Are comments worth the trouble or not?

Gawker founder Nick Denton (home of Mac Hacker, er, Lifehacker; Gizmodo; io9; Jalopnik; and formerly Consumerist) says online comments aren’t worth the trouble.

I agree and disagree.

The comments on a daily newspaper are a terrible place to search for intelligent life. You may find one or two insightful comments posted, but mostly you’ll find people talking off-topic, repeating prejudices, trolling, and other bad behavior.

Popular blogs like Gawker’s portfolio tend to fare a little bit better, but the volume can be overwhelming.

Then you get to people like me. I average about 100 spam comments per day, but I have good spam filtering so very few of those get through. I do think I typically get less than one legitimate comment per day. If I opened the comment window longer, I’d do better, but I found that keeping the comment window open forever did two things: The comment section for particular posts became a primitive online support forum for particularly hard-to-deal-with online vendors or makes of computers, and I attracted trolls on very old topics. So making the comments section close after a while dramatically reduced my traffic, but it also reduced my headaches.

The remaining comments I do get tend to be very beneficial. They don’t always spur long discussions, but they do sometimes spur other posts. And as an author, I like to see that people are paying attention and thought enough of it to say something. It makes it easier to keep trying to write something nearly every day.

I think comments are beneficial to get you to a certain point, then once you get big enough, you reach a point of diminishing returns. Trolls seem more likely to speak up if they think they have an audience, the bigger the better. And trolls breed more trolls.

One thought on “Are comments worth the trouble or not?

  • March 20, 2012 at 11:01 am
    Permalink

    I find it amusing that there are no comments on the “comment” post. In order to remedy that situation, this.

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