The problem of managing comments on popular sites

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The Engadget site is taking a break from comments for a while, which appears to have renewed the debate about the relationship between comments and blogs elsewhere – like on Mashable and WebWorkerDaily. It is of course somewhat ironic that this has stimulated so much discussion, in comments.

This is a contrast to other people in my personal blogosphere like Luis Suarez and Andrew McAfee who have both recently promised to renew their efforts to engage with the people that comment on their sites.

Now, this isn’t a new debate for me and I remain firmly committed to comments here on the Chieftech blog, even if I am a little tardy in replying sometimes.

But I think it is worth revisiting this issue in this case, in respect to the problem of comments on high volume sites. The basic argument appears to be that if you are really popular, then switching off comments is ok because it is too impractical to manage. I have some sympathy with this, however, I think this is really a symptom of a different problem:

  • Have you ever actually sat down and thought about what you want to achieve with allowing people to comment on your site and how you will engage with a community of that scale?
  • If you are suffering from trolling or too much bad behaviour, then perhaps its the community (or lack of) around you blog that’s the issue?
  • If you are literally overwhelmed by comments or spam comments, do you have the right comment management tools in place or alternative method for people to contribute without commenting?

I’ve said before that there are no rules for using social media. There is nothing wrong with using social technologies for publishing (rather than conversations). But a blog that doesn’t support conversation is just a Website, even if its written frequently and in a conversational style. I don’t have a problem with that.

Perhaps what is more important, if you are running a site for profit or some other outcome other than personal learning, does turning on or off comments support that goal?

Hat tip to Luis for starting the debate again for me… 🙂

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