Comments Are a Lot of Work

This weekend Tobias Buckell announced on his blog that he’s going to try an experiment: For the next couple of months (at least), he’s turning off the commenting on his blog. He has a number of reasons for this, which he explains in detail, but essentially they boil down to: Managing comments is a lot of work, both in time and in psychic energy, and Toby’s of the opinion that at the moment, this is not the best use of his own person bandwith. So off go the comments.

I say: Good on Toby. Not that he needs my endorsement, but I fully support his decision to trim off the comments and give himself a break. Why? Because:

1. It’s his blog, and he should do whatever the hell he wants with it. I do think that people forget that personal blogs are personal, and that the person who owns it gets to decide how it’s run. Arguments of “well, most blogs do [x]” are in fact null arguments; if most people running a blog decided to jump off a cliff, I would not be obliged to follow them, and neither would Toby, nor anyone else. Comments can be part of a blog, but then again there are any number of successful blogs that don’t have them, too.

The first five years of Whatever, there was no direct commenting here, either. That was partly rooted in technical issues — things were harder to implement back in the day — but it was also rooted in the fact that I didn’t really want any comments here. I implemented comments in 2003 as a “let’s see how this works” sort of experiment; if I hadn’t have liked it I would have pulled it. Fortunately, you were all entertaining enough. However:

2. Managing comments is a lot of work. If you don’t want your comment threads to turn into a pointless morass of trolls and spammers, you have to put work into keeping them readable, and it is a lot of work, particularly when you feel free to comment on controversial subjects — which, this being the Internet, could be any subject at all. Call it Rule 34 and a half: If a topic exists, someone will be an asshole about it in a comment thread.

I mean, Christ. I wrote about my dog dying, and inevitably some jackasses showed up in the thread to say “whut r u so sad about, itz just a a stoopid dawg.” I knew they were going to show up, and when they did I zapped them, but it still meant I had to stay on top of the comment thread and be ready for them when they showed up, ready to be asswipes for the lulz. Which is another thing, of course:

3. Lots of commenters are a drag. We’re not even talking about the out and out trolls and spammers. There’s also the single-issue tubthumpers, the condescending rhetoricians, the “devil’s advocates,” the concern trolls, the unintentional derailers, the grievously offended, the eager self-promoters, the cluelessly “helpish,” the ignorant who think they’re not, and so on and so forth. Mind you, you are not any one of them — of course not! — but I’m sure you’ve seen them in the comment threads, and they have to be managed if the comment threads are to have any value at all. Which brings us back to “managing comments is a lot of work.” It’s enough work, in fact, that:

4. Sometimes the amount of work required to manage a comment thread has an impact on what gets written. I quite obviously don’t shy away from subjects here that can garner hundreds of comments and/or require a fair amount of my attention in the moderation thread, but what’s not so obvious is that before I post about something I know will be controversial or likely to garner comments, I’ll ask myself if I actually have the time to deal with it. Because, you know, I don’t get paid for my comment thread management tasks, and I do have work that has to get done if I want to keep this lovely roof over my head. If I don’t have the time to deal with a comment thread, I’ll sometimes punt that topic to a later date.

And then there are other times where I’ll not write something here because, you know what? I don’t wanna argue. I love you guys, honestly I do, but, man, sometimes? I just don’t want to hear from you. Now, there’s also the flip side of this, when I post something and then say bring it, suckas, and hit the “refresh” button on the comment thread every fifteen seconds. So it’s not all bad, trust me. But the point is, sometimes the mere thought of having to deal with comments makes a difference whether I rouse myself to write on a topic.

Of course, there are good things about comments and commenters as well, and while I’m not going to detail them at the moment, let’s just say that I wouldn’t keep my own comments open if I felt all y’all were a constant burden. But, look. Even with all the good stuff, it’s still a lot of work. And it’s not in the least unreasonable for someone running a blog to decide that it’s more work than they have time and energy for. Especially if the way they pay the bills is by writing other things.

