Why Comments Still Matter

photo credit: DaveFayram - cc
photo credit: DaveFayramcc

Earlier this year Copyblogger set the blogosphere ablaze with its controversial decision to turn off comments. The announcement cited the burden of moderation, spam, and the availability of other conversation “outposts” as the main reasons for closing comments. It also gave the impression that Copyblogger had in many ways outgrown comments:

Blog comments are an amazing resource for any blog when it’s getting started. It’s a super convenient way to take the pulse of your audience…. And for eight years, comments have been a fantastic thing here on Copyblogger.

We’re fortunate enough (mainly because Copyblogger’s been around for so long now) that we have a lot of thriving “outposts” where conversation happens.

Copyblogger isn’t the only site to turn the lights off on commenters. Popular Science, powered by Drupal, shut off comments in September 2013, citing trolls, spambots, and a “fractious minority” detracting from its ability to foster intelligent conversation and debate. The editors felt that commenters often cast aspersion on the the validity of the science presented, prefacing the announcment with: “Comments can be bad for science. That’s why, here at PopularScience.com, we’re shutting them off.”

The Rising Trend of Turning Comments Off

Copyblogger is likely the most influential WordPress site to adopt a comments-off approach to blogging, and many other sites have followed suit.

The other day I noticed an influx of comment-killing plugins coming into the WordPress Plugin Directory. Simple No Comments is a plugin that turns them off upon activation. WP Disable Comments entered the directory right around the same time with more fine-grained control for disabling comments globally or for specific post types, categories, tags, referrers, etc. Hear No Evil is a relatively new one that blocks comments for a WordPress site or on a site-by-site basis in a multisite network.

WordPress users are constantly on the hunt for better tools to help manage commenting and mitigate the unrelenting onslaught of spam. Publications turn comments off for different reasons, but it’s rarely due to the fact that they do not appreciate the comments left by genuine community members. Oftentimes the burden of spam moderation becomes greater than the benefit of conversation on posts.

Comment moderation was introduced in WordPress 1.0 in 2004 but at that time spammers were operating at a fraction of their current strength. Akismet reports that the amount of spam it caught in May 2014 is up 4% from April, and up 269% from May 2012. This burden increases every year and even with powerful spam-blocking plugins in place, many will slip through the cracks.

The solution for sites where interaction isn’t critical? Turn the comments off. Unfortunately, many sites do not have this luxury.

Removing Comments Suffocates Conversation

Traditionally, a blog post has been an invitation to a conversation. The weblog medium soared to popularity because of its interactive nature, which allowed readers to leave comments. Some might contend that this singular feature distinguishes the medium from other informational, static websites.

Conversation and community are the natural byproducts of allowing open comments. They aren’t a utility to propel your blog to a state of maturity where you finally shed comments in a burst of enlightenment. They have intrinsic value. [pullquote]Open comments are the affirmation that your blog is a conversation and not a soapbox.[/pullquote] Ultimately, allowing comments on your posts is about valuing conversation. Encouraging interaction on other social channels, while turning it off at home on your blog, sends a mixed message.

When Copyblogger turned off comments, it encouraged readers to take the conversation to social networks and to write responses on their own blogs as an alternative to commenting on Copyblogger.com. How can you ask your readers to promote you on social networks and link to you from their blogs, when they’re not welcome at your home on the web? This is a conversation killer for those who have no motivation to write their own response posts or participate on social networks.

Removing Comments Fragments the Conversation

photo credit: Nils Geylen - cc
photo credit: Nils Geylencc

Allowing social media to be the primary outposts for conversation on your content may bring some decent interaction for a short time, but posts sent via these channels soon disappear under the heavy stream of cat pictures, location checkins, Candy Crush invitations and every form of distraction.

Furthermore, a conversation happening in many different places becomes severely fragmented, diluted, and difficult to track. The quality of the conversation starts to plummet. However, with comments open on your website, you have the opportunity for the brightest minds to respond to each other in one public location, not limited to x number of characters or the commenter’s social connections.

If your blog is your home on the web, then everything important that you have to say should be said in your posts and in their comments. [pullquote]Social networks come and go but your blog is forever.[/pullquote] If all the resulting conversations of your content are happening on social networks, what will you do when those data silos move on and all that content is lost?

