Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Slow Death of Comments

The venerable comments section is still rampant across the web, but plenty of new sites are omitting them entirely. The discourse generated by this feature is, in most cases, of no great value. Even the comments section of a publication like the Economist — or any other reasonably high-brow publication — is unwelcome and barely literate. On any moderately-divisive issue, the comments section turns into the written equivalent of a drunk brawl. That’s too bad, because those are the times when we most need articulate, well-reasoned discussion.

Klint Finley, Wired:

While it’s too soon to say that comment sections are outright dying— there are plenty of major sites that still have comments, including WIRED—it’s safe to say there’s a trend towards replacing them with something else.

The “something else” is interesting. A while ago, I came across a WordPress plugin that would aggregate replies on Twitter to an article and present them to moderators for approval. This kind of thing probably wouldn’t scale so well to larger publications, but it allows a little more direction over what comments are approved.

But who says that it’s necessary to present readers’ opinions on the same page as the original piece? I love my audience, but you’re reading these words because you want to hear what I have to say. Many of you reach out with corrections and ideas of your own, and I appreciate that, but it’s not necessary to have them attached to the original post. I can think of three things that comments are used for, aside from spam:

  1. Offering praise or agreement with the author. I appreciate it when people reach out to tell me that they enjoyed something I wrote, but I don’t want to turn the bottom of every post into a place where you all can praise me. I also don’t have social buttons for a similar reason.

  2. Offering disagreement with the author. If you have a different opinion, that’s cool; you should write it on your own site and send me a link.

  3. Providing a correction or amendment. Again, thank you for sending me notes on what I may have missed, but these don’t necessarily have a place on the same page as the original article. I’d like to vet them, and if there’s something I like, I’ll update the original with a link and credit.

This seems to work for me. I don’t get to provide the cool impression of dozens of people so engaged with something I wrote that they debate it below, but I get my little spot on the internet. Thanks for reading.