If by giving himself a break on comments, Toby finds he’s more interested in writing his own blog and sharing his own thoughts there, then I think both he and his readers are going to benefit. I’m one of his readers. I know I like it when he blogs. If this means more, I’m willing to forgo the comments. Lord knows I (and others) have other ways to make our thoughts on what he writes heard.

73 Comments on “Comments Are a Lot of Work”

  1. If a topic exists, someone will be an asshole about it in a comment thread.

    Hell, the topic is optional. Assholes show up in threads without a topic. If they can get their assholery to be the topic, they win.

  2. People really did that about your dog? Gods, me and the pruning shears of genepool improvement would like to have a little chat with anyone who decides that tolling someone’s grief is a good idea.

  3. John: long time reader, first time troll. I just wanted to say that the internet would be a sadder place without you. Thanks! #scalziappreciationday

  4. Having intelligent moderation of comments is vital to a good blogsperience. I simply avoid reading comments on, say, newspaper web sites, because either the moderator is a heavy-handed censor, or the comments are infested with loathsome trolls (there doesn’t seem to be a middle path). Me for blogs like yours, Crooked Timber and Making Light, where the comments are at least as interesting as the posts, thanks to really good moderation policies.

  5. He has every right to disable comments, but everyone else has every right to call him out on it (though of course not necessarily in any specific venue).

    If he feels the need to personally vet each and every commenter the first time, I don’t really blame him. That must be a lot of effort.

  6. I know that you didn’t post this for the purpose of soliciting gratitude, but I for one am grateful that you are willing to take the time to moderate your comments. I will not read unmoderated comment threads, as they make me weep for humanity. I genuinely enjoy the relatively troll-free back and forth of Whatever comments, and often learn something. I’d miss them if they disappeared. Thanks for taking the trouble.

  7. Come on people we all know what is really important here! We must return to the gold standard. It is the only thing that can save us,

  8. Michael @8: I don’t know if ‘call him out’ is necessarily the right way to frame it. Disagree with him, sure, but I do think there’s a difference between a blogger who closes comments for the (understandable) reasons Bucknell mentions and Scalzi posted, and a blogger who shuts off comments because they like being able to shout at people. Not necessarily because “I just don’t feel like arguing” or “No, I really don’t want to give some bozo the platform to lulz about my dog” – but because their blog is a place for them to say whatever the heck they want and nobody is allowed to contradict them. No comments means nobody can tell you that you just cited as Breaking News something that Snopes debunked ten years ago; nobody can point out that your statistics are a carefully edited, partisan version of a study whose actual results are quite different; nobody can discuss with other commenters that you’re being a giant disingenuous boo-boo head.

    You can usually sift out the wheat from the chaff on this by how apoplectic the blogger gets when people go ahead and criticize them anyway on their own blogs.

  9. Doesn’t your dog eat trolls? Have him moderate for Tobias, then he can sit quietly by your blog gnawing their bones. That, or you can buy one of my awesome cans of Troll-Be-Gone ($19.99, but if you act now, I’ll throw in another TWO cans for FREE! Quantities limited. Act fast! *No returns*), wrap it up, and sneak into the Buckell household in about a month and leave it under his tree. Provided he goes for that sort of thing. If not, you’ll need to install a tree as well.

  10. There are places like Hyperbole and a Half where posts routinely get >1000 comments. It would be a burden just to read them all, let alone police them.

  11. Well, what we have here is a loose community. If the blog owner wants to develop a conversation and community, comments are a good thing, but not everyone does want their blog to be a conversation. Even for people who’d like that, it’s not instant – it takes time and effort and involvement on the part of the blogger and some bloggers simply don’t have that time or don’t want to spend their time and energy that way. From some of Toby’s tweets, it also sounds like it affects him emotionally to deal with the negative crap and, well, if it’s not making him happy to build a community and, in fact, is dragging him down, why do it? Blogs commonly have comments, but it’s not a rule or anything…

    Oh and @8 – no, we don’t have the right to ‘call him out’ though we can, of course, comment on it and wish that he had comments (if we do). But we don’t have a right to comment on anyone’s blog.

