for you to expect a publisher like this to do anything in particular. If you don’t like their words/product/whatever, stay away.

Granted, he was attacking something you said and you wanted to respond, but it just so happens that he doesn’t invite a response in the form of a comment on his blog–you’ll have to get creative.

Also, you’re arguing the definition of the word “blog”, which if I recall correctly is only a few years old.

[Insert high and mighty comment about freedom of speech and freedom of the press here.]


#17

I think you’re overlooking the possibility of sending an email to the author of the blog - isn’t this more or less equivalent to a letter of the editor, where it may or may not be selected for publication?


#18

A blog without comments is simply a blog without comments.

You don’t have to like it, but to then say it’s not a blog is just moving the goalposts.

Jeremy “Proud owner of not-a-blog” Keith


#19

I prefer to respond on my own blog…

– James Bach


#20

I feel where your going with your argument, I really do but your blog is a reflection of who you are, and is an expression of your views alone.

Clearly your open minded and receptive to other ideas. Many people in the online community are a little more totalitarian.