Steve Fenton

Blog comments

Why can’t you leave comments on my blogs? The software I’m using has the feature to allow comments, with a switch that even lets me approve them before they are added to the page, but I’ve switched them off. Why?

My main reason for not bothering with comments is my experience with comments on other blogs. I’m not just talking any old blog on any old website – I’m talking the hallowed pages of the people who I respect the most online.

Let’s take a look at the reasons in detail.

  • Spam. No matter what you do, eventually a human being, or a robot on their behalf, will just use comments to promote themselves, their products or their services – you can read more about this in my book “Why Self-Promotion Can Be Annoying” available now in paperback. Go buy it.
  • Inane. “I read your post and I really enjoyed it. I like reading your blog”. Nice to get a bit of hero-worship, but a bit annoying for other readers to sift through.
  • Inane Spam. What a combinations – the inane comment containing spammy links. The idea is is that if you say something nice, you are less likely to be deleted as a spammer. “I love your post – maybe you like my site too? []”
  • Compliments. Even though they are relevant and clearly not spam, people sincerely spouting adoration to an article is just noise. “I love the metaphor you used to describe the third law of thermodynamics – I totally get it now, thanks!”
  • Flame wars. They happen anywhere two people can communicate in a disconnected manner. Someone disagrees, but rather than expand on the fundamental reasons for their disagreement the occupy areas of discussion that are increasingly polarised.
  • Localised. People ask a really specific question about their own particular case that doesn’t benefit other readers. It’s like the blog just turned into a help forum!

What do I like about comments? It isn’t all bad – there are things I do like with comments, so it is only fair to give them an airing.

  • It’s nice when someone takes a point and expands on it.
  • It’s nice when someone asks for clarification on a part of the subject that isn’t clear and then the original author responds.
  • It’s nice when someone disagrees elegantly and offers an alternate view point

The life-cycle of comments is along these lines…

  1. Genuine
  2. Compliments
  3. Inane
  4. Localised
  5. Spam
  6. Inane Spam

And the counter clocks up the following stats:

Type of Comment Count
Total 223
Spam 114
Inane Spam 75
Compliments 11
Genuine Comments 9
Inane Comments 8
Localised Questions 6

That is a little over 4% of comments being worth reading. Terrible.

So on balance, I don’t like comments. Not as a reader of blogs, not as a writer of blogs and not as a commenter on blogs! This post wouldn’t be complete without some quick statistics. These stats are taken from a blog post I read today, which contains some of the most important information about object-oriented development you are likely to read – I won’t expand further because the blog itself is good, although the comments illustrate my point perfectly.

However, as many people have already discovered, you can actually contact me with comments and I will either respond, or update the blog or write a follow up! It is so much nicer when we have a real conversation, rather than just posting comments. I will enjoy the fact that people cannot inanely post such delights as “you could use a Captcha to stop spam”.

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