Not learning from Dave Winer

Joel Spolsky is a smart guy who writes a great blog called Joel On Software — a blog on which he recently posted something that is completely wrong. Okay, not completely wrong, but more wrong than it is right. And I’m not just saying that because I have something against Dave Winer — I don’t. But I think Joel is wrong to tell us that we should learn something from Dave when it comes to comments on blogs.

This is something I have written a fair bit about — most recently here — because I think it’s an important question. In fact, I think it was one of the first big issues I tackled when I started this blog (that post also involved Dave Winer, who got mad at me for criticizing him over not having comments). A debate went around and around at that time about whether a blog without comments is still a blog, and my position then was — and still is — that a blog without comments may technically be a blog, but it is missing a giant part of what makes blogs powerful.

As Clay Shirky points out at Corante, there may be dozens (if not thousands) of examples of how comments are stupid and the people who make them are morons, as Joel alleges in his post. But at the same time, there are also plenty of examples of posts (including some of my own) in which the comments held more information and generated more thought and debate than the post that sparked them.

To be fair to Dave, he does allow comments — just not many of them, and only occasionally. That’s clearly the way he wants to run his blog, which is fine. And there’s no question that having comments requires some management, or what I call social gardening. But I think blogs — and blog readers and writers — are better for having them.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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