  12. After the death of Bill Clinton’s dog Buddy, and after some rude and uncalled-for remarks about said death, the following e-mail was reprinted in the Arkansas Times:

    “You know, I’ve been trying to think of something more lowdown, more revelatory of an obsessed, shriveled soul the size of a dried pea, than attacking another man upon the occasion of his dog’s death.

    …I can’t.”

    — Gene Lyons

  13. I follow both your and Mr. Buckell’s blog regularly one, because I’m a fan of both your works, and two, because your blogs and subsequent comments remind me of sitting down to dinner or drinks with friends. There are usually a number of different conversations going on at once, relating from geekery to politics. No one has the same opinion, some play the role of devil’s advocate for the sake of creating debate. But, at the center of every comment and discussion is respect. I have enjoyed your blogs because that same air of respect exists there. I took for granted all of the work you put in to keep it polite. My apologies for the ignorance, and my thanks for the effort. I genuinely look forward to my daily visits here, and the discussion generated. From a sincere and loyal fan, I’m glad you take the time to visit with us each day. Also, the pictures of the pets – we love the pets!

  14. I have not been “playing” here for very long but have enjoyed it tremendously… so much so, that I started my own blog, both to practice writing and to learn about how blogging is done (and, to establish a web “presence”)… Although I’ve had a handful of visits since I started, I’ve had zero comments and I’d love to see something… anything! That being said, I can also see that, if it ever became a popular site, it could become a total time-hole to manage and keep “clean”… not sure I would be up to that, but I’m willing to find out.

    And, John, although you claim that you’re not being paid to manage your blog, you have to admit it does bring you substantial financial gain, albeit in an indirect way. Let’s face it, 20K hits a day is a tremendous amount of exposure and, by your own admission, is something your publishers really like. Didn’t your early sci-fi work (Old Man’s War) get picked up AFTER it made its inaugural appearance here? Don’t get me wrong… I totally appreciate what you’ve done here and I love the comment section (in fact, I would leave if it got turned off)… I just question the “poor me” part of your post.

  15. To read comments anywhere on the interwebs is to flirt with madness. It’s like Sturgeon’s Law on anabloic steroids complete with the roid rage. On all but the rarest of sites you read comments at your own peril.

  16. Is it technically possible to limit the number of comments automatically? To say, the first fifty?

  17. Warning: cluelessly “helpish” comment follows. I read Whatever because the comments are almost as good as your ruminations, diatribes, pictures, etc. You’ve got a great community going here and I truly appreciate the effort you put into moderating it. I used to moderate a popular forum on CompuServe so I can appreciate the amount of work it requires. One of the things I did when moderating became overwhelming was accept a few trusted people to help. It greatly reduced my daily workload and even improved the quality of the community since the other moderators each brought something extra to the table.

  18. fmcola:

    “you have to admit it does bring you substantial financial gain, albeit in an indirect way… I just question the ‘poor me’ part of your post.”

    There is no “poor me” part of the post. Noting that the blog is a lot of work is not the same thing as asking for pity.

    Likewise, the assumption that the blog provides me a “substantial financial gain” is largely incorrect, both in terms of real dollars and also in terms of lost time. When I started my blog I was working as a corporate consultant and charging clients lawyer rates for my time; my blog didn’t bring me any work (I got that from previous work and client referral) and cut into the amount of time I could devote to consulting. My first book was not sold because of my blog, it was sold because of my work as a consultant in the financial services field, and that first book sold several other non-fiction books. Old Man’s War sold because I had posted it here, but there’s the question of whether I could have gotten more for it had I submitted it to agents who would have then upped the amount I could have extracted from Tor (or whomever it might have sold to). In retrospect it seems likely that I could have sold OMW the old fashioned way had I not been lazy, and might have been better off doing so.

    OMW sold well but the main push for that came initially from Instapundit and Boing Boing, not from my own site, and then once early runs sold quickly, Tor’s marketing folks pushed it hard the rest of the way; many if not most of my fiction readers didn’t know this site existed until they read the author bio note. Additional novels have been sold on the success of previous novels, starting with OMW and moving forward. Other substantial financial opportunities that have presented themselves in the last couple of years have been due to the books, not the Web site.

