Music Blogger Symposium
3. What are your thoughts on comments boxes in blogs? Do you or don't you allow them, and why?
I don't think you should be allowed to blog without a comment box. Unless you're talking about, like, Robert Christgau's website, where you basically just have some webspace to archive your writing, there is absolutely no reason not to let the world in. I don't even approve of moderated comments, because it screws up the flow of conversation too much. But more often you have established critics not letting anyone present a counter-idea to something they've written, and I think it's generally pretty poisonous to any development of new ideas. I have to wait for other writers (without a viable commenting option) to find my site sometimes just to talk to them. It puts me in kind of an awkward position, because I like the reining-in effect commenting elsewhere usually has on me.
I guess there are a few exceptions--Sasha Frere-Jones's blog is wonderful, mostly a photo blog with links to all his current writing and the occasional music musing. But rigorous commenting that allows challenging conversations to develop is so rare anyway that I just don't understand why you'd cut off the potential for even the modicum of discussion you'd get. If there are issues of inappropriate comments, then moderation is understandable, but frankly I think "inappropriate" should have a pretty narrow definition.
I've never had one on Blissblog. It wasn't a conscious choice particularly but having seen what happened in other people's comments boxes, it seems like the best course. Woebot and K-punk had comments boxes for a while. Initially they were full of exciting energy, but then there got to be some nasty trolling, discussions turned acrimonious, and eventually they both shut theirs down. Basically, I don't see why I should host a space for unpleasantness. If someone wants to take issue with what I posted by having a go at me on their own blog, that's fine, it's a free world and there's a good chance I'll respond, there'll be interesting back and forth. I get a lot of e-mails and often I will post the comments on Blissblog, usually if it has sparked some further thoughts in me.
The other thing is that comments boxes seem like they'd be time consuming. I'd surely find myself getting sucked into long debates, especially as I'm an argumentative type, and would doubtless doggedly pursue the discussion to the bitter end ("bitter" being the operative word). I recently got embroiled in a comments box thing at Cure for Bedbugs and it went to over 100 comments. So I'm sure I would find it a drain on my time having one of my own, especially as you'd feel obliged to act as a kind of moderator.
I do allow them, and I love them. It takes a fair amount of work to keep finding new solutions to spam problems, but the comments are half the pleasure for me. I'm interested in everything dialogic about blogging and wouldn't be so interested without that.
re: Stereogum's comments section
We have a fantastic comments section that loves to dig in when we talk about music blogging in particular. I'll let the threads speak for themselves:
re: Bloggers and the PR machine
re: Leaker-outing blog
Yes, I allow them. I think it's generally unwise not to do so--any asshole who'd use the phrase "Web 2.0" (like me, for example) knows that it has everything to do with social interaction (be it via Facebook or YouTube) and so inviting comments is to keep up with the times. Isn't the whole point of communicating to create a dialogue anyway? I don't know if I could stomach the words of someone delusional enough to think that he has the final say on any one art object. I once read an interview with a blogger who claimed that anyone who left comments on his blog was bitter and/or vitriolic. I stopped reading him there and then and I find it hard to take people with messiah complexes seriously.
That's the principle, at least. In practice, it's hard being told about yourself all the time. I have to admit that as time goes on, I read my comments less and less. I like having them there. I like knowing that I've triggered a response, but all the noise makes a part of me just retreat into my shell. And by and large, I've been lucky--I have nothing to complain about. Barring compliments from people that I really respect (which have the ability to make my month, depending on the source), these days I'm pretty much concerned about answering to myself. If I've expressed my thoughts fully and snappily, I can go to bed proud.
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