In a recent article from the Timesonline aptly named Gordon Brown silences YouTube critics by disabling viewer comments the issue of comment disabling was again brought to my attention. So, after some further reading I came across an article on the Web Worker Daily by Georgina Laidlaw that tackles the subject intelligently.
What are the reasons for disabling comments?
There are many advantages to disabling comments including:
- Comments can vary widely in quality from meaningless nonsense to well-thought out responses that add real value and inform rather than hinder. However, it is the negative and meaningless comments that are really spam and act as a waste of time for everyone (author and reader).
- It is also the case that people feel a lot braver when you don’t have to respond to them face-to-face but this does not mean any comment provided will be valuable or provide insight: people can easily get into a rant in the virtual world.
- Encouraging our authors to be confident and prescriptive in what they are saying without the need to defend their opinions;
- The web provides many alternative methods to highlight alternative opinions, perhaps it may encourage the would-be commenter to write an intelligent article to counter one of own articles?
- Comments can warp the overall intention of an article and even perhaps dilute the underlying propositions, concepts or opinions;
- A lack of opinion or audience participation is not highlighted (zero comments may undermine the actual popularity of an article even if the piece was well conceived and considered)?
What are the reasons for enabling comments?
- Encouraging discussion and debate, which ultimately can help highlight alternative opinions and advance our knowledge and understanding;
- Comments provide an immediate success rating and can engage further debate either as comments or other articles;
- Ultimately if we are expressing our opinions in our articles, we should allow others to express counter-arguments and their thinking - discussion is healthy.
I am 99% convinced that comments are valuable and encourage discussion which is one of the cornerstones of participation regardless of whether the counter-opinions are positive or not. However, there is still a little doubt which lingers for me about the value of comments and who should have the final word.
Here's where you can have your say (or rant) on the debate.