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Turning off Blog Comments

Steve Pavlina has taken the step of closing down his blog’s comments system because they were more trouble than they were worth. He writes:

‘The main factor in making this decision was the time and energy freed up by not having to deal with comments. No blog comments means no administration of comments, handling comment spam, legal liability for what people post in comments, having to decide whether to respond to questions or ignore them, people posting false information, commenters flaming other commenters, marketing abuses, tech support for comments (Can you fix my typo? Can you delete my double post?). These are minor problems if you only get a few comments a week, but with more than 10 a day — every day — it quickly adds up.’

So would you ever consider switching off the comments on your blog?

I would answer this question on a blog by blog basis and would make the decision largely around the topic of the blog and the voice in which it is written in.

I have a number of blogs that are focussed upon reporting news and information to readers. These blogs are not about creating community or interactivity – rather they present information. I’ve wondered a few times whether it might be appropriate to switch comments off on these blogs because they rarely get a genuine comment and regularly get spammed. Of course with the increasing effectiveness of comment spam protection features of the main blog platforms I find it is rare that spam gets through.

I have other blogs, like ProBlogger.net, which would suffer greatly by switching off comments. I cannot imagine this site without the discussion and community that comments helps create. This blog is read by some very wise bloggers and their opinion and experience is at times more central to what happens here than my own writing. If anything I’d like to find ways of elevating the profile of comments on this blog as they are quite often brilliant.

I guess all I’m arguing is that there are many factors that should be considered before switching comments off. Some of these may include:

• Blog topic – As I write above – some topics create/need more dialogue than others

• Comment spam levels – If its a massive problem for you then turning comments can be a good solution

• Traffic levels – I know of some very highly trafficked blogs who have turned off comments just because they can’t keep up

• Levels of time available by blogger to interact with readers – Comments do take up time. If you don’t have time to interact with readers you’ll just frustrate some of them by not responding to them

Readers Tone of Commenting - Some blogs tend to breed negative, personally attacking and abusive comments leavers. If things get too heated and start bringing down the tone of your blog maybe its appropriate to turn them off for a while

• Nature of traffic – I find blogs with loads of SE traffic tend to get less comments than those with loyal readers)

• Voice of the Blogger – Some bloggers write in a much more inviting and interactive voice than others

It will be interesting to see what happens to Steve’s blog over the coming months. While some of his readers will no doubt be frustrated by not being able to have a say – there can also be interesting positive side effects.

Seth Godin has talked on numerous occasssions about his decision to turn off comments as being a very positive one because he finds that people tend to respond more to what he writes on their own blogs – which always brings with it a link to his posts. This of course adds to the viral nature of what he’s doing and helps build search engine ranking.

What do you think about turning off comments on a blog? Are you a purist and argue that if there are no comments it’s ‘not a a blog’? Have you been tempted to turn them off? Have you already? In what circumstances would you consider it appropriate?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. aaron says:

    I have three blogs, and I wouldn’t turn off comments on any of them. I guess I’m a purist that thinks without the option of feedback, you give the impression that you can’t be wrong.

  2. Elle says:

    How much traffic does one have to get before you start getting comments. I guess it could take a few months before I have enough readers that feel bothered enough to comment on anything I write.

  3. Jon says:

    Comments are a great way to judge how well your writing is resonating with your readers. I wouldn’t even think of turning them off until I was really sure I had my audience measured and that process wasn’t yielding any useful information. In other words, besides the stuff you mentioned Darren, I think that it should only be considered after the blog is well established.

    Another thing that I’ve been tempted to do is to remove the ads from my site. I make just enough to make it a tough decision, but I crave to see if it would change my style and approach. I have a hunch the it would be somehow liberating.

  4. Arun says:

    A few things I would think of for turning comments on-off.

    New blogs or blogs without much traffic will be better off with comments on. They help building some interaction and network with other bloggers.

    Blogs like problogger may find very valuable information in comments, which I think problogger does.

  5. yunasville says:

    it took me more than 2 months to start getting comments regularly and comments have been a valuable asset to my blog. Like Jon indicated, it is a good measurement to judge which posts are well connected to my readers. I now get about 4, 5 a day on average and most of my commenters are regulars or someone I know in person. I probably spend only 10 mins a day dealing with comments so it’s hard to imagine why Steve doesn’t want to deal with 10,15 a day.

    I leave comments on Steve’s site too and I find his readers leaving very valuable and thoughtful comments that could benefit other readers as well. It’s a pity that he decided to turn it off. I hope he will at least accept trackback link like Seth Godin is doing.

  6. HART says:

    Comment spam hasn’t been an issue with me because

    (1) wordpress plugin “Spam-Karma-2 Reloaded”
    (2) my traffic is very low and spamming my site doesn’t help the spammers! Maybe it even penalizes them!

    But – I wish I had more interaction in my own comments – like here. On all my blogs, I also include RSS feed links for the comments …

    There is no link here, but it was easy to add ProBlogger comments feed to my Bloglines with the bookmarklet script .. P.S. In Bloglines, the comments are all over the place and very unformatted. You can’t tell what post is being commented, unless it’s a trackback. It needs work or possibly just burning a feed with Feedburner might fix it ?

    The good news is that I’ve been reading a lot of older posts that I never knew existed or, didn’t understand completely reading it the first time around. I am impressed how many comments you are receiving from i.e. 2004 articles and early 2005 articles.

  7. HART says:

    That Captha is annoying. They have plugins that are part of your comments and not after-the-fact. I felt left hanging after answering .. nowhere to go.

  8. Mike Sigers says:

    I don’t read blogs with comments turned off.

    It’s one of the criteria that helps me keep the feeds I read down around 100. You gotta have a few parameters.