Sonia Simone, co-founder of Copyblogger Media, commented on a blog responding to their announcement about removing comments, indicating that she isn’t concerned if the exchange of ideas is ultimately lost on social networks:

Basically, philosophically, I think it comes down to the fact that I don’t feel a need to own or preserve my conversations. What endures about a conversation is how I grow and learn from it — and that can’t be taken away.

If twitter or Facebook or G+ gets taken out by a meteor tomorrow and I lose those conversations, that’s all right with me — because the important part is how the conversations have changed me.

What about the millions of others who could learn from or be changed by reading those conversations? Those who read a post months or years after its publish date will probably miss the corresponding social network post and will not have the opportunity to interact with others who have expertise and related knowledge to share on the topic.

At times it can be disheartening for writers to see an empty comments section on an influential post with a wildly active conversation that moves straight to Twitter. Writers are then forced to chase the conversation in multiple places on the web and must be willing to follow wherever it goes. Many valuable responses are lost in social network posts that quickly evaporate and aren’t easy to search.

Blog comments, however, are an enduring home for conversations, many of which result in the exchange of knowledge and ideas. Providing a home for conversations is unfortunately accompanied by the great burden of combating spam and moderating comments. Don’t give up, though. Our anti-spam tools continue to get better and someday you’ll be glad that you fought through all the bots to keep real communication alive in your comments. These conversations are the true gold of the internet.

Open Comments Are for Those Who Know They Haven’t Arrived

In years of working with WordPress, I’ve probably learned just as much from blog comments as I have from reading an author’s original post. At the Tavern, we’re strong advocates of commenting, because it’s often there that you’ll find the rest of the story unfolds. Multiple perspectives combine to form the big picture and the full story emerges when you have the community engaged.

In online journalism, comments present a huge advantage over the traditional paper newspaper. They enable any citizen to correct misinformation and offer expertise that the author may be missing. You can’t know everything and you can’t see every side of a story. The comments section gives the story an opportunity to have a life of its own.

Many users have expressed dissatisfaction with WordPress’ native comment system, and third party systems like Disqus don’t enjoy a much better reputation. These are all part of the growing pains of comments evolving on the web, but don’t let their drawbacks drive you to close comments completely.

Leaving comments open on blogs is an adventure. Sure, you may have to deal with spam, vitriol, and people who wrongly assume your blog’s comments are a support forum. But for the breakthrough gems of real communication and exchange, we leave comments open. It’s the readers who make a blog worthwhile. You can never outgrow conversation with them, no matter how big your brand or blog becomes.


59 responses to “Why Comments Still Matter”

  1. Awesome post Sarah – I wholeheartedly agree with you about a blog being your home on the web. Having comments open tells people that they are welcome in your home, and that you want to hear what they have to say (within reason). Nothing is more irritating to me than having to track down all the bits of a conversation over several social networks – I usually just give up. Thanks for writing this. :)

  2. I just can´t imagine WordPress without comments, and you´re a perfect example of what I mean when you say: “In years of working with WordPress, I’ve probably learned just as much from blog comments as I have from reading an author’s original post”.

    I don´t like this kind of moves at all and I think it´s pretty sad.

    It looks to me like somebody saying “I decided to stop talking to people because half the population made me waste my time and the other half didn´t agree with me”.

  3. Two of my entertainment media sites became bombarded with spam starting about 6 weeks ago, to the tune of 1200 a day on my big site and 350 a day on the less trafficked site. It started all of a sudden and hasn’t slacked up since.

    I turned off comments overnight just to see if it would stop them, but there was never a chance that I’d turn off comments permanently… that feels so anti-social!

    Akismet wasn’t helping as much as it used to because the rate of spam was causing delays in checking the servers. I had been using a secondary plugin, WP Conditional Captcha, as a helper (I’d mainly started using it because it removed the waste of database space that Akismet added to the comments meta, something I’d love to permanently turn off), but that wasn’t doing anything for the flood of spam those two sites were receiving.

    About 2 weeks ago, I tried out a plugin called WP Spamshield, and to my surprise it’s been a life saver. It actually prevents the spam from even reaching the comments spam queue, and it’s still blocking about 1000 spam comments a day from my big site, and so far it hasn’t let any spam through nor has it prevented any real commenters from leaving comments, and seems to work well with WPMU’s Comments Plus (which lets people leave comments using Facebook, Twitter or G+)

    I’m glad I found this plugin, because there are some sites where comments are integral, or else, what’s the point of having the website? :)

    • See what I meant before? This plugin looks very good. I´ve already downloaded it and I´m trying it now in one of my sites.

