Of comments and weeds.

When we bought our house, we looked out into the massive backyard and we were amazed by the lush garden brimming with flowers and vegetables and fruit trees.

That vision sucked us into a fantasy world of possibility: “Oh, what we could do with that! Vegetables from our garden for dinner! Sipping mojitos as we blissfully pluck flowers and water our lawn!”

Five years later, we’ve completely pulled out the garden (no more vegetables at all and only a few remaining flowers) whilst our trees rarely produce edible fruit. The only plant-like things that seem to thrive (whether we encourage them or not) are weeds and vines. Whenever something pleasant does bloom, our yard is overrun with rabbits and bees and wasps and squirrels.

Gardening—successfully gardening, anyway—is a ridiculous amount of work.

John Gruber has been going back and forth with Joe Wilcox concerning the necessity, as an author, of allowing your readers to leave comments on blog posts.

Gruber is a long-time proponent of comment-free content and Wilcox argues that they’re an inherent and necessary aspect of the web. 

It’s all fairly subjective, but my experience on the one website (Newsvine) where I ever had to deal with a significant number of comments is that, like gardening, successfully moderating comment threads is a ridiculous amount of work and—if you’re not serious about it—you’re going to fail.

It’s safe to assume that Gruber, if he allowed comments, would end up with hundreds or even thousands on every article he posted. In this hypothetical, there’s no sense in treating him like an average blogger or even an average journalist because his reach is massive. 

As such, he’d have to spend a sizable portion of his day simply making sure that the worst of the offensive comments (racist slurs, threats, vulgarity, etc.) were either 1) deleted outright or 2) handled in a manner which would avoid further inflaming the situation. Then, in an effort to justify the “discussion” he’d be inviting, he’d need to personally respond to the valid and/or valuable comments, lest he be accused of keeping his distance from a more engaged audience or of being a stand-offish dick. Part of his daily moderation duties would involve keeping everyone (the civil and the not so civil) on topic. Comment spam is another issue.

All of that is without even mentioning that Gruber is an Apple enthusiast who writes primarily about Apple related topics. Short of abortion, I’m not sure there’s a more contentious topic on the Internet.

Assuming all that is taken care of, Gruber is no longer acting first and foremost as a writer, he’s writing around his efforts to keep up with his comment threads.

For someone in his position, I don’t really see an upside: He either contributes less (or worse) content in order to moderate properly, or he allows discussion while simultaneously ignoring it, at which point people will likely judge his content based primarily on the associated comments of anonymous douchebags, left unchecked.

Meanwhile, much like hoping [random famous person on Twitter] will notice your response to her tweet, you’re not really engaging in a discussion or a conversation anyway, you’re living vicariously through the hope that your comment will somehow stand out from the hundreds or thousands of other people all driven by the same futile hope, while being overshadowed by those who are willing to say something horrible to achieve that goal.

I certainly don’t want to read that sort of thing, so I can’t imagine why he’d want to moderate it.

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  1. ericjorgensen reblogged this from brianericford and added:
    There is a bit of a controversy going on between Joe Wilcox and John Gruber regarding comments on blogs. This is a very...
  2. brianericford posted this

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