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Where Have All The Comments Gone?

Years ago, the online design community was a thriving conversationalist — of sorts — through the comment sections across the community. It was through leaving meaningful comments that the thought-provoking ideas presented and discussed in a post were examined by others whose perspective and experiences may have provided them with a slightly different take.

The continued dissection and discussion of the topic expanded the dialog far beyond the initial post, challenging and redirecting ideas and allowing dialog to evolve; it showed a certain level of critical thinking from within the community. We still have sites that are1 design2 conversationalists, but unfortunately they are rather exceptions. And it seems that the problem occurs not only in the design community, but in other areas3 as well.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

Since those good old days, things have taken an unexpected turn. Comments are becoming less and less expansions on the ideas presented, and more and more just simple offerings of praise or agreement. Even in articles where solutions are being sought for problem areas within the field, numerous comments show acceptance of this need for action but offer no solution or approach; often, the comments also show that the ideas were not given much consideration by the reader.

This is certainly not indicative of every comment on every post out there across the blogosphere, or a generalization about the community — just an observation of an increasing trend. Once, posts would inspire active discussion and participation with such a wide range of opinions that the post would take on a whole new life. That phenomenon has faded.

What Is This Saying? Link

The rise of the less-than-conversational commenting can make it look like we are losing our capacity for critical thinking — at least, with regards to the topics being presented for discussion. It can sometimes feel like there are those who rush to throw their support behind the author of the post without considering what is being proposed. Even if you agree with what was said and wish to show your support, there are still ways to comment that indicate a more thoughtful approach.

Sometimes comments can also leave the impression that the commentator just skimmed through the headers and did not read the article in full. The sentiments left behind in such comments, though they may be honest, can impart a hollow feeling rather than the intended encouragement.

So, What Happened? Link

There is one important aspect of online content that we often tend to forget. With most posts (beyond those intended to offer inspiration and little else), the ideas presented are there to be examined and dissected; they are not the “final word” on the subject, but a perspective presented for consideration. They don’t have to be correct and they don’t have to be accepted “as is”. The current commenting attitude can effectively undercut any potential ongoing discussion that the author of the post set out to have. When, and why, did the dialog die? Perhaps if we can root out the cause, we can better address the problem.

1. It’s a Matter of Time Link

One obvious consideration is time. Our multiple daily online “obligations” can cause our time to be finely divided; we may opt to leave behind a quick sentiment because our RSS feeds are calling with dozens of other articles that we want to give our attention to; because we have e-mails to attend to; or because any number of time-consuming reasons keep us “running” the whole time we are online.

2. The Social Media Connection Link

Perhaps the rise of social media shares some blame for the devolving of critical commenting. People started using social media networks more frequently and offering follow-up thoughts mainly when they shared a post, usually limiting their comments to little or nothing; it became easier to simply share a post, rather than to actively formulate a meaningful follow-up comment to leave on the post itself. And as the path of least resistance is often the one traveled most, here we are.

3. Just a Visual Contribution Link

We also have to consider that for some of the blogosphere populous, commenting is more about visibility than actually contributing to the discussion. At times, the only purpose is to be “seen” on the website or to have their information linked to the website via the comment section — especially if they can be the absolute first to leave a comment. It does not really matter what the post is about; in fact, they may not have even read it. What’s often overseen in these cases is that links next to a meaningful comment are an indicator of author’s competence and as such much more useful and therefore much more valuable than simple link dropping.

As Content Creators, What Can We Do? Link

What can content creators do to generate more discussion and critical thinking among readers? Many of us are unwilling to adopt a focus on putting out content that does not promote critical thinking; we wish to keep challenging our readers and colleagues. We like to read content which gets us thinking and questioning, so in turn, we like to create the same type of content.

Photo credit: Ian Muttoo9

1. Maximize Engagement Link

Find creative ways to ensure that the content we are putting out is as engaging or interactive as possible. If you can involve your readers in the post, you are more apt to get them thinking about the ideas being presented. Ask them questions throughout the article to get them into an inquisitive state of mind, so that they may end up reading with a much more critical eye and have more comments to make.

2. Respond in a Timely Manner Link

Watch the comments that are coming in and reply to them within a day or so. This is not to say that we have to be available at a moment’s notice to respond to each comment; but if readers take the time to consider your ideas and to leave their thoughts, we need to take the time to reply. Most will check back in a day or two to see if you have responded, hoping to keep the discussion going; if we have not gotten back to them by then, they might write off the idea of continuing the dialog and move on.

3. Foster a Conversational Environment Link

Create an atmosphere that is conducive to dialog. If we are already asking questions to get responses and are responding back, we need to nurture the conversation by being approachable. If your ideas are challenged, you have done well; don’t let that make you feel defensive about your original points as that tone will come across in your replies and might degrade the discussion into a debate, with both sides becoming more entrenched.

4. Adapt the Discussion Link

If our audience is turning to social media networks with their thoughts and follow-ups, we might have to adjust our approach and adopt an “If you can’t beat them, join them” mentality by moving the conversation there — even if it leads away from the original post. We can then try to later steer the conversation back to the comment section attached to the original article or post.

As Commentators, What Can We Do? Link

We cannot forget that we end up as both creator, and commentator, in our daily online lives — or at least, we should. Admittedly, having fallen victim to the social media networks, I now tend to comment less on blog posts than I did before. We have to fall back on that golden rule: treat others as we wish to be treated, and seek out other articles to read through and critically consider. When we don this hat, we need to take the responsibility seriously and give as good as we expect to get.

1. Offer Personal Highlights Link

Even when we are in complete agreement with a post and have nothing to expand on, we can still leave meaningful comments: we can always take the time to let the rest of those participating in the comment thread know what areas resonated with us. By highlighting what connected with us, you allow the author to get some insight into what is landing with the audience, and by default, what is not.

2. Be Constructive Link

Remain as constructive as possible so the conversation doesn’t get derailed. There is no use in belittling or insulting the points presented even if you disagree with them, especially if you are interested in actual dialog or in getting the author to rethink a position. This does assume that our intention, as readers, is to expand on the ideas presented; if we feel we cannot reasonably or respectfully contribute to the dialog, we should just move along without leaving any comment.

3. Read Fully Before Drawing Conclusions Link

If we are going to leave a comment, especially one that raises a point of contention, we need to fully read the post. If we are pressed for time and have a “Shoot first, ask questions later” attitude, we may skim through the post, get something out of context, and immediately jump down to the comment section to dispute it — forgetting that the rest of the article could contextualize the point, or even cover what we are about to comment on.

4. Ask Questions Link

Ask relevant questions about the points that were raised to instigate further discussion. When creating content ourselves, we often lean on queries to spark dialog and to get comments flowing; why not employ the same tactic when we are on the other side of the discussion? Even if all of the ideas in the post were expressed plainly enough, one can always ask follow-up questions. Again we want to keep the tone of our comments in mind, so that our inquiries stand a better chance of being well received and of getting answered.

Contributing our own experiences can further the discussion and bring others into that portion of the continuing conversation, but only relevant contributions need apply: it is one thing to offer a story to really accentuate a point made in the article, but quite another to share a story that has nothing to do with the post.

In Conclusion Link

Many factors could have brought about this uncritical commenting trend, and there are many ways that we can combat diminishing dialog to spark critical thinking in our readers and encourage them to “see” what they read with inquisitive eyes. Most bloggers have no problem receiving praise for their posts, but when the readers are additionally provoked to think more about the topic and to leave a comment that carries on the discussion, the post evolves — a win for both the blogger and the readers.

…So, What Do You Think? Link

Footnotes Link

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Rob Bowen is a staff writer for Web Hosting Geeks and Top Web Hosting, a longtime freelance designer, and burgeoning videographer and filmmaker whose creative voice and works can be heard and found around the web.

  1. 1

    FIRST! Great article thx!

    … seriously though, I wholeheartedly agree. I blame the listicles culture – the content swallowed itself in a sea of “50 [jquery/CSS/techniques] you [should/must] use” articles. The content became disposable and the comments reflected that. We are still seeing the after effects.

    • 2

      Its all getting so post-ironic on this site I’m not even sure what is a real comement and what isn’t! Presuming you calling him a prick in genuine, he was being playful and pretending to be the type of comment this post is highlighting as a problem. Having said that, if you calling him a prick was doing the same, you are blowing my mind!

    • 3

      You do realize the whole point of this article was to bring thoughtful discussion to the forefront. I don’t believe you understood the point, Mike.

      If you reread Jordan’s post, you would realize that he was using sarcasm at the beginning. The problem with comments today is what he pointed out with “FIRST! Great article thx!,” which doesn’t lead to any conversation because it has no value and you made his point perfectly valid with your demeaning reply. Please read point 3 again under the heading “As Commentators…” to get my point.

      • 4

        Exactly chaps.

        Sorry Mike, perhaps you needed a big “/s” to point that out and prevent an embarrassing *whoossshh!* on front of everybody.

    • 6

      Thanks, Jordan, I think you are on to something there! Appreciate the follow-up.

    • 7

      Perhaps I was wrong. It seems even those comments like were highlighted can even start a discussion. ;)

  2. 9

    Chris Butterworth

    November 19, 2010 4:26 am

    I’d agree entirely, there are a lot of visitors to blogs that just don’t post anymore.
    There might be a lot of reasons for this but they are a mystery; it could be shear laziness.
    But you’re right the only way to get more user engagement, is to engage them more; create more interesting posts and topics, create discussions and leave personal insight.

    • 10

      One must remember the international audience of Smashing. Many readers, while being able to read English can’t or are embarrassed to respond in English. The love and desire is there but not the ability. I say respond in your native language and let others translate!

      • 11

        I’ve seen this done before. It’s kind of nice to see people from your country commenting in your own language. The problem might be that you’re leaving out other users that may wonder what you’re saying. But then again
        But anyway, if you can’t write in English, I guess it’s better to at least share some knowledge / insight.

        • 12

          Gabriel, only Americans are limited in language skills. We have yet to think globally and students take a couple of years of French or Spanish and most fail at basic English. We do have got us a lot of them nuclear missiles!

    • 13

      Thanks for the added insights! Creating the discussion is a big part of it. You want to leave room for that discussion to unfold, which could mean, undercovering a topic so there is more left to discuss in the comment section.

      Very true, speider, that is something to consider. I like seeing comments in other languages (even if I don’t understand what is being said at first), but understand completely those who are uncomfortable enough to go there. Thanks!

  3. 14

    I agree, It’s extremely hard to get a constracrive comment this days. As said in the article I think this is mostly because lack of time this days…

    • 15

      Please accept this little piece of constructive criticism: use a spell checker before posting a comment. If the issue is lack of time, then don’t bother leaving a comment.

      • 16

        Could you explain why thats important? its about communicating quickly, if you have an anal preoccupation with spelling and grammar that’s your problem, as long as it’s readable then what does it matter?

        • 17

          Darryl Jonckheere

          November 21, 2010 10:11 am

          My pleasure to respond Davek. Call me anal, but the comment above only seemed a tad ironic in light of the ensuing discussion in response to the first comment.

          These types of comments (e.g. flaky praise, redundant remarks, even inattentive spelling and grammar) only illustrate the crux of Bowen’s essay, that the uncritical commenting trend permeating the blogosphere is very real.

          Perhaps I’m being a little too critical for calling out a minor spelling error but it seems many people are simply too distracted to take the time to think about what they’re saying and how they’re saying it.
          So by all means, continue not investing the extra 1 to 2 minutes required to proofread what you’ve written—ultimately the choice is yours. You can strive to communicate in a clear, concise and intelligent manner or perpetuate the conclusions set forth by Bowen.

          • 18

            Shimone Samuel

            November 22, 2010 2:09 pm

            Darryl, I agree with Davek here – how does criticizing grammar or spelling add to the conversation? More to the point, how does poor grammar or spelling take away from it? I’m reminded of the cn y rd ths sentce evn th letts ar missng trick. If you can read and comprehend it what’s been lost?

            In the context of this article I find the practice of berating or “constructively” criticizing someone’s grammar and/or spelling to be particularly distasteful and dare I say, elitist. People read and reply from across the globe on a myriad of devices. Not all of them have access to a spell checker, some pay hefty fees by the minute, others have poor English, some are on a mobile device, few copy/paste their comments from a word processor.

            Personally, I post on comments less because of just this sort of thing. Without fail there will always be at least one of each of the following:

            Obvious spam
            Cloaked spam
            Grammar police

            Consider what a person has to say and excuse them for any imperfections. Do use your intellect to contribute something thoughtful, don’t use your intellect to criticize others constructively.

          • 19

            Darryl Jonckheere

            November 23, 2010 9:46 pm

            Shimone, I appreciate your thoughts even if they do contrast with my personal point of view. I feel you are right in this case, perhaps I was being a little too harsh of another person’s comments.
            If I take a certain pride in emphasizing good diction I should not expect or berate others for failing to to so — my apologies.
            In fact, the more I think about it, offering a complete stranger in the blogosphere a piece of constructive criticism appears to carry with it the added consequence of being called-out by others who may themselves be critical of my thoughts.

            In retrospect it would have been much easier for me to simply click the ‘thumbs down’ button and remain completely anonymous wouldn’t you say?