      But had not you shared it through your comment, I wouldn´t have known about it. Thank you.

      So aren´t comments important?

      My resolution is not to visit anymore any WordPress blog that does not allow comments. There I said it. Would any of you join me in this crusade?

      • Jeff, I had the silent discard option was on from the moment I upgraded to 3.0, but it wasn’t discarding anything… that 1200 spam comments per day just kept piling up, and that’s why I went looking for something additional to help Akismet out.

        Now if only Akismet would be useful and give us the option to turn off the comments meta, something else the silent discard was no help with.

  4. Great article. This is something I’ve recently been thinking about. Just before reading this article, I spent over an hour deleting over 1000 spam comments from my bitcoin blog and the design blog gets almost the same amount. Although I love interacting with my readers, you really have to wonder if the maintenance and moderation is worth all the trouble.

    Comments can create a great bond with your readers, but I’m getting carpel tunnel from deleting all the spam and trolls .

  5. I am more than happy with the service that Akismet provides, although my spam comments are somewhat less than others with a mere 200 or so a day.

    I cannot imagine a weblog or even another site which invites thought on an article or post being without comments. I also cannot see that many people taking their conversation elsewhere – for backlinks and so on it may be good, but it doesn’t foster conversation – and I, personally, would not try and find conversations on an article or post elsewhere. If they are not immediately available, then they are lost to me. Conversation on the site in question fosters further thought, shows opinions and does far more for an article or post, both for readers and the original writer, as anything else. Those sites which switch off comments, merely to save work, rather than finding and using a suitable plug-in or spam comment blocker will lose out in the long term.

  6. The fact is that popular websites and blogs can afford closed comment section because they are already receiving enough traffic on a daily basis, and majority of their readers will continue reading even after the comment shutdown. But that is not the case for infant blogs who are trying to build a community around them.
    To conclude, some people (webmasters) forget what made them popular once they reach a plateau of fame and success, so they search for the easiest way out instead of finding a workaround.

    • That’s true – I think one many reach a certain level of traffic they feel they don’t need them anymore. But comments are about so much more than getting traffic.

  7. I really and truly hated turning of the comments on my site, but it’s not just me. I have contributors who were also getting spam and I risked offending them, too.

    And comment “moderation” was becoming a significant chore. My spam seemed to be completely manual, as if someone in the third world was being paid to make manual entries to get around spamblockers.

    I really want to have comments open. I’ve read that people are more likely to read an article with comments than one without. I’ll try the spamblockers mentioned above…

    • Which ones have you tried so far? I do find that Akismet works really well except for those smart ones that you mentioned which seem to have been written by a real person. ;)

      • In my experience, when people think a real person has been leaving spam comments on their site, it is not. It’s almost always just a very smart bot. Some careful bot blocking usually stops them dead in their tracks.

  8. Sarah, you said:
    “In years of working with WordPress, I’ve probably learned just as much from blog comments as I have from reading an author’s original post.”
    How right you are!
    There was a great recent post at wpmayor on pagebuilders in WP. The comments & questions yielded so much additional & valuable info!

    Your point reminds me of author John Irving saying, in an interview, that the author learns as much from his/her audience as the audience learns from the author.

    And of course, as a follower of your terrific posts – I rushed right over to “comment!”


    • It’s funny, a lot of people tend to snub those list style posts but that’s where I oftentimes get a quick understanding of what tools are out there to to accomplish x or y. Then people often will suggest even better tools in the comments, making the post a better resource all around.

  9. I don’t always comment on blogs, but when I do, it’s on WP Tavern. :)

    While I see that some people might think turning comments off is a bad thing or that the site author is not welcoming, the reality is that way less people actually comment these days unless it’s an “A-List” type blog. Plus so many conversations take place off site these days, thanks to Facebook and Twitter.

    I know of people who have written for years who only get a handful of comments per year. In this case, it’s not worth dealing with the spam and problems with the comments turned on.

    One last thing for the authors who DO leave comments turned on and DO get people to leave their thoughts … RESPOND TO THEM! Nothing tells me more that you don’t care is when you don’t have the courtesy to respond to me or the others who take the time to share our thoughts. I can understand if you get 100 comments per day – then a blanket “thank you” to all would work. But if you only have a dozen and are too lazy to respond, I won’t come back to your blog.

    That’s my two cents for today!