    I unsubscribe from blogs that turn them off. We link to Steve, so this one’s been hard for me, but I’ll make a decision this weekend.

    Reasoning: I don’t need people to force their opinion on me, on a regular basis, with no recourse. If I liked that type of info, I’d read a newspaper or magazine.

    It’s no longer a blog, to me, if it doen’t allow comments. But, again, that’s just for me. Everybody gets their own interpretation and can do what works for them.

  9. captcha plugin is the best for handling comment spam

    besides: comments are extremely important – in my case: many times information from comments was something I couldn’t find anywhere else and was lifesaviour.

    only idiots or arrogant pricks like Dave Winer are switching off comments.

  10. Eric Giguere says:

    My AdSense blog was subjected to comment spam, but only on two or three of the blog entries, ones that focus on certain high-paying keywords. It’s kind of funny, because I would just blast away the spam as soon as its posted, but it started to annoy me.

    The solution for me was to disable comments for those specific blog entries, if your blog software (I use blojsom) supports that concept. That may be a good middle ground for some people.

  11. JSLogan says:

    Comment and trackback SPAM are certanily the bane of blogging. I like comments and believe they add significantly to the blog. You don’t have to allow comments to be a blog, but it makes it better.

    Long before turning off comments I’d employ ever SPAM and barrier to comments available, including registration.

    Yout referecnce to Seth Godin is interesting – I thought of him first when readin gyour post. As I understand it, Seth’s opposition to comments is based in an opposition to anonymity.

  12. Greg says:

    I wouldn’t consider turning off comments on any of my blogs as its the chance to get feedback and interact with readers. If someone finds they are getting swamped by comment spam then they should look at the tools they are using. In my case i changed anti spam plugins for wordpress and my spam comments went away to be seen only on the daily digest.

  13. Patrick says:

    Yes, I would consider it. It all depends on the circumstances and how long comment moderation (we are strict) takes. In a big way, comments are important part of my blogs as they make the posts worth writing (moreso, anyway), etc. But, if it got to a certain point, you bet I’d consider it.

  14. FYI I added a follow-up post with more details of why I chose to disable comments:
    http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/10/more-on-blog-comments/

    It wasn’t really about the spam. The main issue was the opportunity cost. I felt the traffic growth made comments unsustainable in the long run, at least for the level of quaity interaction I wanted to maintain.

  15. Rhys says:

    I’d rather not, but sometimes you’re forced to. A few years back, I had a site so popular it received more than 2,000 hits a day. There were so many comments that I couldn’t delete the profane/mean ones fast enough, and what really made me feel bad, I couldn’t respond to the nice/constructive ones. But I’d only turn them off in extreme cases like that.

  16. Jon says:

    Coincidently I blogged about this exact thing a week or so ago on my own blog, here:

    http://www.jonwatson.ca/blog/?p=430

    I agree with Seth Godin. In the long term, I think that forcing respondents to forumulate complete blog entries on their own sites to respond to something I may have said is ultimately more productive than allowing people to write ‘I disagree’ or ‘you suck’ under a post that I have written.

    I do acknowledge that the type of blog definitely comes into play.I think on a personal blog, it might be beneficial to the entire blogosphere.

    I’m not ready to do it yet though :)

  17. C:\arlo says:

    I guess that when your blog reaches high traffic/comments levels, spam and moderation could become a serious issue; however, I’m still convinced that comments (and interactivity) are what (or part of what) makes weblogs different from the unilateral and monocratic traditional web sites.

  18. jesse says:

    I can certainly understand why a site like Little Green Football or the Daily Kos would turn off comments, as they get several hundred a post, but when you only get 10-15 a day, it doesn’t seem like much trouble

  19. Assuming that you’re not putting a blog up to deliberately build an online community, eventually with enough work it could grow to be huge.

    At that point, I think it would be prudent to turn off the comments and invite readers to e-mail you and let them use trackbacks to link their thoughts to yours. I believe that Seth’s decision to do this was a good one and has made his message all the more clearer to those who link to him via trackback.

  20. I think comments are the lifeblood of blogs. They add a human factor and help bring postings alive. Unfortunately there are people and spammers that abuse the system and cause trouble. I think it would be better to just ignore the troublemakers and respond to your loyal readers than to turn comments off.

    In Steve’s case he is getting the level of traffic that required quite a bit of time to respond. He also posted very long replies to some of his readers. His case may be warranted but I really miss the interactivity that his blog created. As far as trackbacking to a post on your own blog, I have sent trackbacks to numerous sites but many times they don’t go through so I’m not sure if that is a complete solution.

  21. Greg says:

    On my blog I turned on the section where the user has to type in a security word. I wouldn’t turn off my comments because I get so few that I can monitor and delete them as needed. I will say that I still get some comment spam from time to time which is never pleasant. Even if I had an extremely high amount of traffic, I doubt I still would remove them.

    http://blog.ashbaughonline.com

  22. Tom Hanna says:

    If spam is the problem, there are lots of good options for automated spamkilling with WordPress. If the other platforms don’t have equally good options, then we may see WordPress blogs as the only ones with comments….good for WordPress bloggers, bad for everyone else…

    If the problem is the “delete my duplicate post” and “delete the flame” issue, you have to be getting a lot of comments and a lot of traffic before that takes more than one or two minutes a day. If I was getting that traffic volume and didn’t have time to handle it myself, I’d consider hiring someone to help before I handicapped my blog.

  23. dr. Johnson says:

    If spam is the problem, there are lots of good options for automated spamkilling with WordPress. If the other platforms don’t have equally good options, then we may see WordPress blogs as the only ones with comments….good for WordPress bloggers, bad for everyone else…

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Pointing to Steve Pavlina’s decision to turn comments off on his Blog, Darren asks “Would you ever consider switching off the comments on your blog?” [...]