After Copyblogger announced they were removing comments from their blog, various waves of agreement and disbelief rippled around the blogosphere, discussing exactly where should readers comment, on a blog or alternatively on social media.
Here’s an infographic that explores the implications of this decision:
And here’s some code you could paste into your own posts (via the text mode) if you want to share this infographic with your readers.
It’s a sad world we live in
Copyblogger is a massive blog with a huge amount of readers and followers. I expect their traffic stats are off the scale (well, for me they would be!). And this popularity would attract an incredible amount of responses – but unfortunately it seems that the majority, 96% according to their post, are not legitimate comments that the blog editors would want to publish.
This is a sorry state of affairs that there is so much spam kicking around the web that it is detrimental towards valuable commentary and feedback. Most of the comments that slip through my spam-eating plugins are still spam, since many spammers are now human and it’s not automated any more. You’d think they would give up by now, since there are so many systems in place to try and combat them – but perhaps the onslaught is so great, spam just cannot be managed any more.
Hence why Copyblogger is trying to beat the system by blocking off their access. Perhaps the concept of taking away the attraction will force the spam to go elsewhere. ‘Tis a shame the practice of trying to generate more SEO through comment sharing, by unscrupulous content marketers contributing inappropriate drivel on any site they come across, means bloggers have resorted to closing comments to counteract it.
Do blogs put off commenting?
Spam is such an issue we are forced to put in place measures to cope with it, such as Akismet (albeit invisible) and CAPTCHA (forces an action), that might deter proper readers from commenting on blogs. These preventative practices can be seen as a barrier for nervous readers, confused by having to type in something extra to gain access or activate publication. And even the moderation announcement can stimulate a sense of anti-climax, especially when the commenter expects what he or she has written to be revealed in all its glory.
[pullquote]”…this is what makes blogs different from websites, the ability for readers to leave immediate feedback…” Tweet this now![/pullquote]
Commenting is a deeply personal pursuit for some, and certainly contributors should be encouraged to pour out their heart and soul, as long as it is relevant to the post it is attributed to. The poignant sense of community, feeling part of a little world that has the same sentiments and desire to share it, needs to be cultivated and nurtured. The fact that there is a space below the post specifically for this function, immediately accessible and even providing incentives and gifts (such as CommentLuv), should be honoured and revered – this is what makes blogs different from websites, the ability for readers to leave immediate feedback in situ and at their own convenience, and we should not forget this.
Alternatives to how readers comment
It seems that much more interaction is happening on social media, and certainly this is why I have added the ability to comment via Google+ on my blog. The plugin provides the appropriate comment field (placed higher and therefore found before my blog’s comments), to encourage reader interaction. I suppose here there is no moderation or preventative methods in place to prevent how my readers comment, except that they need to be logged in as a member of Google+, so I am at their mercy as to what feedback they leave me, even if it’s only a +1.
And that’s a problem with social media comments, they have to be published first before they can be moderated (eg deleted), so the damage is already done if it’s malicious or unhelpful. This is particularly poignant for those who are not vigilant on social media, like me who only sees what’s going on when TweetDeck is open. I need to be tagged onto a social media comment before I’m notified (via email) that it exists, and unless I’m onto it immediately goodness knows what could happen, especially if I can’t envisage what my readers comment about.
What creates meaningful discussions?
[pullquote]Does social media offer more opportunities for in-depth discussion as ‘real-time’ interaction? Tweet this now![/pullquote]
This was one of the reasons why Copyblogger transferred its comments procedures over to social media, as they deemed more quality conversations were produced there rather than what was being left on their blog. Perhaps social media can offer more opportunities for in-depth discussion; certainly there is more of a ‘real-time’ sense of interaction, with immediate responses that appear without moderation and create the necessary ‘ping-pong’ for which an online conversation is characteristic.
This system is possible on a blog, but there is a time delay, even without moderation, with necessary refreshing required to find out whether a response has been submitted, or constant email checking for the subsequent notification. This hardly encourages a ‘meaningful’ discussion, more a stilted readers comment mechanism.
And the environment on social media appears to be more appropriate to cultivate more meaningful responses, more relaxed, easier access, less restrictions, freer space to write in, no spam deterrents to get in the way. Other contributors feel free to intervene and add to the proceedings, and the more interaction is produced, the higher reach these conversations command, due to satisfying the social media algorithm requirements.