  4. 20

    rafael armstrong

    November 19, 2010 4:42 am

    I definitely agree that there is a major lack of participation and engagement across a large percentage of blogs and other social media (I’d argue that it’s reflective of our world in general, but that’s a whole other conversation). In my experience, more often than not, when I go to comment, I find that people have already echoed repeatedly my exact thoughts on the issue (sometimes using identical language, to boot), so I start thinking it’s repetitive and doesn’t add anything to the conversation. Other times, it’s simply just a matter of time.

    Discuss. :)

    • 21

      Ryan Bollenbach

      November 19, 2010 6:23 am

      Yeah I totally know what you mean, I’m often times in the same boat but maybe it would be a good idea for us to think of new things to bring to the table? :). Or throw the conversation in a new direction?

    • 22

      That could be the reflection you were talking about. Very true. And I get what you are saying about not wanting to echo what others have said. That does make sense. Though, from the perspective of the writer, it is still nice to know if something raised in the post resonated so much with so many. If multiple comments come in along the same lines, then you know that you really hit that point or completely missed it. Either way, the more people talking about it, the more it shows resonance. IMHO.

      Time is the big one for me. I often find that I want to go back to a post to comment later when the clock is being kinder to me, but I don’t always remember to do so.

      • 23

        There isn’t much incentive in posting a long reply in the comments section. And there is less incentive to repeat what someone else already said. I know that you, as an author, want to know everyone’s opinion and whether a certain position is popular among your readers but then again, that’s just what YOU want as the writer. It goes against the popular mantra of giving the users what they want.

        I’m a person who writes really long comments and coming back to the site only to find out that no one else read through the long comments section and replied to my well-thought out post. It becomes disheartening after a while. So I can sort of understand why someone wouldn’t bother to repeat or rehash an idea, or even expound on an interesting point.

        I’m not blaming people for not reading through long comments. After all, the web has grown so much and visibility has become a luxury. Users’ attention and time has become the new “non-renewable” resource – if you’re going to post something long and insightful in the comments section, might as well post it in your own blog. This has a larger chance of being read all the way through rather than being buried and forgotten in a site’s comments section. Plus, all your thoughts are in one place: your blog/site instead of being scattered around cyberspace. There’s less chance of you contradicting yourself that way. Hehe

        (Kudos to you though, I bet this article will have loads of long, insightful comments compared to the usual)

        • 24

          Darryl Jonckheere

          November 20, 2010 10:17 pm

          Hi Mary, I’m sorry you feel disheartened when it seems as though you’ve poured your heart and soul into a written piece and no one makes the effort to leave a comment or provide any meaningful acknowledgement.
          As an avid blogger of several years, I can vouch for the fact that comments—especially those of the thoughtful variety—are on the decline. Unlike the high traffic sites, including Smashing Mag, most bloggers publishing outside of the digital limelight (myself included) are lucky to get even 2 or 3 comments on any given post. This is the reality of our hyper-connected digital landscape. Most people are simply too time-constrained or distracted to bother reading at length online—let alone leaving a thoughtful comment.
          Don’t let a lack of feedback stop you from blogging—if you really enjoy writing, keep pursuing it.

        • 25

          Hey Mary, don’t get disheartened now! :) I’ve read your comments & I’m really glad to read comments like yours that are long and informative also presenting a different opinion!

          Also, I agree with Darryl. I’m not an author, I’m just a reader, & i’m trying to be a better commentator, but times have changed. There are so many choices, so many articles to read, that we are in a rush! Honestly, sometimes, when i read an article, i forget that i should comment! Also, on many other occasions, when i really like the article, i just leave by a few lines like ‘great articles’ or ‘thanks’ like that! It’s kinda hard for me to comment on all those articles but at least when i leave just some words of appreciation, i think it’s good for the author & for me too!
          “there are always more likes on a post or a photo in facebook than there are comments”, its a fact, people prefer to click the like button much more than commenting!

          But, anyways, I go through most of the comments to get some more from the article, & they are indeed very helpful! So, for people like us, people like you and others those who possess a wider vision & knowledge regarding that subject, should comment without getting disheartened!

          • 26

            Thanks. :) (and thanks to darryl too)

            Don’t worry, I still read absurdly long posts and write absurdly longer comments.

      • 27

        Ryan Bollenbach

        November 21, 2010 3:53 pm

        Yeah, I’m usually totally in the same boat. At work I like to read articles fast and don’t have enough time to reflect on articles. Now I’m starting to read a lot more at home so it works out nicely :).

  5. 28

    I very rarely post comments on any blogs I read. In the same way I don’t email newspapers or magazines. I have read an article because I wanted to read/learn something, not because I feel that I have any specific or worthwhile to say.
    Generally if I do comment, it is a ‘awesome, thanks for sharing’ or ‘nice one, I’ll try that out’ kind of vibe.
    I don’t know – I think you are overthinking and overplaying this.
    Just me…

    • 29

      Advitum Webdesign

      November 19, 2010 5:48 am

      I don’t think this is overplayed!
      It really is hard to start a discussion on a blog lately. Constructive and thoughtful comments can give the author an impression how his readers think about a special topic. And new ideas often are born out of a discussion.

      I wish the readers of my own blog would give me some comments. Without comments, I somehow feel like they don’t think about what I write.
      My Blog (it’s German):

    • 30

      Ryan Bollenbach

      November 19, 2010 8:25 am

      I agree with you in a sense Duncan, I think everyone has a right to their own thoughts and it’s just trying to get the message across that the level of thought going into contributing to an articles conversation is dwindling. But yeah, I’d say do what feels comfortable for you.

    • 31

      Oh, I get that, I do. Like Ryan pointed out, this post is highlighting how much this conversation has shifted. I myself have left comments like those talked about. It happens. The post just questions why, and seeks to get others thinking about this. Again, I completely understand where you are coming from.

      And like Ryan said, you need to do what feels comfortable for you.

  6. 32

    Maicon Sobczak

    November 19, 2010 4:48 am

    Insightful article. Certainly to comment with constructive ideas is important to strengthen our community. Your ideas for commentators and creators of content are perfectly applicable.

    I always try to comment when I can, just for support the blogs where I learned much of what I know about web development. The lack of time and no proficiency in english is the cause why I don’t comment with more frequence.

    An article like this one is essencial to slap the face the community and show to us the importance to participate and maintain our habitat.

    • 33

      Ryan Bollenbach

      November 19, 2010 6:25 am

      yeah I totally agree, I’m in the same boat, I don’t take out the time for it. I think it’s really important though to grasp more of a connection with the article and the readers to to grow with the community.

  7. 34

    I agree. Most comments aren’t really ingenious or even helpful. I think the main cause of this is a matter of time. Let me tell you how I experience this: Since there was twitter, I didn’t use my RSS-Feeds much. Today, I don’t use them anymore. Sure, there are some nice and precious blogs/bloggers out there who don’t twitter. But I think: If they don’t want to give this service the right attention, their blogs/articles won’t earn attention, too.

    So far on this, BUT: In our company, and I think there might be many other people like us, use multiple twitteraccounts. Like one for the company, one for a company’s blog and a private one. To be able to retweet important tweets, there might be some “double-followings”. I just follow “interessting” bloggers or companies, but this is annoying part: Every two minutes a new tweet shows up like “read that”, “whatch this!”, “what do you think about that?” – and if you follow some nice blogs of our business like Smashing, DesignInformer, WebDesignStandards, WebdesignDepot, etc. there are dozens of retweets. While I am riding this, I got 3 new tweets like that.

    Even if you don’t work the whole day, you can hardly read or even check these links and give an adequate feedback in a comment. This might be a reason. There is just too much of meaningless information/inspiration out there and the nice, valuable articles “disappear”. It’s quality against quantity. I would rather read 3 or 4 good articles per month, than 6 per week which aren’t even worth the time reading them.

    Perhaps we should go back to RSS? Or think about what to twitter?

    • 35

      Actually I do find myself moving back to my RSS reader more and more.

    • 36

      I have found myself moving away from Twitter and back to the RSS feeds as I can obtain a more objective insight on the point the author is trying to get across. I find Twitter with it’s 140 char micro posts un-meaningful and lacks the ability to truly instill debate with the readers. Anymore I just use Twitter as a way to push good articles that I come across so the folks who follow me can click through to the articles.

      I miss the debates and insightful commenting which is why the long hiatus on posting something new on my blogs. I have been working in the IT field for sometime now and I am sure there are other old farts like me who stay away from posting do to the same reasons which is the lack of true interaction that most of these micro blogging sites have taken away.

      Not to say that a quick ‘Kudo’ comment is not welcome but tell the author WHY it was a good article. Life is more than just tweets by twits. kwim?

    • 37

      Wow, I think you nailed a big cause right there! I was just mentioning above that with the growing number of content creators, we are essentially swimming through the floods of content. Not always time or desire to follow up. Perhaps there is an element of overwhelming with so many links flying at us from all directions. Maybe you are right, and RSS is the way to go.

  8. 38

    I know that I start the morning at work by working through my RSS feeds, which usually results in having anywhere between three and ten articles from the community open. At which point they stay open, all day, unread.

    Usually, by the end of the day, I might have a chance to skim through a couple…certainly not enough to feel I can contribute. Most of the time they go in to my “Read It Later” stuff, which right now stands at 84 articles.

    While I think part of it is time, the other part is how many blogs there are now to read that have worthy content. Overnight I can usually end up with up to 30 new posts in my reader, and that doesn’t include all the stuff that will be posted throughout the day. More to read plus less time to read results in a problem.

    I think what we the readers can do is focus on one or two sites that we are going to commit to not just reading, but participating. We can still read the others, but we should really make the effort in those couple of sites to be part of the site, as opposed to just another visitor.

    I am going to make a “Read and comment” folder in my reader and fill it over the next week with a couple of sites I think I could contribute to regularly, and then set aside the time normally devoted to skimming everyone to really being a part of those sites.

    I also agree with Jordan above – the plethora of “Top 20” articles has probably contributed to this. Not that I don’t appreciate those, but comments to those articles are going to be limited to “Great list” and “You forgot…” type posts.

  9. 40

    I find it funny that the first 5 comments are exact examples of the content of this article!

  10. 45

    I think your “Just a Visual Contribution” point is the key here. I doubt anyone is under the illusion that “great post, thanks” is a meaningful contribution. They are posting to get their name and link out there. Half the time they are low-quality blogs with boring, unresearched “top 50 jquery plugins” type articles.

    I love the approach of CSS Tricks, where low quality comments are hidden or removed. Maybe Smashing Magazine could try that? It would certainly make the comments much easier to digest!

    • 46

      I am with you on that the clutter of useless contributions does make it more difficult for the readers interested in the discussion to sort through. Good idea for sure.

  11. 47

    In the past I used to be more engaged in online forum discussions specifically around design and dev. I still post on forums but the gaming type.

    I think the move from portal to blog sites may have had a play with this, also. Blog commenting is way too accessible there’s no real credit to build. While with portal you would sign up and be more engaged with an actual captive community and over time get to know folk. You don’t always get that with blog sites. There’s no sense of obligation.

    • 48

      Good point. There isn’t that sense of obligation, which as you pointed out, does play a part. Perhaps as creators we need to find a way to tap into this and create this sense within our readers through our content. The more they are engaged, the more they will feel like they need to contribute? Maybe?

      • 49

        Intriguing. That could work.

        What make blogs attractive is that it could be maintained even by one individual. Unlike with portals of which you eventually needed the help of others, or even for some, from the community (by assigning moderators etc).

        Now that was from the software maintenance aspect and content moderation. Now with this responsibility set aside the question is then how to actually keep the community engaged without having to increase the level of maintenance. Where would the balance be?

        What could possibly work is by allowing more interactivity with the content in itself, like you suggested through content. For example, in an article an individual can quickly highlight and nit pick a point in the article which would be linked to a further discussion on another section of the site. Think two tabs; Article, Views. In the Views there could be an extended discussion on the points set out in the Article – or even the highest ranking comments from the Article page are displayed in Views for further discussion.

        Think of it like Forum 2.0. Maybe then visitors would feel they could contribute their opinion based on a point of interest (at the same time allowing them to build their credibility) and possible create this “obligation” which is missed.

        Of course there’s a lot of aspects to consider… but definitely something to think about.

  12. 50

    Thought-provoking. I often find my WP site riddled with falsetto comments attempting to advertise a product or what-not. Personally I think most people are sick of the intentional flaming/flame-baiting/advertising that consumes the majority of comment sections, and would rather watch paint dry than have to sift through the plethora of drivel and asshattery to find the 1 meaningful comment. So…my real question would be: how do we stop the spammers/bots from turning away the otherwise would-be commenters?

    • 51

      Really good point and question, Jeff. The spamming is just going to require more vigilance on us as site runners. We have to vet the comments we let through more carefully to prevent these from sliding through.

    • 52

      The solution might just be to build a system that works without comments. You might think you need comments on your WP site because it’s some measure of reader participation but if all your getting is spam and the occasional “that’s great++” you might be better off turning comments off. The same can be said for most web applications.

  13. 53

    > 2. The Social Media Connection
    > 4. Adapt the Discussion

    We’ve started trying that. We’ve created hashtags on areas where only comments might have been available in the past (and then aggregating tweets and comments together).

    You can see it in action here:

    While this was a one-off experiment for events, it could clearly be pursued for a blog, magazine, etc.

    “Comments are becoming less and less expansions on the ideas presented, and more and more just simple offerings of praise or agreement.”