  10. This is a great opportunity for bbPress to be united with blog comments and improve the conversation. I use a different forum software as comments, forcing registration through the forum. This blocks the thousands of spam registrations – over 44000 in four days.

  11. Great post Sarah.. and yes I will never turn off comments on my blog. You have made a lot of strong points for keeping them on there. In fact, I have cannot tell you how many times a comment has inspired me to write another post :) cheers!

  12. The article is spot on.

    I love this quote, “Social networks come and go but your blog is forever,” which is reminiscent of my first Tweet which was, “‘Fame is fleeting, but the Internet is forever,’ said Phineas (or Ferb).”

    Ironically, I was going to tweet this article, but figured a comment would be more appropriate. Keep up the great work. Thanks!

  13. This is a great post and the comments that go along with it are the cherries on top :)

    One of the first things I’ll do after reading an article is head straight to the comments. Sometimes, I’ll read the comments first before I read the article. It’s always cool to see more insight to a story or perhaps a different angle presented in the comments.

    While reading your post, I thought about the demise of Ping/Trackbacks and how they’ve pretty much received the same treatment as comments. Due to abuse, spam, etc, most sites disable them outright. So now, not only do sites have comments disabled, but even if you write your comment in the form of a blog post and link to the original post, chances are high they won’t ever know about it. When track/pingbacks worked, it made for fun times and easy discovery of great authors with different points of view. I wonder if the technology could ever be refactored so that it’s useful and less able to be abused.

    One of the reasons for my success online is because of the comments I’ve received on posts, and embracing conversation with my audience. It’s one of the primary reasons the Tavern exists today. I personally tend to stay away from sites that disable comments or have them hidden away some where.

    At the same time, how useful is a site such as CNN which can receive thousands of comments on an article? How can the post author actually respond to all those people? We don’t have that much interaction on the Tavern and yet, I find it a struggle to find time to respond to comments.

    Last but not least, if you find yourself having to routinely empty the Akismet spam queue of thousands of comments, you should try turning on the silent discard feature introduced earlier this year. https://wptavern.com/have-you-turned-on-akismet-3-0s-silent-discard-feature

  14. Amen Sista. I’m sorry but deciding to turn conversations off on a personal or small business website, seems like pure laziness and short-sightedness. If someone doesn’t have the time to invest in the tools and effort it takes to manage comments, and reply to them as James points out, then they’re writing simply to hear themselves talk.

    “Discuss amongst yourselves, but don’t do it in front of me.” ?

    I predict the personal or small business websites will turn them back on after a while, realizing the impact to their conversions over the long term. If content is King, isn’t community it’s Queen?

  15. My $0.02: Comments are part of the appeal for niche industry sites like Moz and WP Tavern. The topics are focused, e.g. online marketing for Moz, WordPress for the Tavern, and that attracts a community of peers who can discuss whatever’s been presented in the post.

    Compare that to Copyblogger, which is more of a one-way stream of advice and editorials. The audience it attracts is interested in absorbing knowledge. So the comments are filled with warm-and-fuzzy “Great post!” replies that, while positive, also add no value to other readers.

      • When StudioPress announces their new themes in their blog they don’t allow comments. It would seem a company would want some feedback on their new products. These days they don’t even give us the inside scoop on upcoming new products or plugins, etc. Sad…

        • A lot of companies do that to avoid negative attitudes on their announcement posts. I also see some companies reject negative comments on their announcement posts, but allowing positive ones. I’d prefer no comments to a curated list of positive comments.

          • Yes that’s certainly true. However, a lot of companies are now wanting comments on their products so that they can improve their products and allow their customers to steer changes to their product lines. They are decreasing tremendously their market research costs while at the same time exponentially improving the quality and acceptance of their updated products.

  16. The ever changing nature of WP and net culture requires that to be successful we have to be both an educator and a student. I personally never viewed Copyblogger as a one way stream of information like a CNN or Popular Science. I read blogs like Copyblogger to learn. Many times when reading questions on a blog like Copyblogger or WPTavern, I think, “Yeah, I had that question/response too.” Usually if one person writes it, it’s not a unique question or thought.

    Answering the question that results from such writings, as close to that moment as possible is called, “a teachable moment.” Move the discussion elsewhere, and you risk losing important context.

    To shut down the ability of a student/potential customer to ask a question and get an answer in context is detrimental to all readers/learners. The writer has to assume that their message is all-encompassing, and answers all possible questions the reader might have. Who can really do that?

