I hesitate to read your opinions when I can’t talk back

blogging, business and consumers, technology

Please forgive the unsexy title. I know it would have been far more Diggable if I had titled it “Top 10 Reasons Why Your Opinion Blog Needs Comments.”

Anyway… I can sometimes enjoy link blogs (“101 uses for a paper mache African swallow. No, European!”) without comments. Or info-blogs (new product released, site will be down next Tuesday, check out these new features).

But blogs in which the AUTHOR is mostly discussing his or her opinions about stuff, or blogs that cover controversial stuff (news stories, culture, etc.)… damn, those better have comments enabled, or they won’t get my eyeballs for long.

For instance, I’m looking at you, BoingBoing.  Aside from the fact that I have (somewhat) of a life that precludes reading a bazillion entries a day that are talking at me, not with me… when it’s uber-oh-so-important-or-popular sites, I’ll be bound to find the same links in my friends’ blogs anyway.

Yes, I know, comment and trackback spammers are a bitch.  I hope their nether-regions suffer from this and/or they are forced to be locked in a closet with Vanna White night after night after night after night.  But with good software, good plugins (YAY, Akismet!), and a little elbow grease, these cretins are substantially less of a problem.

I have mixed feelings when it comes to comments on corporate blogs.

Positives:

  • Bullshit can be called out or, on a less severe note, readers can offer corrections, add useful contextual info, etc. (hopefully resulting in better blog entries in the future and more informed readers)
  • Readers can request for clarifications or additional info from the company.  But see the flipside of this below.
  • Occasional registration requirements aside, commenting has a comparatively low barrier to entry, meaning that quality input is sometimes more likely to be offered when commenting, not just forum posting, is available.
  • Comments can often be generally insightful and/or entertaining… sometimes more than the blog entries themselves :-D.

Negatives:

  • Someone’s gotta monitor those comments… to delete spam, to (ideally, IMHO) delete offensive and off-topic crapfests, to note info to take back to other employees, to correct misconceptions or outright lies, and to (potentially) answer questions in-line.  That takes time… sometimes a LOT of time.  Time that, one could argue, might be better spent actually tackling questions in a forum, fixing bugs, speaking at conferences, retooling UIs, or even getting sleep.  And let’s face it: tech support, at least, is most likely pretty damn inefficient via blog comments (“Help!  When I turn on my qpod, it doesn’t work!”).
  • Sometimes comments can draw out the worst in folks, especially anonymous folks.  Even simple, informative posts can trigger shockingly nasty and uncomfortable exchanges… making the company not only less likely to blog, but (non-masochistic) customers or potential customers less likely to read the blog or even respect the company.
  • Major companies can be attractive targets for comment/trackback-spamming script kiddies.

*  *  *

So I’m curious… do you feel the same way I do? 
– Do you also draw distinctions amongst link, info, and opinion/commentary blogs?
– Do you care one way or the other about comments on blogs or not?

10 comments… add one
  • Erik Dafforn Mar 12, 2007

    Well said. After years of manually cleaning out junk – and after the final purge of over 71,000 spam comments, I just installed Jay Allen’s “Comment Challenge” plugin for MT 3.2+, and it’s brilliant. Not one fake comment has made it through since.

    And I know there are others out there that are similarly effective. So botspam as an excuse for not enabling comments isn’t really valid. Now if only there were a meritocratic test to filter the quality of human comments…

  • Bruce Mar 14, 2007

    Hi Matt… hey, I know you hate spam, we ALL do! However, I really goofed this morning…

    I received three “blog comment alerts” in my email inbox a short while ago. You know the ones I mean… “You have a comment awaiting moderation etc.,”

    Anyway, I noticed that all three comments were posted at exactly the same time. Whatsmore, they were all from…

    G-O-O-G-L-E!!!

    Well, http://google.com to be exact.

    They all had the same message…

    “Google is the best search engine…”

    I suffered a brain explosion and wrongly checked the ‘spam’ box in my moderating panel.

    Call it a “force of habit” from having to deal with spammers so often.

    A split-second after marking these three comments as spam I realized my mistake. In essence, i had just deleted (as spam) not one, not two, but THREE PR9 backlinks!!!

    It’s moments like these that thoughts of self-mutilation become obsessive…lol

  • Jennifer Apr 29, 2007

    I hate people not having comments open.  It is relatively easy to moderate them these days.  Yes, there are a ton of spammers, but why bother having a site if you don’t want interaction.  That is what makes the internet a great place.

  • Mike Jun 22, 2007

    I have just started a travel blog community that gives away free travel blogs for anyone thats interested. The site was only live a day and the spam comments started pouring in. Its run on Wordpress MU. Im not sure if there is a capture facility available to stop the auto submitters, but ive set all the comments to pre approval so I can just delete the spam. Pain in the bum though 🙁

  • Mary Jul 31, 2007

    I know my story is not blog-related but I too am tired of the spam at our Parents-Baby forum. Yes there should be interaction but there are comments or urls that are not even close to the topic.

  • Milan Jul 31, 2007

    Hi, I’m a spam bot making comments automaticaly for backlinks…. wait, what I should say here, oh yes, something general:

    Nice post! Thank you!

    On the serious note, Akismet is doing a great job. I’m surpriced it’s not abused more when I see how much money and energy is being put to brake different captchas.

  • Rinor Aug 11, 2007

    moderate, moderate and once again moderate

  • John Feb 25, 2008

    You need to be moderated.

  • Online Shopping May 22, 2008

    Spammers have to lost more things than getting just a single thing. Still moderation and trackback feels one that author really following him.

  • Rosina May 26, 2008

    I agree completely! As a blogger I like to keep comments open because I enjoy knowing that someone is reading (not that my opinion is oh so important, but still) but I find a lot of spam and crap. I like comments as long as they have SOMETHING to do with my posts. Anyway, at first it was easy to clean the up but now it’s becoming annoying.
    And what about guestbooks? The other day I found lots of spam in the guestbook of a web site that we created in memory of a friend that died. Imagine how painful is that for his parents. Can you recommend something to moderate and keep clean a guestbook?
    Great blog by the way!

What do you think?