    At this point my career as a book writer is not at all dependent on my blog, and I can say pretty authoritatively that if I took the time I spent writing on the blog and spent it writing novels or other writing projects instead, I’d be making rather more money than make now. Likewise, there’s quite a lot of stuff I write here that I could very easily sell to magazines, newspapers or paid sites, if I had bothered to send them to those places first rather than posting them here; I know this because from time to time I’ll write something for here, go “hey, I bet I could sell that instead,” and do, usually from hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

    So in a very real sense, no, I don’t get a “substantial financial gain” from the site, and indeed can argue to you quite persuasively that in many ways blathering on here represents a significant lost opportunity cost for me.

    What the blog has afforded me, which I appreciate, is opportunity, and opportunity that as it turns out is largely on terms I find favorable. And of course I find the site useful in maintaining contact with friends and fans, and for giving me a release valve. However, to equate that opportunity and maintenance with financial gain, directly or indirectly, is a simplistic way of going about it.

  19. This post is yet another example of how our freedoms are being attacked in the name of godless communism. When Glenn Beck is President we’ll all have comments, unlike the French.

  20. fmcola @18: some of the biggest (and in my opinion, most “let me shout at you/no tagbacks”-y) blogs around are commentless.

  21. @John #22

    If posting things here keeps you sane by having a release valve then it’s more than worth the time.

    I don’t know if you hear this enough, but thank-you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, and for letting us see a little bit of your life. It is appreciated. :)

    Oh, and probably the reason I picked up Old Man’s War was because I’d read your blog beforehand.

  22. My personal Scalz-ification happened in this order. 1) Was given the OMW novel a few years back, read it, loved it for the banter. 2) Went to Amazon to find more on the author. 3) Googled Scalzi and found the Whatever blog. 4) Found Agent-to-the-stars online, read it, loved it for the banter. 5) read Whatever regularly, loved it for the banter. 6) placed Whatever on homepage/favorites, read daily (catch up every few days, actually)

  23. I’m sure I’m in the minority of readers here, but I almost never read the comments. It’s not that they contain nothing worth reading. It’s just a time management issue. I have distressingly little time to read for pleasure, but Whatever is always a good use of what time I do have. The comments can be interesting, but even as well-moderated as they are, there’s not the same level of quality control. It’s more “open mike night,” less “reading by the author,” if that makes sense.

    On another point, I’ve always hated the way comments are arranged — not that there’s any other way to arrange them — but they all kinda look the same, and it’s hard for me to tease out a thread from them. Maybe that’s just my limitations as a reader? Probably.

    And, you know, I get the irony of using a comment to say why I don’t read comments.

  24. It occurs to me a list of “stupid commenter’s tricks” might not be a bad idea, with a different name. What I refer to, is a list of things well-meaning commenters do, that turn out not to be helpful/funny/entertaining at all. For example, when I see posts like this, I restrain from trying to be ‘cute’ and post a deliberate example of bad behavior as a joke. I used to do it, thinking I could be funny…when I saw it pointed out in another forum that, when someone asks you not to dance in their rhododendrons, prancing around their daffodils, no matter how talented you think you are, is just annoying.

  25. So tempted to attempt to write a comment attempting to hit every one of your “comments are a drag” line but I too have work to do.

  26. I am glad you include comments and that you moderate them. And I’m also amazed. Frankly I would have run away from it by now or at least limited open comments to one or two posts a week.
    So, thank you.

  27. I find it highly amusing you’ve written an entire blog post to comment on the fact that a fellow writer has decided to turn off his comments. :D

  28. Having read # 27 Surfwax above, my personal “Scalzification” was 1) read OMW in order to better vote on 2006 Hugo awards 2) talked to John twice at the LA Worldcon and found him the kind of writer I love to read. Not full of himself and he was having a great time talking to his fans 3) Read anything else he was writing and buying copies of the fiction to send to friends as gifts (ideal gateway to get non sf people interested in SF) 4) discovered this blog 5) read Agent to the Stars online and thought it was a great first novel 6) made reading this blog a daily ritual in the morning.