    If the writing doesn’t spark new questions, than it’s probably not that worthwhile of a read in the first place.

  17. Great post Sarah. I recently dug out my old blogger blog from 2003-2006. I was extremely saddened to discover that all of my comments were missing. From what I recall, I had to use an external commenting service which must have gone down. While I still have the content, the comments where were I created lasting friendships. It makes me sad that I can’t go back and see the discussions (and arguments) that we had.

    I’d like to see more commenting on blogs, and do more of it myself.

    • I’ve become somewhat paranoid about backing stuff up after hearing you, Tammie and a few others talk about losing content like that. I’m trying out ways to haul out all my Facebook comments too, as those tend to be a lot more interesting than my blog comments these days. If Facebook loses them, they’ll be gone forever and that would make me sad.

      I like the idea of sitting in a retirement home at 90 years of age and looking back and what I did exactly 60 years prior. Or at least that’s my plan in between lots of Nintendo Wii (or whatever the 2070 version is called).

      I also have all my WP Tavern posts backed up too, just in case Jeff and Sarah lose it ;)

  18. That’s really sad. Comments are content as much as the original post is content. I routinely have a nightmare where I lose my diary in a house fire. I think losing all my old comments would feel something like that. :(

  19. Since I generally look to the comments of a post first, and close the tab if there are none.. then I don’t read sites that have closed or missing comments sections.

    I can understand the decision from CopyBlogger’s perspective. Taking the effort to host a conversation only makes sense when you’re actually interested in that conversation. But as Sonia makes perfectly clear in those comments (on a different site than their own, hilariously enough), they’re not interested in a conversation at all, they’re only really interested in selling product. This quote says it all, to me:

    In an ideal world, I’d actually rather they spend that 10 minutes clicking through to more of our work than spend it reading the comments.

    See, they are only interested in pushing their product to their audience, not in having their audience actually think about it. They’re not interesting in having a two way conversation or getting any real form of feedback, or doing community building, or anything of that sort. “Look at more of our stuff, so you might be more inclined to give us some cash for it.”

    It’s an old-school mentality, a lot like publishing a newspaper. Sure, newspapers once had “letters to the editor”, but those were relatively few and far between. They were not front-page, or near the articles themselves. The newspaper business was firstly a business, and the goal was to sell newspapers. Everything else was marketing. The stories themselves often little more than filler.

    In this sense, encouraging others to have those conversations “on social media” is basically a marketing ploy. In other words, don’t talk about our content here, talk about it everywhere else and help spread the word for us. Build those linkbacks. It’s a sales tactic. It might even be a good one. But it only works on people mildly interested in their content to begin with.

    So, if all you’re interested in is to stand on your soap box and preach to the masses, perhaps selling them some fine baubles in the process, then certainly having comments makes no sense.

    But I’m not interested in their content, or their services, or their marketing. I’m interested in the conversation surrounding it. So, I’ll probably never look at CopyBlogger’s blog, or services, or marketing, because they no longer have anything that might even vaguely interest me.

  20. I think the comments section is the most undervalued part of a niche website. If sites are turning off their comment because of spam/moderation fatigue, it tells me there’s a great opportunity for developers and makers to create better solutions. I, for one, would love to see a comment moderation service that is part-human powered to deal with the comments that pass through traditional anti-spam solutions. I find it incredible & encouraging that high traffic sites such as reddit/ycombinator can manage the insane amounts of spam they get without readers barely noticing a problem exists.

    I concur with Otto and others regarding the Copyblogger example, they just made a calculated decision because sales is their only concern and that’s fine, but the trade off is clear too: less value put on community, lower quality content, less engagement, less value rendered to newcomers. Conversations on social media are fleeting and typically forgotten in days, it’s a bad proxy for a valuable comment thread on a blog.

  21. [Comments] aren’t a utility to propel your blog to a state of maturity where you finally shed [them] in a burst of enlightenment. They have intrinsic value.

    I think you really hit it on the head here. I think it’s isolationist a little bit to shut off your comments and invite readers but not invite their opinions. Sure, controlling spam and bots is important, but going radio-silence is, imo, not the best way to start the conversation.

    I also think it’s a little selfish to turn off your comments. Just as Facebook sells you to their advertisers in return for you using a free service, I’d argue you should have the opportunity to opine after reading somebody’s blog.

  22. Great post Sarah and the comments here (which are great) are exactly why this trend is a bad one for the web/blogging.

