On comments, and blogs

Should a blog have comments enabled? Hyperlinks? What are blogs anyway? I put up a post on my personal blog a short while ago carrying forward a discussion on this issue, but as I don't have comments enabled, I thought I'd post it here, a forum meant for discussing just such things. So here goes:

Patrix, Dina and Charu have all put up posts recently that argue for the enabling of comments in posts, and have taken friendly aim at me for not doing so. I had stated my reasons in an earlier post (“No comments”), but it would be unfair of me not to respond to some of the points they raise. So here goes.

One, Dina does me an injustice when she says that I “have not really recognised the magic in conversations”. I understand that magic, and I crave to be able to have some of it on this blog. Indeed, in a piece I’d written for the Indian Express in January (“Blogs – The New Journalism”), I had described such conversations as being “often intelligent, informative and enlightening, with the readers adding enormous value to what the blogger has to say”.

Why then do I not have comments enabled? The reasons I had given here hold. Once your traffic goes beyond a certain point, the number of loonies who abuse you go up beyond what you can reasonably take, and that affects me and my peace of mind. Some bloggers might be mentally tough enough to say, “I will ignore it, it reflects on the person leaving the comment more than on me.” But I find it hard to do so, and refuse to have my pages sullied by boorish abuse.

It is not as if I alone have this problem. All high-traffic blogs do, and it is no surprise that most of the biggies in the blogosphere – like Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, Boing Boing and Kausfiles – do not have comments enabled. My traffic is nowhere near these guys, but it’s still beyond the point when the crap is tolerable. Gaurav Sabnis, whose blog is among the more popular Indian ones, shut down his comments recently as well, and told me last weekend how relaxed he felt after having done so. I actually noticed the conversations on his blog go from being intelligent and thought-provoking to abusive and ranty (to improvise a verb), and I understood exactly how he felt.

Now, there have been some comments made about how blogs should have comments enabled, and can’t be called “blogs” if they are not. I find those arguments ludicrous. The blogosphere is not a socialist or a statist space where a central politburo will decide on what is a blog and what isn’t, and everyone must conform. It runs, as I articulated in my post, “The libertarian internet”, like a perfectly functioning free market. Instapundit and Boing Boing are perhaps the most popular blogs on the net, and therefore the ones that bring value to the most readers – and they don’t have comments.

They have been validated by the hundreds of thousands of readers who visit them every day, and by the tens and thousands of fellow bloggers who refer to them as blogs. In other words, it falls not unto individuals to define blogs, but for the blogosphere to do so, collectively, with mouseclicks and blogrolls. And the blogosphere has spoken: comments not necessary.

While I’m on the subject, let me speak about another feature that I don’t consider necessary: hyperlinks. Now, I link to other sites and blogs more voraciously and frequently than most Indian bloggers, but I don’t view them as a mandatory requirement for blogs. (Yes, I know “blogs” began as “weblogs”, but they evolved and so did the nomenclature.) I say that because journalists, while reporting on their blogs, often don’t have the time, or the need, to place links. The most satisfying blogging I have done came when I was on the move and reporting events as they happened; first, in the aftermath of the tsunami, in Tamil Nadu (those posts archived here); second, while covering the India-Pakistan cricket series for the Guardian. In both cases, as I’ve explained here, my blogging gave a new dimension to my reporting. (Some big bloggers agreed.) There were hardly any links in those posts.

So what, in my opinion, defines a blog? Two things:

One, dated posts.

Two, the distinctive voice of a writer – or group, in case of groupblogs – speaking directly to the reader without the artifice involved in writing for a magazine or newspaper.

But that’s just my opinion, and I refuse to insist that others should feel the same way.
Amit ... as i said at my post, I'm a huge fan of conversational blogging. I find I am so let down when I read a post without comments. I keep feeling that Amit at India Uncut, who writes so well, and many other blogs who have disabled comments (they have their reasons like spam and hate mail) have not really recognised the magic in conversations. Its what makes blogging so unique as opposed to online publications or websites. Often, the comments are the most interesting part of a post. They engage the reader, they encourage dialogue. They can sometimes take the thought much further than the author had ever envisaged.