    While, I can’t say an experiment aggregating tweets as an alternative/compliment to comments led to more expansion on ideas, it might be interpreted as something more than shallow discourse. More an incentive for redistribution of information and social filtering, perhaps? A measure of attention in the diary of life? It definitely generated more “engagement” and discovery of other people interested in a common topic.

    And I believe that this is very different than simply allowing a person to authenticate to a site via openid/oauth. The end user (commenter) retains their individual contribution and it is connected to both their own online identity and the content object itself.

    I’d be interested in any thoughts …

    • 54

      Interesting. And kind of right on the mark with the adapting of the discussion. Take the conversation and expand it. I think this is interesting and would like to see more of these kinds of solutions.

    • 55

      I’ve been thinking of doing the same thing with a site I’m developing and there are defiantly other benefits. By using a platform where the author has a previously established social identity, they might be less likely to engage in trolling or spamming behavior. Obviously, users can still opt to sign-in using a secondary account on twitter where they do their spamming or trolling with some measure of anonymity but there’s a few simple solutions for that too.
      1 – check their friend count, spammers and trolls aren’t going to have many
      2 – check for links that don’t that don’t reference your domain.

  14. 56

    I agree, and I think you’re right in that some of the reasons are a lack of time and the event of social media.

    I believe people have an increasing amount of information to process. This causes stress and in order to keep up with all this information many people often interact with an easy “like” or “share” action.

    The networking factor plays in too, where participating in comments on a blog that relates to the topic of your blog, can be a way to form a fruitful connection both between bloggers and readers. The drawback is that as some blogs gain popularity and success, the less known blogger often hesitates to say anything that can be perceived as critical, and opts to flatter instead of contribute more deeply to the discussion.

    Oh, one more thing, I think that as the web evolves, people are getting tired of creating free content for a site that ultimately makes money off your activity and engagement. For example, when Amazon was new, many people submitted well written reviews of books, but as time has gone by it seems to me that people are less willing to do that.

    It’s an interesting topic!

  15. 57

    What about the trend towards social media integration replacing comments? Even on my almost no traffic blog all I get are spam commenters, which has prompted me to turn off commenting completely and replace it with a “Like” and “Tweet” button. I can not remember right now where I got the idea, but I think there’s some merit to that approach.

    The down side is of course the “conversation” aspect gets greatly reduced (as you point out), but maybe the content spread is greater.


  16. 58

    Floris Fiedeldij Dop

    November 19, 2010 5:09 am

    By the lack of quality of comments the irony is overflowing .. what a shame.

    Great article, but has been obvious since 1984 basically. <- not trying to troll.

  17. 59

    Fredrik Björeman

    November 19, 2010 5:10 am

    A thought which struck me while reading is that the cause could be as simple as reader- and commenter-ship going up.

    When readers, of any site, were limited to the select few deeply involved in the topic at hand, productive discussions could arise in comments to an article much easier. But the higher the precentage of readers and commenters who possess only tangential interest, the harder it becomes (mentally, if nothing else) to get a good discussion going. Good comments build into discussions more easily without random “filler” or “thumbs up” to distance them from eachother, and I personally seem to be unlikely to try and start a discussion if there are too many comments already (good or not). Chatting with a few people you share interests with in a cosy pub is quite a different thing to trying to engage a crowd of 500 in an auditorium, even if the topic is unchanged.

    • 60

      This is my thought exactly. 10 years ago — maybe even five years ago — relatively few people were involved in the field. They were, perhaps, more committed and dedicated, because this was still a little bit of a hobby and obsession. Now enormous numbers of people read the articles, particularly on something like Smashing, and many of these are neither expert nor deeply involved.

      Rather than being a community of equals within a small field, we have become a community where there are large numbers of beginners and/or learners who are simply trying to find things out from those who are more expert. In that case, the beginners have far less to contribute, other than their thanks.

  18. 61

    You may be committing a bit of historical revisionism in some of the claims you make here, but it’s definitely a problem that is getting worse. The main reason I think that there are so many who leave completely fruitless comments is that there’s absolutely no threshold to making comments.

    All I have to do to comment here is write in a name (which I can fake), an email (which I can fake), and then my message. If I had to actually verify who I was, or definitely put my real name to the comment, then you’d remove quite a few people who leave meaningless comments.

    If someone really has something relevant to say, something other than “OMG so good!” or “You’re retarded!”, they will make that extra effort to put in a comment.

    Let’s say I found a grave error in something you wrote, and felt I needed to make sure you knew about it. Now, you could put up any number of hurdles for me to comment, even make me verify myself with full name – I would still do it because I would stand 100% behind my comment. Why? Because I feel like the comment I want to make is actually meaningful to me, and will be meaningful to others.

    On my own blog, I force people to log in via Disqus with a registered account, like Twitter or Facebook. This has led to a lot less comments than the previous blog I had with the comment gates wide open – yet the percentage of meaningful comments has shot through the roof. Now almost only those who feel they have something of value to add, do.

    That’s my advice, anyways!

    • 62

      Just wanted to make a quick point about Disqus; I have an account, but I rarely use it.

      This is because whenever I go to post on a site that has it enabled, I’ll spend a while writing out a nice, long response… then it’ll throw an error in my face. If I really care I’ll keep working through it (sometimes as long as five minutes) in order to make my comment. Sometimes I’ll even email the author of the blog directly instead when it really fails.

      Most of the time I get fed up, abandon my nice, thoughtful comment, and walk away.

      I can understand why it would have the desired effect of negating the less useful comments, but it’s also possible that you’re missing out on some really good ones too.

  19. 63

    Well one other reason might be that many people abuse comments for their SEO strategy. They only post comments to get links to their website. This makes comments in many cases useless and discourages authors as well as commentators.
    So the commenting of articles in a short manner is not a lack of time, moreover it is a way of creating tons of links for search engines.

    And thank you for that article!

    • 64

      Advitum Webdesign

      November 19, 2010 5:53 am

      I think it is a good strategy that you can not post an URL with your comment on SmashiingMagazine. This way, these SEO-rubbish is stopped! And if you have to post a link which is relevant for your statement, you can just place it in the text ;)

  20. 65

    good post, thx for sharing :)

    • 66

      Hehe, you beat me.

    • 67

      I am “like”-ing this comment for the sense of humor. I just wish other readers would see the joke.

      For those who marked this comment with a negative… WTH. Just because they’ve read a let’s-save-the-drying-practice-of-commenting article, everyone is on a hate-short-funny-comments rage. Funny comments have uses too. Like breaking up long, boring discussions.

      This comments section “seriously” needs some lighting up. =P

  21. 68

    Elise Teddington

    November 19, 2010 5:22 am

    Social media has definitely impacted the way we communicate. I call it “The Twitter Effect.” We are now forced to be so concise in many of our digital communications – 130 characters or less in some cases, which I think changes the way we think and contribute. Its hard to develop a theory or construct a valid argument / suggestion / alternative when we have been programmed for brevity. I have definitely seen a correlation (not necessarily causality) between The Twitter Effect and the lack of input within our community. We are almost victims of our technology when it shrinks the brain think within our highly creative and technical field.

    We must take responsibility for our community’s development, who’s with me? Take this comment as my own reinvestment in quality communication that stimulates the great minds within my community of designers and developers – you are oh so talented!

  22. 69

    Guilty as charged. Both as a commenter and a blog owner (I think).

    My reason for responding with less throughtful comments than I used to is (as you pointed out) largely to do with the time I have available. However its also to do with the way the posts or other comments have been written.

    As an example, some posts now seem to be looking less for interaction and discussion than recognition and praise – I can’t speak for anything else but that puts me off more than a thoughtful article that doesn’t directly ask me for anything. As far as other comments on posts go, if you can see 10s or 100s of other comments all saying some variation of ‘great post’ then I become less inclined to take the time to actually post something. It’d most likely be dwarfed!

    In those situations I either leave it entirely and maybe tweet the post, or offer the same sort of comment. More often the former.

    When trying to resolve this sort of thing I think you’re probably right in your approach and suggested steps (community, taking time to reply, etc). I don’t think that will do it alone. It feels like there’s some x-factor going on where some sites are doing it the right way, at the right time, and getting the desired response (time seems key there) and others can be doing very similar things but not. No solutions here from me yet unfortunately, though it’s interesting to note that some of the sites I respect above most others (thinking of Seth Godin’s in particular here) don’t even allow comments.

  23. 70

    A few thoughts:

    1. Look ay where people are coming from. I’d guess that people surfing in from a Twitter, Facebook, delicious, stumbleupon or RSS entry are mostly looking for a ‘quick hit’ after which they’ll reshare and move on as opposed to lingering around to participate in the discussion (thereby opening up a new distraction for them to manage).

    2. It’s tough to post anything really meaningful from a mobile device (from a UX perspective) unless you have lots of time to kill. Might seem silly but IMO mobile devices tend to encourage content and conversations to be consumed and conducted in ‘bite size chunks’.

    3. Commenting is more complicated than simply sharing. Look at all the extra steps involved – need to enter your name and email address, comment, post and then often approve your comment via email.

    Obviously this is a spam-related thing but nonetheless, given the choice between commenting and sharing (1 or 2 clicks) – commenting ‘loses’.

    What would happen if sharing options were removed entirely, or perhaps only allowed as a part of the commenting process?

    It’d probably affect the viral spread of stories negatively, which puts content creators in a difficult position – go for reach or go for engagement?

    Just a few thoughts. I’m on my mobile so little time!

  24. 71

    Mark @ Alchemy United

    November 19, 2010 5:37 am

    A couple observations of my own:

    1) A tweet does not mean the person actual read it. I’ve seen plenty of crap articles tweeted. This seems particularly rampant on M*sh*ble. That is, if they had read it they probably wouldn’t have tweeted it.

    2) That said, a tweet is not a Like. Sites display the number of times an article is tweeted presuming that it indicates the number of people who liked the article. We all tend to think that as well. Tweet counts do not indicate quality.

    3) Which leads me to, as a general rules too many of us, at times myself included, are stuck in the old media model of measuring quantity. More is better. No! Better is better. More crap is just more crap. We all need to adjust our mindsets to stop being obsessed with quantity, as well as be willing to *politely* leave comments when the crap meter peaks a bit too high. And if you get such a comment, be willing to *politely* reply.

  25. 72

    I read a ton of blogs almost daily. And I rarely comment on all of them.

    For me it’ a mix of things. Blog like this I rarely comment on because there is usually very little discussion going on, thats not to say that users’ comments aren’t constructive, helpful or intelligent, which unlike 90% of the internet they actually are.

    I dont really feel like spending my time tapping out a response that’s going to go ignored by most and unanswered by all.

    I am active on other sites where users actually discuss the topic or subject, usually websites where websites are help up for criticism or blogs that have a smaller readership.

    On top of all that, I hate replying to 400+ comments of “wow nice article” and “really useful and interesting” when I dislike the article or didn’t find it useful. And no offense to any non-english speaking users, but websites where a majority of comments are either in broken english or flat our retarded sms-speak, I just rarely have the motivation to say a thing.

    As to why I’m choosing to comment on this, who knows, maybe I’m going crazy.

    (also the thumbs up/down system allows a lot of people to show their approval disapproval with a single click. I can next to guarantee if that kind of system wasn’t in place there would be a lot more comments, perhaps no constructive comments but comments none the less)

  26. 73

    I understand your point, Robert. Out of the tremendous numbers of Smashing readers, there might be more comments, but I know with my articles, as well as yours and others, the comments are part of the article and the lesson involved. Often the discussion that ensues is as important as the points we authors put forth and it is enhanced and elevated by the readers.

    While some may only post kudos for the article, it still helps to authenticate the decision of the Smashing editors to publish the work, as well as to show other readers that there is value in spending the time to read such information. Even the “likes” and tweets are reader-based inclusion that quantifies not only the article, but reader inclusion and “commenting,” albeit through the actions of a click and not actual posted thoughts through posted words of their own.

  27. 74

    Brian McDaniel

    November 19, 2010 5:46 am

    I think the first finger must be pointed at the content. If there is nothing in the content to initiate conversation (i.e. the infamous list posts) then one can’t expect any type of interaction to take place. As the rise of the list posts encouraged the decline of the comment quality, I think it helped to breed a less engaged commentator. Pair that with the increased usage of social media and the constant engagement in less wordy banter, it becomes far more time-consuming to write a well thought out comment than to tweet your thoughts in 140 characters or less.

    Yet another great post, Rob, and it appears you have inspired some great commenting too! :)

    • 75

      Advitum Webdesign

      November 19, 2010 5:55 am

      Definitely! Why should someone write something different than “thx” or so under these kind of top-50-lists? They simply don’t give any opportunity for a solid discussion!

  28. 76

    4-5 years ago design forums were popular. Then it became blogs. Now, as you said — it’s social media sites. I feel that it’s getting more impersonal as it progresses.

    Forums had a lot of interaction from several people. You could post a piece of work to share with the community and would get 100’s of replies within the thread.

    With blogs, you could post something and you’d have the first idiot saying “FIRST!” and that’s all, followed by a slew of “cool i like it!” and other one line comments.

    At least with social media sites, we’re getting back to the concept of the forums…

  29. 77

    My thoughts are this, if comments are important to you as a blogger you should “referee” them to a certain extent. I agree with the posts earlier that meaningless comments such as “great article” should be hidden. Also as a blogger it’s crucial to engage the commenters of your article by responding and not getting defensive.

