I am trying to build up the blogroll for one of my other projects that the moment, and I’ve been going through my regular reading list to see which websites would be a good fit. What I’ve noticed is that even though I read each and every post I get via RSS feeds, there are certain websites where I never click through, no matter how compelling or thought-provoking a post is.
This is the fault of the commenters. You could have the best website in the world, the best writers, you could even have downloadable vouchers for chocolate cake at my local bakery. I still will not give your homepage my eyeballs if the comments below your posts are a seething morass of the irrelevant, off-topic, and/or generally in need of the help of mental health professionals. If you allow comments below your content, you also have the responsibility to make sure that they do not descend into flame wars, shameless threadjacking, or barefaced advertising.
A lack of a commenting policy shows that you don’t really care about your website or blog. It’s all very well coming up with compelling content, but if you then leave it to wither on the vine of bad commenting, that is just as bad as refusing to do any promotion at all. Why encourage people to leave their thoughts if they can see that you probably don’t read comments anyway, and won’t answer any of their questions because their comment will be topped and tailed with multiple ads for herbal supplements? Messy commenting isn’t just unattractive, it can also actively discourage people from leaving comments on your website, and can even lead to them dropping you from their regular reading list, as I have with a number of offending blogs.
Comments on this blog are semi-moderated. If you want to comment on a post, fine. But if you also want to include a link to the world’s cheapest Viagra, you’d better believe that I am going to check out your comment before I let it go live. Far too many sites don’t do this, and allow any old rubbish to go up on their pages. I love reading all sorts of things, but I really can’t be bothered to spend time on a website trying to interact with other readers if I have to wade through multiple fake comments about millionaire dating or guaranteed ways to make money online.
If Web 2.0 is about greater interactivity and participation, blog comments are one way to go about it. However, just because something is possible doesn’t mean it should be done. If you know that you won’t be able to keep your comments under control, disable them. Far better to have a website where there are no comments at all than one where none of the comments have anything to say.
[Image by B Rosen]