On Disabling Comments

There has been some variably constructive criticism of my disabling comments on the “Two Big Vendor Takeaways from Storage Field Day 5” post. This isn’t the first time I’ve disabled comments, and it won’t be the last. In fact, I had my post ready to go 48 hours before I published it, postponing partly because I wanted to make a calm decision about whether to disable comments.

I ultimately decided to disable them. Here’s what I thought about. Before I get into it, this is not a post about Storage Field Day 5. If you want to talk about that, this is not a good place! This is a post about why I chose to discourage conversation!

Given what we’d already seen on Twitter during and after the event, that particular post was clearly going to generate negative commentary. I know that a number of higher-profile bloggers have disabled comments globally, and while I was debating whether to do so myself I reread their thoughts. Matt Gemmell deftly summarizes two of my major concerns:

Comments encourage unconsidered responses. You’ve just read an article, you feel strongly about it, and you have a text field just waiting there. When disagreeing, people tend to be at their very worst when writing comments. They use language and tones which they’d never use in email, much less in person. If your blog allows comments, you’re inviting people into your house – but sadly, some of them don’t conduct themselves appropriately.

Comments allow anonymity and separation of your words from your identity. On Twitter or Facebook, anything you say is at least tied to whatever form of identity you have there. Comments on an arbitrary website don’t follow you around, and I think that encourages very unhealthy behaviour.

Duncan accuses me of not wanting a healthy discussion, but that’s absolutely not the case. I only want a healthy discussion. I don’t want unconsidered responses nor do I want anonymous comments, both of which Duncan is getting on his thoughtful post. I want to hear what my friends in the community think, and I want to know who is saying what.

Folks might not realize that, while I’ve had my moments with vendors, I am, in many ways, more annoyed and embarrassed about what has happened in some of these presentations than they are. This also happened at Tech Field Day 9, too, where particular interactions made me very, very angry. And while I’ll share a portion of the blame commensurate with my involvement, please don’t take out your frustrations with other delegates on me, even if you saw me sitting next to them on the stream. I, too, wanted to hear about Satyam’s BMW.

Given all that, when a comment comes in and assigns me the blame for something someone else said or did, do I need to keep it? When a comment rants about Tech Field Day and doesn’t address my post at all, is it off-topic? What happens if I delete them? Is that going to be worse than permitting them at all? Is that disrespectful to someone who put in the time to write the comment? What obligation do I have to host my enemies’ point of view? Nutanix doesn’t post praise for Simplivity on their site, nor does VMware post the merits of Citrix VDI on theirs. Must I? Where is the line between transparency and damage to my own brand?

I thought about all these things, too, and concluded it would be disrespectful to delete the work of others. I decided that the best way to handle it would be to not permit it at all. The whole situation is a crap sandwich, and that side of it stunk just a little less.

We each choose how we want to use our online presence, and need to remember that our own choices don’t mean that others’ choices have to be identical. My blog is my blog, it isn’t Tech Field Day, it isn’t Yellow Bricks, and it isn’t a large corporation. While I always appreciate the thoughtful, courteous comments my readers make it doesn’t mean that I won’t make different choices about my blog’s feature set from time to time, such as with comment availability, full-text feeds, or advertising.

I am leaving comments open here so you can comment on the topic of comments. I don’t want to talk about Storage Field Day 5 anymore. I don’t want to talk about Tech Field Day anymore. I don’t want to talk about FUD anymore. I don’t want to talk about expertise anymore. Okay? 🙂

Yo Dawg, I heard you want to comment, so I made a post about comments so you could comment

6 thoughts on “On Disabling Comments”

  1. Oh, and if anybody has any experience with a tool that can get Twitter discussion into the comments on a WordPress blog, I’d appreciate a tip. I’d really like to get tweets in here in a permanent way without using a third-party service.

  2. Bob

    It’s a tough call disabling comments. I have comments after a fixed period to avoid spammers, but so far, I’ve not blocked any responses even though I’ve done a few contentious posts and knew the responses (from the fan boys) would be swift.

    That said, it’s your blog, your site, your choice, whether others like it or not.

  3. if you want to share (aka, blog at all), then disabling comments is counter productive. also, i suspect most people find greater value in comments than in the original post – the original post is just a seed.

  4. Tie comments into Disqus or other like commenting system. It gives you some control over what matches spam. Negative feedback affects that poster’s global profile.

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