In a recent blogpost, i stated short to switch off the comments and the Facebook “like button”. I have searched this subject a bit more, and found in the internet some similar explanations. But as far as I can see, it is a minority who has deactivated under their blogs and youtube-videos the comments, and mostly only for some articles but not for all. At first, I have to admit that comments in a weblog are the most important thing. Even more than the article itself. So switching them off is a unusual.
But, what i have done is not really switch off comments, i only switched off local comments which are created here directly in the URL which has a low traffic. Currently, not more than 80 visits has this blog daily, so the chance is very small that a comment will be read by somebody other than me. The alternative to local comments are remote comments. This is what Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and blogposts who a referencing to other blogposts doing all the time. Commenting, retweeting and forwarding content which was read in the internet to a wider audience, to a discussion group and even back to the transmitter is not an exception, it is what is done in the internet all night long.
And social media websites which are mentioned above are the first and the best possibility to do so. The traffic which is generated on twitter, reddit and discussion-groups is by far higher, than my own blog, Trollheaven. My hope is, to get more comments in future which were read by more people. And that is the main reason, why I’m deactivating the local comments.
In the beginning of blogs, the local comment was the only possibility for commenting a post. The reason was, that in this time the google search engine, and the ping back mechanism didn’t work very good. But today, in the area of Web 2.0 every search engine knows, what an URL is. If somebody is posting into his blogpost a string which starts with the magic letter “https://” the searchengine knows without any doubt what follows next. So it is impossible, that any comment on the web which is created in respond to my blog will be lost. There is no need, for collecting them here in the blog at a central point, if the users who are writing them are using different searchengine, news aggregators and content-creation tools.
Another reason why I’m deactivating the comments is because I want to get a blog, which is similar to a scientific journal. Usually an academic paper can’t be commented directly like a twitter message. Instead a new paper must be created, in which the original paper is cited. That is some kind of remote comment with a timelag. The aim is to reproduce this for blog-articles. If this will works? I don’t know, but i give the idea a trial.
Let us investigate how a modern comment section works on the internet. Usually, a Reddit thread starts with an URL to a blogpost. Somebody who has found interesting content with google, posts the link into a subreddit, and the other people are reading the blogpost too. If they have any comments, they are free to post them. Not to the blog directly, but to the reddit thread. So the comment section of the internet works remotely as default. And I would go a step further. The reddit website is by far better qualified for moderating a discussion, than myself as the author of an blogpost. So i decided to let the discussion be done by something else. I’m out of the loop, my task is done after writing a blog post.
So, I hope that i will get a lots of useful comments for improving my blog.
Let us investigate how Reddit works in detail. According to the last number the service has today 250 million users wordwide. One of them posts a URL and the others a talking about it and starts to up- and downvote. So far so good. Reddit is a commenting platform which is comparable to the comments under a blog. But, nobody need both. In case of doubt, the comments in reddit are more important and the users there are engaging more. Some threads will get 100 or more comments only because somebody has posted an image. So it seems possible and useful to separate between the content itself and the community which likes to argue about it. I believe this is the future, that we will see more websites like reddit with much traffic on it, and at the same time more blogs without local comments.
On the other hand, it is not possible to use Reddit as a blogging platform. Longer articles can’t be uploaded there. It is only focussed on community driven content evaluation.
Sometimes the deactivation of the comments section is explained with too much spam, too much comments or comments with low quality. Here on my blog, this was never a problem. The overall number of comments over 1 year was around 50. My problem was, that the number was too low, and the discussion wasn’t really starting. But how can I as the blog author influence the number of comments? There is no possibility, because the community decides. That are the readers and the potential readers. And this community has in case of doubt their epicentre outside of this blog, somewhere else in the internet. Perhaps at Instagrem, Reddit, in other other blogs or in online-discussion groups. I don’t know, perhaps everywhere. Instead of trying to become more comments here, I wanna try the opposite way and let the community decide what they want to comment and in which social network they want to do it. This makes it technical a bit more complicated because a higher instance like Google must collect the comments together, but nowadays it is possible. My impression is, that all the searchengines, user-groups and social networks are working with high efficiency and i can trust them to work right.
I would even go a step further and recommend to all blog-users to deactivate their comment section. This will result into a concentration of comments to the dedicated commenting websites like Reddit and co. If these side gets more traffic, it is likely, that they will invent better moderation tools for semi-autonomous content classification which improves the discussion quality.
Ideal commenting workflow
The future ideal workflow is simple: a user worldwide finds an interesting blogpost with the help of google. He wants to write a comment. He sees, that the comment section is deactivated. So he has to switch to another channel, for example the Facebook group Deeplearning which has today 80k members, or the subreddit group Deeplearning, or he can write a tumblr blogpost. So I’m not saying, please not commenting, I’m say, please commenting my blog, like and upvote all my postings and make this in a Facebook group of your wish.
I don’t think that comments and feedback is bad, or that the quality of comments are too low. I think that comments are the greatest thing ever invented. But, it makes no sense that every blog has its own community, own moderation pipeline and an own upvote- / downvote system. The better approach is, if the comment flow is redirected to major hubs which are specialists for commenting and which are heavily userdriven. This system would result into more comments and a very efficient information flow.
It is only a technical question of how to connect the comments with the article. But this technology is available. It is called URLs, pingbacks and searchengines. The result is, that content in the web can be stored under URL1 and the community discussion is done under URL2. The advantage is, that users who wants to commenting heavily can easier follow different threads at once. Instead of follow different RSS feeds from blogs it is enough to follow only a reddit group and that’s it. The second advantage is, that the author of the original blogpost is no longer the moderator of the incoming comments. He doesn’t need to check if a comment is spam or not, if he wants to answer it or not.