An increasing number of websites – Reuters, Popular Science, the Chicago Sun-Times among them - have turned off their online comments sections. According to a story at World News Publishing Focus, one reason is
”The arduous task of moderating the hundreds of uncivil comments that plague comment threads are making news sites reconsider their value.”
The New York Times reported that one Atlantic magazine columnist agrees:
“'Unless a comment stream is actively moderated, it inevitably is ruined by bullies, hotheads and trolls,' James Fallows wrote...”
Others like Re/Code cite the importance of social media as the reason for shutting down their comments sections:
“...as social media has continued its robust growth, the bulk of discussion of our stories is increasingly taking place there, making onsite comments less and less used and less and less useful.”
I realize that the websites I've mentioned have much more traffic than this one but I am regularly surprised by other blogs, some with far less traffic than mine, that have no comment section.
The way I see it, without comments TimeGoesBy and any blog, is nothing more than a lonely, personal soapbox.
It can be argued that comments are what distinguish blogs from every other kind of online writing. Comments invite conversation, an exchange of knowledge and, as we sometimes mention here, community – a sense of belonging to something together and a reason to return.
Closing down comments in favor of social media makes no sense to me and Sarah Gooding, writing at WPTavern, explains my own reasons well:
”Allowing social media to be the primary outposts for conversation on your content may bring some decent interaction for a short time, but posts sent via these channels soon disappear under the heavy stream of cat pictures, location checkins, Candy Crush invitations and every form of distraction.
“Furthermore, a conversation happening in many different places becomes severely fragmented, diluted, and difficult to track. The quality of the conversation starts to plummet.
Exactly, Sarah. Time Goes By and it's companion blog, The Elder Storytelling Place, are both automatically distributed via Twitter and Facebook each day as a convenience to people who use those two programs.
I don't, and it surprises me now and then to get emails from Facebook telling me someone has commented there. Like Sarah, I am not inclined to chase reactions all over social media so those comments are lost – as least to the “home” TGB community.
As to the first argument against comments above, there has never been much problem at TimeGoesBy with trolls and bullies. One reason is that long before I became a blogger, I learned the hard way in what was at first a gloriously engrossing online forum that if you don't crush those interlopers immediately, they will destroy the site.
So since the beginning, I have closely monitored TGB comments, deleting offensive ones as soon I see them: defamatory and bigoted comments, hateful language, personal attacks aimed at me or other commenters are the most obvious. Those are deleted and the writer is permanently banned without notice or recourse.
Not much of that happens here and I don't think I've banished more than half a dozen, maybe eight or 10 people, in the ten years TGB has been here.
It surprised me when advertising first appeared in comments. Most often it has been an author trying to sell his/her book. I get quite incensed about that. What makes anyone think they get free advertising on another person's real estate? And since I have a soft spot for all writers, the chutzpah is a huge disappointment.
Haven't seen any of those for awhile – and good riddance.
The biggest comment bother here is benign enough: people who have never heard of paragraphs. No one reads long, unbroken chunks of text and when I sometimes force myself to go through them, I'm sorry that hardly any others will see what are often compelling thoughts and ideas. (If that's you, it would be good to take heed.)
There is a lot of controversial argument surrounding comments and although I don't like being thwarted at no-comment sites, I surely understand why the big guys, newspapers and magazines, TV shows, etc. don't have the resources to moderate comments.
But I wish they did.
Here, however, we have a large group of readers who keep the comments lively, interesting, informative and funny, and so few comments cross the line that if trolls weren't a common online problem there would be no reason to mention it at this blog.
Besides how much I learn from you, some comments become the basis of posts I write. I quote the writer when I can but often it is just the thought or idea I recall and can't place when or where it appeared. (If that's you, I apologize but I doubt it will change.)
So thank you, every one of you, who comment. I wouldn't care much at all about doing this every day without you. Sarah Gooding again:
”...with comments open on your website, you have the opportunity for the brightest minds to respond to each other in one public location, not limited to x number of characters or the commenter’s social connections.
“If your blog is your home on the web, then everything important that you have to say should be said in your posts and in their comments. Social networks come and go but your blog is forever.”
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Wendl Kornfelt: The Picasso on the Bookshelf