Over the years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve continually made the argument (as plenty of other people have as well) that comments are an integral part of a fully-functioning blog. As part of my new job as communities editor at the Globe and Mail — which I wrote about here — I’ve been encouraging writers at the newspaper to not just read the comments but also respond to them. Why? A couple of reasons. One is that it helps to improve the tone of the comments, since it helps to make it obvious that a) someone is reading them and b) someone actually cares what is being said.
The other reason is that, despite the occasional idiot who just wants to pick a fight, comments can help to trigger not just an interesting conversation, but one that actually expands and advances the issue in question. Fred Wilson’s blog post on the future of newspapersis an excellent example. It’s actually a follow-up to a previous post about his use of media, but it has sparked a fascinating debate about the efficacy of blogs as a reporting medium, the utility of editors, and many other topics. And Fred is right there, as he always is, responding and interjecting alongside them.
The most obvious thing about the post, of course, is that it is in response to a comment from a reader, who said that Fred’s blog was great but that it wasn’t a replacement for journalism in any real sense because he doesn’t report on things, he just opines. Fred responds, and then other readers move the debate forward, including Dave Winer and entrepreneur Steven Kane, talking about the differences (or lack thereof) between blogging and reporting, about examples of each, about future business models.