Seth Godin is a smart guy, and a marketing whiz who regularly gets asked to talk about how to communicate better, and who has written a bunch of books about how to market yourself or your company, including the “purple cow” one that many people are familiar with. So why has he decided not to have comments on his blog? Apparently, Seth would much rather stand at a lectern and show a bunch of PowerPoint (or, more likely, Keynote) slides, and then get his fee and move on.
Web 2.0 — or whatever we’re calling it nowadays — is supposed to be about the conversation, isn’t it? It’s not much of a conversation if you’re the only one talking, a point I have tried to make several times in the past, including here and here . In fact, a blog with no comments is more like a traditional media vehicle, in the sense that it’s a monologue, one that sends a subtle message that the writer has all the answers, and you the reader are simply a receptacle, a passive audience with nothing to contribute.
We added comments on every story at the newspaper I work for, the Globe and Mail, because we would like to hear from readers — some of whom, it must be said, seem to like shouting or criticizing just for the sake of criticizing, but many of whom have intelligent and thoughtful things to say. The BBC has its “Have Your Say” feature for the same reason. In many ways, it’s the evolution of the letters section, or a more civilized version of call-in radio shows. We benefit from it, and so do our readers, and I would argue blogs do the same.
Seth says that it takes too much of his time to think about or weed out comments on his blog, and that he finds himself changing the way he writes because of what people say. This, apparently, is a bad thing. And yet, in a previous post — one which did have comments, for some unknown reason — Seth talks about how to have a successful blog, and number 27 is “Include comments so your blog becomes a virtual water cooler that feeds itself.” Good advice. But not for Seth Godin, it seems.
I think the “no comments” idea is related to the “no links” idea, which my M-list buddy Kent Newsome had a bit of rant about awhile back, and with good reason. As he points out, not linking — which Steve Gillmor and others seem to be promoting — is all about arrogance and vanity. And so, I would argue, is not having comments. It says that the writer believes no one has anything useful to contribute but them. And I think it makes Seth’s blog inherently less appealing, to me at least. Scott Karp seems to agree with me, but (not surprisingly) Dave Winer doesn’t. And Anne Zelenka has a great post about it here — always happy to see you in the quiet hallways of the weekend Internet, Anne. Kent says that non-linking and non-commenting bloggers suffer from faux agoraphobia.