Having said that, and seen your response to my observation, i thought i'd bring here what i mailed you - i appreciate your concerns ... i have loads of traffic too and ... still each his own. My post was meant to be encouraging and not in any way derogatory - i have benefitted so so much from the conversational aspects of blogging - and i wanted to urge you (among others) to reconsider your decision. you have an important voice in the blogworld and you're only doing injustice to yourself and your readers by not allowing conversations. there are ways to stop abuse ... filters and deletion and even closing comments on select posts. trust too in the goodness of humanity ... people can flame once, twice three times ... they will be shut up effectively by your ''fans'' - am certain of that.

I wish you had opened comments on just this one post at least ... so we could have had a healthy debate on it that might have benefitted by being open.

Still, you have your reasons, and am so happy you brought this conversation here. It belongs !
Thanks Dina. As I said in the post, I agree with you regarding how enriching and fulfilling conversations can be. But the other considerations do matter to me.

Anyway, here we are, and the comments are open.
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To each her own. Amit, I cannot help but agree with most of what you write here. But there's one more aspect to it that perhaps is unique in the sense that I don't know if others disable for the same reason.

When I started blogging it was more a release point, but the comments section began to drain me out. I kept checking for comments, and I couldn't help but respond to them. I would be repeating responses, and very often justifying personal choices to others. It became something that completely sapped my energy and time. (No, I am simply not famous enough to make money out of this.. LOL).

As a person I enjoy communicating. But I am also the variety who cannot not respond. My email is up on my site to be mailed to, but I cannot respond to comments.

The magic of conversations is in tolerance for diversity. No?
Good point Neha. I find comments draining as well, and even when I join a discussion on someone else's blog, I find myself being drawn back to check for replies and leave my own responses. None of us are full-time bloggers, or can afford to be, and even if we were, the time spent replying to comments can just as easily be spent blogging. That's a matter of personal choice.

Also, I frequently write about the emails I get regarding my posts, quoting from them and responding to them. It is like a filtered discussion, you could say, though it doesn't have the back-and-forth charm of a real conversation. A lot of Instapundit's posts also originate in emails from people, and Andrew Sullivan has a letters section, which some people might find too, um, MSM.

See, now I'll keep coming back here and my blogging frequency will go down for a day or two? :)
Does a blog by definition have to have comments enabled? I agree with you Amit, that it does not. A blog is finally, private property and if the guests don't behave, the owner has the right to close his doors to them. It is sad that this might keep some of the nicer guests out too, and hence alternatives like email and password protection, etc.
What draws a blogger towards comments is the 'magic of conversation' as Dina puts it. But I guess every blogger has to figure out how much magic he/she can take in a day.
On a related note, here's an interesting argument by a blogger I read often on why he has a system in place whereby only people pre-approved by him can leave comments. He makes some good points.
Rhyncus said... 'A blog is finally, private property and if the guests don't behave, the owner has the right to close his doors to them. '

But by publishing it online ur making it public. Having a blog indicates that u want ur thoughts, opinions out there where the public can read. By disabling comments it like any other website.
Why assume that blogs MUST adhere to a format. Why force people into incorporating an element that they are not comfortable with.

There are some blogs with complete postal addresses, phone numbers, mobile numbers etc. Some that put up photographs. Some that have email ids. Varying levels of privacy.

One may think of comments as an essential feature of a blog, some may look at it as an intrusion into their life. Some of which becomes difficult to handle.

Blog is essentially a free space. Let's not start labelling blogs as websites because they do not adhere to a specific receipe! Blog - Is essential a Web Log! Log, where entires are part of the scene. Comments are optional. They may bring in a different level of discussion, charm, magic, intellect (or the opposite of the above), but a blog owner has the right to choose from this list right?

Of course we have our personal preferences. But can we not force them down others' throats?

