June 7, 2008
I believe very strongly that a blog without comments is not a blog. For me, the whole point of this blogging exercise is the many-way communication of the comments -- between me and the commenters, and among the commenters themselves.
As I said in How To Advertise on Your Blog Without (Completely) Selling Out:
It's an open secret amongst bloggers that the blog comments are often better than the original blog post, and it's because the community collectively knows far more than you or I will ever know.
Indeed, the best part of a blog post often begins where the blog post ends. If you are offended by that, I humbly submit you don't understand why blogs work.
A blog without comments is like Amazon without user reviews. Is it really even worth using at that point? The products themselves are commodities; I could buy them anywhere. Having dozens of highly relevant, informed user reviews means I'll almost always buy stuff from Amazon given the chance. It's a huge competitive advantage.
Comments aren't the only form of commentary on a blog post. Yes, you can follow comments on Reddit, on Digg, even on other blogs using Technorati's distributed trackback mechanism, and so forth. I also try to practice Scoble's 21st rule without being all creepy and Beetlejuice about it. All of these are great and worthwhile conversations, but none of them can match the immediacy of viewing comments right there inline with the original article.
Of course, as with all other useful things, there is a dark side to comments.
I scrutinize every comment, and I remove a tiny percentage of them: they might be outright spam, patently off-topic, or just plain mean. I like to refer to this as weeding my web garden. It's a productivity tax you pay if you want to grow a bumper crop of comments, which, despite what Joel Spolsky and Nicholas Carr would tell you, often bear such wonderful fruit. The labor can be minimized with improved equipment, but it's always there in some form. And I'm OK with that. The myriad benefits of a robust comment ecosystem outweighs the minor maintenance effort.
I really try to avoid deleting comments unless they're egregiously violating the above guidelines. I do read every comment that is posted here, and although I am unable to respond to them all -- I can barely get through my email backlog these days -- rest assured that I eventually read every single individual comment left on this site. I enjoy constructive criticism and feedback. I even welcome downright unconstructive criticism, if it's amusing or useful enough.
Comments mean additional work for the blog owner. Personally, I don't mind spending a little time every day weeding out mundane evils: spam links, naked promotion, offensive rhetoric, and so on. It's well worth it to harness the considerable collective wisdom of our community. Comments are a large part of what makes this blog work.
And then there are... the strange comments.
I don't mean your average Fark level of strange. I'm talking about category 5 weirdness, the equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot combined. I'm talking about comments that feel like they were teleported here from another dimension. About once a year, I'll discover a comment so mind-bendingly bizarre and wonderful that it defies description. This year's strongest contender comes to us from "Hello" on my Why I'm The Best Programmer In The World* blog post:
Programming is all about knowing when to boil the orange sponge donkey across the phillipines with an orangutang gorilla crossed with a ham sandwich to the fourth power of twelve across the nile with an awful headache from the previous night when all of alfred's naughty jalapeno peppers frog-marched the nordic elves across the loom-lined geronimo induced swamp donkey over and above the fortran fortified kilomanjaro fence past the meticulously crafted anti disgusting sponge cake scenario where all the hats doth quoteth the milk which is not unlike the super werewolf from the infinite realm of ninja-step. it's hard to define, really.
Finally, a definition of programming I can actually understand.
I don't think any stronger proof that comments are awesome has ever been written. So, wherever and whoever you are, "hello", thanks for that one. You've restored my faith in the value of comments for another year.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
I do like the bizarre scheme of the comment, however the words "donkey" and "sponge" are used twice. This detracts from it somewhat.
It's funny how many people blast the comment system as well as the number of comments on this blog .... by leaving a yet another comment!
I'm not sure that I like the idea of voting posts up and down, but I would put in a request for avatars. At the moment it feels like the "community" is too large for me to get a handle on. All that exists for myself is you, me and 'a huge bunch of other people'. Some of those people are very smart and I'm sure there must be peoples comments I read again and again that I think are good, but it's difficult to keep track of who they are with just a name. An avatar would, I think, help a little with that as it's a lot easier to remember and associate something visual.
It doesn't solve the problem of a lot of readers, and new readers, being swamped by the number of posts, but for someone like myself who almost always reads all the comments it could be a real help in building the sense of community.
Jeff, the feedburner counter is dropping!
The feedburner counter has some weird, repeatable cyclical properties every week.
The problem with metrics is that you start to care more about satisfying the metric than satisfying yourself.
This is why I never read the comments anymore.
Like Mattkins says, the comment is clearly from a mad lib. But all credit goes to "hello", isn't a mad lib a great way to define programming? For those unfamiliar with mad libs, they are a form of near-English in which defined parameters are entered to create a text. The result is a confusing script that almost could make sense but the origin of which is really only understood by the person writing it.
Ok. So I've realized that I didn't fully understand how the CAPTCHA on your blog works. Darn it, I was really hoping for it to be a spiffy coincidence.
