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Perishable Press

Sort of Turning Off Comments

[ Comment Trolls In Action ] Over the course of the past year or so, the quality of comments on posts here at Perishable Press has really deteriorated, to the point that I actually considered doing something that I told myself I would never do: disable comments completely.

Up front

This article is more of a rant than anything else. I am changing my WP “Discussion” settings a bit, but really I just needed to get this off my chest. Without a doubt and beyond question, this site gets some incredible input from the web-dev/WP community. And I love all my readers and everyone who contributes with ideas, feedback, code snippets, and so forth. Even consturctive criticism. I’ve had my share of super critical if not downright harsh or even mean comments left on posts here at Perishable Press and elsewhere.

If you’re leaving constructive feedback, bug reports and stuff that’s excellent, encouraged, and appreciated.

What this particular post/rant is about, is how utterly incompetent and/or lazy people can be. Just been getting a LOT of nasty “drive-by” style comments that have “inspired” me to take action and turn the knobs a bit..

We’ve made the Web too easy

Back when I was just starting out with this site, comments were a big part of what kept me going. There was nothing better than hard work writing a post finally paying off with real, constructive feedback. But for awhile now, comments have just been.. uninspired, to say the least. Not that I don’t appreciate the few gems that have cropped up, but overall I’m just tired of reading comments that:

  • Have nothing/little to do with the post
  • Are written by third graders (or apparently so)
  • Fail to communicate anything useful or interesting
  • Are like, “nice post, but you can do the same thing with X..”
  • Are like, “great post, but can you also do this and that for me?”
  • Are written by people who neither read nor understand the article

And the list goes on and on. I spend a LOT of time trying to post quality content, and there’s nothing worse than seeing that people couldn’t care less. Like everything else, it’s probably my fault for writing lame content that sucks. I mean, we all know there’s no shortage of it on the Web these days. But the point is that I still like to write, post content, and share with people in the community who appreciate the information. I want to get back into blogging and posting, but I don’t need the stress of dealing with a bunch on nonsense every time I hit the “Publish” button.

Limited time offer

After really thinking about it for the past few months, I’ve decided to sort of compromise. Instead of completely disabling comments on new posts, I’m going to try leaving them open only for a day or two. This way, people who are subscribed, read the article and decide to share feedback are welcome to do so. Hopefully this will prevent the drive-by idiots who don’t read/understand the article from taking cheap shots and acting stupid.

So from now on, I’ll leave comments open on articles for a day or two after posting, and maybe longer for any useful/interesting threads. Is this a terrible idea? Maybe. Will it help? Yes, it will provide a more enjoyable blogging experience for me, and thus more content for people who enjoy and actually read my stuff.

Always glad to help

That said, if comments are closed on this (or any other) post, and you have something of value to contribute to the topic at hand, shoot me an email and I’ll include the information either in the comments or in the post somewhere.

As always, thank you for reading :)

Jeff Starr
About the Author Jeff Starr = Web Developer. Book Author. Secretly Important.
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40 responses
  1. Hi Jeff – I think it’s a good idea. I’ve considered closing comments on older articles too – not after a day or two but maybe after a month. Over time any new comments for the posts are either spam or questionable spam – nothing valuable is being added but I’m not 100% certain if the comment is spam or not. It just starts taking up too much time.

    And if someone genuinely has a question about a post and the comments are closed, there are other ways that they can reach you.

    Maybe leave them open a week instead …? I know I don’t always have time immediately to check new posts that interest me.

    • Jeff Starr

      It just starts taking up too much time.

      That’s a big part of it. And like you say, if someone really has something to share, there’s nothing stopping them from sending an email or tweeting about it.

      Leaving comments open for a week or so is a possibility if people are actually contributing somehow to the conversation. Lately, however, it seems like the best feedback happens during the first couple of days, and then it goes downhill from there.

      • Arfan Bhatti July 20, 2011 @ 6:44 am

        While ive been reading your site since…well since your your blacklist was first born.

        Even now when looking at mostly technical aspects I stumble across your site and find something new which I may add to. (I know not recently but reading your posts still!)

        So after a few months of not commenting let me add a suggestion. What worked really well for Thenexus.tk (yes It me Donace :p) was the GASP plugin. A quick checkbox that foiled a number of Spammers. I get the odd one now and again but a HUGE reduction in it.

        As Kim and other have said 1-2 days is a bit short. I normally read and comment on the weekend or when free.

        So in conclusion I would suggest trialing the GASP plugin for a little while to see its effects and leaving comments open for a month.

        Hope your well anyhow Jeff!

