No comments, just responses

When I started this blog back on WordPress.com, I kept the comments closed. When I opened the comments a couple months later, I explained some of the reasons I’d kept them closed along with my reasons for opening them.

Now, most of that is reversed.

On the WordPress.com blog, one of the main reasons I opened the comments was because I kept hearing from readers who had tried to leave a comment but thought it was broken. I couldn’t tweak my design, so a link to the comment section showed up on every post even though readers couldn’t actually visit a comment section. I could see how that would get annoying.

Now that I’m hosting my own site, I can do what I want with the design. So this is what I’ve decided…

I’ve removed the comments from the end of each post. Instead, I’ve created a page where you can “respond” to any post you like (there’s also a link to the page at the bottom of each post). When you respond this way, I’ll still read your comment, but it won’t be published publicly.

I’m calling the new version of comments “responses” because I want to make a distinction between what happens on most blogs and what happens here. Also, I like the idea of responding more than merely commenting: responding implies engagement while commenting, to me, implies distance.

Beyond what I’m calling it, here are some reasons I’ve decided to make this switch:

  • It’s simpler (part 1). Only a fraction of a percent of readers here actually leave comments. To most readers, that section was just noise. Now readers are more likely to use almost everything on each page. I like that.
  • It’s simpler (part 2). I just plain like how it looks better without comments. It’s cleaner. Even for commenters and comment readers, I think the site’s more focused this way.
  • With the new setup, you can still respond. And when you do, it’s emailed to me. From there, I can reply directly to you by email. I think this is a more intimate way to interact. If you give a legitimate email address, you’ll always get my response, even if you never come back to the site.
  • The rest is spam. Some gets caught in the automatic spam filters. Some I have to delete myself. Either way, I’m having to deal with it, either by purging it or by evaluating it. For the amount of genuine comments I get here (not many), the spam hassle isn’t worth it.
  • Finally, blogs usually have comments. I get a certain satisfaction out of knowing that mine doesn’t. I like being the nonconformist. I like being the minimalist. And I like being the extremist. All three of those sides of my personality show in this one decision.

I see only two downsides with the new version: you have to click an extra button to respond, and the comment isn’t publicly displayed with a link back to your site.

First, if what you’re about to say isn’t worth an extra click, it’s probably not worth my time either.

Second, I think the advantages of one-on-one interaction (you and me by email) outweighs the advantages of public comments.

If I start getting 100 responses per post, I might change my mind. For now, I think this will work. I want to focus on creating a better experience for the majority of readers. I think this does that.

But what do you think?

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