Euan and I have just had a healthy disagreement over the value of comments.
I would summarize Euans point of view as being that of the enabler. He sees comments as an integral part of creating communication around his weblog and ideas:
I've written 1354 posts on my blog and had 2118 comments. Anything that makes that less likely is negative IMHO
I would summarize my own point of view as being not contrary to the aims, only the means. I don't get nearly as many comments as Euan (probably about 10%) so perhaps I am less convinced of their value. But I would like more people to comment on what I write. I often try to write provactively in the hope that it will spur some kind of conversation or debate. My curse, I guess, is that I am either preaching to the choir or seen as a blowhard.
Nevertheless my beef with comments boils down to:
- the wrong ownership model. If I leave a comment on your blog you own the comment. It is in your space and appears (or disappears) at your discretion. At the same time this lack of ownership leads, I think, to a sense of disassociation between you as the writer and the comment (and it's impact)
- the wrong attribution model. Even if I don't comment anonymously I can't really be sure that someone who leaves a comment as you, is you and nor can anyone else. If it's on your blog, I can be sure.
- the wrong social model. If people know where to go to find out what you're saying then it's likely you will have that in mind when you say stuff. Being a consistent asshole will make you the billboard of your own buffoonery
In a sense I am contending that comments are like email. We often say things in email that we would never say face-to-face because we are detached from the meaning and the human being at the other end. By placing our comments in a self-context we may be subconsciously encouraged to think more deeply about what we are saying and it's likely impact.
Euan raised the concern that disabling comments necessarily means people with a blog will be left out. To this I would answer that the solution is most likely technical and here I think CoComment, whilst they may be addressing the right problem, are not being radical enough. Leaving a comment on most blogs these days is a sign-up type process. So why not have someone sign up with a comment-log service.
I envisage a comment-log as a blogging lite service which just acts as an aggregator for an individuals comments. A kind of "blog this" system where instead of leaving a comment I end up writing a post to my comment-log with it automatically formatting the response post and linking to the original post.