And really, I don't care if someone feels that my blog isn't a blog. You want to call it a leaping frog, that's okay by me as well! Or you could call it Dubya's Bum too! But it is my space. And I expect others to respect the sanctity of MY space in a public sphere.

A blog is a private corner in a public sphere. Not a public space or a free-for-all. (Again, depending on the owner's threshold and choice!)

On second thoughts... You cannot call it Dubya's Bum, however, you could attach a politically correct prefix to the word Bum. That is still acceptable.

Mere chaar paise.
Well put, Neha. There are plenty of comments on Dubya's Bum.
All I can say is that I would have visited and 'spent more time' on your blog, Amit, had it been open for comments. And I never abuse anyone (just so that it may not sound pompous, I post this as anonymous :-). Rather I am always looking for a good 'conversation' when I spend my time (which, by the way, is also limited as I am not a professional blog reader, like the blog writer)

I know, I know.....I can take my 'business' elsewhere logic...and that does happen many times...I prefer some other blogs to yours if they are competing for my time.

Hoping there is nothing personal in this....and I still do keep coming back many a times :-))
And by the way, since no one pointed this out, comments section of blogs are actually not just debating corners, but means of 'communnity growth' ! I have discovered many good blogs through comment senders (if I remember correctly thats how I discovered Indian uncut as well !). If I like the views of a comment giver, I check out his blog.

This is much suitable way of blog network growth than blog search engines, or reference links in other blog sites.
well neha u can call it whatever u want, but once its online it becomes public. U might say its a private corner in a public sphere, but its public anyway. If u wanted it to be a private corner in the public sphere u could have had a login page, only those u wanted that post to read can enter. Better still write a diary.
But by posting in a blog u want that to be public. U want people to visit it, read ur opinions. Naturally they will have their own opinions.Websites just have a mail me tag to reply to the author. If comments is turned off it all the same anyway.
By the long post it seems u didn't agree with my comment!. Naturally u had ur own. Now if there were no comments section how
would u respond. Of course there woudn't be this thread in the first place. But consider a situation when u wanted to voice ur opinion. But i believe the reason for comments be turned off because people are so opinionated.
when in the human history have people discussed sanely. we all have our own egos to maintian.
Being in the public sphere does not mean the demise of all rights.

My blog has my email contact, and people are welcome to discuss ideas and whatnot through that medium.

My comment was not so much in disagreement with your comment, as much to offer an alternate opinion. Had this conversation been through mails however, I believe that at least my comment would be more cogent, well thought out et al. I cannot say the same for my comment writing or responding skills.

My fundamental premise is not to disallow opinions, but disallow commenting service.

By definition nothing on the net can be owned, including an idea. :) The metamorphosis can bring in lots of changes. Nobody can restrict the idea of a blog to a single definition. I do maintain an alternate blog on LJ which I find easier because of the filtering process, but my blogspot blog has been mine too long to give up.

My sanity is crucial to me. But not just in terms of unwanted kind of comments, but the inability to deal with so many people all at the same time. Once somebody comments, you are expected to respond... then and there, and in not doing so, the commentor assumes that you are defeated. My sanity is also heavily dependent on my time. I have a job to keep. Having comments on my blog drove me up the wall. (And my boss!)

This way, things are easier. The headache of constant checking, reloading is relatively small. Yes, I may not boast a huge traffic, but even the small piddly amount that visits is capable of a large number of comments!

And see this is what happens. I come back, I check for responses. I look at the other comments. Having a comment section was making me less tolerant. (It's difficult to describe this!) But then I want everyone to agree with me that very instant.

