April 14, 2004
Comments and gadgets

Ginger has a long and thoughtful post about the utility of having comments on one's blog, and how that equation may change if one aspires to something other than amateur status. While I agree that comment threads at some of the high-volume places I read are less worthwhile now than they were before, I don't think that has to be the case, and I don't think one has to be a member of the Nielsen Hayden household to have comment threads which are both heavily used and worth perusing. I do think a certain time investment in enforcing a minimum level of decorum is needed for that, though. I like my comments just fine right now, but I'm also glad I don't have to track them all the time. Should my traffic jump up an order or two some day, I'll have to revisit that - actually, probably well before that time.

(By the way, normally I'd have quoted something from Ginger's post, which I heartily recommend you read in full. Unfortunately, my RoadRunner service is insisting that whiterose.org is still on its old IP address, and so far I've been unable to work around that - yes, I've added the correct addy to my LMHosts file and run nbtstat -R, but it's still in my cache and I don't want to reboot just yet. So I'll just curse AOLTimeWarnerofBorg for now and see what happens when I restart later.)

As I've noted before, I've had some cool things happen in my comments - my current faves are from the video editor of the movie Welcome to North Korea and from a descendent of the man for whom the USS Meredith Victory was named. That helps to balance out what heartburn I've gotten from them. Probably the strangest thing going on deep in the bowels here is on a post about a local right-wing radio talk show host who's been indicted for indecency with a minor, which has turned into a chat room/support group for his fans. (No link, and I won't mention the name here - I get enough Google search results for the guy as it is.) I probably should have closed comments on that a long time ago, but they seem to be harmless enough, and frankly I don't want to bother getting emails from people asking why it's not available any more. Some day after his trial, I'll deal with it.

If you can't get enough comments, there's this nifty Technorati feedback tracker thingy that seems to be all the rage now. I may or may not add it - I have this nagging doubt that it may slow down page loads and/or site rebuilds - but it looks like a cool toy. I suppose if nothing else it'll help you locate referrals from non-Trackback sending blogs, though it seems like you'd have to check each individual post anyway. It's not clear to me how this is a win over the usual Technorati cosmos, but I'm sure someone will come up with a way to aggregate this info in a more compact way. Any feedback you may have on this gadget would be appreciated, and another good reason for having comments.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 14, 2004 to Blog stuff | TrackBack

Charles, you share with Billmon the good fortune of having many substantive comments posted to your threads. We don't choose our readers, but on the whole, I'd say you've lucked out.

By contrast, TalkLeft is an example of an excellent blog with commenters who run the gamut from worthwhile contributors to outright trolls. I often read the blog posts and skip the comments.

I admit it... I clean my comments at least as well as I clean my kitchen counter, and almost for the same reason: I don't want to be made sick by what I find there. For over a year, I had no comments. It's a great pleasure to have them now, but it does require daily (or more frequent) attention to dispense with the hostiles. For now, as long as I have my "adorable little rodent" status, it's no hassle. As I do not aspire to higher volume traffic, I may never have a problem here.

I do not agree that banning is socially unacceptable. I delete a comment on a first offense (or change it beyond recognition); I ban on a second offense. Too bad for the offender; it's my blog, and I am under no obligation to host discussions that descend into name-calling... unless I want to. I've even once deleted a series of comments, including my own, because of repeated and somewhat verbally abusive attempts by one person to hijack a thread that was important to me.

There's no one right way to do this. I hope bloggers will accommodate other bloggers' styles and preferences regarding pruning comments.

Posted by: Steve Bates on April 14, 2004 10:52 PM

I don't get enough comments to worry about it, other than the spam if I forget to update MT-Blacklist for a week or so.

If you figure out the benefit of the Technorati thing, please advise. I've seen it at DeLong and MaxSpeak, and I don't understand the intent (possibly because neither Brad nor Max explained why they were implementing it).

Posted by: Linkmeister on April 15, 2004 2:49 AM

I like to read comments that add to an entry. When they are argumentative its just not that interesting. I haven't added coments to my blog, because I don't believe I have the traffic to support it. I encourage email responces, but readers don't generally like responding to email other that an occassional word of encouragement.

Posted by: Liberty on April 15, 2004 6:03 AM

Chuck has something in common with the Nielsen Haydens: A group of people who knew him before he started blogging who are likely to come over and post substantive, worthwhile comments and who reject trolls and jerks. The quality of his in-group is high because it's not random.

Posted by: Ginger on April 15, 2004 8:12 AM

Hmm, the technorati gimmick is old news (by months). Outside the Beltway has been doing it a long time (I picked it up from him).

I stuck it on my blogs for a while, didn't find it all that useful (but it was cool!), and killed it. I think I forgot to kill it on Callie's blog, which isn't good because the query language has changed since I implemented it, so this is a useful maintenance reminder at least!

What might be much more useful is if Technorati could somehow produce an xml feed of such queries, which could then be cached (for efficiency and for those times when Technorati is down) and reproduced in individual blog pages. Heck, maybe they do have that technology. I haven't looked in a while. :)

Posted by: kevin whited on April 15, 2004 10:26 AM

"The quality of his in-group is high because it's not random." - Ginger

Oh, so that's how it's done! :)

Most of my commenters belong to the same blog alliance, The Liberal Coalition. We have our moments, but for the most part, the dialogue is quite civil. We do have different styles regarding trolls, though... I ban them; our leader plays cat-and-mouse with them. To each his/her own!

Posted by: Steve Bates on April 15, 2004 11:05 AM

Well, I also happen to think the quality of Chuck's starting in-group was high, but that's because I knew them. That's not to say Chuck hasn't had his share of trolls/jerks, or that he hasn't attracted quality commenters since then, but I think it is easier when you start with a core group that already knows each other.

Kevin: I know you can get an RSS feed for your own blog from Technorati. I don't know about feeds for individual posts--probably you can get that if you pay or something.

Posted by: Ginger on April 15, 2004 1:24 PM

I stuck it on my blogs for a while, didn't find it all that useful (but it was cool!), and killed it. I think I forgot to kill it on Callie's blog, which isn't good because the query language has changed since I implemented it, so this is a useful maintenance reminder at least!

Posted by: rocky mc'ally on October 31, 2005 2:59 AM