Turning Off Comments

This is something that I have been thinking about for a while.  Before I do so across the site I want to explain my thinking on this, because initially it seems contrary to so much of what I am trying to accomplish with this blog.

I never intended this blog to be “all broadcast, no discussion”.  It was started because it seemed a way to focus and catalogue my learning in coffee.  It soon became a tool to interact with people all over the globe.  It accelerated my learning by connecting me with baristas, roasters, producers and others in the industry.  At points it became a hub for interesting, and occasionally important conversations.  Some of my favourite things about the blog have been the comments in the past.  Why, then, would I get rid of that?

I’m interested in using this blog to ask questions.  I ought to be focusing on questions that can’t really be answered in the short form of a blog comment. Twitter has filled that niche pretty nicely.  I believe, increasingly, that if you’ve put a lot of time and effort into writing a long blog comment then you should probably take that extra small step and publish it on your own blog.  Setting up a blog takes barely 5 minutes on a service like Tumblr or WordPress or even Google+.  Often we’ll change what we write because it is a blog comment.  We’ll simply, we’ll shorten or just ignore things that are important because it is just a blog comment.  Sadly commenting will often sufficiently scratch the itch of needing to respond to the point, that a fuller explanation rarely follows.

If I were to implement a “No Comments” policy I would make sure to add links to people’s blogs who’ve posted great replies at the bottom of my post.  I’m interested in discussion, in considered long form responses on various topics – but if you’ve taken the time to create it then you should own it and control it and its presentation.

This is not about me looking to turn off public criticism of my thinking or my ideas.  There remain many effective ways to tell me you think I said a stupid thing, and I plan to listen to you if you say that.  I wish to remain part of a discussion, rather than to appear to be just barking out my coffee “wisdom” at the world.

There is some pretty interesting reading on the topic on here.  Articles like this have certainly influenced my thinking, and the contrary opinions posted leave me with nagging doubts.  I don’t think there is a clear cut answer on the subject, but I think the link is a great read.

I confess I’ve noticed a tendency in myself when it comes to reading comments on other blogs:  the more comments there are the less likely I am to read them.  Services like Disqus might do a pretty good job of sorting by quality but I’ll still rarely read comments – limited time and attention often win out over trying to fight through the signal to noise ratio.  While my useful of Instapaper to read long form stuff probably plays a role in this (which doesn’t save the comments, only the article’s text),  I have to accept that if I don’t really read comments on other blogs then perhaps I am over-valuing them to readers on my own.  Maybe they are also feeding a need for personal validation in my writing that might be unhealthy.  I say maybe, but really mean probably.  I look back on so many posts where I’ve openly asked for comments and now it just looks a bit needy.

Most articles about Comments Off bring up the idea of controlling how your site looks.  This is my website and I pay my money every year to cover the costs of hosting it.  I paid someone to make it look better and hopefully be easier to read.  I refuse to put ads on here, despite the fact that I could probably make some decent money doing so, because I hate how they look, and dislike the message they send.  From an aesthetic perspective comments remain pretty hard to crowbar in, to make easily readable and a desirable visual addition.  They slow the page loads too – something that bothers me more and more.

I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to contribute in the past with a comment on my blog.  I’ve learned a lot. Over the last 7 and a bit years I have posted 764 posts and received 7.634 comments on those posts in total.  I want to make clear that if you’ve left a comment here in the past day, week, month or year – please don’t take this as me being ungrateful or rude – it is not meant that way.  Should I take the step to turn off commenting for future posts I’ll make sure that all previous comments are archived, and will always be available.  I’ve not yet made my final decision but at the moment I am strongly leaning towards turning them off.

I’ve turned comments off on this post (doing otherwise would seem a little odd), and I expect to take a little heat for this on twitter and via email too.  I’ll do my best to respond where I can.