Anyhow, to each.. her own.
somehow I find the argument "my blog, my wish" redundant because bloggers often refer to it when they have little else to counter. I agree with Pam when she says that if you write online, you are soliciting comments. By keeping an email link instead of comments, you are simply isolating communication. Comments simply make that dialogue transparent. Abuse can also be emailed and also can be ignored...just like in comments. If you feel that you MUST respond to comments, even abusive ones on your blog, you are being obsessive. I have been responding personally to each person who comments and roundly ignoring anyone who resorts to abuse. That is enough to snub the abusive person.

anyways, no matter what I say, I'll still get the "my blog, my wish" why bother?
Continuing with Patrix's sentiment, the abusive person does not keep coming back if totally ignored. Or atleast gets the message and shuts up !
i am back for the third time!. That should atleast make u like comments!!. i do not know why u thought i disagreed with ur commets. it was my view of the matter. do u need to respond to every comment i don't think so.
and whats with 'commentor assumes that you are defeated'.
but comments are turned off because people are so opinionated. somewhere someone just blew u off. same situtaion when u get into some petty fight. one moment u think what am i doing?. and u just walk off.
anyway i won't be posting again. sorry if i wasted ur time/peace.
was a good discussion btw
Just an analogy to start:

Let’s assume a person opens his house for free food. I enter the house for free food and after having the food, I ask the owner for a blackboard & chalk. The puzzled owner asks me why. I insist that since you gave me good food I need to write my feedbacks about the food on a blackboard inside the house. The owner of the house points me to ‘Comments’ box, where I can write in my comments & drop it. I refuse to hear him and still shout “I need the blackboard & chalk!” The owner also repeatedly tells me the purpose of the ‘Comments’ box. I still argue with the owner telling him that I did the same in X, Y & Z places and if I can do that there. Why not here? “I need the blackboard & chalk!” How does it feel? Am I not stupid? Am I not a fool?

Those who have comments section incorporated are all ‘insecure’ including yours truly. It takes guts to do away with comments. To me, a blogs success is measured on only one principle..i.e if a blog has a high number of visitors in spite of having 'no comments', then the material in the blog is good. The author is confident that he does not have to market his blog, he does not have to please his readers by saying thank you & niceties just so that the visitors keep coming back. There are 2 types of blogs – the insecure ones & those with ‘No Comments’. Remember I am not subscribed (paid any of these bloggers) to these blogs, so why should they (No comments bloggers) listen to me? In fact I visit these blogs for that very reason, knowing that they blog with complete freedom and are not trying to please everyone.
Hey Amit,
How about enabling trackbacks?
Hi Amit
You have every right to keep the blog as you wish. It's your blog, not a community resource.
For Dina, Patrix, and Anonymous, if you want to comment on India Uncut then create your own blog, link to every post in India Uncut, and enable comments - simple.
An addictive blog by any other name/template would still be an addictive blog quoteth Suhail. (Infact Dheepak commented on Charu's blog about how Slashdot doesn't 'feel like a blog' and I found myself agreeing to it). So, Amit indeed you have full freedom to operate your blog the way you do. And you need not conform to any set rules. Tomorrow if you were to start posting in chronological order, I would still do a Ctrl+PgDn to get to the last post. I will still suggest; as a pilot-project you enable the comments on one interesting topic and see how it goes.

Patrix said, you can also abuse via email. But I think emails takes away the immediacy of the itch which the abusers might feel in their fingers. let's face it, most rants are instant burst of flames. So in that sense, email still filters out the conversation to a good extent. [btw Amit, your replies are too quick for my comfort :)].

Personally, up until now I have replied to my comments coz I agree with Dina, that I enjoy the conversation which goes on in there. Not implying that my comments section is gr8, but with my ltd. traffic I enjoy it. Even Anon stalkers. Once in a while I also make the mistake of rising upto flamebaits, but that is one thing I hope to improve on as I go. So I can understand that if it saps you mentally, then it's best to disable it and retain your sanity in the interest of majority of your readers.

Michael, your suggestion wouldn't really work. Blogs still have that personal touch. Why would someone want to comment on XYZ's blog for what Amit wrote, even if it's sole aim is to solicit comments. Infact, more so if it's sole aim is that. I don't see many people doing it. However it will be an interesting expt to watch if someone does it.