    The more meaningless comments there are the less of a reason people who may contribute meaningful comments will have to even enter the forums (for god sake take a look at articles comments–total crap). So please bloggers filter and delete. Along with the “report abuse” button let’s also have a “meaningless” button.
    Let’s also quit blogging for SEO/face recognition and start blogging with purpose–if you have nothing meaningful to add as a writer, or if you are just regurgitating and rehashing articles that have already been written please stop (i.e “should web designers have to code”)

    To leave a taste of a meaningful article with meaningful comments here:

  30. 78

    It seems to be a growing trend to trim our thoughts into tiny 140 character bursts of conversation. You see this originally on Twitter but, maybe because of mass update tools like TweetDeck, it’s starting to become common on Facebook and other platforms as well. I like social media apps but I really think they are detrimental to the state of conversation.

    I find it better suits me to not post anything if I can’t put it into enough material to actually contribute to the conversation. I don’t say anything unless it’s worth taking a long time to say.

  31. 79

    I think that Like and Retweet buttons killed comments. People have less time, they just like or retweet stuff at least they write some words to the link when they retweet.

  32. 80

    I completely agree. I see less and less comments on very deserving posts (once you remove the spam) – and worse, less trackback posts giving in-depth responses.

    I think it’s a case of the conversation moving. I promote my blog (Unmemorable Title, if anyone’s interested) on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. And that’s where the conversations tend to happen. That’s got to be the main reson for the drop? Surely?

  33. 81

    I just don’t have the time to read all the blogs I follow, let alone read the comments.

    Comments get lost and more often than not, they get lost because of comments posted by people who didn’t read the article.

    Comments are usually not read when they are too long.

    Conversations happen on Facebook and Twitter. Quora is used to answer questions and technical questions get answered on stackoverflow.

    Inspirational blogposts are good to post a link.

    Technical how – to blogposts get a lot of people thanking the author, when in fact they haven’t tried it.

    Authors don’t always care about the comments. It’s one-way communication.

    Authors don’t go back and look at the comments on their old blogposts. When there’s a question, the questions doesn’t get answered.

    So it’s not just the spammers / bots.

  34. 82

    I think a big reason for the lack of commenting or constructive comments is the abundance of new information we are given access to everyday. I try to start my day by browsing over a dozen or so of my favorite design blogs. With so much to read, I will admittedly tend to sacrifice feedback in order to consume more information. With that said, this article has made me reconsider this “consume, consume, consume..” trend and start getting back into the conversation. Thanks, Robert!

  35. 83

    Wonderful article (I know, praise….)

    I too sigh when I think of the good-old-intelligent- collaboration-comment-days. I credit the 140 character meme, and the increase of choices which reduces the likelihood that we will *know* each other. The second one is a vicious cycle, how can I get to know another commenter on a site when there is so little substance.

    Thanks especially for the suggestions, I appreciate articles that offer ideas as well as just complaints.

  36. 84

    Marc-André Boivin

    November 19, 2010 6:19 am

    1) Too many articles to read in a day.
    2) Too many comments, so i usually don’t read them, and when i do, i usually feel that i lost my time. It’s like having a discussion with 500 people you don’t know, and i don’t like it.
    3) Social media effect, so now they don’t need comments for their absolute need to express their opinion.
    4) Many “non-members” of “the community” now read more articles or blog, but they don’t implicate. They just want to read and learn, like it was when we had only something called books.
    5) Now every piece of technology ask for comments, every website, every tool, everybody has a blog, so i’ts like impossible to follow.
    6) Now, people needs to know who is writing, so nobody cares about what Bob, Mike, John or Joe says, if we can’t check who they are and what they do.

    Personnaly, and i’m far from being an expert in web communities, but i think comments as we know it must change as web content has changed. Now people wants quality over quantity. I really prefer 5-6 extremely good comments. After 20 comments, i usually give up and hit the back button.

  37. 85

    Reading blogs for bloggers, like problogger, I see so many short comments but amazingly enough, the person has managed to get in their web site link. So you can guess that my observation is that the growing number of short comments “hey, i agree” are more for advertising their own site than benefiting the reader.

    I do agree that social networking has changed up the landscape of defining the successfulness of a blog post. For that reason, I show both a comment count and a retweet count on my blog teasers. My desire is those combined number encourage a reader to read the full article. I’ve seen other sites that also show facebook and google buzz (?) counts but that just seems overkill.

    I always, er, usually end my blog posts with a question formatted as:
    Question(s): Here is my question in bold italics. Here is the other question.

    This can encourage people to reply but sometimes I get nothing…yet quite a few retweets.

    Just keep kicking out quality content and people will keep coming back.

  38. 86

    Joy-Mari Cloete

    November 19, 2010 6:21 am

    Or perhaps it has nothing to do with your post and everything to do with the device they’re reading your post on. My touchscreen phone is not the best device to use for a 134-word comment so I prefer commenting when I’m in front of a laptop or a PC. But I might’ve stumbled onto the next shiny blog post by that time so…

  39. 87

    I think Robert makes very good observations in the article. I have felt that hollow feeling myself when people comment on something I’ve posted and obviously miss the point. It makes you wonder whether you wrote the original post badly or whether that person just didn’t bother to read it (or read it too quickly.) But maybe that can be a good thing too because if one person missed the point, then other people did too and by that first person commenting, at least you know about it and can try to clarify.

    I also think Brian’s point is a part of the key. Sometimes I’ll post something and get no response; nothing back. Other times a conversation will start up. I’ve seen that on other people’s sites as well. The way the internet is set up/used these days invites passive reading. I think you have to post something that really relates to the reader’s needs/interests to get people to respond with more than quick Like/Don’t Like kinds of responses. Even then, most people will lurk rather than respond.

  40. 88

    “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” — Samuel Johnson

  41. 89

    In addition to just being a bunch of “First!” – “I agree. Oh, did you also happen to see a link to my site?” – I think it’s safe to say comments on many sites the web over are really just a jumbled mess of garbage. But, hey, it’s a good form of social commentary. I think people have actually written doctoral dissertations on the hopelessness of humanity that they formed from reading massive amounts of YouTube comments.

  42. 90

    I agree with TheShadow as I often read articles on my iPhone as I am now. It’s an effort to type on these things when i can hit a retweet or like button much easier. Also our time is a factor and by hitting that one button to help share it with others we can move onto the next one.

    I know I’m pretty much repeating what Kate England and others have said but that’s what I think too.

    Not breaking and ground here, just agreeing really which pretty much renders this pointless!

    Gotta go now as I’m typing with one hand in bed and my arm is in agony

  43. 91

    Stephen Johnson

    November 19, 2010 6:50 am

    I resonate with a lot of the concerns expressed by the author of this post!

    I think there are numerous advantages to moderated comments. Imagine if the author of the post could censure comments that did not contribute to the discussion. By default these comments would be hidden from page visitors. This would dissuade users from leaving worthless comments to avoid censorship. It would also increase readership because of the increased value of the discussion.

    Such a system may require that the readership trust the author not to, for example, censor every dissenting opinion. In order to build that trust, readers could optionally view the comments the author has censored and decide whether or not they agree with the authors decisions.

    Any thoughts?

  44. 92

    I think the fall in comments has to do with “comment widgets” like DISQUS. Commenters want to be part of a discussion, not another bullet thrown in with the twits and facebooklings.

  45. 93

    So after this thoughtful article on commenting why did this comment even get approved? Why does it still stay? The issue is that sites allow comments like this. Just don’t approve it or delete it later. If they never get approved then people will stop doing it.

    The solution rests firmly in just towing a different line in your site comments instead of letting the continued drivel we see here.

    • 94

      Well, what you can actually do is move these types of comments down or somewhere else. I know that they should be sorted by the comment date, but they could be moved somewhere else. Maybe an “appreciation” section? :)
      This way you won’t seem rude with readers that don’t have the time to comment by actually removing their comments.
      Or maybe jim was trying to make a joke :)

    • 95

      Have some sense of humor, Curtis. I thought the first comment was funny for this article, and it would only be sad if the rest of comments below shown the same level of thought.

    • 97

      Allan Delacruz

      November 19, 2010 8:20 am

      I think we are missing the point. Comments are rather ..well….. Comments. It can be however deep you want them to be. The section isn’t called discussion board, therefore a 2 paragraph idea isn’t required. The mob mentality on first poster here was really a knee jerk reaction to the article, and his short but concise comment, stating that he enjoyed the article, got steamrolled. If an article is good enough, it will warrant discussion. If somebody wants to start a discussion it will happen. The internet is for all.

      That being said, I think the microblogging sites such as Facebook and Twitter, do have a type of positive effect on macro articles and blogs. They bring more traffic and readers because they see links, from microblogging, when they normally wouldn’t have. On the flip side consumers, tend to get the information they want without having to start a discussion. I see the weight of the internet shifting more to the consumers in this generation.

      I’ll just go out on a limb and assume that creators are growing at a fixed rate, while consumers are finding more ways to consume all that creation, whether it be through consumption devices such as the growing smart phone and tablet industry, or services such as Twitter and Facebook.

      As, people are getting their relevant information at a whim, they have no need to generate discussion, which, and I think we can all agree, is a sad turning point as this article suggests.
      I have hope that the internet will always find a balance.

      • 98

        Thanks, Allan. Some really great insights offered in your follow-up. The growing number of creators is something I didn’t really think much on. That does flood the market, causing more of a divided focus for consumers. Get in and get out to quickly move on to the next virtual stop. Makes sense. Doesn’t leave a lot of time for discussion.

    • 99

      I think you are right, when we write for other sites, some of this is taken out of our hands. I like the idea that was mentioned below about a separation of insight and compliments though not sure how you would be able to sort them easily.

      Thanks for the follow ups!

    • 100

      The first comment appears to be, you know…sarcasm. Durrrr.

      The design community is dumbing down. This is a HUGE reason comments these days are invaluable and less thoughtful. The more people random people you put into a room the dumber the room gets.

    • 101

      You can just hide comments with lots of down votes and let your readers know that lack of meaningful content is one reason to vote down a comment. If you’re still not getting enough meaningful commentary it’s probably because your content isn’t eliciting it. Smashing Magazine, at least superficially, is all about eye candy and lists, neither of which really inspire critical thinking.

      Just reading Jordan Moore’s comment below and he pretty much stays the same thing. Threaded (forking) comments and a the lack of linearity in the conversation don’t help the situation.

    • 102

      While the first comment may be in jest on this article it is by no means uncommon for a comment of this type to be accepted as a proper comment on a blog post. I missed the jest because the first few comments (most of the comments I’ve found) are of that nature so I simply assumed that it was again the case with this comment.

      I still think that if you want better comments on your site you shouldn’t approve vanity comments like this one.

  46. 103

    seriously this is my first comment on a post in this blog knowing that am subscribed to his rss feed more then 2year ago and readed and learned a lot on this blog and the post make me ask a question why i dont comment?the uniq answer i found is maybe 99% of article are technical and its about learning new stuff that is really fantastic and always comment is no more then just complimant or some rectification that i feel doesnt involve me am just one case maybe there is others .

  47. 104

    Articles are too long.

    I find the stuff you write about interesting, but sometimes I don’t have the time to read the full article, and just put in in the to-be-read pile, but most often I never get back to read it. Noone comments on articles they dont read.

  48. 105

    Nathaniel Wealth

    November 19, 2010 7:20 am

    Ironically, I was watching a documentary last night and it revovled loosely around this trend. Essentially, due to are multi-tasking nonsense and 24×7 connection to information and constant data feeds we’re becoming stupid.

  49. 106

    You know it’s funny while I agree I think that maybe you are missing something. It may be me but the majority of people reading this article agree with you… About what? Basically you have written an article that has nothing and everything to do with the reason I come to this site. I am a graphic/print/web designer. I come here to read articles about my trade and yes read discussions on the trade. I find that you are correct that most are just quick to praise the author, it’s annoying, because half the time people commenting on the subject are not designer’s at all. Just, as you said, people that feel the need to satisfy their RSS needs. It’s rediculous… so I usually just read the article and skip the commenting section. If you are really in need of conversation and constructive criticism… Join a graphic design portfolio website… In fact most of which you have to be invited to. Constructive criticism flies off the handle in these places. I am a member of one myself and that is where I post my own artwork and ideas, and there I have no problem getting the feedback I need. But I am not the type to post up a link to send you to this Xanadu of design blogs. Its not me. Find one yourself. Cheers…

    P.S. save stuff like this for a website like Blogspot or something… You’re wasting your time here.

  50. 107

    John Flickinger

    November 19, 2010 7:49 am

    Well, you certainly approached the topic in a classy way than some other tech blogs that are just crass:

    (Warning, the linked article has some salty language that may be nsfw)

  51. 108

    I’ll break my no-commenting-on-Smashing-Magazine policy to give you my thoughts on this one.

    Simply put? It’s the nature of those comments that drives people away. Instead of being a place for continued discussion it’s become a parrot’s perch. Then, when people like me who tend to right more considered responses come along, we see a long list of jabbering comments that are nothing more than parroting and think, “Why should I bother getting involved in that nonsense? It’s not like anyone’s actually going to read my comment anyway.”

    And that’s where I am now, commenting in a considered way, on a venue where my comment will likely never actually be read.