    While it (may) be the right thing for copyblogger as a business I had a worrying feeling at the time that many smaller sites would follow their lead and by doing so they are shutting off a great opportunity to build real relationships and a community. In a virtual world we need to build the trust of our audience and interaction through comments has always been an important part of building that trust – an ice breaker if you like.

    I double taked when I originally saw the email come in from copyblogger and 5 minutes later (having read their article and verified that it wasn’t some clever clickbait) I was furiously typing away at my reply post as it was something I felt strongly about.

    Hopefully posts like this will help to reverse the trend. Comments matter.

  23. To all commenters..,.if you included your websites….I went to them.

    To all the people who commented about having 1000s of spam comments…Do you have Akismet?

    A website is like a a date.
    Blog is bang bang
    Akismet is like a condom.

    For you to bang bang SAFELY, you need to protect things or you will get a baby

    Where a baby is spam comments. Protection is the key.

    One website that I manage for a client…had 10,000 spam comments. Akismet filters them out.

    I learned about Bob Dunn through a comment he made and I clicked on the link to his website.

    Otto & Ryan I met through comments and started following them on twitter.

    I got interested on WordPress due to a comment.

    I am on my laptop typing this and I am not going to go on twitter/instagram/facebook/whatever to comment. why would I do that when I am here.

    • Akismet doesn’t block a lot of stuff, so if people are only relying on that for spam protection, then that would explain why they’re not wanting to turn commenting on. There are other ways to block spam though.

      • This. Akismet doesn’t seem to be adapting well to the New Spam Model, which seems to be distributing blasts of comments through a series of random usernames and IP addresses via botnets.

        And it’ll never stop those industrious human bots who are pasting scripts into comment areas and manually defeating the captchas.

        Akismet used to be top dog on the pile. The problem is, when everyone started using it, the spammers adapted, especially as WordPress’ usage based increased. It’s not easy being the primary target, but Akismet cannot be the single source be-all end-all of blog spam fighting anymore… the spammers have just become more distributed and more persistent!

        That said, I don’t have comments turned on on my business site, because there’s no blog there. On the media/podcast sites and tech sites that I manage or am a part of, a few of those have comments going all the way back to 2005 (when I switched them from Movable Type to WordPress, LOL!)

  24. Isn’t the main reason for CopyBlogger moving their comments to Google+ really ALL an (incredible) SEO strategy – i.e. to increase their Google+ engagement and therefore get more followers etc = better ranks etc etc ? …that’s my guess anyhow…

  25. Of course, you can always pick and choose where to allow comments and not. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition.

    For example, after I published a book on how to develop websites using Bootstrap v.2 and then Bootstrap 3 came out, I just posted the whole book on my website for the taking. Knowing I wouldn’t have the time and/or desire to deal with comments and questions, I turned comments off for all those pages from the very start.

    But I enjoy engaging with other on my posts, so those are always on. I find I sort of have the best of both worlds: traffic from my book(without a lot of upkeep), and the ability to engage with readers elsewhere. People that are really curious about something I’ve written where the comments are disabled usually send me an email anyway, which I’m happy to answer.

  26. Comments are part of the blogging ecosystem as far as I’m concerned, turn them off and the engagement goes out of the window, sure it might happen on Google+ or Facebook for that matter, but that’s not really where the conversation should be in my mind.

    Admittedly I do turn off comments on specific posts, i.e. reviews, announcements, or posts that hasn’t received any comments whatsoever, but generally I like to keep comments on articles that I encourage engagement.

    CopyBlogger’s decision to turn off comments is just a way of them saying, hey we’re big and bad now, we can do without the hassle of administrating comments on our blog, let’s take the conversation elsewhere. That’s just my opinion though.

  27. Fascinating discussion going on here. One of my favorite parts about reading a blog is reading the comments left by others. When I stumble on a blog post that’s old, I’ll often scroll to discussion area to see what’s changed/been updated since the post was published. It also helps when I’m reading a tutorial and know that if I get stuck, there’s someone on the other side that I can ask for advice.

  28. Although I personally love comments, I have no problem if a website/business/blog doesn’t want to include them. I’ll simply talk about it via social media. If the post is interesting enough to comment on, then it’s definitely interesting enough to share via social media as well.

    Seth Godin has had comments disabled on his blog for years, and it hasn’t decreased his blog’s popularity at all. I remember him saying that the amount of time it would take for him to moderate comments would take away from actual productive work, like writing blog posts, which is the reason people are visiting his site to begin with.

