The scourge of conversations

Sigh. Yesterday, at C&I Updates (which you don’t need to consult if you read this weblog)–a Blogger blog done in 5 minutes–I clicked on choices to hide all existing comments and reject any new comments that don’t come from “members of the weblog”–which means me.

In other words, I turned off commenting retroactively.

And I’m seeing more moderately high-profile weblogs that don’t allow comments–Jessamyn and Jenny (at least on Firefox), for example, as well as Dorothea and others. (I’d guess that most general-community A-listers don’t allow comments, but I could be wrong: I don’t have the time or patience to find out.)

I suspect their reasons are similar to mine. In the case of C&I Updates, it was only one spam comment, but of such a nature that I suppressed it as quickly as possible, then went and washed my hands. I don’t see any provision in Blogger for deleting specific comments, and this a**le has a Blogger identity, allowing immediate commenting privileges, so the only way out was to turn it off altogether. C&I Updates is an announcement blog, so I don’t feel badly about that.

So far, I’ve taken considerable delight in the conversations and feedback on Walt at Random. If I use the same multiplier as appears to hold for Infothought (180 Bloglines subscriptions projects to around 510 overall readers), then this weblog probably has around 380 readers. (I know, I know: That kind of projection is absurd on its face. Let’s say “somewhere between 134 and infinity, with the probability nexus being somewhere between 200 and 400.”) Given that nicely modest readership, the range and thoughtfulness of comments–and the range of commenters–has been gratifying. You’ve made me think, you’ve raised worthwile new points, and I find that there’s rarely reason to comment on comments because they’re so well done.

In other words, I really don’t want to make commenting difficult or impossible here. I’m using roughly the WordPress defaults (although one of them doesn’t seem to work as it apparently should, and that’s just as well): You have to provide an email address (which nobody but me can see), I have to approve any comment that contains more than one link or that includes words on WordPress’s “likely spam” list, I *can* (and will) delete comments, and I can (and will, if need be) prevent some domains or users from commenting at all. I hope that’s enough to deter the worst spam. I suspect that having a relatively small audience is the best defense: Jenny and Jessamyn each probably reach at least 10 times as many people, possibly 20 times or more, so they would be much more inviting targets.

Enough of this rambling. If you offer suggestions as to how I can make this weblog better known, you now have another reason I’ll ignore them: I don’t want this weblog to have anything like Cites & Insights readership, both because it really is just random noodlings and because I want to enjoy the conversations.

If spam becomes a problem, I’ll try to cope with it. If that doesn’t work, I’ll either turn off comments (reluctantly) or abandon the weblog (slightly more reluctantly). I hope it doesn’t come to either of those.

Added later that day, for reasons obvious in the comments: I misspoke about Jenny’s weblog. Although I would swear that the last two times I was there–one time really wanting to leave a comment–there was no “comments” indicator under the posts, it’s there now. She uses something from RateYourMusic as a comment system; I wonder if it disappears at times.

10 Responses to “The scourge of conversations”

  1. tangognat says:

    I think your blog hasn’t been around long enough to attract some of the really bad computer generated spam. If you wind up in a situation where the volume of spam starts to overwhelm the wordpress defaults, there are a couple good wordpress plugins like the spaminator or spam karma that can help out. I use a combo of the spaminator and the wordpress defaults and I haven’t run into any major problems.

  2. Huh? Jenny’s blog allows comments, and I tried in Firefox as well as IE. I don’t know if Jessamyn has ever done so on her blog, so it’s hardly a trend. Steven and Michael allow comments, Lorcan does, IAG does, Eclectic does, Open Stacks does, I do, some other don’t, etc. etc.

    But I don’t think you can worry about what an “A-list blogger” (however you define that) might or might not do; it’s a matter of preference–sometimes, preference per post. Scobleizer, for example, is all about the comments, as is JoHo and BuzzMachine. ResourceShelf is newsier, hence no comments.

    Based on what I think of as the function of C&I Updates, I don’t think comments are any big loss. But just to be clear for folks who are new to blogging, on blogs such as WordPress and Movable Type (I almost wrote Multiple Type!), commenting is managed with spam-prevention tools and various levels of comment moderation. I’d be pounded with spam if I left comments fully open. Moderation adds a layer of work, but Typepad users are appproved automatically.

    A good plugin is [not] hard to find. 🙂

  3. walt says:

    Karen’s right–and this is just weird. The last two times I clicked through to Shifted Librarian, once specifically wanting to comment, there was no “comment” link under each post–none that I could see anywhere on the page.

    Today, they’re there, and there are obviously comments.

    I think this has happened before at blogs with third-party comment systems (like the RateYourMusic thing at Shifted Librarian): the comments just disappear and reappear at times.