    • 109


      November 19, 2010 9:59 am

      But how can you “right” more considered responses? This comment alone puts yourself out. Why would we “butter” to “reed” you if “your” not more careful. Proof read is integral to design. So think again because it tells a lot about your commitment. And when someone actually read your comment – unlikely as it is, it eventually happen – you look like a fool.

  52. 110

    Now-a-days it is rare to find a non “50 techniques to do this” kind of article. And with the growing number of blogs (successful) doing this, its kind of repeating one list with different combinations. We rarely find a original jquery tutorial or css tutorial that would really help us.

    We see the same jquery sliders everywhere, and if one has no idea what to put they do a “psd layout” or “psd to xhtml/css or css3” layout tut (an exclusion here, and you know who). Thats kind of escapist mentality. Please take this in a constructive manner. We respect you, and your 5 posts a week mag, but we really need some tutorials (yes throw us some earth-shattering jquery tut).

    After all “quality” is the god of all deeds.

  53. 111

    C Scott Asbach

    November 19, 2010 8:18 am

    I think an additional factor may be reading articles from smartphones. Personally I’m far less likely to comment just because text input is less convenient. This comment took a lot longer to enter than it would have at my desktop for example. Is this the same for everyone or am I just a smartphone noob?

  54. 112

    Some of the reasons why i almost stopped commenting on blogs with many readers:

    -It is hard to follow a commentry or a conversation. I think comments were never made for discussions, hence the layout and ui doesn’t really support them.

    -A single comment is easily lost amongst more frequently commenting users

    -Haters gonna hate

    -I never know when somebody replied, i need to follow myself by hitting refresh all day long. That sucks bigtime.

    -It’s a waste of time to spend more than 5 seconds on a comment because the next 10 posters won’t do either. So my thoughts and energy will be pushed downards before anybody who might care will be able to read it.

    Let’s be honest – especially on blogs, comment systems suck ass. Why bother using them then?

  55. 113

    Death to the comment

    November 19, 2010 8:59 am

    I would be so happy with CNN, AV Club and well, most sites, got rid of comments. Thank goodness Greasemonkey has scripts to block Youtube comments.

  56. 114

    I think there are a few issues. One is that that there are so many ‘social’ outlets that it is getting more difficult to think deeply about a single topic and there is a not-so-new shift to thinking broadly about many. That also correlates to a problem with our industry as a whole where we are expected to be generalists in many cases, particularly with the state of the economy where we are expected to take on more and more. And I really don’t think blog commenting in general offers the best UI for discussion. There has to be a better way :-)

  57. 115

    I don’t have time to read all the comments… which is usually why I don’t comment on sites like this, for fear of repeating something someone already said or simply adding virtual noise to the page.

    2 observations:

    I wonder if the shift in comment-quality/type mentioned in the article is a result of being spread too thin in the interwebs. As social networking sites have blown up in recent years, from the general ones like Facebook, to specific ones geared around topics, like, people don’t have the time or emotional-resources to stay plugged in to so many “communities”. We just don’t have the time/energy to maintain ongoing virtual discussions. So if an article/blog-post intrigues us or seems helpful, we might take the few seconds to applaud it, but then need to move on, because even if it sparks further questions, we probably tuck it away to discuss later with people we have a stronger sense of community with. I will discuss an article on SM with co-workers in my creative agency far more likely than commenting on an article and coming back to participate in any form of conversation about it.

    Secondly, read Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman. He talks about television’s influence on culture, but died before this new wave of connectivity-via-the-Internet because such a cultural force. I’m very curious what he would have observed about the current state of relationships/community/critical-thinking in a world so easily distracted and consumed by 140 character counts. We’ve been a culture of consumers for a long time, but now we’ve even made community, information and dialogue something we consume—and we’re not very good about taking the time to “give back”, which results in less quality material in article comments.

    And the reality is… unless you email me a response, I will forget that I posted on this article and so my participation in the “conversation” will end as soon as I click “Post Comment”.

    We’re all just way too busy…

  58. 116

    There are so many great comments here, I simply cannot get back to you all on an individual basis as I would like, and as I started out doing, but I will certainly be getting back down through there and replying to others later. Thanks again for all of the great follow-ups and insights!

    • 117

      Perhaps that’s the problem with the development of discussion. Noone has time anymore to leave thoughtful comments. There seems no benefit to the user. This is especially true when the author disappears from the comment board and doesn’t reply to posts in a meaningful way. It’s like stating something thought provoking and then leaving the room. There needs to be follow up for a critical discussion to take place. Look at the board at the moment. You have taken some time and effort to reply to posters and acknowledge their contribution. Just like children, adults thrive on praise and attention.

      The other point is that it becomes very difficult to follow a thread of conversation on a board and becomes more difficult if the conversation branches in to multiple replies. Could you imagine this in real life? It would just be a wall of noise. This is where we get overloaded with information and we have to disseminate which is useful so we skip posts that are long.

      Keep comments concise and short. Bullet points if you have to and make sure the author has their say on the board. You started it after all.

  59. 118

    Rob, really great article… It’s got my wheels spinning!

    I think that’s a part of the problem with comments of late, that the articles don’t shake us out of the ordinary.

    Our culture seems to be more focused on the how, rather than the why, of things. The more we focus on HOW to build a word-press template, HOW to keep your clients happy, HOW to use Twitter to grow your business, the less room there is for WHY. And if we aren’t asking why, conversations about How to do things are going to stay fairly shallow and to the point, with only minor variations in the opinions about the best method of accomplishing. If the article clearly gives us the best/right way to accomplish a task, presenting itself as an expert, there’s not much room for discussion, except in the rare instance when a different How solution worked for me, so I might offer that up to the conversation…

    Maybe content-creators need to start asking Why more often, instead of just giving How…? Or at the very least, realize that, after presenting a good How article, that there’s no logical need for much discussion in the comment section, by nature of the article contents.

  60. 119


    November 19, 2010 9:50 am

    Superbly insightful comment Jim. This is the fifth time I am reading your comment and I am still learning from it. This really adds up to our design life, thanks.

  61. 120

    I totally agree with this article and find myself rushing through and NOT commenting. I’m one of those people who wait to see a thread of comments that *inspires* me to comment vs. giving my feelings on a particular article.

    I don’t have a lot of time. With the increasing popularity of blogs, I have 50 or so websites that I peer through each day, ontop of getting my daily work done. Keeping up with blogs has almost become a task rather than pleasure.

    I’d love to give a meaningful comment to each blog article that I read, but honestly, its just not possible.. :(

  62. 121

    Catherine E. White

    November 19, 2010 10:27 am

    It takes more time to write thoughtfully than it does to read superficially. Frankly, I would rather be doing other things right now too. I certainly do not take it personally when my readers just read. Most blogs, tweets, and facebook posts, including mine, are a minor diversion from the rest of the day’s obligations, tasks, goals, and duties.

    People have better things to do in life – and to me, that seems like wonderful news! Maybe your readers have gone out for a walk, or are talking to their children, or making a tasty meal. Hurray for that!

    I spend most of my time encouraging people to make careful choices on how to spend their time. I hope nothing I write is viewed as all that important, and certainly not as important as the rest of my busy reader’s real life. Ironically, I often feel more successful when there are fewer comments. I do enjoy getting a thoughtful or cheerful comment, now and then, but that’s just to let me know that the reader still has a pulse, and that I should continue.

  63. 122

    Josiah Truasheim

    November 19, 2010 10:30 am

    Perhaps this lack of useful comments could be linked to the rise of the use of comments in black hat seo techniques?

    An article I read recently was discussing this.

  64. 123

    Years ago (~5 years) web design wasn’t as popular and neither were the amount of websites dedicated to web design.

    Nowadays, anyone with photoshop who knows a little html and designs “pretty things” calls themselves a web designer. 90% of these people are “fadsters’. Meaning they aren’t well-versed, thoughtful designers they just happen to know how make a web design prettier than the average person.

    These “fadsters” aren’t into the true, mental aspect of web design and really don’t have much thought to contribute to articles besides “ooh, thats cool” or “this sucks”. So, nothing very intelligible or thought-worthy that real web designers think about.

  65. 124

    Hmmmm, running out of things to write about huh guys?

    I mean really, is it that big of a deal when people comment, that they don’t post this well thought-out 5 paragraph comment?

  66. 125

    I totally put this down to the fact that everyone’s becoming more and more in a hury and more impatient than ever. We are always rushing around and at the end of the day we end up spending our spare time talking to our mates on that popular social network. It feels as if the visitor culture now days is to:

    1. Google It
    2. Visit it
    3. Skim It
    4. Press the back button
    5. rinse and repeat.

    Commenting requires effort and time which are 2 things no one has anymore these days. It’s a shame, but I feel it’s one of those things that requires more of a movement from a large number of people than a simple answer.

    “Why should I comment if I have no time and am too lazy?”

    Because if you don’t, no one will do the same on your site and online communication will become monopolised by those popular social networks.

  67. 126

    I believe that the very content shown in the articles reflects the sort of posterior discussion.
    A debate can only take place on the ground of contents that we can agree or disagree with. If you do a showcase, you will get: “great, thanks!”. If you are supporting the end of world hungry, then you`ll get “Tottaly agree! Thanks!” (just an example of content that does not generate any kind of debate, because its common ground). In short, my point is that debates are grown in fine lines, where the standards are not minted and clear as water.
    That might denote 2 things: perhaps we are reaching some kind of common thinking in our community (what may be nice) or perhaps the exactly way round: we`re so lost in terms of a panoramic perspective of our certainties that we don`t know anymore how to stand in front of the frontier topics of our job.

  68. 127

    Could it be that people are now learning that their comments have value? Some sites out there now provide a link back to the.comments last article as ‘payment’ and maybe this will encourage the time poor to join in.

    Ethics aside for a min of course.

    Sorry for typos, doing this on my phone!

  69. 128

    people don’t read long comment or all the comments in a section for the same reason why they just skim of the article. comment should be short and to the point.

  70. 129

    Perhaps there is a design solution to cut down on the repetitive “great post” comments. We’re used to “liking” things in Facebook; it’s a quick way to encourage and appreciate the poster. I note that Smashing has thumbs up and down attached to individual comments. What about adding this feature at the post level?

  71. 130

    Anonymous comments must die. For a community or site to get a real sense of who is commenting, it’s important to tie the commenter to a real profile. Notice also that (at present) there are 5 times as many retweets as comments. Advocacy and sharing are the new comments. I don’t have to add much to this story, but I think that it’s worth reading and I’ll let me friends and followers know.

  72. 131

    Pierre Clouthier

    November 19, 2010 12:02 pm

    Comments are disappearing because [1] most sites require a tedious sign-up procedure, and [2] there is a plethora of comments, no one has time to read them, no one cares.

  73. 132

    Are people just not simply keeping their own big ideas for use on their own blog. Perhaps a box on the comments where I can put a link to the article where I wrote about this subject could be useful?

    Altogether, interesting observation.

    It also seems that people have moved from forums to blogs, and I am busier so can afford to comment less.

  74. 133

    Back then your choices were 1. Start a blog (how? why?) or comment on one. Now people “comment” when they link to a piece on Twitter or Facebook, or reblog themselves on Tumblr.

    Commenting hasn’t gone away, the need for dedicated “comment” sections has just diminished. The new system is better, get with the program grampa!

    (see? Commenters are mean trolls anyway.)

  75. 134

    There`s another thing: comments are supposed to be read. And then someone comment on it so on. That`s how a debate is created. But it seams to me that nobody really cares about what another fella has written. Thats not very motivating. It`s actually frustrating. Why would I waste my time, one might think. Would he be wrong? Not so sure.

  76. 135

    I think the issue is an inadequate call to action. If you want comments and label the response section “comments” just like every other site out there that is exactly what you’ll receive. Why not title the response section “Discuss”, “Critique”, or “Feedback”? I think these stronger calls to action would garner more meaningful responses.

  77. 136

    People have a conclusion after several years of web community life: For all of your thought and input, only a handful will read what you have to say, and the one person that responds is an arrogant jerk who just has to tell you how wrong you are.

    Most people would rather do something more edifying. Not me, apparently.

  78. 137

    Here is a question: For the article reader, what is the point of Comments? Some use Comments (or Like, etc.) to let the author know their work is appreciated so that (hopefully) they will write more articles the reader will like. Some use Comments to ask questions/get more information (and they want the author to participate.) Some use Comments to add their own spin on something in an article. Some just use Comments to advertise. Some use Social app Comments/Share to alert online friends to an interesting article.

    But what is the point of Comments from the point of view of the author? As an author, I’m looking for some affirmation that what I’ve posted was helpful/useful and if not, why not. I *like* getting feedback and questions. It motivates me and improves my writing and it often gives me ideas for future articles. Sometimes a negative comment that is thoughtful is more useful than a positive comment that just says, “good job” or “I agree.” The latter might make me feel good now, but the first helps me with future articles.

    I agree with the previous comments that suggest that maybe the Comment format on sites could be improved to encourage the type of Comments needed/wanted by both the author and reader.

  79. 138

    Well, I do appreciate thoughtful comments. I can learn just as much from people responding as I do from the article. Oftentimes, if I don’t see anything interesting being said, I choose to stay out of the uninspiring conversations. At the same time, not every topic can warrant a lot of deep discussion. Sometimes, I like the comments better than the article.

  80. 139

    Have people realized the emptiness of trading pixels instead of having real face to face conversations? Or maybe they’re more worried about losing their job in this economy than they were a few years ago.

