On comments and weblogs

I've thought a lot about comments on weblogs over the years, and for a mailing list I'm on, I finally summarized some of my thoughts. Since it might be useful for others, I'm reposting them here. They're a few questions I ask myself related to enabling comments on weblogs posts I make. With the proliferation of commenting-ability in today's weblog tools, it might make sense for people to think a bit before blindly turning on comments, whether for an individual or group blog.

1. Do I want feedback on what I'm writing?

I never turn on comments on megnut unless I specifically want feedback, and I'd encourage people to think about this when they're posting to their sites as well. Are you writing about something that can engender a discussion? And do you want to have a discussion about it? Not everything needs a discussion, and if it doesn't, think about disabling comments for a post, if only to avoid spammers and trolls.

2. Do I have time to manage a conversation right now?

It's easy to turn on comments, it takes work to host a discussion. Especially when the post is controversial or inflammatory, the poster needs to be prepared to stay on top of the thread. Do you have the time to nurture that discussion and keep on top of it, delete the trolls, refocus the discussion when it gets derailed, etc.? If not, perhaps posting, or turning on comments, isn't such a good idea. I know I try and help out if I see a thread going awry but it's the poster's responsibility to make sure
her thread stays on target and remains as civil as possible.

3. Is this conversation over?

There comes a point in every thread when the conversation is done, either because posts have petered out or because it's gotten so out of control and unpleasant that it needs to end. Either way, the poster should go back in and set comments to "Closed." This will prevent people/spammers/trolls from posting in old threads, and keep the discussions alive and active on "current" posts.

Rather than just having a blanket rule — whether that's "comments on" or "comments off" — it would be nice if we could consider these questions before posting. Turning on comments is an opportunity and a responsibility.