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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 = Designer. Developer. Producer. Writer. Editor. Etc.
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40 responses
  1. I agree. Another way would be to moderate them, but you would waste a lot of time reading them all just to find a few useful things so yeah, that additional step of jumping to contact just to say “thanks” or to contribute with anything will be a great filter. Keep up the good work, and know that there are people even in Argentina that love reading and learning with each post you make.

    Thanks!

  2. Funny how human nature is, eh? If you’d said you were going to close them after a week, people probably would have asked you for two weeks!

    Personally, I think it’s totally reasonable. I really appreciate the bloggers who share valuable insights/information. It’s only about 20% of the time that I see something of substance in the comments that really adds to the value of the post.

    It’s all about compromise. If moderation is taking up more of your time than you’re comfortable with, then it’s totally reasonable to do something to simplify that.

  3. Catherine Azzarello July 20, 2011 @ 6:42 am

    Sounds like a good idea, although I’d start with a week time limit–give subscribers a chance to read over weekend or such.

    Have you considered hiring a VA (virtual assistant)? Comment moderation might be a good task to assign.

    I’ve been thinking about getting a VA myself…when I get a chance!

  4. Thomas Scholz July 20, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

    I totally understand you, Jeff. I would (and probably will) close comments automatically one week after the last approved comment to avoid interrupted discussions.
    Unfortunately I don’t have the time to write such a plugin. But I don’t have time to write new articles too … :)

  5. Seye Kuyinu July 20, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

    Hey hey!

    I just read your post about blocking comments. I don’t think you should do it.

    The thing is, nasty people will always drop comments. There will always be idiots. You just seive your comments. Delete the ones that shouldn’t go.

    Sometimes leaving your comments open could even help you. For instance, you could have a post up and give a procedure for doing something and some random person comments with an approach you never thought of.

    I read your posts EVERYTIME. I guess this is the first time I am commenting.

    Good job Jeff

  6. Jeff Starr

    Thank you for the feedback on this topic. After further reflection, 2-3 days may be too soon, so I was thinking.. what about setting up a Forum for discussion on posts and possibly other topics?

    Would that be useful or just make things worse? Just thinking out loud here.

    • so, kind of a logged-in-only discussion method?
      a colleague of mine had that with his site for a while; also so he could post stuff that wasnt ment to be public read-able.

      worked out quite good for him for a while, till his personal priorities changed. aside of that, it’d prolly still work nifty ;)

      cu, w0lf.

    • Jeff,
      I think a forum will be more work for you. Why don’t you think about getting some help to just handle comments moderation?
      Or just take it easy, procastinating a bit the thread of moderating comments, putting people a bit on hold.
      This way probably you would discourage somehow those with silly intentions.

  7. I would suggest to leave comments open over the following weekend of publishing.

    A forum is not idiot safer than a blog but will involve more moderation :)

    just my thoughts

  8. I’ve got quite a cool idea for you: I am using an old plugin coded by OZH which looks first at the age of the newest comment, if there are no comments yet it checks the last modified date and if it was never modified it checks the post creation date. If the age is bigger than what I specified, it will put all comments in moderation.

    You could easily modify it or code your own to change it so that it completely closes comments.

    The idea is brilliant since it keeps conversations going and doesn’t cut them off!

  9. a lot folks handle it this way: closed comments, but if you have something to say, just email.

    the better way of corpse could be the combination of the fast-off/discussions still going on/email-me-patterns.

    So, a hypothetical script could work like this (somewhat pseudo-php):

    if($days > 14 && days_since($last_comment->post_date) > 2) {
    close_comments( $post_id );
    }

    if(is_comments_closed() ) {
    show_email_comment_form(); // with added anti-spammyness
    }

    cu, w0lf.

  10. Yep I think a forum would be a neato extension. I notice Chris Coyer has a forum on his excelllent CSS Tricks site – and he has comments enabled too. The two serve different purposes though. The forum is where folks can ask questions and hopefully have solutions posted while Comments are not that.

    Comments are the ‘instant reaction’ to a post and most often consist of a ‘thanks for posting’, ‘great topic’ or ‘I agree’ etc etc – I see nothing wrong with such comments. Comments shouldn’t necessarily add to a topic – they are what they are, merely comments and not extensions.

    My gut feeling is that as a blog site, then comments should be left on always. Good or bad, comments still produce the odd nugget of goodness that makes them worthwhile. And it is the place where you can actively publicly engage with your readers/followers. Somehow switching off comments sounds like defeat.

    But I ask the question: if you don’t like some of the posted comments for being low-brow or pointless, then how is a forum going to ensure that things get any better?

    Cheers
    I

  11. would someone please moderate my comment? ;-)

  12. People are overwhelmed with the amount of input in the world and often speed-read, explaining at least the commenters who appear to not have read the article. In my opinion, your work is most useful to those who find it sometime probably long after it is posted. Information on a topic they are searching for. So… this might be problematic with your new scheme.

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