    I have a client who is a very popular blogger and gets hundreds of legitimate comments on each post. For every legit comment left, she probably gets 40 spam comments. It’s gotten so bad that the site is now running Akismet, Cookies for Comments, Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin, and Invisible Captcha. We also removed the option for commenters to include their URL, as so many would leave a worthless comment just to get a backlink (which to me is stupid considering they’re “no-follow” anyway!). The amount of time that goes into comment moderation even with this configuration is enormous. I’m not sure what can be done about either the spam, or the time required for moderation.

    On another note, I’m definitely going to be in the minority here, but I really think that the commenting functionality should not be included in WP core, but as a plugin that comes bundled with WordPress, similar to Hello Dolly or JetPack. I work with a lot of small (local) businesses, and most of them blog very infrequently, and when they do, they don’t have time or desire to deal with moderating comments. If WordPress is used primarily as a CMS, which it is for most of my clients, and not as “just a blog”, then it makes sense for this. I’d think the Jetpack commenting feature would be great for this, but as a standalone plugin, and not bundled with all the other stuff that Jetpack has.


    • While you’re at it, what other basic features would you like to strip out of core and stick into a plugin made by a commercial arm? I have seen some great photo blogs and frankly the text editor does get a bit in the way come to think of it.

      • That’s the primary one. There’s lots of little things I don’t see a need for (such as Press This Post via Email, and the calendar widget, but that’s a discussion for another post), but again, the Jetpack commenting feature is much better than default WP and it makes sense to me to remove it from core and setup as a standalone plugin. It was only a few years ago that Links were removed from core and placed into a plugin.

        Not sure what you’re referring to in regards to photoblogs and the text editor.

        • So my example failed, but the point I was trying to convey is that fundamental features that are core to a blog & cms are bound to stay in core. And that’s a good thing. Referring to a famous author with a commentless blog as an example meant to make commenting look like an optional side-attraction misses the point, imo. Hell, Godin’s blog isn’t really a full on blog because it doesn’t have commenting. It’s a one-way marketing channel. WordPress’ job is not to make the lives more convenient for marketers, it’s more interested in democratizing the web and giving people voices, readers included. Especially when said marketers can just turn off the features they don’t want with the click of a button.

          People were in an uproar because they took out the ability to manually add borders to images and that’s something <1% of the userbase uses. Imagine what it would be like if you had to send them to a 3rd party plugin not controlled by the WordPress community for something as primal as comments.

          In my mind, if people are having a bad time with comments, the comments feature needs more love and more development, not less.

          • The Godin example may be a poor one, as he is certainly an exception, plus he’s not on WordPress :)

            I agree the commenting feature needs more love/development, etc., but I still argue that it would be better served within a plugin instead of core. And it think there should be an “official WP” commenting plugin maintained by Automattic, similar to Jetpack, Akismet, etc. It would be easier for others to contribute to it, submit pull/push requests, etc.

  29. Hi Sarah

    I’ve considered shutting off comments on my own site. I completely see why someone would when a lot of spam far outweighs good comments.

    But then I took a closer look at those good comments and realized that it turned my blog into a two way conversation. I knew what my readers were responding to so I could better serve them.

    Some blogs might work better without that two way conversation, but I think, like you say, the majority of them benefit with comments.

    Thanks for the thought provoking piece!

  30. Thanks Sarah / Tavern / Jeff – I totally agree! Very nice argument you’ve extended here. This isn’t your 1st post in support of comments and I appreciate the sustained support.

    I used to give money to EFF but I stopped specifically because they don’t allow comments on their blog. EFF stands for so many things I deeply believe in, but in choosing a closed, anti-speech, elitist position on their own communication, I just had to part ways.

  31. Anyone tried using Mollom to block spam comments on WordPress? I found it pretty effective on Drupal. The free version does have a limit of 50 legit posts a day though. G.A.S.P. also looks good.

  32. Excellent post. I’ve been searching for discussion on this topic since Michael Hyatt shut off comments on his blog, and your post is by far the best I’ve read. I couldn’t agree more that closing comments suffocates and fragments the conversation. Thank you for being a cheerleader for conversation and community!

  33. Great article Sarah,

    The interactivity of comments, posts, forums are what has really helped the web growth occur. On the other side of the “globalization” initiatives its also a problem. Where it ends up I sure dont know.


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