My argument for turning off comments

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Published on: 9/23/2013
Last modified on: 10/18/2013
by Kevin Duncan @kevinjduncan on Twitter

On the last few websites I’ve designed, the absence of commenting functionality — even though I was using WordPress, which is famous for blogging, as my CMS — never really came up. I guess when it comes to church and church-related websites, even those with integrated blogs, not giving users the ability to leave comments makes sense to people.

However, my not having commenting capability on this site when it launched almost two weeks ago was met with disbelief and confusion. One individual assumed I simply forgot to add this capability. Another individual asked if my blog was broken. And another simply meowed at me. This one didn’t bother me, since it came from a cat.

These reactions puzzled me, since my choice was hardly a unique one. A quick Google search will reveal various bloggers and websites far more popular than mine that have chosen to do the same thing the last couple years. The reasons the owners of such blogs and websites have given are varied and I agree with many of them.

However, I didn’t do it to eliminate spam, although that is certainly a valid reason and was a contributing factor. I didn’t do it to avoid negative feedback or dissenting opinion, especially considering in the past I’ve received very little of such sentiment. And I didn’t do it to encourage discourse on Twitter, Facebook and other blogs, although I think these are all better venues for discussion than the comments section of a random blog post.

So why did I do it?

I did it to prevent anyone from ever, ever, ever writing a comment that says “FIRST!” on my website.

I’m kidding, but would anyone really blame me if that was my sole reason? Those people are the worst.

My reason is related, though. In a way. I disabled comments on my website — scratch that, I failed to even include comment functionality in my WordPress theme — because the only aspect of commenting I can truly control is whether or not to display them.

One of my philosophies in life is to give up the things in this life of which I have no control over to the Lord. However, for the other things, the things I believe I can control, my fallible human nature wants to control them with a vise grip. And my personal website? Yeah, that’s one of the things I foolishly believe I can control.

In short, I am a micro-manager through and through. And there are just too many aspects of commenting that displease me:

1. Speed versus Perception. If I write something and it receives numerous comments, the load time of the pages I’ve worked so hard to optimize slows down — even if just a little. However, if very few people reply to something I write, the perception newcomers who stumble upon my site will have is no one reads my site. Talk about a no-win, Sophie’s Choice of a situation.

2. It steals time I could spend writing and designing. The time required to properly moderate all comments often hinders my ability to write new content and design new sites. And when you view comments through this lens, commenting stops being an ally of writing and starts being its nemesis.

3. It steals time I could spend with my wife. Husbands, do not overlook this one. It’s pretty important.

4. More plugins. WordPress plugins are both delightful and maddening. The number available to website owners is vast, but having too many plugins leads to an assortment of issues. I try to keep the plugins I use to an absolute minimum. However, if you enable comments on your website, you’ve committed yourself to having at least one anti-spam plugin. “But isn’t installing or not installing a plugin something within your control,” you might be asking? To this I respond: Can you fathom what would happen to a blog without any anti-spam measures?

5. Facebook and Twitter make commenting redundant. I didn’t turn off comments to encourage discourse on Facebook and Twitter due to the reality it’s already happening. When I first got into blogging, commenting and email were my only venues of interaction with readers. Social media changed that.

In summary

These are a few of the reasons I chose not to implement commenting on my website.

For many sites out there, even churches, commenting may make sense and be a valuable asset. As much as anything, this blog post is meant to expose some of you to the idea your blog or website doesn’t have to have comments. Many sites out there, long before mine came into existence, have chosen to disable commenting and many more will do so in the future.

It’s a viable option. Especially if you’re a micro-manager.

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