  81. 140

    One main barrier I’ve found to commenting, especially on this website, is the unreliability of the website itself. If you spend 10 minutes writing up thoughtful and, hopefully, useful response only to have it disappear when the website fails to load after hitting the “Post Comment” button, it makes you a lot less likely to try and post again. Especially with something more than “eh, you suck”.

    This is why I read articles in Google Reader and rarely click through to the website itself. Too often the effort of commenting isn’t worth it. Hell, first impressions are made in the first 15-30 seconds of viewing a website: if that 15-30 seconds is of a spinning wheel while it decides to load (or not) then the value of coming to the site to comment is reduced.

    Fix the reliability of the site and you might find people are more likely to respond thoughtfully.

    Most other sites have other issues: such as refusing to moderate the trolls or allowing insulting language to devalue the discussion. One thing I can’t stand is authors who put content out there but refuse to take an interest in the comments section.

  82. 141

    It’s not the passage of time – it’s the natural progression of any website. Whenever a site gets big enough, that means that enough of the audience is no longer a collection of professionals (the original intention) and instead a muck of fanboys, tweens, and idiots. I’m not saying that the former two are part of the last one – just that none of them tend to add as much to a discussion as people shoulder deep in the subject on a daily basis.

    It’s a big problem with SmashingMagazine, but there are plenty of new sites out there fostering conversation in the design community. Many time these sites are started by some friends who are talking with each other and after a few years they grow so big that the audience becomes watered down. At that point a new, more elite site forms, and the cycle starts again.

  83. 142

    Although this has been touched on already, I think there is a connection to the mismatch between what we experience face-to-face, and what we see visually on blogs. When people are in a discussion, it would very unnatural for everyone to take a number and offer their comments in turn. It can be hard to see how your comments add value when they are one in a long line of others. Perhaps a better ways can be found to visually organize the comments sections of blogs, something that is more organic?

  84. 143

    Mohnish Thallavajhula

    November 20, 2010 12:19 am

    I totally agree with the author of this blog. I’ve seen a drop in the comments on many websites. This is mainly because of the “Like” substitution. People are growing lazier day by day thanks to the growing technology. I liked this post. Kudos.

  85. 144

    A major cause for the demise of the conversations in comments is the sterilization of the web.

    Many a frustrated, power hungry moderator will delete comments and disallow conversations because they are off topic or even offensive to others.

    If we cannot have discussions about offensive or sensitive topics (like race relations, the use of the word nigger among both blacks and whites, what anchor babies are or even about gay pride parades) then where will we EVER have these conversations?

    Civilization will not get more civil by sweeping difficult conversations under the HTML.

    Among the worst of these are “news” organization sites. Take 11Alive for instance… On 11Alive there have been a few articles in the past couple of weeks about a young man named Bobby Tillman who was beaten to death at a “house party” in Atlanta.

    The story goes that a couple of “females” got into a fight – then some guys at the party said they were gonna jump the next male that walked by. Bobby Tillman happened to be that man, and he was kicked until a broken rib punctured his heart and he died.

    Finding this to be difficult to believe (that 4 people would just decide to beat down the next random person that walked up) I went looking for answers.

    In one of the pictures widely circulated of Bobby (he looks to be wearing a tux – it is a head shot), his eyebrows looked as if they had been cut. So, knowing that this can mean nothing at all (some do it for a sense of style) and that it also represents gang affiliations, I simply asked a question.

    After expressing my outrage at those responsible for Bobby’s death, I asked if Bobby might have been in a gang – because of the eyebrow cuts.

    The moderator killed the thread and deleted my post. I was respectful to the family, but I wanted to know if gang affiliation had anything to do with this senseless killing – so we know where to start in preventing more like it. Not gonna happen at

    So, if we cannot have difficult conversations, and dig to the root of sensitive and important issues, there is really no need for the conversations at all. Just read the news, listen to s few soundbites (that were probably taken out of context), look at the pretty pictures and move on…letting the world go to hell in a hand basket.

    11Alive is not the only place this happens. Ask a sensitive question on Gizmodo or Lifehacker and you can be banned. Question a moderator or comment on the intelligence of a story writer and you will get banned.

    It’s like Barney Fife is back from the dead and moderating the life out of conversation on the web.

    I don’t know what online conversations are like in China – but I don’t think we are that far from finding out – on some sites we already have found out.

  86. 145

    Is it not that there are to many places where commeting is possible. The decline in quality is also stemming from the lack of moderation. Many sites don’t have moderation at all and there is just a mechanism of signaling. So even the most useles comments stay on as long as there are no insults and treads in it. Posters possibly also think it is their right to be published despite not contributing/reflecting on/to the original post.

  87. 146

    As a content creator (more than 100 sites, 99% WordPress) I am wondering for years why the comment functions are among the most neglected functions in WordPress.

    With every version I am excited (an disappointed after), that there will be the slightest improvement…

    * Comment paging just does not work (can’t remember, if it ever did since it’s introduction)
    * Comment threading does not really work either
    * If I have hundreds of comments I am not able to tell from the backend which ones I already answered (there used to be plugins with many bugs), at the moment I found one doing the job namely “Response Tracker”
    * If a post has more comments (I mean hundreds), the comment list turns a mess (due to the lack of paging) and it’s difficult to comment and to answer (depending on browser, comments just disappear)

    Yes, there used to be plugins now and then addressing one of the problems, but either did they interfere with others or they worked for some subversions only.

    So, MY problem is not a lack of comments but a lack of technical support for the comment functions. And I don’t understand this, as commenting was the heart of blogging from the beginning…

    My 5c from Austria,

    • 147

      LOL @ whining nerds

      November 20, 2010 6:56 am

      Over 100 sites, really? Get a life. Maybe you should leave the house more (who am I kidding, leave it at least once a month for a walk) and get some real friends because that social network of yours, these guys aren’t your friends. What kind of person wonders about comment neglect on WordPress, you need help.

      • 148

        ??? My goodness, this is my job! I have a very rich real life and a lot of clients (and real life friends btw) running own and client sites. Managing comments (if you take community building seriously) is a pest, due to lack of technical solutions. Running a lot of community sites, yes, I am the person that wonders why the most popular blog system is neglecting comment functions. And yes I need help – from programmers I pay for to fill the missing comment handling functions…

        Kind regards,

  88. 149

    I tend to agree with Allen who commented earlier. Comments are just that, comments. I generally like reading comments as much as a post but don’t expect them all to be deep and thought provoking. I do think it’s good ask questions in your post and try get better quality comments, but I don’t mind if there are a few short ones here and there. Sometimes I’m happy to know someone read my post, even if they just skimmed it.

  89. 150

    reading comments are a serious waste of time and often make me upset –

    i could add something intelligent to this topic and share my thoughts – but – who cares? i save my energy and prefer talking to real people. comments are a waste of time.

  90. 151

    For a blog author, it is valuable when somebody posts “thanks, this saved my life”, or “nice article! bookmarked!”. A positive feedback loop. To the readers of such a comment, it is quite useless, much like most Twitter posts.

    Most sites struggle with the many readers, few commenters problem. It has always been this way, yet the problem is getting bigger, because:

    – Well, like you said, there are more sites yet not more time. The time spent per site is therefore getting smaller
    – The discussion surrounding your article may also be taken elsewhere, on the social networks, reddit, digg, etc.
    – It is getting harder to manage your comments across sites. When I post somewhere, I typically have to remember it and check back if somebody responded.

    I hate this trend, because a good community can make comments more valuable then the actual article. A fine example of this can be found at Jeff Atwood’s blog:

    He writes a lot of informative, opinionated articles, yet the true value is in the comments. There are a LOT of smart people there, and if you read the article + comments, you have studied the subject from every possible angle.

    You cannot help losing comments due to people having less time per site or taking the discussion out of your site. Yet, you can improve the comments happening here. It starts with content. SM used to be solely about “the 50 zillion best free wordpress templates”. A title that attracts attention and is SEO-effective, yet attracts an audience of hobbyists, juniors and freeloading developers. You then get the quality of the comments you deserve…useless. Lately, SM has been producing better, more unique and insightful content, and slowly the balance moves in the right direction.

    In other words, if you opt for maximum traffic and content for the masses, you get dumbed down comments, youtube-style. If you focus, produce unique content and insightful articles that truly help developers (instead of teaching them how to steal instead of think), you get smarter comments.

  91. 152

    LOL @ whining nerds

    November 20, 2010 6:53 am

    Who cares, all this whining. Comments come in three types:

    a) I love it (insert any sycophantic drivel)

    b) I disagree, this is the worst ever (insert any other self-important drivel

    c) Look at my page (insert random pathetic self-promoting link)

    That’s it. I hope one day turning off comments will be the new ‘trend’, since that is all you follow. ‘Do as the others’, GTFOH.

    • 153

      John Flickinger

      November 22, 2010 2:49 pm

      @ LOL @ whining nerds

      If you hate comments so much why are you here posting comments? I’m not sure if it’s an attention thing or what, but if you don’t like the site there’s other places you can go.

  92. 154

    I’m going to praise the post, first of all, as this is a really relevant topic and I totally agree that the quality of comments has been diminishing. Of course it is not true across the spectrum, some comments are really great but the overall “matter” lacks.

    As you have validly said it may also be lack of time and too much content on the Internet and we have got only limited amount of time at our hand. Engagement and all is fine (you see such tips in every other blog post) but as commentors we shouldn’t always rush to present “our two cents”. We should only talk when we really have something to say, when we can constructively contribute and take forward the idea presented in the blog post.

    Commenting is important and this indicates a thriving community around a blog so definitely comments must be taken seriously both by the publishers and those who leave their comments.

  93. 155

    The average Smashing Magazine article is so long with links to other websites that I typically loose interest about 3 screens down knowing there are about 40 more examples/links on the page.

  94. 156

    Most messages are left on blogs nowadays because the commenter can leave a link to their website – enven though it is obvious they haven’t read the entire post.

    They comment merely to be able to advertise their site.

  95. 157

    It’s partially the dead sea effect (first google result: )

    Basically, the more commenters you have posting inane drivel, the less likely I am to respond. There’s a lot of people out there who are just wrong on the internet (see: ) and it’s very easy to fall into the trap of trying to educate them. Which never works out well.

    The best example of this is the debate over whether webdesigners should learn html/css. Ignore the actual debate, but specifically the analogy that an architect doesn’t need to know anything about actually building a house. That’s just jaw dropping ignorance there. It’s off putting to anyone who has even an inkling of that field. Those people who may have had quality well reasoned posts are now gone.

    It’s really easy to quickly lose people from the conversation in this manner. Especially the less well written, or the more inane, the comments are. It’s getting to the point that I actually can not comprehend the posts on some more mainstream sites. As much as it was probably a joke ‘How is babby formed’ is actually indicative of many comments on some sites. The more frustrated I get with comments on one site, the less likely I am to even bother with them on another site.

    After having a good think about it, I believe the best option is agressive moderation of inane comments so only quality posts remain. Maybe not deleting them, but perhaps collapsing them so they take minimal room, and you’d need to click a ‘read more’ link to read the whole comment. Assuming it’s more than half a sentence of course.

    I don’t want anyone thinking I’m saying we need perfect grammar or speeling on the internet. I do wish we could get rid of these unsubstantial comments that amount to ‘me too’ at the very least.

  96. 158

    Ok, so i read half the comments on this “Way to Cool” topic, not that i am not interested i’m just loosing my patience here, because every comment touches a sensitive point in my “perfect society, revolution must” sick brain of mine, either that or the song i’m listening with atom bomb era video, anyway; I agree with the idea of “investigating” the lack of interest or time or whatever one has not to give quality comments on a post.
    Be careful, i’m gonna get rough and it will be a long one (if my post ain’t gonna make it on the board i understand).

    Let’s begin our full overview on the situation.

    Assuming that our society is accelerating it’s way to self destruction (witch it is, just look around) and everyone is overwhelmed with consumer items and “buy this or buy that” virus commercials, it’s obvious that the ordinary user of the internet “can’t” more of a WONT sit around and read other comments (i’m guessing that the mentality on that is “1 or 2 comments are enough”) to give useful ones in turn, because they need to buy not to read.

    Working on Matt’s comment and the first notes on the subjects of those links (thanks for those link’s also) I will give my personal opinion, witch is that the internet is not for everybody, i am sick of those “warm hearted folks” that say the internet is for everyone.
    Argument: give someone something that they don’t know how it works or fully understand it’s true power and just tell them “Use it” without any indication of it’s true use and a way to use it. He/she WILL break it or at least it will not function properly when it’s returned.

    Same thing apply’s here. All (i will try to restrain myself from vulgar talk) have entered in the world of the internet and try to learn as much as possible and move to the next great thing, add that to the titanic amount of information flooding our brains from our consumer based society and hidden subliminal messaging witch in turn creates a state of panic that we as a part of society will not contribute with anything if we will not give some kind of info on some lame (gotta remember no vulgarities) topic.

    That said, the problem is simple to find but at its foundation very complex and a simple solution for it may be around here somewhere. We, as a community that knows the inside and are aware of how it works/must work/wont do can sit around all day and try to find solutions but we are not aware of something – even if we don’t want to believe that our society is evolving at full power the truth begs to differ and it’s not just me here, i’m telling them as i see them and none can argue with me here.