    Or I’m going crazy, which is also possible.

    I certainly agree that comment spam would be a terrible reason not to use WordPress. My spam problem (such as it was) was on a Blogger blog. WordPress has a great range of available add-ons/plug-ins, and the native comment handling is reasonably good.

    Steven C’s is another case where comments are spotty–sometimes, I can’t get to them; sometimes, attempting to post a comment results in an error message. Most of the time, it works just fine.

  4. jessamyn says:

    Though I am a frequent commenter on other people’s blogs, I have had a hard time with it on my own. I had comments turned on for my blog while I was at the DNC and I found that people would post questions for me instead of emailing me. Replying in the comments started conversations which were interesting but took up a lot of time for me. So, I had to decide that I could either have comments, or a frequently-updated blog and a job anda life, and I chose the latter. I get a lot of email and reply to almost all of it that isn’t just link suggestions. Basically I don’t have comments because I wouldn’t feel okay not reading them or replying to them, and yet that would take up the already small amount of time I use for blogging.

    William Gibson started a blog and I saw him at a reading once. Someone in the audience asked if he would keep it up. He said something to the effect that focusing on blogging took up time in the vast expanses of space that he needed free for writing, so if he was working on another book, then no.

    I reconsider this choice often, and if I get my personal blog up and running using some sort of CMS instead of doing it by hand, I plan to exnable comments. It’s a failing of, no question, but not having to keep an eye on comments and comment spam has freed me up to do more posting, reading, writing and living so I’m okay with it for now.

  5. The RateYourMusic comment system uses a contorted Javascript system, which I believe is not reliable it all. I didn’t pay it much attention, but I think it did in fact disappear at times. They might have changed it or gotten more reliable.

    For a more precise count, you could ask Blake to go thorugh the logs. Might be interesting. But beware the referer-spammers.

    Note I started Infothought before Bloglines was so popular, so that’s one factor to consider (but so few people read me then, maybe it doesn’t matter …). Though the estimate of a few hundred seems right.

    Writing a blog sucks … time. I’ve come pretty close to abandoning mine on occasion (ore or another event intervened), and even now consider it marginal.

  6. Marianne says:

    I run two blogs, one on WordPress and one at Blogger and it’s been interesting to see the differences in them, especially in search engine referrers: stats from the blogger site show very few search engine hits and the one one WordPress gets quite a few. Of course WordPress gets the nod for user friendly customizations, but hosting sometimes isn’t an option.

    Haloscan is a decent third-party commenting tool. I very rarely notice it being down and I’ve been able to customise it fairly well. I haven’t had one single instance of comment spam like I do with WordPress.

    And for those of us who probably suffer from an internet addiction: blogging is mainlining!

  7. walt says:

    Seth (typically) gets to the heart of the matter in the last paragraph of his comment, and Jessamyn suggests it as well. I’m having fun with this blog–but I notice that I’m getting less work done on Cites & Insights because I’m spending time on the blog.

    The stuff that appears here doesn’t matter as much to me (or, I think, to anyone else) as the stuff that appears in the journal.

    So maybe my nervousness about commenting is also a nervousness about timesinks. I’m aiming for four posts a week and spending no more than 15-20 minutes a day related to w.a.r. So far, I’m falling short of the aim (just as I keep falling short of the 16-page/12x-year aim for C&I). It may seem like “exceeding the target” from some perspectives, but from here it’s falling short of a sustainable balance.

    Of course, if I give up the blog or it becomes semi-inactive after a month or two, I’ll be right in the mainstream (for a change).

  8. I manage my time with Free Range Librarian. It’s definitely a balancing act. That’s one reason I do a lot of pre-posting on the weekend and use the future publication option in Movable Type to flow the content through the week. But there have definitely been times when I see an issue come and go and think it would be nice to weigh in But I Do Not Have The Time Right Now.

    Blogging is also a great background activity for junk TV, favorite radio shows, and waiting at the airport–none of this conducive to what I think of as serious deep-sea writing.

    I estimate I spent 11 hours today on personal non-blog writing (no lie; yesterday about the same), 45 minutes on blogging (I monitored my time–after 30 minutes I began editing), and 5 minutes during the CBS Evening News writing this comment. 😉

  9. p.s. on abandoned blogs: sure, people abandon blogs. No shame in that. People also abandon manuscripts, paintings, etc. Blogs are a public effort so when they’re abandoned they’re just much more noticeable. But magazines fold every week, too. Life happens!

  10. Anna says:

    “She uses something from RateYourMusic as a comment system; I wonder if it disappears at times.”

    I’ve noticed it gone on occasion, and then it reappears. That’s one reason why I prefer to use the commenting system which is integrated into my blog software.