Why John Gruber doesn’t have comments on his site:
Now that [Daring Fireball] has achieved a modicum of popularity, however, what I tend to get instead aren’t queries or complaints about the lack of comments, but rather demands that I add them — demands from entitled people who see that I’ve built something very nice that draws much attention, and who believe they have a right to share in it.
Bijan Sabet likes comments:
For the blogs I frequent, the comments are 99.9% respectful, entertaining, informative and rewarding. Occasionally there is a bad apple …but that’s just life. Same is true on my site.
My experiences with comments haven’t been as positive. Blogs with good comments do exist, like Bijan’s and many of the small tech and VC blogs that I assume he reads, but they’re unusual.
I’m fiercely independent, to a fault. I dislike relying on anyone for anything, and I’m not a very good “team player”. I don’t see my writing as a collaborative effort, and I don’t see my site as a community in which I need to enable internal discussion via comments.
I also disagree with the widespread notion that comments are “discussion”, or that they form a “community”. Discussion and communities require mechanics such as listening and following up that are rarely present in comments.
A blog post is a one-to-many broadcast. Comments are the opposite: many-to-one feedback. A true discussion medium would encourage more communication between the commenters, forming larger quantities of many-to-many interactions and de-emphasizing the role of the blog post’s author. In practice, that rarely happens.
If comments are behaving as many-to-one feedback, there’s minimal value to showing them to the world, because the world largely doesn’t read them. But the act of showing them to the world — your world, not the commenters’ — creates a setting in which commenters are encouraged to behave negatively.1
We already have a widespread many-to-one feedback medium that avoids this: email. So that’s the feedback system that I allow on my site. Anyone can email me, and I will read it.
Those who truly want to start a discussion usually have their own blogs, so they can write their commentary to their audience. If it’s a Tumblr reblog, I’ll see it and read it. If it’s an external link and they email me with the link, or they make a corresponding Twitter post mentioning “marcoarment” or “Marco Arment” or a URL containing “marco.org” or any short URL resolving to something that contains “marco.org”, I’ll see it and read it.
I don’t make it difficult to give me feedback.
What’s not possible is reaching my audience, on my site, without my permission.
Given that this site represents me, and I’ve earned an audience over a very long time of people who generously allow me to take tiny slices of their attention on a regular basis, I don’t think that tightly controlling its content is unfair.
If the emails I get are any indication, I’m doing the world a favor by not enabling comments.
Plenty of sites get good commments, but it’s not the common case. I can’t identify any general metrics on whether you’ll have good comments, but writing opinion pieces to an audience of tech people is definitely not a recipe for civil, intelligent discussion in traditional commenting systems. ↩︎