Been catching up on my reading and came across this great insight from John Gruber in the December 2010 issue of .Net magazine. Gruber is the guy behind Daring Fireball and Moveable Type and a very smart guy.

Daring Fireball famously doesn’t allow comments on the site

“Daring Fireball famously doesn’t allow comments on the site. Gruber says they’d distract from the articles and inherently put you into a skimming mode. Instead, he uses Twitter to interact with his readership. If you search for @gruber and @daringfireball, you see numerous responses to the things I’m posting every day. And I often write back. It’s great and better than the actual comments on Daring Fireball would be. It is a public forum of feedback, forces brevity and also forces people to stand behind their comments. There is very little anonymity on Twitter.”

This is a great use of social media. While eliminating dumb comments from his website, Gruber is building and maintaining an active, personal relationship with his readership.

On the other hand, today’s newspaper is only good today—by tomorrow, the news has moved on. Tweets have a similar lifespan. What’s great about Twitter is that it’s so fast—faster than newspapers, and more personal. But the downside to its speed is that valuable comments get buried under the information foam caused by your ever-refreshing Twitter stream.

It’s worth defending site comments because they’re often insightful or helpful, pointing out errors in an article, providing alternate methods for tackling a problem, or simply giving a different point of view.

One of the great things about the Web is that it allows direct communication between authors and audiences. Another great thing about the Web is it gives you more than one way to skin a cat—in fact, you can skin the same cat several times, in different ways, which is fantastic news for those of us who enjoy skinning cats.

I’m not a big commenter but I notice, whenever I do comment, I bookmark the page and refer back to it several times over the following days, just to see how the conversation develops, if anyone acknowledges my point, or to offer a rebuttal to someone’s rebuttal as I did recently on this daft WSJ article about Flash—which meant an extra dozen or so visits to the WSJ’s website. Good for WSJ, eh?

To allow comments, or not? Gruber’s method highlights that the choice is actually broader than that. You have several options:

  • Only Comments
  • Only Twitter Interaction
  • Comments Plus Twitter Interaction

The baseline being, of course, that you do open some door to back-and-forth communication with your audience.

One Response to “Should You Allow Comments on Your Site?”

  1. David Joerg

    When someone I follow on twitter is having a conversation with someone else on twitter, it feels just like listening to someone on a mobile phone on the train. You only hear half of the conversation, and it’s annoying and distracting.

    So the twitter approach clearly works for Gruber, but it wouldn’t work for someone like me.

    Gruber doesn’t have to worry about that — people follow him because he’s famous and stuff, and put up with the bother of listening to his half of each conversation he’s in.

    What do you think?

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