        Arfan Aka Donace

      • Arfan Bhatti July 20, 2011 @ 6:46 am

        Another quick snippet to add. While saying all of the above on another site (legal based) I have comments turned off as it is to risky to have conversation via comment as opposed to via a inquiry form / private email phone etc.

  2. Hey Jeff, I thought about turning off comments on my sites as well, as the amount of incoming comment spam passing through the anti-spam filters is increasing. As I have dofollow links mostly, I’m on dofollow-lists and stuff and spammers are even more attracted. Sad and annoying! However, I don’t have too many real comments, so I’ll probably follow your approach, maybe with a little more time.

    Regarding the idea of letting people add their comment by mail, I’d question how many people would really take the effort. Might work, but could as well prevent some comments. But this shouldn’t outweigh the positive effects (less sadness, more time for effective stuff). All in all, thanks for bringing this up to my mind again :)

  3. My instinctive reaction is that a day or two is maybe not enough for the article to make its rounds through the community and gather all the attention it’s going to gather. But then maybe all the attention is the problem. :P

    Either way, I’d say it’s definitely something that should be tested. The WP default is 14 days, so maybe start with a week and tighten it up a bit if that still leads to a bunch of useless responses.

  4. Totally agree Jeff. I’m subscribed to the bot trap post and at first it was a good discussion but now I just completely ignore them as most comments dont even understand how it works.

    With my own blog, I barely even have enough time to post so trying to deal with comments that take a lot of time is hard. I want to help people out but just don’t have time for it. I’d be at a computer all day which I’m trying to limit now.

  5. Jeff Starr

    Absolutely, the more I think about it, the more it comes down to time-management. Just not enough hours in the day, and there are better ways of helping others in the community.

  6. John Rocheleau July 19, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

    The comment system gets far more priority than it deserves. Though I dearly appreciate the comments I get on my site, I also realize that the commenters represent maybe 2% of readers, at most.

    As writers we sometimes mistake the obvious response (a comment), for the most important or most representative response of our readers. But it just isn’t so.

    The readers that respond in a comment are not the typical readers. Are they more committed than those who do not comment? I don’t think so. Comments are most often made by other bloggers; some with sincere interest and valuable input, and many others who simply fake that interest to get return readers from their link in the comment header.

    One of the most visited — and financially successful — blogs is stevepavlina.com. From very early in his site’s time line, Steve did the math and concluded that disabling comments would not hurt his traffic. He was dead right. He since has created a forum for his readers, but that is because his readership is so huge that catering to the small percentage of people who want to voice their opinion is now worthwhile and maybe rewarding personally.

    Your main (and therefore most important) readers truly appreciate your site and USE IT. They just don’t comment. But no big deal right?

    Love the personal contact, but a good analytics program will put you in better touch with the majority of your readers — the ones that drive your traffic!

    Cheers,
    John :-)

  7. Jeff, I completely understand why you would like to turn off comments. I actually just did something similar to what you did. I turned off comments but for posts 3 months and older. Before doing so, if I didn’t check my site in a few days, I would return to see over 1,000 spam comments. Now, I only get about 1 or 2 per day.

  8. Hello,

    While I do understand your main points, I wanted to make a comment on a blog post but I couldn’t because you have closed it :(

    I really think that you should leave comments open for a week. Someone start sending spam, just block the IP for 2 weeks or so.

  9. I read your RSS feed on my phone … usually while on the crapper, which made me wonder … what if your experienceing the smartphone phenomenon and people aren’t commenting because they now browse via phone (which is easy to read in places not conductive to typing e.g. ‘taking a crap’?

    Haha sorry just figured I make it count:)

  10. Hey Jeff Long Time

    I’m with you on this comment thing it becomes a business of itself. Anyway just wanted to stop by and thank you and all the rest of the pros posting here for tutoring, mentoring, and teaching. I’ve been on a wild web adventure the past year going from self hosted WordPress’s to Blogspot to Tumblr etc, etc. Without you people I would have never have accomplished as much as I have.

    Best Regards!

  11. Let’s hope this new policy will not make the site degrade.
    I remember reading some articles on your blog that were integrated by comments in a very good positive direction.
    I guess that right now isn’t so anymore, btw I’m still thankful for all the great tutorials I’ve found so far here and all the helpful tips I’ve found too in their comments.
    And Jeff please understand also that there’s people (like me for example) whom first language isn’t english.

  12. Terry Sutton July 20, 2011 @ 4:12 am

    Kudos. The only two sites I’ve seen successfully implement comments are 37Signals and Jeffrey Zeldman. They either attract a better clientele than most, or judiciously preen bottom-feeding commenters from the stream.

    Comments have made the web a worse place, and stand in the way of people having the time to make more content.

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