In conclusion: To each his own.
Before someone asks for clarification; when I said "blogs need to have comments" on Charu's blog, I didn't really mean "need". It was more of that inner wish that Amit should enable his comments. My bad choice of words.
Firstly, to the first anonymous who assured me that he/she would not have abused me, I believe you! Listen, I'm quite confident that 990 out of 1000 people who come to my blog would not abuse me, and would probably visit me more if I had comments enabled. I appreciate that, and I share that love of conversation. But I have other concerns as well, about the other 10 chaps, and I'm sure you understand that.

And I find Pam's logic of everything on the internet being public property a little bizarre. It is similar to the despicable logic the Shiv Sena recently applied to the rapes in Mumbai, where they implied that if a woman wears provocative clothes in public places it's ok to rape her. As Neha put it, we don't lose our rights in public places. And furthermore, my blog is public only to the extent that I choose to display it to the public. That does not give anyone ownership over it - no matter what the Shiv Sena feels.

Similarly, Patrix, your comment of "if you write online, you are soliciting comments" does not hold up. If a lady wears a mini-skirt in a public square, is she soliciting caresses on her thigh? This isn't a frivolous analogy I'm making - my blog is my property as much as your body is yours. Putting it in a public place does not make it public property, much as some would wish otherwise.

Michael, Suhail, tifoc, thanks. Niket, I'd enable trackbacks except that I don't exactly see the need for it. I'm a writer, I want to be read, people come and read me. If readers find I don't provide enough value, they go elsewhere, it's my loss. I'm happy with that arrangement. Simple si baat, no complexities.
A set of questions to ponder:

1. Should libertarians_who_also_cherish anarchy effectively enforce what can at best be termed as policing and at worst as censorship find it inherently contradictory or not?

2. Would the same policy adopted by - say, a Rupert Murdoch - for a talk show be crucified by the said believers? [actually, they do fliter out callers]

OR does the above analogy (big media vs blogging irrelevant to this discussion?
typo..i meant 'filter'
Quizman, my answers to your questions:

1. Should libertarians_who_also_cherish anarchy effectively enforce what can at best be termed as policing and at worst as censorship find it inherently contradictory or not?

Firstly, I'm a minarchist, I don't believe in anarchy and zero government and all that. Secondly, the principle libertarians hold most dear, and that socialists care least about, is the priniciple of private property rights. That is all I'm safeguarding here. And the libertarian stand on that would be simple: all our blogs are our personal property, and we should have the freedom to do with it what we want. Comments, no comments, grammar, no grammar, coherence, no coherence. And likewise, our readers are free to decide if they want to read us or not.

Also, as is explained in the second point in this post, you're confusing censorship with lack of sponsorship.

2. Would the same policy adopted by - say, a Rupert Murdoch - for a talk show be crucified by the said believers? [actually, they do fliter out callers]

I would not crucify it; that would be hypocritical. Murdoch is free to have whatever policy he wants on his talk show; we are free not to watch it if we find it objectionable.

But I would object if all the callers were just actors and he pretended to have real callers. That would be deception, just as TOI's practice of selling editorial space without transparently indicating which articles are sold is deception. But the example in your question is perfectly legit.
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Your statement would be true for views (opinions) but not for news. The challenge in reporting (media or blogging) is that sometimes the two inevitably clash. So what demarcates the line between censorship and personal choice?

Rupert Murdoch *cannot* filter views since that is against all journalistic ethics. [And would contradict his claim of being "fair and balanced"]

My difficulty is that I would have accepted your rationale for Middle Stage since it is a collection of essays, whereas India Uncut became famous for *reporting* the aftermath of the Tsunami disaster. Now you are concentrating on analysis of politics/economic news already published in BM + reporting cricket news/travelogues yourself. In essense you are blurring the line between opinions and news on the same forum.

I think it would be reasonable to assume that if your forum does not offer independent confirmation of news through other guest bloggers, it should have space for soliciting comments. [Remember, I'm talking about reporting only not essay type posts]

At the very least, you should have the equivalent of "Letters to the Editor"} or an ombudsman to whom people can report issues to. That is, issues related to your reporting.