    Blog or no blog I would be a fan. The blog for me is just a major plus.

    So thanks John, you start my day on a good note every morning (Even if I don’t always agree with you)

  29. Rob Paravonian has a song on youtube stating “there´s always an A-Hole on the internet”. If you do not know it, you might like to listen to it while wielding the mallet of loving correction (TM).

  30. The other day I was musing about how I could get more people to comment on my blog–I know I have a healthy number of readers, but a comment is rare. Reading this reminds me to be careful what I wish for.

  31. Richard@30: “For example, when I see posts like this, I restrain from trying to be ‘cute’ and post a deliberate example of bad behavior as a joke.”

    With age comes wisdom. (grin) In a written medium like comments or email it’s really hard for many people to pick up irony. So when you make a joke like that, readers may think one of three things: you’re funny, you’re mean, or you’re clueless. The odds are against you.

    Also, if I tell you to not dance on my rhododendrons, it’s for your own safety. They’re guarded by some really vicious roses. (Help yourself to the daffodils, I can’t get rid of them.)

  32. Thanks for the behind the scenes insight into what goes in to monitoring and maintaining the comment section. I for one am still not very interested in reading blogs that don’t allow comments, but at least I understand now that barring comments doesn’t always stem the attitude of, “I want you all to listen to what I have to say and shut up about it.”

  33. Of course, the Internet being what it is, there are ways to leave comments even on pages with no comment function. Google Sidewiki, for instance. Granted, a lot fewer people are likely to use Sidewiki than would have used comment threads, but anyone else who cares enough to Sidewiki will be able to see them.

  34. Doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Language Log, an intelligent group blog about linguistics, sometimes has open comments; sometimes comments are closed. I surmise that comments are closed when the poster feels that he/she doesn’t have the will or energy to monitor them.

    (Language Log: for all your crash blossom, eggcorn, and snowclone needs.)

  35. Thanks for doing it John. I wish you were able to make some money off the blog because we all enjoy it, and I for one would certainly not mind if you sold some advertising. And I was happy my first e-book purchase was one of yours since I felt I owed you something for the hours of entertainment your blog has given me. And now I feel I owe you again for the different times I fell into one of the “annoying commenter” categories you laid out. My inner asshole – I can’t stop him, I can only hope to contain him!

    But as a gift in return, if you haven’t yet, check out the DJ “Girl Talk”. I think you’ll love him. He is hugely popular, and just does ridiculous mash-ups. Like Notorious BIG on Journey. But a dozens of them in each track. Check out “Oh no” on youtube – you’ll thank me.

  36. @#27 and #34: My husband told me about the bacon cat. The rest is history. *g*

    (enjoyed the cat, started reading the blog, started reading the books, started buying the books as gifts for friends…)

    Love both the blog and the commenting community. Very glad for the mallet of loving correction.

  37. “4. Sometimes the amount of work required to manage a comment thread has an impact on what gets written.”

    I can totally agree with this. I only do one or two of my series-column “Queering SFF” on a month. That’s because I have to ready myself, mentally, to deal with the comment threads. Most commenters are smart, fun and engaging, but there is always at least one who is either an out and out offensive, cruel, homophobic asshole or wallowing so deep in their own privilege it’s painful to read their responses. It’s like having to get yourself ready to be punched in the gut, and then you have to act professional about it and not just yell back at full volume.

    I love the posts, I love the good commenters, but it’s still something I have to prepare myself for in advance. (Even the good commenters can add up when the thread goes above 100 comments.)

  38. @ sarahk #28 “I don’t know, it just seems so meta to be commenting on a post about comments.”

    How do you think I feel, then?

  39. Why do you feel compelled to keep the comments tidy and clean? Spammers aside, that is. After all only commenter 45 and you are likely to be interested in commenter 46’s words of wisdom.

    IMHO the only duty of a blogger once the porn and the ads posing as comments are deleted, is to elevate the best comments to “guest blog” status for all to see.

  40. Omnologos:

    “After all only commenter 45 and you are likely to be interested in commenter 46′s words of wisdom.”

