I disabled comments on Marco.org tonight. It might be permanent — I haven’t decided yet.
Marco.org has had 263 articles published since 2003. Comments were enabled in March 2006, and we received 2,216 approved comments.
Most comments were idiotic. Many spewed ignorance, hate, sexism, and racism. Others were from confused people mistaking Marco.org for a Royal Dansk distributor, an LG Electronics support site, or a serious video-game news site. Nearly all of them were written poorly with endless language errors and bad formatting. A few were legitimate and well-written, but they were rare.
Almost none of the comments were worth the clutter on the page. And in a medium with infinite available page height, that’s saying a lot. (Resources might become scarce, too. I only have enough disk space for about 176,160,768 more comments.)
Comments are almost always awful — they’re only tolerable when the audience size is tiny and you’re likely to know everyone commenting. But even Marco.org’s small audience is too big for that.
Comments are doomed to be this way by their design:
The filters that reduce people’s ignorance and aggression in the real world are absent from comments. There’s no reason to filter yourself.
New blog authors often say they want comments, but what they really want is validation, feedback, and intelligent discussion. They assume that comments will provide this.
But they don’t.
Tumblr’s “reblog” feature is a way to satisfy much of the desire for comments. It allows other Tumblr members to quickly post a copy of someone else’s post on their own tumblelogs with an optional commentary or reaction.
This removes some the biggest problems of commenting:
It tends to generate exactly what people want: validation, feedback, and intelligent discussion. Clearly, then, these are possible to achieve online — just not with comments.
This is my site. It’s a direct reflection of me, and it represents a critical part of my online and professional identity.
I’m proud of the writing quality, and I’m always trying to improve it. Comments are a net loss. I don’t feel obligated to let strangers vandalize my site, in front of the audience that I’ve worked hard to build, for the possibility of occasional extended discussion or unintended humor.
I don’t write online for the miniscule ad money. I don’t care if my posts don’t appeal to Digg (in fact, I’d rather they didn’t). I don’t care if you think I’m an asshole, I’m an idiot, or I suck.
I write for myself. It’s fulfilling.
I don’t need anything from you to get value from my writing. My purpose is fulfilled even if nobody ever reads it. Do you have something nice to say, or would you like to intelligently refute my arguments? Thank you, that’s a nice bonus. Do you have something ignorant to say, or would you like to engage in an ad hominem attack? Don’t bother — it’s irrelevant.
There’s plenty of space on the internet for all of us to have our own places to publish our thoughts.
(You can support or intelligently refute this article over here if you’d like. It’s a discussion forum. Remember those? Your comments won’t appear on this page.)