Yes, programming and better yet defining the software area and components end up you talking stuff that you don't personal care about that much but is important to the business of the customer. So the words and phrases of the definitions might get wierd with strange business rules and programming issues, but still have some sense to somebody. The definer has to be careful not to let the rules dominate, because the rules come from the representatives of the customer who might not properly know the business - or at least not in harmony with all the other representatives. Or somebody just understood something wrong in some phase.
I've gotten a few like that on my blogs over the years. If only they were all so amusing...
I disagree wholeheartedly.
Blogs are worthless drivel from worthless people who have nothing better to do than self-congratulate their assholishness.
Comments are worse. Comments are proof positive that intelligence is lacking not only in America, but pretty much everywhere. Constructive debate does not happen in comments and if the "community" knows more than you about a topic, YOU should not be writing about it.
About the self-selecting nature of comments...
The selection of people responding to a post are likely to be in agreement with the blog author - few people keep reading a blogger they don't agree with, and fewer contribute.
In light of that, surely there is a vast swath of counter-argument which will never be heard/read here, because the blog and its audience act as a positive feedback loop.
Not everyone agrees with all your posts, certainly, but it will self-select similarly-minded people. If there is an anti-usability, users-are-wrong, obfuscation-loaded truth out there, you'll never see it. Every blog has its own religion.
What are the steps needed to familiarize oneself with a programming language?
1) Type the language name into Google
2) Click submit
3) Select the next item
4) Find out that the page does not explain how to get started
5) Go to a sub page X to find out, it doesn't either
6) Go back to step 3) until you find something useful. Then go to step 7)
7) Find out that the useful page doesn't have all the necessary tools listed
8) Type a tool definition into Google
9) Click submit
10) Select next item
11) Find out that the page does not explain how to get started
12) Curse the gods of software development
400) Buy an another book about the programming language
401) Read the book
2887) Find out that the tools produce mystical errors while you try to compile the example X
2888) Copy the error message
2889) Paste the error message into Google
I usually only read the first comment, because I love it when someone becomes famous by claiming the first post. lol
Riddle me this, if comments are so vital to a blog why are they almost never in the RSS feeds? When they are it's usually as a separate feed altogether. If the comments, as you suggest, are great things that ought not to be missed then shouldn't the cream of the crop show up to the subscribbers?
It's about a half-and-half for me, between when I want to respond to the post, and when I want to respond to comments. This is a comments comment.
One of the interesting things I've noticed about this particular blog is the degree of segue that occurs in the comments, based off of one sentence, quote, or hyperlink that doesn't by itself really indicate the subject of the post.
Case in point. You compare a blog without comments to Amazon without user reviews. Then, a barrage of comments appear arguing the usefulness of amazon user reviews. It's kind of weird! Though, I guess it proves your initial point- As far as the comments are concerned, the initial post is just a starting point.
This reminds me of something I heard about raves. A rave without ecstasy is not a rave, it's just a party. I agree that a blog without comments is not a blog as we have come to understand the term blog. Yeah, you can have a "rave" without the ecstasy, I guess, but most people would not call it a rave, they'd call it a party.
i always remember this word
Work for food
food to eat
eat to live
live to _________
I am stuck on the _________
that make me think.. so..so.. deep
thanks a lot
I find it odd that you're partnering with Joel on your new community-driven site, when a recent stack overflow podcast he went off on blog commenters as useless second-guessers. Does he realized that the only way your new site will succeed is with that second-guessing community?
I'm not sure if I should be happy that it references my country but, what the hell.
I think it was Bob Dylan...
This was an incredibly exciting understand. Hostgator I will bookmark you website to verify on it after.
i agree with your post comments are necessary for the blog.in this way you know about your blog.you also know what changes are necessary for blob.user reviews have much importance for the blog.this blog is useful for those blog owner who's not like comment for her blog.
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MUNG!=Mung Until No Good. (Notice how it is recursive; recursion is a terrifyingly powerful tool in programming.)
Notice that information content is inverse to message content predictability. For instance:
One element in the message is garbled, but we can calculate it's value from the remainder of the message; thus, it's predictability is high, and therefore it's information content is low.
HOWEVER, your profound writer's comment is SO unpredictable that the information content is SO high we cannot successfully decode it's true meaning, and only gaze on it in wonderment and awe.
And in this is the true spirit of programming; the creation of meaning, the crystallization of abstract concept into detailed plan into functional expressed reality.
"To dream, the highest Reality!" -Cpt James T. Kirk
This comment appeared in my mail a developer would be old. He was a Korean who grew up in Israel, and spoke English, Mandarin and Hebrew. The best way for us to produce e-mail as it was to do some English and Mandarin to translate the car, the car is to translate the Hebrew and translate it in England. I always wondered if a similar process was going on in his head.