    Yeah, that’s not actually how comment threads work here, oddly enough. Why they work differently I leave as an exercise to the student.

  41. I love the “Rule 34 and a half” bit. Though it should properly be called “Scalzi’s Corollary to Rule 34”; make it so, Intarwebs. :-)

  42. John @ 22 ” However, to equate that opportunity and maintenance with financial gain, directly or indirectly, is a simplistic way of going about it.”

    Thanks for your elaboration on this point… rather than “simplistic”, I’d rather write it off to “uninformed”, or maybe slightly “misinformed”. I hope you understand that my intent was more of looking for clarification rather than questioning your integrity, although when I re-read what I posted, I have to admit it can come across as slightly aggressive. To be clear, I’m a great fan of your writing, both in style and content, and love this blog, especially the comment threads (on another note, it consumes way too much of my time, but, hey, that’s my problem). And, I’m totally appreciative of the time and energy you donate to keep it so interesting.

    I’ve listened to and read just about everything you’ve done but, in truth, I would not have known of the existence of most of it without hearing about it here. So, for ME, it has been an invaluable resource and my hope is that you will continue to share yourself (including comments) ad infinitum…

    Sorry… if you bothered to read this, I probably cost you another $22.50… (that was my pathetic attempt at humor… it probably didn’t work)…

  43. John, you may not get financial gain from this blog, but you get a heck of a lot of publicity. A fair proportion of the 20,000 to 40,000 pair of eyeballs who like what you blog about will think, “Hey, here’s this book he’s written. I should try it.” That’s worth quite a bit of money.

    To bring it back to the post at hand, I don’t know whether the fact that you have open comments aided in getting that quantity of blog readers, since only a tiny fraction of your readers will post. I’d say it has more to do with the fact that your blog is seriously entertaining.

  44. I’m going to “me, too”:
    Thanks for taking the time, John. It seems that I may be one of the few who read your books after reading the blog for a while. I believe I was yanked into your blog-family by “On Being Poor.” I’m almost certain that was it, actually. Then I lurked for a while. Then I gradually read all your books. Recently, I’ve started commenting, and now I fear that I am one of the “single-issue tubthumpers, the condescending rhetoricians, the “devil’s advocates,” the concern trolls, the unintentional derailers, the grievously offended, the eager self-promoters, the cluelessly “helpish,” the ignorant who think they’re not, and so on and so forth.” Er. So sorry. (That was a lovely sentence, though, both stylish and informative.)

  45. I started reading your blog after I found out about you when I saw your books recommended by another writer.

    I liked your blog because you seem like one of those dudes that’s really good at “civilization” if that makes any sense. As someone who often struggles with “appropriateness” that’s a quality for which I have enormous respect.

    I try not to comment much because I know I always manage to stray off topic but I do love reading the comments here because I find it to be a high-level of discourse, and I thank you for having them.

  46. As a blogger-type-person who is still at the “OMG! Somebody commented! I am LOVED!” stage of things, I’m half-inclined to quote the immortal words of Tom Servo under my breath “Now, these are the kind of problems you WANT to have!”

    Then again, I still have to scrape off the barnacles of spam pretty regularly even on my wee little bloggy things and I’m sure you get it even worse than I do.

  47. Turning off comments on a personal blog because you no longer have the time or desire to manage them properly is not just a reasonable response. It is a public service. I’m not saying that all blog comments are bad, just that unmoderated comments are generally worse than no comments. Having unmoderated comments is sort of like the internet equivalent of letting everyone dump their trash in your back yard. Occasionally, someone might throw away something neat, but sooner or later folks will start complaining about the smell. Of course, on the internet, you always have the option of not looking at the comments, but it’s just human nature to feel the urge to click on that “view comments” link, even when you know it will lead you to a page dominated by trolls and spammers or worse. And, perhaps worst of all, if a blogger consistently fails to remove or respond to noxious comments left on their blog, people are going to start wondering if the blogger privately agrees with said noxious comments.