    Something just appeared giving me more fuel to put juggernaut ideas (yep, fire up your google fingers for that) in this comment (read a few more comments :P ). I totally agree with Jim Hubbard. Another thing this society lacks is self criticism, let me explain.

    In a society where money is power, any form of power being the ultimate state in a person’s life (that’s how kids are taught nowadays) and none are losers their last winners, how can a child build his spirit and conceive a critic eye or self for that matter, how can you make a constructive critic about something if you have no idea of what a critic is.

    If you cannot criticize yourself how can you evolve and fix your bad habits. Nowadays you cannot or it’s not polite to say about somebody that he’s fat or ugly or anything inappropriate. **ck inappropriate and polite how those a kid build character if they don’t know when they lose an when they win.

    Yes my dear I could go on bragging about these “normal and common” things but I will stop and go tell a kid hes fat, hope i’m getting 15 years for that.

    A last thought before i go maybe i’ll make you think for a change in this final hour.

    We are living in a society where major corporations and governments leave people stupid, unaware of many things so they can do their business, thus people can no longer give constructive critic or take part in a discussion because their belief’s are not their’s anymore their society’s.

    If society does not want them to say vulgar words in public (initially i wanted to put them here but i ain’t sabotaging this comment) or nigger or fat people ….(very very heavy words on the fat people subject) and anything like that, how can any of you have expectations on intelligent or helpful (be it critic or not) comments.

    And with that thought in mind i “rest my case”.

  97. 159

    First, I gotta say; I love this community, because they so actively berate people (by negative karma) who feel name-calling or childish non-sensical comments do anything to help someone else out.

    One of my pet peeves are poorly named threads in forums. If someone chooses to use the search and then comes across a topic titled “Need some help”, how the heck do they know if it’ll relate to what they’re looking for? People need to think before they type!

    On topic to the post, I couldn’t agree more. We as consumers of knowledge need to restrict our responses to constructive measures (which can be negative, they just need to be constructively negative). We’re all here to share our knowledge, and in just how it is important for commentors to question what we state before we say it, so too must the article writer!

    I’ve seen one too many articles (won’t mention where) which begs the question “Why did you even write this?” Sometimes, I see articles where the author must have just wanted to nitpick at the smallest, most unimportant of things, for no more purpose than to simply say it.

  98. 160

    This significant decrease is probably due to the lack of competence of those involved. Or intention not to offer free and so easy ideas that could be innovative, different and interesting.
    By now anyone who writes articles, books, and then sells them, maybe making a fortune. Or become luminaries with the ideas of others who can not aspire to so precisely because they are of a lower level.
    “Well, use your brain, instead of using other people’s resources to their advantage.”
    Of course, you are visual content, but “you” as member of society, network or not, how much authority you have in relation to “common” user? So much so that the proper contribution made public until someone does not do his undeniable property?
    Maybe that’s fear, due to the absence of dialogue in this regard, the indifference of an answer. Because on one hand there is the authority and the other is not.
    The visual contents?
    Maybe it’s the game that changes direction, users now have until recently without a voice, to make plunder of resources. You like the site, accused this shot. As long as were the others to suffer, was fine … is not very correct this behavior.
    Unfortunately you can not decide whether a contribution is innovative, unusual, opening new paths. Who could really be a proper supervisor for both parties?
    Obviously this is only a theory, spread from any browser. What perplexes me is that maybe it is called stupid or useless, until a luminary does not write a book that supports. As has already happened.

  99. 161

    Kind of funny, that this blogpost is filled with critic and long comments :p “no smashingmagazine, we are not one of these! we are not!”

  100. 162

    We’ll see within 5-10 years.
    Or it could be this: we want to hide.

  101. 163

    I blog about web development. My articles are tutorial based on facts. I had a commenting system to help gain input from the reader to improve the quality of my articles. Readers didn’t seem to understand and only offered praise (which I guess is good).

    Regardless I removed the comment system and gave an email address so they could contact me if they had any issues or actually wanted to discuss something.

    Personally I very rarely use a comment system built into a site and use a less censored method such as stubleupon, digg or google reader. Those companies really should give webmasters a better way to integrate their comments into their site.

  102. 164

    I think it comes down to the content a lot of the time. The wider your audience and the more generalized the topic, the poorer the quality of the comments. Talk specifically and indepth to a smaller more focused audience and the comments will be of a better quality. I’ll just add that writing this comment from my HTC desire was painful, I wonder how many people read articles from their mobile because that could bed a factor.

  103. 165


    The main reason I don’t contribute to discussions online much is that – as in this instance – there are often 100+ lengthy comments before I arrive. And on the one hand the quality of those contributions is too patchy to hold my attention for what is basically the length of a novella. But on the other hand, I think it’s rude and unhelpful to offer a contribution without reading all of those comments first.

    Here’s one possible solution.

    How do people decide which articles and posts and books to read? They get the thrust of it from the title or headline. If it interests them they delve in, if not, they move on to the next one. It just takes a second.

    So how about everyone who leaves a comment has to write a headline for their comment? And these headlines are stacked at the foot of the original article. That way, subsequent readers can choose to expand and read all of those comments that look like they have a valid contribution to make, and skip or skim the ones that veer off topic or are simple “great article!” slaps on the back.

    As well as making discussions much easier to catch up with and join into, there’s a very happy side-effect: contributors will be gently forced to HAVE a point. Nothing focuses a train of thought as efficiently as being asked to sum up your point in one short sentence. It’s difficult: but if you can’t do it that probably means you’re rambling, not that you’re brilliant.

    I’m sorry if someone has made this point already! I read about 80 comments, and then rudely started skimming. Perhaps this idea could help stop that kind of behaviour and lead to better discussions.

  104. 166

    Depends on the site you read, surely? To use a video game site analogy:
    gamasutra has mostly professional comments and commentors.
    rockpapershotgun has mostly intelligent and constructive commentors
    joystiq is mostly full of garbage.

    But it also tends to be a factor of size: often small sites have a tight community of core followers, who get to know each other through comments and so can have deeper discussions. But as the sites grow, the audience widens and you get more rubbish comments. And the good comments get drowned out in the noise – so those core commentors move on.

    Plus, SNARK is cool on the web – and it’s irresistible to post something snarky and cutting that you just thought of.

  105. 167

    It’s crazy, instead of doing a search where you can learn a lot more than you want (assuming a respectable cultural background), it “pretends” to have immediate response, at a glance, what are looking for. The traditional culture of perpetual newbie who wants to appear then a great designer.

  106. 168

    Hi All,

    I do not usually comment on posts and a few of the points made in this article are quite relevant. However, I’d like to contribute in this case… I believe the system, the core user interface of the ‘comment section’ on blogs and social sites needs to be dramatically improved. It has not changed to cater to a changing market… Perhaps we need to start looking at making commenting a path of ‘less’ resistance, looking at ways of inspiring people to comment more often simply by making it easier to access the comment box and not having to scroll to the bottom of the page to find it… perhaps comments need to be ranked and people allowed to categorise and search comments by type, date size or relevance…

    This are just ‘off the cuff’ ideas, however, i think there is a core change that needs to happen to re-inspire the tired comment posters of times past. Perhaps its incentives for stronger, more argument driven comments that should be rewarded in some way… I mean the fact is… I have not read through everyone elses comments and this may have already come up… but the system is not in place for me to check and see without reading a whole lot of mumbo jumbo that I don’t care to read…

    Anyways, just a thought from a creative that wants to make sure these thoughts get aired on Smashing Magazine first in the hope they or one of the awesome users here has a breakthrough pattern of thinking that can change the way we view, post, read and explore the vast array of comments posted before us…

  107. 169

    These are both probably time element related, but I’ve noticed that my comments drop off each November. I’m thinking NaBloPoMo is a real factor.

    Also, I have lots of links in most posts, which give further information to ponder. It’s the very rare person who actually clicks on the links, reads, then comes back to comment with that additional bit of knowledge.

  108. 170

    Alison Rowan - Avian Function

    November 21, 2010 11:22 am

    I feel like a lot of the problem is routed in the progression of the blogging world. When it first started out, it was all about sharing ideas, and when someone came across these ideas, comments were just that–their comments on the post. Their thoughts. Their contribution. As blogging as become more and more widely accepted, we have begun looking at its influence in all areas of business, communication, and the web as a whole. Naturally, this led to us realizing that commenting was a great way to get yourself noticed. All of a sudden, this realization removes all the purity of commenting. It’s not longer about sharing your ideas. It’s about just getting yourself out there. Suddenly, there’s an ulterior motive. We feel motivated to post in more places, more often, and more for the sake of posting and getting our names out there than anything else. And tada! Comments go downhill. It becomes quantity over quality. If there’s really a concrete solution, I don’t know what it is. I definitely think that bloggers posing questions of discussion helps–questions that invite readers to take different sides. But on those merely suggesting new ideas and concepts as so many do? I’m not sure how we break away from the, “Great idea!” comments.

  109. 171

    You should look to something like slashdot, where there’s a type of crowd sourced moderation system… keeps the useless and/or not funny comments out of the way and allows users to scan things that other people thought were useful — and potentially contribute to that moderation process themselves.

    As a developer things like this become more of a conversation of what features can be written to encourage it, and not so much an opportunity to gripe about it not being the way I want.. or in this case writing an article that gripes about it.

    I appreciate that you offer some ideas and prompt for thoughts, but every article shouldn’t be a “conversation” (I think that would get old fast). I think better conversations are only half the issue, and that it’s also about encouraging discussion, which is different.

    I think to generate good comments you first need to have good comments — comments that encourage discussion, right? Why show the ones that suck or that aren’t useful? They’re just detracting from the conversation and perhaps contribute to the mire that I have to get through before I find a diamond in the rough that I’m willing to respond to.

    Look to others who’ve had the same issues, and see what solutions have worked.. and while you’re at it, see how you can improve upon their ideas.

    My point is that you probably won’t change the world (or even the comments people leave) if you ask people to change — you don’t have the power to change people, but you do potentially have the power to encourage good commenting by providing a more concise method for finding comments worth responding to.

    You might also consider how the editorial holds responsibility over this. Consider for a moment the comments that we see on something like myspace videos. It might not be about readers not fulfilling their part of the conversation, and more about the type of readers you’re attracting with your conversation.

  110. 172

    This is the result of massive information overload. There is so much online information, communication and data, that we (internet users) are loosing the ability to concentrate. Thus, no-one actually reads. The solution by most bloggers was to adapt a style of writing that does not require reading, just skimping the headlines (“50 brilliant designs …”). If users can’t read they definitely can’t write, no real surprise there.

    I am afraid that your ideas about revitalizing comments by engaging in constructive conversation are not going to work. The runaway train is moving too fast, and there is no way to turn it back.

    There is one thing you can do however. Switch the comments off, and encourage people to get up from their computers, go to pub, order a beer and have the conversation there. Now, that’s what I call an idea on revitalizing comments. Too radical? Why? We are humans after all, no? And by the way … I don’t expect anyone to read what I just wrote. There is too much other stuff for surfers to click on out there. If I wrote “great post AAA+++” it would be the same in the end.

  111. 173


    November 21, 2010 2:03 pm

    Blog discussion died the moment WordPress neglected to include response email notifications. That and blog owners continuing to locate comment forms below comments – they should be above, and more easily accessible!

  112. 174

    After bean counters started making creative decision on the work place. I stopped caring! I just get the work done, and leave by 5pm.

    It sucks! I am not going to work for a design agency though. They don’t pay…

    So it is like what ever…

  113. 175

    To be quite frank, i don’t really care much for comments and just enjoy the articles for what they are… simple as that.

  114. 176

    Christopher Neetz

    November 21, 2010 3:16 pm

    Most people don’t style their comments in a meaningful way. Who want’s to scroll all the way down the page to hear some garbage that has little relevance to the topic. Bring your comments to the side of the article and “bump” important comments to the top.

  115. 177

    I really like this article. Having worked for a few high profile, online magazines I know that getting readers engaged and building meaningful commenting societies/communities is a real challenge. I also think that the advent and rise of social media has in part eroded the strength of those societies and stunted their growth. We are becoming accustomed to comments and blurbs that live within the span of 165 characters or less. We have adopted this process and are learning how to truncate our viewpoints to “fit” within the span of a tweet or small update. This process seems to be in stark contrast to the process of building meaningful dialogue through commenting.

  116. 178


  117. 179

    Part of the problem is that more and more “average” people are using the internet regularly. This has been proven time and time again to result in YouTube-like comments. Lack of contribution to the discussion, absolutely revolting spelling and grammar, and often hate speech.

  118. 180

    Mark Aaron Murnahan

    November 21, 2010 7:36 pm

    Interestingly, this arrived in my hands after a friend sent it on Twitter with the message as follows:

    “Where Have All The Comments Gone? (link) This poses some of the same questions that murnahan has been asking”

    Well, I am that Murnahan fella, and although I would love to offer my answers, it seems that I still have more questions than answers on this topic.

    I think it really does have some interesting implications, but I cannot just say that it is a lack of attention. On my blog where I have addressed this matter, I still see good traffic with over 4 minutes per visit and under 30 percent bounce rate. I consider that a pretty engaged readership … at least they stick around.

    Although they stick around, I went from seeing articles with over 150 comments to wondering why there were just a few pithy “Thanks’ nice post” type of comments.

    I thought maybe it was my style that was causing the decline, but no, I got even better at doing all the things to encourage conversation.

