As a web user, one of my favorite things to do after I've finished reading an article or watching a video is to scroll down to the comment section to see what people are saying about it. On the one hand - particularly where YouTube is involved - it's something of a guilty pleasure. It's almost like my own personal episode of Jerry Springer, filled with web-based drama and spam-bots as far as the eye can see.
On the other hand, however; I find reading the comments rather enlightening. It lets me see how many other users share my perspective (and in the case of those who don't, why they think differently from me). It lets me get to know some of the other people who are interested in a particular YouTuber or follow a particular blog, and also serves as a sort of 'benchmark' of how popular a work is.
Naturally, these are all elements that benefit you greatly as a content creator. Interacting with your readers in the comment section can lead to new customers, collaborators, suppliers, and supporters. It helps you build a community around your work - and that's awesome, especially if your blog is just starting out.
On top of that, reading what people are saying (even if they aren't saying anything) can serve as a clear indication of whether or not your content is resonating with users - and how you can rectify the issue if it isn't. Again, these are both invaluable for a content creator. Lastly, the users who comment are far likelier to return and read future articles - it's a matter of engagement.
So why are so many blogs starting to disable their comment section?
To explain, I'm going to draw on a piece written by Sona Simone of Copyblogger. Earlier this year, the blogging platform made the decision to disable comments, and it hasn't looked back since. In her article, Simone explains the precise rationale behind that decision - and I can't help but feel that it actually makes a whole lot of sense.
First, there's the matter of social media - which, like it or not, is an integral part of every content creator's life. According to Simone, conversations that might once have taken place in the comments section of a blog have now moved to a wider platform. The discussion is no longer chained to the end of an article; users are now taking their thoughts and ideas to Facebook, Twitter feed, or Google +. This has a few effects, chief of which is that it makes your blog more likely to be discovered by new users.
After all, if a close friend of yours comments on, shares, or talks about something, you're fairly likely to check it out yourself so you can see what all the fuss is about.
There's also the spam. And oh, is there spam. I don't think I've seen a single blog in the past year that doesn't have at least one spam comment; ranging from the bizarre ("this article really helped me, but did your sister eventually find work again?" on a video game news piece) to the downright blatant (my mother works from home makes $5000 a week you can to click [link which obviously contains malware/adware]). Although dummy accounts and thoughtless comments certainly still dwell on social media, they're much less of an epidemic than they are on a blog.
Last, but certainly not least - and here's the point that most interests me - Simone notes that she saw plenty of deep, thoughtful, and articulate comments on Copyblogger...and looking back, she felt as though they didn't really belong there. Her argument is that if you're really willing to take the time to cobble together a long and intelligent argument, you should put that work into your own website or blog - not someone else's. You can always link back to the piece you're talking about. Interesting concept, no?
Of course, there's also the issue that - particularly on larger sites - it's nearly impossible to communicate and connect with every single user who leaves you a comment. As a result, one of the most powerful advantages of a comment section - the conversational element - tends to get lost in the noise. Because of this, I'd argue that a lot of larger sites don't necessarily need a comments section - since social media serves basically the same purpose.
I'm not saying every blogger should disable comments on their articles. A generalization like that would be foolish. There's still a place for comments on many blogs, especially those that are just starting out. Whether or not it's a good idea to get rid of comments - to cut off that avenue of conversation - depends on both the blog and the writer.
What I will say, though, is this: even if you think you need them, don't dismiss the idea of getting rid of comments outright.
Image credit: OpenClips