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January 2, 2007 » 12:15 pm

Commenting on Blogs

Mark Bernstein recently complained that the right place to comment on a blog post was by private email or by linking from your own blog, not via the blog’s comment mechanism. I still agree with this view, although my belief has been greatly tempered by own experiences.    (LOS)

Several months ago, I turned off comments on my blogs because of spam. I miss them dearly. I’ve got enough of an active readership that folks blog about my blog entries, but I miss the quick-hit comments, which either contained nuggets of useful information or expressed humor, and which often came from non-bloggers. I still get these kinds of comments over email, but the numbers have decreased dramatically, and I keep having to ask permission to publish them. Blog comments have this just-right affordance that isn’t adequately met any other way.    (LOT)

All of this is consistent with Clay Shirky‘s theory on how blogs avoid the tragedy of the commons. (Since I’ve been giving Clay so much link love these past few days, it’s worth noting that, “Group as User: Flaming and the Design of Social Software” is my favorite of his essays.) Clay writes:    (LOU)

Weblogs are relatively flame-free because they provide little communal space. In economic parlance, weblogs solve the tragedy of the commons through enclosure, the subdividing and privatizing of common space.    (LOV)

Every bit of the weblog world is operated by a particular blogger or group of bloggers, who can set their own policy for accepting comments, including having no comments at all, deleting comments from anonymous or unfriendly visitors, and so on. Furthermore, comments are almost universally displayed away from the main page, greatly limiting their readership. Weblog readers are also spared the need for a bozo filter. Because the mailing list pattern of ‘everyone sees everything’ has never been in effect in the weblog world, there is no way for anyone to hijack existing audiences to gain attention.    (LOW)

http://www.techcrunch.com/author/michael-arrington/ recently asked whether comments should be a requirement for blogs. My answer is definitively no. The distinguishing feature that makes blogs unique are the use of links for commenting. In this sense, Permalinks are more of a defining characteristic than comment sections are, because they are what enable this blogs-as-conversation capability.    (LOX)

That said, I’m anxious to turn my blog comments back on, which will happen once I upgrade my blog software. (Soon, I swear.)    (LOY)

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