[Btw, while I'm giving an example of you personally, I want to keep the discussion at a generic level.
But there is a fundamental difference between India Uncut and other blogs. 99.99% of other blogs are what in ordinary parlance would be termed as "timepass". You often indulge in real life free lance journalism in your blog

Btw, the same problem exists with the big media. It is getting increasingly more difficult to distinguish between news and opinions.
I'll agree with Amit Varma on this one.

Comment spam is a problem, and emailing is not a problem if you intend to comment something meaningful. Amit also updates his blog with the meaningful emails, so that builds the conversation right in the post itself. Obviously Amit has to do more work this way, but if he's willing to do it, well, that's his choice.

Secondly, having a blog does not mean you have to enable comments. This is the equivalent of saying, I have an email ID, anyone can email me. That's true, I cannot stop you from emailing me but if a lot of the mails I get is spam, I will most definitely stop using that email ID after some time. I think that is what Amit has done with his comments.
I encourage comments purely for transperancy sake. of course, abuse is part of any online conversation and every blogger has the right to decide whether he/she wants comments, but imagine if everyone thought the same, we would lose out on an important aspect of blogging.

Amit, I do not agree with your analogy of the mini-skirt where 'caressing her thigh' might be considered an immoral act. Commenting is not. In addition you also discourage hyperlinks which I again believe extends 'conversations', not everything you write materializes from thin air. You link your inspiration, be it another blog, an op-ed, or an article.
Patrix, my analogy is apt because both my blog and your thigh are private property, and even if they are in a public space, it is up to us to decide how much liberty to allow others with it. Morality is not the issue here; our control over our private property is.

And I don't discourage hyperlinks. In fact, there are more hyperlinks going out from my site on a daily basis than any other Indian blogger's, and my blogroll is also bigger than any I've seen. (Compare your site with mine, for example!) All I say is that hyperlinks are not neccessary for something to be called a blog, and a journalist reporting from a war zone on what he sees, for example, has enough to report from what is happening around him, and no time to bother about "conversations".

And this obsession with "conversations" is all well and good, but a blogger like Instapundit, with 300,000 visitors a day, can't possibly have "conversations" with people. Comments on his site would lead to chaos. As traffic goes up, that's something one needs to consider.

Quizman, I'm afraid I must be rather thick, I simply didn't understand the point you are making, news v views etc. But I would say this: if I do something wrong, either in my reporting or my analysis, all my readers have the right to jump on me and prove me wrong in their blogs. My space remains mine.

And as Bill Vallicella explained so well in the post I linked to in my last comment, you're confusing censorship with lack of sponsorship. Allow me to quote him:

"Disallowing comments from a particular person, or deleting an offensive, off-topic, or otherwise substandard comment, has nothing to do with censorship. People who think otherwise confuse censorship with lack of sponsorship. I am under an obligation not to interfere with anyone's exercise of legitimate free speech rights. But I am not under any obligation to aid and abet anyone's exercise of free speech rights, legitimate or illegitimate."

So while I should not and cannot stop you from expressing yourself on whatever subject you please, there is no obligation on me to let you do it in my space.
Amit you respond to Patrix saying "Patrix, my analogy is apt because both my blog and your thigh are private property, and even if they are in a public space, it is up to us to decide how much liberty to allow others with it. Morality is not the issue here; our control over our private property is."

I dont quite agree. Not all private property remains private in public space. There is a huge difference between one's body in public and one's opinions in public space. If you are giving opinions in public space, you are going to get comments. And while you have the choice to shut it off, it would show negatively on you.

And though I personally dont like analogies, still a better comparison would be to a performer, lets say an actor (or even our dear Sourav Ganguly :-) The performance, acting or batting is 'personal' and yet its open for public review and criticism. Specially for an actor (who is not playing for an 'Indian team' like Ganguly does) its easy to hide behind the personal space logic. But it doesn't work. Remember Amitabh Bachchan's famous boycott of the media ! They were, in our blogging terms, spamming or abusing him. So he cut them off. It helped in the short term, but in the long run didn't work out. He is back in public space ! And I dare say, he has been better off since being back !