  48. I’m still trying to figure out what kind of annoying commentor I am.

    Well, besides the rare occasions I’m intentionally a troll.

  49. I don’t read blogs that don’t allow comments. If a blogger won’t open themselves up to potential criticisms and doesn’t let those comments serve as a check against what they say, I find it harder to trust them. I believe comments are an essential part of the future of media and I don’t think not allowing comments is something to praise.

  50. I’ll happily read blogs that don’t allow comments. If I have a pressing need to contact the author, there’s usually a way somewhere on the site for me to do so, and it means I have to feel strongly enough about the subject to make the effort. If I’m going to badger a total stranger with criticism and expect them to actually consider it (as opposed to simply accepting that we don’t see eye-to-eye on some subject, or, if I can’t get over our difference in opinion, dropping the blog from my reading list), I see no reason to expect them to also hand me a bullhorn.

  51. I find that I gradually lose interest in blogs that don’t allow comments, although blogs with irregular posting schedules tend to drop off my radar quicker.

    What I fail to understand are sites that force you to register. It obviously doesn’t lead to better comments, if the average newspaper website is anything to go by. As a result I often mutter “How does John Scalzi manage it?” to myself.

  52. Kele:

    Have you stopped reading books, too? They don’t allow comments, either.

    As anyone who has visited the comments on YouTube or any major newspaper site can tell you, there’s nothing inherently positive or valuable about allowing people to comment; often it just adds to the amount of useless noise in the universe.

    Likewise, there’s nothing stopping anyone from commenting or criticizing anything a blogger writes; they just do it somewhere else other than that blog. As an example, as I have done in this article, which I have written about someone else’s blog, which you are now reading on my own.

  53. I like your blog posts even when I don’t agree with them. I think most of your opinions are well thought out even when I think you are wrong. I have never read a single one of your blog post and thought “well this is dumb”. It is more, I get where he is coming from, but… which I like. I cannot say that about all or even most bloggers.

    As a fan of your books and your site, I think alot of us would be ok if you have something you don’t want to argue over, just post it and then turn off comments. I hope I am not one of the people you dislike since I tend to ask alot of questions. You seem to get annoyed some times.

    It sounds like some authors need an assistant just to manage blog comments. Unfortunately you have to pay them.
    Keep your fingers crossed, maybe Little Fuzzy will hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, then you can get the money to hire an assistant?

  54. I considered hiring an assistant a couple of years ago, actually. I decided it was less that I needed an assistant and more that I needed to be better organized.I’ve gotten (slightly) better organized since then.

  55. Just another lurker coming out to say “thank you” for the work you do here. It’s appreciated even by those of us who do not comment.

  56. Likewise, the assumption that the blog provides me a “substantial financial gain” is largely incorrect, both in terms of real dollars and also in terms of lost time.

    I suspect, John, that this is part of a fan fallacy that I once myself shared when I wore a younger man’s clothes. I remember going to conventions like Philcon and thinking how these “famous” writers must be both financially well-off and so well known (and this was in those far-off pre-Internet days, natch). The advent of the Intarwebs has probably only enhanced this illusion. I remember being kind of saddened when I met one of my favorite authors and realized that despite having released some 30 novels, he still maintained his day-job as an engineer to pay the bills and put his kids through college. He only took up writing full-time after he retired (this was tempered by the fact that he was a really great guy). The knowledge that many writers can’t actually subsist on their writing was a surprise to me at the time.

    I would expect stuff like the cross-pollination of media these days enhances that illusion. Someone might see writer X has attended WootStock and WorldCon and think ‘Wow, he must be rich and famous!’ when the truth is far different.

  57. Dear Mr. Scalzi,
    Please turn off the comments so you have more time to write books!

  58. I didn’t even realize until I was supervising set-up of the Ninc blog in 2008 that the comments function of blogging software was OPTIONAL. (Since every blog I could recall seeing had a comments section, I had vaguely assumed that having comments was a required/de facto status of blogging.) And =not wanting to deal with comments= had by then, for several years, been high on the list of reasons I didn’t want to have my own blog. I’m prone to overreaction, and so getting the sort of nuisance messages that invariably seem to pop up on blogs (and which, indeed, -dominate- too many blog comments) would drive me CRAZY–far, far crazier than any perceived “benefit” of blogging (about which I am perpetually skeptical, anyhow), and certainly crazy enough to destroy any pleasure I might take in blogging.