    I even pondered the notion of killing comments the way Seth Godin did. If you never read why he nixed comments on Seth’s Blog, it is interesting.

    I still love comments, and I think they provide much of the flavor to many blogs, but in lieu of that extra flavor, I will just keep on producing my awesome works, (even if I am the only one who thinks they are awesome) and do it because I love it.

    A question that really seems kind of nutty to me is why people hesitate more to comment on an older article that is still relevant and interesting than a new one that is boring.

  119. 181

    For me what this all comes down to is info-overload and an inability to organize that info in meaningful ways. This statement applies to the article itself and the comments.
    We are busy but want to be engaged, that’s why we bother to read in the first place right?

    As for the article, authors need to practice good visual hierarchy techniques to allow readers to scan. I’m talking about using pull quotes, bulleted lists, hi-lighted key phrases, etc. Give us the quick low-down and leave it to us to decide if we want to read the whole article for a deeper understanding.

    In respect to commenting, this simple list form is so… ancient when you think about it! If it is to be meaningful for anyone other than the author the content deserves some attention. A weighted keyword list comes to mind. I also think of Yelp’s compliments icons… it brings a little more organization into what could have been just a LONG list of compliments.

    Great article. Thank you for inspiring me to comment. :)

  120. 183

    1. well in this era of short messaging ( sms, twitter, facebook…) and short time that we all have, short comments are quite normal . We want to leave our mark of appreciation or dissagreement with the article in two or three words…
    It’s easier to press “I like” then say something constructive (and we are all becoming more stupid).

    2. Example: I don’t have enough time to read all these comments after I read your long articles ( btw. i love them…see…”btw” instead of “by the way” …we shorten everyhing!) even they seem to be constructive.

    3. we are more amused and like to read (and that is so sad!) the offensive and rude comments and to see how people are calling names on each other, then to read something helpful…

    4. there are so many people that are not speaking english ( like me ) and rather say something like: Great article! or Cool, etc, because cannot type correct words…

    or am i wrong?

  121. 184

    this is the same thing i was asking one of my blogger friend, as same thing happened to my blog too (comments are gone) , now i got the answer.

  122. 185

    This is a very interesting article indeed. In fact, I didn’t even stop to consider that social networking could actually be stopping my own audience from commenting on blog posts.

    But now it is clear to me that perhaps I am killing my own blog by tweeting about new posts; the comments I do get tend to come in the form of tweets or “likes” and little else.

    Time to reconsider my approach to publicising my blog, methinks.

  123. 186

    Adriaan de Leeuw

    November 22, 2010 3:28 am

    Opinion profiling? The purpose of the possibility to leave comments depends on who is looking at it.
    – The Author will be flattered with so many comments.
    – Financial responsible will see the possibilities grow with the number of comments.
    – The Content responsible will be happy to see that a great number of comments has been leading the commentators to hidden or open “targets”
    – etc…

    In following questions “it” means “the blog with leave comment possibilty YES”

    Does it want/need a discussion?
    Does it want/need to find help, solutions?
    Does it want/need publicity?
    Does it want/need serve other (open or hidden) purposes?
    Does it want/need a certain type of commentators?

    So, you could say that answers to these questions will define more or less whether you wants to leave this possibility, how “difficult” or “easy” you will make it to leave comments, and how “controlled” read “censured” you will make the follow-up process, etc …

    I read some comments stated that quality goes over quantity, but what If your article needs to have as much as comments or reactions as possible because the accompagnied add is paying the author on a pay per click system?

    The article is well written, but highlights only a certain profile of readers.

    Sometimes the number of “I like this” gives more “value” to an article then three pages of written comment.

    Is commenting not leading to (more) questions and do I need that?

  124. 187

    My two cents worth.

    I often run through the comments to gauge people’s reactions to posted items. I also use the like and dislike buttons upplied in comments. They are invaluable.

    I feel that part of the problem, as mentioned above by redwall_hp, is that more and more people use the internet who only have a vague understanding of how the it works. For most of us you understand that if you use an openID or Gravatar that you can build a reputation / persona online.

    For a large chunk of users its about coming out of their shell in an “anonymous” world where they can potentially say or do anything without recourse. Now we all know this isn’t the truth, but they don’t. Social retards use the internet… and there they can wallow in it. The internet transforms a social retard into a troll.

    On another note, I found this really interesting project a while back: I wish that more sites would implement this.

  125. 188

    Great post

  126. 189

    Niels Matthijs

    November 22, 2010 7:18 am

    One more additional reason (seriously, I didn’t read through the comment section as it started with a lot of meta-comment crap) is the fact that the internet is ever-growing.

    I used to visit a couple of sites to get all the info I needed. These sites felt like home and commenting there was somewhat of a no-brainer. But commenting on sites you don’t often visit feels a lot more pointless. I’ll probably forget about this article and the comment I made here, so why even bother to post a comment when it proves of little value to myself? I won’t engage in a discussion here, I simply don’t visit this site enough to care for that.

    These days there are countless sources to get info on webdesign. I don’t stick to one single site (as there isn’t one single site that gives me everything I need) and so I don’t really familiar enough with most of the sites I visit to go through the trouble of commenting.

    It’s might not be “the” reason for all the lack of actual social interaction (web 2.0 – the social web my ***) but at least I’m quite sure it’s a part of it.

  127. 190

    As someone who maintains a photography blog, I STRIVE for comments. I want people to offer up suggestions or constructive criticisms so that I can take a better picture next time. I have given away prizes for number of comments that people provide as long as they are not just “Way to go!” type comments. Even with all that, I feel like its pulling teeth to get people to offer reasonable insight into what they see. I agree with the article, I think there is a certain amount of time constraints that people have, and I also think in general, there is so MUCH information, people tend to scan over it rather that take the time to look at something in depth.

  128. 191

    Douglas Bonneville

    November 22, 2010 12:58 pm

    How about a minimum word count with a warning message “Sorry, your comment doesn’t contain enough words to be a meaningful contribution. What else can you add to the conversation?”. How about a 100 word minimum? That would be a cool experimental post, if SM could get the code to try it on a per-post basis. I’d be willing to put that on my own blog. Maybe a plugin already exists that does this? It’s the opposite of 140-character-twitter land. It would enforce “If you don’t have something substantive to say, then don’t say it at all”. There would be no incentive for spammers to come up with those stupid generic sentences that seem to say something at first glance but really say nothing.

  129. 192

    You can go wide or you can go deep.

    Smashing goes wide. Flip through the headlines and you will see why. Even so, I am surprised how many comments on Smashing are simply, “Great post.” Why do these people bother? Does Smashing use bots to give the illusion of activity? Probably not, but it wouldn’t look any different if they did.

    If you want collaboration or profundity in your comments, you need to cultivate a different audience. That audience will most likely be a lot smaller.

    For smashing, don’t look at the commenters, but rather the authors. They are the ones contributing to the discussion.

  130. 193

    In a world full of distractions few people now have time to leave comments and in my opinion this is because it takes time to read an article then browse other people’s comments before posting your own, and then you get the ‘Captcha’ or ‘you didn’t log in’..yawn.
    Others commented mainly to get a link back to their site, though most were useless comments some had some weight and were useful in the conversation, add a ‘nofollow’ or no way to link to your site and what exactly is the poster getting out of it?
    I feel these, and other reasons already covered, are the reasons so few of us post comments any longer.

  131. 194

    I think that many today comment just for SEO reasons, or linkbacks to their own blog or website. Google link lovin’. I find myself even doing it, but meaningful comments are much more effective even for that. Having a blog of my own, you can always tell which ones are commenting for the sake of posting their link, and which actually want to engage in meaningful conversation. Time is valuable, and in even a higher shortage as technology rapidly progresses, it seems. Information overload. Many forums have died since social networking has taken over. That’s another one of my theories, on why blog comments have cooled down. With sites like facebook, people now have their own closed community of tight knit friends and colleagues and they can share advice and info amongst themselves, more privately.

  132. 195

    Comments started to disappear because all sites stoped being instructive and became just a bunch of lists of what other people do.

    Hate to say it but take Webdesigndev for example. It started as a great tutorial and reviewing site of things every web designer or developer should know, but instead of continuing that trend they switched to posting “top 10 this” and “top 10 that”. Even Smashing Magazine did it at some point.

    With that idea in mind that “More the merrier”, users got bored of superficial insides rather than deep undercover of things that matter most. Practical use of the things they showed.

    So as you may wonder now and maybe weep about it, it is all your fault. By stop taking the time to review, test, model or create something new with the info at hand, it just became a ranking of what site offered more and more and really fast. There were really little or no time to explore this new capabilities because the next ten minutes another top 10 came up and finally we (the readers and commenters (dunno if that word exists)) stop caring and started bookmarking for later reading.

    Hopefully you now are aware of this situation and I expect you do something about it. Stop the rankings. Let’s get back to creating and experimenting. And i can assure that users will be back to comment and express their own achievements with everyone, instead of posting for ourselves in tumblr or some random blogging service. (like it was in the 90’s)

    Yours truly, a long lasting fan of SM.


    cheers from Chile.

  133. 196

    In my oppinion improving comments can only happen with very strict moderation. Limit number of comments per user per day or article, limit characters per comment. Moderate every comment, do not let pointless comments to exist below the articles at all.

    But the most important thing is readers to be engaged to participate in а discussion. If the article isn’t about discussing some problem, then it will be better comments to be turned off for it.

  134. 198

    Facebook did a good thing adding a “I like this”-facility. Like- and dislike-buttons give the people whose behaviour you complain about the opportunity to do want they seem to want in their short comments. Maybe that’s a solution that can be expanded: make a shortlist of most-common comments and a votingsystem. Bundle the meaningless comments in a avoidable sidebox :-)

  135. 199

    Am I the only one who just looks at long comment trails and thinks, I surely don’t have time to read all of this and then moves on to something else?

    I can admit some lack of discipline. On the other hand, I don’t “owe” anything to the writer per say.

  136. 200

    Vlad Zinculescu

    November 23, 2010 12:22 pm

    A very well written post! I also found this behavior on my deviantArt profile. People tend to congratulate me on good photos or desing, but only in the ugliest things will I receive a comment that generates discussion.

    I find myself at times scaning trough the articles in such a hurry, that even when I find a sollution I quickly get back to work…

  137. 201

    However valuable this article is, to me its extremely worrisome because something I saw as a country/culture/specific phenomena seems like a global one.

    I have been blogging and actively participating in running film blogs for a few years now and have been increasingly concerned about the same issues highlighted here. The patterns of viewers and commentators largely depend on popularity/controversiality of topics and it is a most disturbing trend.

    Is it because we are now only in an information age where don’t need to process it anymore to bring about a better understand of life and the world that surrounds us? Critical thinking and healthy discussion in objectivity are failing us rapidly. Is it because easily available information feeds our ‘needs’ quickly and that is the primary reason we come to blogs and the internet to begin with? Is it because dialog IS passe and we feel that intellectual/original/critical debate is really not a thing that can gave us anything anymore? I ask this because, I know I for one, am always hungry for a stimulating, informing debate and the increasing lack of it everywhere, online and offline is disturbing. This silence, is it a lack of need (which means its a good thing) or just apathy?

  138. 202

    I agree that not having enough time can be a contributing factor, and that some may just want to quickly show appreciation for the article before they have to run off to their next task. It could also be a situation of information overload. There’s so much out there, so many opinions and design is quite subjective that I think some may be starting to tune out. Or perhaps a combination of both elements.

    I teach and get feedback all the time from students and what I’ve learned is you can’t control what people say or how they say it. Instead I try and look for consistency to pin point the real issues and the valid comments.

  139. 203

    Sergio Ordonez - SOSFactory

    December 1, 2010 12:51 pm

    I think the problem is not the user.

    Every blog creates its audience, if your blog get only 2-words comments maybe is time to rethink about your priorities.

    A really good example is (just Spanish content), each entry always have hundred of really good comments.

  140. 204

    It’s okay, Jim, I got your joke :)

  141. 205

    I’m going to be a bit cynical here:

    1) There are lots of really ignorant people in the world. It’s only a matter of time until they leave YouTube and find a website like this and start dropping stupid comments.

    2) When I was young, the field of visual design on a personal computer was in its infancy–even though it has been around for my entire adult life now, there are thousands of young people every day discovering it…many of their comments sound just like that of most adolescents when they become the first of their friends to discover The Beatles, or note how this new band Green Day is really punk!

  142. 206

    I hate useless comments on sites (youtube etc) like a «agree», «+1», «ROFLMAO». If I had video with many such comments, I’d remove them all (I’m not popular on youtube though).

  143. 208

    Planes are very fun games that can play mostly online, that does not need to download large files, but plain and simple click on a link and start playing games with airplanes.

  144. 209

    Dennis Johnson

    July 26, 2012 8:00 pm

    Google+ Local, Google+ Local Ranking, maps marketing, Google Plus Local
    It is finally time to get all the collected information on the Google+ Local page. We have done the precursor work that 90% of the competition is not going t…
    Local business listings, Google+ Local Training, on page optimiz…, Google+ Local Tips

  145. 210

    Ronald Kelly

    May 7, 2013 2:39 pm

    Love Claw
    Love Claw is Social emotion technology that is out-performing Facebook by driving over 3.5x the n…

  146. 211

    I’ve been considering removing comments all together on my site. I’ve found that many comments are written by those who do not read an entire post, and their comments are impulsively contrarian.


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