You can write a book, and that would again be public property, open for criticism. You can choose to ignore it, as you can with bad comments on your blog. But you are, by logic, opening up for comments as soon as you choose to make your personal work public. And note here the issue is not about the physical space, but about the concept of openness. I dont think your intention is to save space on blogspot server, or even on your blog account :-)

But I would totally agree with your logic of not opening up due to time constraints. Even reading and ignoring takes away some time. Although there are some great blogs out there where comments section is more of a reader interaction space, with no input from the writer at all. And that also works. Its a matter of perception I guess.
Origininal anonymous

Your analogy doesn't work. Yes, Sourav's batting or Amitabh's acting can be criticised in the public domain. So can my blog. But just as they have a right not to let someone into their house to criticise them, I too have a right not to have it done on my blog. I don't dispute that once I have commented on something my opinions are in the public space and people can comment on them as they want. But on their space. Not on mine. You don't seem to have grasped the difference between my views and the space I express them in.

Would you go and ask Amitabh: "Dude, we want to comment on your performance in Waqt, can we include those comments in the film please?"

You are, as Quizman was, getting confused between censorship and lack of sponsorship. See my earlier comment on that issue.

Also, if you scroll up, I thought tifoc's analogy was dead right on this issue.

Btw, I was not confusing censorship with sponsorship. I was referring to checks and balances to separate news from views.

Let us just agree to disagree.
There are checks and balances already.

I completely disagree. There are *no checks and balances*.

For example, I've seen blogs where people write about the corruption of a public official (I went to the RTO office today and so and so asked me Rs 100) Now publishing an article is different from talking about it with a few friends, since blogs have a much wider audience. Theoretically, one can say, "Why doesn't the govt official begin a blog?" Practically, most of them do not have access to that kind of infrastructure. Moreover, the govt offical, may not even know that he/she is being publicly accused of illegal activities.

I'm with the bloggers on this one. Their freedom of speech should be unrestricted.

However, there should be some forum where the victims of slander (or their supporters) have a chance to rebut.

This is especially true for blogs run by journos, because people assume de facto their reporting to be fact.

Like I said, there was a time when newspapers would be very careful in checking sources and possessing reasonable evidence before making allegations. They would even write "alleged" before the courts convicted the person under question.

Now, BM as well as blogs have no time for such niceties. Nor are there are fora for the victims of slander to address their point of view. It is quite literally, the privileged guy vs the under-privileged.

Not that enabling comments will solve that problem. But at the very least, there is a remote chance that someone out there may offer a clarification. [Hence, the analogy to 'Letters to the editor']

Are we revisiting W.R. Hearst & good old Orson? ;-)
Read here at
Congratulations Amit, another feather in your cap! You now have a blog about your blog. How better can it get? :)

The checks and balances available in the case of a blog without a comment, it would seem, are the same as that of an offline newspaper. They don't have comments either, but letters to the editor, and people are free to write to me as well.

Secondly, if a blogger does something inethical, I think his credibility will dip soon enough and he'll lose his readers. The entire blogosphere, in that sense, is a self-correcting mechanism.
So Amit, then your point is that the blog 'can' be like any other media, just a bit more transparent (in the sense that its not often driven by commercial interests) ?

So I read the blogger like any of my favourite columnist in mainstream media, whose opinion I have tried and tested over a period of time ? There is 'nothing more' to blogs ? There seems to be a problem in this whole thing somewhere :-)
And you also say - "Would you go and ask Amitabh: "Dude, we want to comment on your performance in Waqt, can we include those comments in the film please?"

See this is why I hate analogies ! Usually things are comparable in one aspect, while people trying to counter, compare it in the other aspect ! Blogger is like the actor in the 'performance' sense, but bloggers product is unlike the actor's product (film) in the physical ownership sense. Ofcourse I can tape over my comments on the end of 'Waqt' and distribute that to my friends, and they can do the same in turn. But its not comparable because the reason for origin and consumption of film as a product is different from the blog. Blog is more of an interactive 'community based' product.

