Here's my reasoning for comments:
- the internet is a social community of communities
- blogs are a significant part of this social fabric
- comments breath life into these communities allowing for social interaction
- publishers and writers benefit from reader input
- readers benefit from these others readers' input
- readers benefit from further clarification from the original author in comment discussions
- comments allow for the exchange of links—the currency of the internet—which in turn allows for greater social interaction across the web (it's called the web for a reason)
- link sharing means greater traffic, increasing your position as a blogger (and maybe even a chance to make money. Come on, if Facebook can make money just by hooking up advertisers with 250 million active users, why can't you?)
However, there seem to be some who are not in favor of commenting functionality on blogs, at least not always, and not as the norm. Some of the reasons appear to be:
- commenting functionality allows for spam
- it allows for snarky, argumentative and rude remarks
- debate for the sake of debate becomes hard to resist for some people
- longer comments can dissuade other readers from engaging with the rest of the comments
- comments ruin the aesthetics of a site
- comments require more publisher moderation and interaction
"They allow of for spam and snarky comments"
Most blog frameworks (i.e. blogger.com, wordpress.com and wordpress.org, typepad.com, livejournal.com, etc.), whether self-hosted or hosted by someone else, have some sort of built in functionality or available plug-ins to block or deter most spam comments. As well, most have the option to allow an administrator to moderate comments before they ever go live on the site. Thus no spam and no snarky, argumentative comments (though there are some of the opinion that even these snarky comments should be allowed). For the record, I'm cool if you want to block my snarky comments...unless you deserve them.
"They encourage heated debate"
I will agree that commenting can turn a sane post into a hot bed of argumentative debate as differing opinions clash. But how is this any different than a family gathering when politics gets thrown into the conversation or the ancient Areopagus of Athens? Debate has been a cornerstone of western thought and social interaction for millenia. I'm perfectly fine with it. Debate draws out criticisms that allow readers to see multiple sides as well as presenting the writer the opportunity to prove him- or herself with a definitive response. Sometimes it's the debate its self that draws traffic to the post. How can you complain with that?
"They ruin the aesthetics"
This is a lame excuse. If you designed your blog and can't figure out how to make the comments fit and look decent, perhaps it's time to realize you're not a designer and get a hosted account or hire a professional designer. Or perhaps you need to rethink why you're blogging in the first place—comments should be important enough to your site that this excuse is not worth it when solutions abound.
"They're so much work"
Comments do require work. Any decent blogger can tell you that nurturing a community around your blog will require a dedication to your readers, to respond and engage with them (as well as keep the spam and snarky comments out). But the long-term effect of engaging directly with your commenters is immense. You will see reader engagement soar and with reader engagement comes more link passing and more traffic (which in turn leads to more comments if these new readers are engaged by your existing readers and you, the blogger).
After all is said and done, however, I do think that perhaps it's time to make some unofficial, commenting etiquette rules (or suggestions) for all of us. A little civility would not hurt our interactions with people, whether in person or online, and may actually enhance the community aspect of blogs.
So stay tuned for the next post on my suggestions on commenting etiquette (and maybe even some hard rules)!