A Case Against Comments

As an educator, I truly love assessment. There is no greater joy than seeing tangible improvement in your students’ skills as they learn throughout the course of your class. While educators measure the growth of their pupils via grades, standardized test courses, and practical application, assessing the growth of your blog is a slightly different matter. There are numerous methods with which one can assess a blog’s growth, including raw blog visitors, unique page views, blog follower count, and comments((Among many others.)).

For the purposes of this discussion, I want to take a look at the final item on that list — comments — and discuss their impact on blogging. I personally love nothing more than when someone, be they a blog regular or a random passerby, comments on the blog posts I’ve written. Once upon a time, I had a lengthy run of blog posts((25 in a row to be exact.)) where the posts all got at least one comment within a week of being posted. It was a great sign that I’m producing quality content. Likewise, I love the banter that goes back and forth in the comments section of blog posts, particularly when the comments are thought-provoking and well-reasoned.

So why would anyone want to get rid of comments? According to Popular Science Magazine, even one bad apple in your comments section can spoil the party — and your article — for a large portion of your readership base.

Raspberries are bad apples…because they’re fucking raspberries, not apples. (Photo credit: onehundreddollarsamonth.com)

The logic behind their theory is simple. If the comments on your piece are uncivil, not only is that commenter warping your readers’ point of view on their statements, you’re warping their opinion of the piece you’ve written as well as the subject you’re writing about. Allow me to illustrate this with an example. The following is an entire blog post I’ve written.

I like ducks.

Simple enough. Here are civil commenters who agree with my blog post commenting.

Commenter A: I agree. Ducks are cute.
Commenter B: And how!

Civil, straight-forward, and ultimately shaping my readers’ point of view to enjoy ducks more. Let’s replace those comments with uncivil comments.

Commenter A: I agree. Ducks are cute.
Commenter B: Ducks killed my family.
Commenter C: You hear that? Ducks are trying to end our American way of life! Thanks Obama!
Commenter D: Fuck you and your duck.

In three comments, we’ve managed to descend the slippery slope from rational, oppositional commenting to having the potential for an avian genocide. This is exactly what Popular Science is trying to prevent. So what if the number of bad eggs is relatively small in comparison to the good eggs? One bad commenter is enough to sway public opinion in the same way that one squirrel could shut down the NASDAQ stock exchange. I mean, it technically IS possible and may have happened on once…or twice…before. But that doesn’t mean every blog should shut down their comments section just because Derp McGerp may say something that causes people to believe that guns are safe and everyone should have one…does it?

Oh…On second thought, perhaps silence would helpful.

Popular Science isn’t the only once to make an effort to improve the commenting experience. Google has decided to change the way it allows YouTube comments in hopes of improving the quality of comments they receive. Some blogging platforms like Svbtle take pride in the fact that they don’t allow comments at all. Even one of my favorite sites online, XKCD, doesn’t allow comments directly on its posts. Are we really losing anything by taking away the power of the people to speak their minds?

Personally, I see no reason to take away commenting from readers. The best bloggers, in my opinion, are those who can write a quality piece and know how to interact with their readership base. If you can write well, but can’t interact with readers, you’re merely a journalist. If you can interact well, but can’t write well, you’re merely a publicist. But to be able to do both (and to do both well) is something special.

Bloggers Love Comments Like…

Note: The following post is a guest post written by Brittany of Pines and Palmettos.

A few weeks ago someone on 20sb asked what mattered most: comments, shares, or pageviews? I ran the (very small & easy to work with) numbers and roughly 69% of responses said comments. A few of those may have tied between comments and shares, but at least 69% mentioned comments as rewarding.

That’s a pretty large majority. Granted, the answers may have been different with a different sample group (psych degree here- I love my research) but I think that says a lot about how bloggers feel regarding comments.

I answered comments 100%, so maybe I’m a little biased. But for me, blogging has come to be a great way to connect with other people. Writing keeps me sane, and helps me process how I feel about things. But there’s nothing like someone else going “Oh, I thought I was the only one!” or “Hey, that sounds like _____, you should check it out!” So I decided to put together a little list about how much bloggers love comments.

Bloggers love comments like:

…emo kids love skinny jeans.

…The Doctor loves his sonic screwdriver.

…Blake Shelton loves alcohol.

…zombies love brains.

…the Winchester brothers love salt & iron.

…Twitter users love hashtags.

…like Freud loves his mother.

…like rednecks love their trucks.

…like WASPs love their pearls.

…like gamers love their XBoxes (or Playstations, I know it’s a debate).

You get the idea. We love comments y’all. Even when I am having trouble finding my own blogging inspiration, I try to keep up with other bloggers and interact with them through comments. This keeps up a relationship and makes them more likely to visit when I am finally back on the writing wagon- it’s a great cycle that leads to us all creating and taking in fresh content.

I don’t mean to flood people with annoying and meaningless comments. Please, no “great blog!” or “Check out my site!” That shit is lame and insincere, and no one likes it. But if you read something, and it strikes a chord with you, let that person know. It’s part of what keeps the blogging world alive.

Brittany is a 20-something blogger who lives in North Carolina. She reads, watches, and analyzes a lot of stuff like Christian faith, nerd culture, and other randomness. Then she writes about it at Pines & Palmettos, because like lots of introverts she enjoys the Internet.

You Got A Reaction Didn’t You

A little while back, 20 Something Bloggers’ Twitter account called one of my blog posts provocative. That’s a pretty strong compliment for a writer to get — but what does it really mean?

Google defines provocative with two definitions.

  1. Causing annoyance, anger, or strong reaction, esp. deliberately
  2. Arousing sexual desire or interest, esp. deliberately

First and foremost, I learned that apparently a provocative person/story is one that can get you all hot and bothered. I was unaware that definition of the word even existed, though I’m thoroughly amused by its existence and now plan to use it in day-to-day conversation whenever I can fit it in.

More to the point though, a post that’s considered to be provocative is one that makes you have an emotional response to its content. My goal as a writer is not necessarily to make my readers annoyed our angered when they read my posts. If that happens, it happens, though it’s certainly not the end goal.

What I’d rather have happen though is for someone to have to stop and take the time to think about what I’ve written.How does that piece impact them personally? Does what I’ve said change a point of view about a specific topic, or does it reinforce a preconceived notion about said subject matter? Has what I’ve written forced you to take two minutes of your day to consider something you otherwise wouldn’t have thought twice about?

When I start writing a given post, there are many times I have nothing more than a general topic in mind. I don’t have an aim, a moral, or an end goal when I figuratively begin putting pen to paper. My goal is not to change the world in one brilliantly written article. While I may be bright, I’m not that level of an orator to be able to do so. What I do endeavor to achieve is to make sure that my thoughts cause at least one person to think deeply on the topic at hand. Ideally, they’ll respond with their reaction, and I’ll be able to interact with that individual in deep (or lighthearted if the subject matter warrants) conversation about whatever I’ve chosen to write about.

To be referred to as provocative as a blogger should not be a descriptor that is misconstrued as someone who writes solely to seek a reaction for reaction’s sake. While I do write for reaction, it would be more accurate to say that I write seeking reaction with interaction. In my mind, without interaction that was provoked by strong thinking, what point is there to blogging?

What type of interaction do you seek out as a blogger? What about as a reader? Sound off in the comments below.