Do blog comments still matter?

by Mathew on July 10, 2007 · 13 comments

Fresh from his financing round for Ning, former Netscape creator and new blogging superstar Marc Andreessen has a great list of eleven lessons he has learned since he started his blog a little over a month ago. Most of them are excellent, including the one where he admits he was wrong about blogging (when he said it required too much “time and ego”) and says:

“It is crystal clear to me now that at least in industries where lots of people are online, blogging is the single best way to communicate and interact.”

blogging.jpgHe also notes that in his experience “original content is what generates readership” (although I think it helps if you have a track record like Marc does) and that while he gets hits from Digg.com and so on, a surprising amount of traffic comes from StumbleUpon.com, which is something I’ve heard many times from other bloggers as well. But Marc also says something I’m not sure I agree with: he says he has turned off comments on his blog because he doesn’t have time to moderate them, and in any case that he sees the existence of blogs and trackbacks and search mechanisms like Technorati.com and Google’s blog search as an effective replacement for comments.

It’s ironic, in a way, that Andreessen also says he doesn’t feel he has to have comments on his blog because he can find other blog posts that refer to his — and then post a comment on them. If they also turned off comments, of course, that wouldn’t work. But would it be enough for everyone to have a blog and just respond to each other in the same way Marc describes?

I think there are a couple of problems with that, and it’s something I’ve thought a fair bit about and posted on in the past (raising the ire of Dave Winer, among others). The first is (obviously) that not everyone has a blog, or wants to have a blog. I have some persistent commenters whose opinions I value who don’t appear to have blogs at all — they blog by commenting. Last Podcast makes a similar point, and I see that Fred Wilson agrees with me too.

The second problem is that not everything requires a blog post. Just today, I came across a mention on Jeremy Liew’s Lightspeed blog about my post on Facebook hiring Chamath Palihapitiya, in which Jeremy described me as “questioning the hire.” Not a big deal, but I posted a comment saying I was just having some fun with the AOL connection, not questioning his abilities. Not something that would require a whole blog post, but enough to clear up a misunderstanding (I hope).

I’m only using that as an example. And I see Marc’s point about the difficulty of moderating comments, and looking for other solutions (such as a Meebo plugin, etc.). But why not allow users to moderate their own comments? I don’t know if Typepad has something like that, but WordPress does. Robert Scoble, ever the enterprising blogger, has even offered to host Marc’s comments.

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