    So I get it.

    I also find that most comments sections ruin a blog for me. I enjoy the blog itself… but then am sickened, disgusted, or annoyed by the comments. I can only think of three blogs (this being one of them) that I read semi-regularly where I read the comments–and what those three blogs have in common is WELL-MODERATED comments. It makes a huge difference. A huge enough difference that, yes, it’s easy to see that a lot of effort goes into it–compared to the revolting sludge that typifies comments sections that are NOT moderated (or not moderated WELL). And it’s easy to understand why someone look for ways to be more efficient with time, focus, and energy might decide that turning off comments is a more sensible choice than investing that time, energy, and focus to make sure the comments section is well-moderated.

  59. You had me at #1. It continues to amaze me that real people (in addition to SEO blatherers) write so much about The Rules for Blogs, as though such a thing exists or should exist. (The rest of the post was good, too, but #1 needs to be said. Apparently over and over and over.)

    I’m frequently amazed at the high level of mostly thoughtful, literate activity among Whatever commenters. When I accidentally read, say, Youtube comments (shudder) or /. comments or, well, you name the site, it’s a balm to come back to generally-sensible discussions.

    As for spam: My little blog (note lack of link: irrelevant to this discussion) typically gets about 8 legitimate comments a week (about 1.7 per post)…but Spam Karma traps 40-50 spamments per day. One can scarcely blame people with big blogs for giving up at some point.

  60. Honestly, the more popular a site gets (esp. news sites), the worse and more heinous the comments get. I’m glad my blogs are unpopular.

  61. Hi John,

    I read your blog because you write it. Most blogs are not written by professional writers, and trust me, it shows on most of them, hence this is why I read your blog. I do read a few non-pro writers blogs, but only if they consistently turn out interesting reads. I admit I do not read everything you [John] write on this blog, but I go through most of it. And I do find it interesting.

    As for the comments, I usually skip them. they are in the category of the non-pro writers, altho some do have better skills than others. Probably it also is dependent on how strongly I feel about the topic of John’s post.

    As for the rude ones, I like the mallet. Some of the rude comment writers could actually use a real mallet to their head…

    Hang in there John.



  62. The internet should be about communication. Personally, I have a pretty strong guideline not to visit blogs or sites that don’t allow comments, even if I’m not personally interested in commenting. And the more difficult a site is to comment on the less interested I am in it. There’s already too much one-way communication going on in our media, and when interaction is taken away a blog becomes nothing more than a press release.

  63. There’s also the single-issue tubthumpers, the condescending rhetoricians, the “devil’s advocates,” the concern trolls, the unintentional derailers, the grievously offended, the eager self-promoters, the cluelessly “helpish,” the ignorant who think they’re not, and so on and so forth.

    There is, of course, automatic irony in any of us responding to a thread like this. (grin)

    My take? Upwards of 80% of all blog comments — not just here, but on blogs everywhere — can fall into one of these categories described above. I also suspect that whether or not a given post falls into a particular category, is largely an “eye of the beholder” question. I’ve been on-line since 1990 — when dial-up BBSing was the only mode — and while the medium has changed, people have not. Write a thing on a given topic, and people will invariably want to respond to that thing. Because people are chatty and like to say what’s on their minds. And if you excite them or piss them off, it’s ever more so.

    Lately I have been tempted to carve blog reading and commenting out of my schedule entirely. Just, stop. Reality existed before the InterToob came and vacuumed out our brains. And the more the InterToob churns and re-churns its endless sprawl of Infopinion™, the more convinced I am that wisdom — as different from Infopinion™ as platinum is from lead — is sorely lacking. We’ve all gotten so smart, we can’t wait to show the universe how smart we are, dragging our outsized craniums from one comment thread to the next. Such that the entire enterprise quickly seems… dumb?

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