Russell decided to cut comments largely for time reasons as far as I can see it – he was sick of dealing with spam and flames and wanted to put his time into other activities.
I read of Russell’s experience and can quite honestly hear what he’s saying. Comments have the ability to build up in the time that they take to manage as your blog grows and as more and more bloggers enter the blogosphere.
On the other hand I feel strongly that one of the best things about blogging is the interaction and conversation that it creates.
So is a blog without comments a blog?
While I know some blogging purists who believe a comment-less blog is not a blog, my own opinion is not quite as extreme. Here are a few random thoughts that come to mind that I’ll throw into the mix:
- Some topics generate more conversation than others – this is pretty obvious but worth considering when making the decision of whether to activate comments. ProBlogger is my most commented upon blog (by a LONG way). This is partly because I’m writing about a topic that it seems everyone has a comment on. I’m also writing to an audience who are used to writing and expressing opinions. Not to have comments on this blog would be quite bizarre.
- Different writing styles impact comment numbers – I intentionally write in a voice that invites interaction. I go out of my way to ask questions, to add their experiences and to help in the learning/teaching process. Other bloggers do not write in this voice and will there for have less response from readers and might actually find comments to be more of a distraction than anything because they want to be the voice of authority on their topic. I guess this comes down to your blog’s goals also.
- Traffic levels impact comment levels – different ends of the spectrum of traffic tend to struggle with comments for different reasons. Bloggers with low traffic often express to me embarrassment for having post after post with no comments on them (not a great first impression for readers perhaps) whereas at the other end of the spectrum – highly trafficked blogs struggle to administer comments (deleting spam, monitoring flaming, responding to questions etc). I understand the feeling from both ends and think that while it’s easy to be critical of bloggers who turn off comments it’s worth considering the reasons that might have led to the decision.
- Not having comments can actually be an advantage - One of the bloggers that I read daily who uses his lack of comments to his advantage is Seth Godin. While I personally find it frustrating not to be able to tell Seth what I think at the end of posts the advantage for him is that he gets a lot of people linking to his posts because their comments happen on their own blogs. This vast amount of incoming links helps him achieve higher Search Engine Ranking. I bet he also gets a few more emails than many bloggers get – I know I’ve emailed him numerous times over the last year or so (and he responds!).
- Changing the Rules Halfway – I’ve seen a number of bloggers switch off comments have get criticized heavily for it – yet there are other bloggers who don’t have comments (and never have had them) who don’t seem to get the criticism. Perhaps the secret is to think through this issue before you start your blog and to not change the rules halfway? Of course it’s difficult to know what work comments will bring to your life a couple of years into the future – but it’s worth considering.
- Middle Ground? – One strategy that I’m surprised more bloggers don’t experiment with is having comments turned on with some comments and off with others. I do know of some bloggers who have comments switch off after a certain length of time to deal with Comment Spam (there is a whole debate around this too) but another approach would be to pick those posts which might be more appropriate for comments to allow them and to keep others shut off. This isn’t a strategy I’ll be employing but might be middle ground.
Like Russell says though – it is his own blog and ultimately is his decision and ultimately he has to live with the consequences of that (maybe more time, probably more direct emails, perhaps less traffic from those seeking community and maybe a different style/voice of blogging).
What do you think about blogs without comments?