Other benefits from removing blog comments
One of the bloggers that responded to Copyblogger’s announcement made an observation that I thought was rather poignant. Now that followers can’t comment on the blog any more, they are forced to comment on their own, and of course in a form of posts. More content is created to discuss the matter further – hopefully in an appropriately meaningful strain – and this all contributes towards what blogs have been created for (publishing content, of course), with lots of SEO flying about and backlinks to Copyblogger’s blog, about which I’m sure they are very pleased to receive!
Is social media more appropriate?
[pullquote]Interaction has moved on hugely from early day Web2.0 and the ability to leave comments on blog posts. Tweet this now![/pullquote]
There are pros and cons for using social media to capitalise on how readers comment online. These platforms are used frequently, without a lot of thought (sometimes) and are easily accessible via mobile devices. The method of leaving a comment has been structured for a spontaneous response, which is all about interaction and reacting on the spur of the moment. Things have moved on massively from the early days of Web2.0 when there was this fabulous concept of being able to write on someone else’s blog to leave your feedback. Now this function is done automatically with thumbs rather than fingers, quickly, efficiently, effortlessly.
But does this really result in full and well constructed discussions? It practically costs nothing to leave a one word answer, as I know from my children’s text replies to my lengthy and time-consuming mobile reproduced requests for information from them. Unless you’re connected up to a PC (or a Mac in my case), the long and meaningful response may not be forthcoming. Even tablets provide some restrictions towards composing a suitable piece of prose to counteract an argument or put forth your point of view. When typing with my eight fingers and one thumb (my left thumb is not used when touch-typing) the result is fast-paced enough to keep up with my brainwaves and thought patterns (and it’s a lot easier to edit, too).
How much control do you have?
As well as the absence of moderation, consider the ownership of these platforms your much sought after comments are placed in and the methods used how readers comment on them. Unlike your blog, which you can totally own, you are at the mercy of the social media sites regarding their publishing rules, algorithm changes for gaining reach and other access requirements, visibility to whoever wants or is qualified to see these comments, who is eligible or available to provide them – in fact, your control is quite reduced in what happens to these responses. And unless they are reproduced onto your blog through the appropriate plugins, not every reader of your post will get the chance to view every response that has been made.
And what happens about old posts? Blogs are visited regularly throughout their life, especially if the SEO positioned in them suddenly becomes eligible to a search request at a later date. Old social media responses, if they are still available to be seen, may not have the same impact than if they were hosted under the actual post. This affects how readers comment as responses below a post provide a more relevant sense of belonging to the source of the information.
There is this larger audience…
Social media does provide a larger facility that encourages how readers comment, as this higher visibility for posts gains a lot more feedback from a variety of different readers. Social sharing buttons placed at the bottom of posts, or floating by the side to attract attention, are there to stimulate altruistic tendencies to let others have a chance to read this post, or for the marketing minded who understand and value the promotional reasons that lie behind these call to actions, and by complying, hope the same will be done to their posts.
Community loyalty found and cultivated in social media, mainly through consistent and positive interaction, helps blogs to thrive through regular, constructive and meaningful comments. Encouraging this community effort, based around how readers comment, contributes towards combating spam, which is not tolerated within social media circles and now is subject to short-shrift tactics to eradicate or at least teach unwitting practitioners a lesson.
I still think blog comments should stay
Only bloggers who are hugely popular in social media circles or have gained a huge following over the years through reputation and clever and reputable digital marketing tactics will be able to successfully close commenting on their blogs without a detrimental effect. Some highly respected bloggers have never allowed comments, due to their celebrity status, so haven’t experienced how readers comment on their blogs. Some don’t approve of the barriers that are put into place to keep spammers at bay, as they feel it deters too many real commenters from attempting to have their say. Many are fed up with wasting their time moderating the usual rubbish that is submitted instead of the real thing.
But I feel to remove this opportunity for the ordinary reader to leave their comment at the bottom of the page is like denying their rights. It’s like when you want to retweet a particularly brilliant post you’ve just read and you can’t find the sharing buttons, the same applies when you want to leave feedback and those horrible words ‘Comments are closed’ torment you, and the sudden rush experienced to deliver your response rapidly wanes like a dying balloon with a puncture.
So how do you feel about where your readers comment? Would you like them all in one place, or dotted around the web? Does it matter where your comments come from and how they are produced? How much value do you place on social interaction and how do you measure the responses you get? And are you grateful for any comments on your posts (like me)?
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