No single question splits online denizens quite like “where do you stand on comments?” From the utter lack of moderation to Sandersonesque wordcounts of comment policy, from passing the buck to Twitter and Facebook to allowing only paid subscribers the privledge; there’s no shortage in opinions on The One True Commenting Way.
You should probably know I come down on the Cal Newport/Jaron Lanier side of social media use. But getting an idea from a comments policy based on their websites is an exercise in madness. Lanier’s website makes Geocities look bleeding edge. You can’t call it a blog. It’s a homepage. Comments might seem out of place there, but a guest book lodged in frames would fit right in.
Newport allows comments but doesn’t seem to interact with them. It’s a thouroughly modern place, blog tucked back from the main page under the high-faluting term “Essays”. There’s comments but not many, and even fewer from Newport himself. The function is more like the comments on a political new site, where journalists churn out articles and readers argue on why article X didn’t Y hard enough.
Neither option thrilled me. Having a site that looked hand-coded would take too much of my time away from, you know, actually writing things. Not interacting with readers’ comments struck me as half-assed. So from Newport I borrowed “Modern Web Design” and from Lanier “No Comments.” It’s working well so far! And there’s added benefits, as well.
Cull The Code
Have You Heard The Good News Of GDPR?
The General Data Protection Regulation that the European Union passed in 2018 protects your data and privacy on the Internet by forcing users to accept cookies or go home, and click endless checkboxes to interact with websites. Somehow this is effective. There’s enough FUD and simply outdated information about the GDPR that I prefer avoiding it as much as possible. Hell, I’m not using analytics either, and being Brussels compliant is one of the reasons (the other major reason being I don’t care about traffic metrics).
Although I don’t use analytics, Cloudflare does. It doesn’t seem to do it using cookies, and I don’t care enough about their accuracy to dig in further.
All Things In Moderation
A full-time job. Familial obligations. Writing posts for the blog. Hobbies. Oh, and that other thing I do, what is it? Ah, writing. All of these, combined with basic human functions like eating, socializing, and sleeping, take a pretty good chunk of time out of my day. So which one, dear reader, should I short-change just to wade through a moderation queue of great comments (1%), OK comments (11%), troll comments (18%) and spam (70%)?
But let’s be real honest; for the first 1-4 years, how many comments would I actually be getting on the site anyway?
Just Tweet Me Your Outrage
It’s possible to use Twitter or Facebook or (lol) MeWe and Mastodon for blog comments. Just tweet/post/toot/whatever and watch the discussion roll along. Split between different platforms. Not your platform; someone else’s platform. Earning them ad dollars, while you cry about engagement and funnels.
Is this hypocritical of me? I don’t think so. Just I as don’t want my content on another platform I don’t really control, I don’t want to control the content of others on my platform. The best outcome is eeveryone having their own homepage, their own blog. Responding to posts with posts of their own, requiring (one would hope) reason and judgement to produce. The fact that writing a response post has more friction that a tweet or comment is a good thing. It raises the quality of conversation by putting more skin in the game, in terms of having a website and putting in the effort to write a post.
Like And Subscribe ?
Substack intrigues me, not from a cold, moneymaking standpoint, but from having someone else deal with the responsibilities of the GDPR and California’s whackadoo laws. Package up the weekly posts with some additional reading/watching recommendations and short story publishing news (markets opening or closing, for example). Deal with the comments there, from people who are subscribed to a newsletter. My newsletter, and a self-selected audience
EDIT: After spending six months subscribed to a bounty of newsletters (both Substack and plain bagel email) I not only decided not to set up a newsletter, but also not stop subscribing to them. Alan Jacobs raises a good point here (better before the update, I believe). For me, it’s like daily news; in no way could I find a newsletter than noticeably improved my day, but several made me feel worst again and again. Who has time for that?
This Doesn’t Help You At All
Look; I’m not here to provide a town hall. I’m here to write helpful articles and get eyeballs on my writing. Eyeballs connected to hands that can reach into wallets. That kind of thing.
Folks can always email me (via the address on my Published Works page). I expect less emails because it’s A. there’s that increase of friction again; and B. doesn’t provide the emailer any social proof like being seen as an active commentor. It’s a personal form of engagement, one that arguably can take up more of my time than Twitter, comment moderation, and writing articles about both those little thorns combined.
But it’d be worth it. Don’t you agree?