And there is no parallel to blogging in terms of comparison, so all analogies would have flaws. But in my own observation blogs without comments are not much different from 'good' mainstream media, and people tend to treat them in the same way. Which wasn't the whole point of blogs ! It could have been done in the pre-blogging era also. And its done now also, on websites with RSS feeds. You get dated posts, you get to know updates without visiting etc etc. Those are not blogs.

And the very reason why we are having this debate is because blogs was supposed to be a community interaction thing (like messenger, chat-room etc etc) therefore no 'hard bound' definitions exist of what constitutes a blog.
Wow ... came back here after a bit .. and i have learned so much from all this discussion here. 42 comments that have taken the original issue to meaningful places and opened my eyes to different views. So rewarding.
Original anonymous,

Blog is more of an interactive 'community based' product.

Well, that's your definition, and you're welcome to it. As I wrote in my post, "it falls not unto individuals to define blogs, but for the blogosphere to do so, collectively, with mouseclicks and blogrolls." And the fact that the most popular blogs in the world - Instapundit, Boing Boing, Andrew Sullivan - do not have comments indicates that plenty of readers and bloggers do not define blogs the way you do.

You are welcome to your definition, nevertheless, but you can't hold others to it. As Quizman put it, we must then agree to disagree, respectfully and in a civil manner. What more is there to discuss?

I'll repeat myself. Let us agree to disagree. I don't think the blog world is mature enough to be a self-correcting mechanism. Well, most bloggers do not have the time to check sources and validate statements/accusations - not yet. It will certainly get there, but we have ways to go.

Even in the US, bloggers have managed to convey a sense of equilibrium mostly in the area of political blogging. [Re: Rathergate]
So this is what it's like to be a star blogger! This has probably given you your fill of comments for the year. :)

Others have stated, eloquently, what I feel on this matter ("whatever works for you" is the short version), so I don't have much to offer to this discussion.

Except this.

To those who say that comments are an essential part of a blog, I disagree. If you do your research (I have), the only thing that defines a blog, by consensus, is that it be a website with dated entries. As far as anything else goes, hey, whatever rocks your boat.

Comments are a fairly recent development in the seven or eight years blogs have been around. Blogger, which Amit uses, only brought in their own comments facility less than a year ago, if I remember right. Until then, people using the service used add on utilites like Haloscan and CommentThis. Or lived without.

And I don't buy the "blogs are community software" bit either. Some people - Dina is a wonderful example - have used blogs to build community. Others, like Amit, have had a community spring up around them, whether or not, apparently, he wants it thus. But that doesn't change my mind. Blogs are writers' software, IMAO, or, to be able to include those wonderful photoblogs and artblogs and all that, they're software for creative people. Community is incidental.

If you want community, there are plenty of community sites out there. Join one. It's fun.
Peter ... my contention (and i know you arent suggesting that even for a moment) wasn't to say that there are 'rules' for blogs. How can there be? It was just to share my experience of the potential they have to become your social network, - comments being one of the tools that encourage it and enhance it. Like permalinks (which btw wikipedia suggests are integral to blogs).

I love Amit's blog and (Neha's) and i see how it could become even more fantastic with the conversations (forget community) - so the appeal.

Then, i have learnt he has sound reasons for not doing so, and i respect that. Its wonderful to see both sides of the coin. And then decide what works for you.

Truly an Indicubed post, na?
But, dear friends,
blogsphere has this remarkable aspect:
That is true, most bloggers do not check their resources or try to be accurate as harder as the newspapers try. But you can not just switch on your PC and write what ever you want. There are people (millions of them) right next to you to correct you if you're wrong or unethical. You are taking a big risk(of losing your readership) if you decide to write some bullshit. If you continue to play bad in the endthat will cost your readership.

Most certainly. And just as I was wondering whether this blog wasn't as good an idea as I thought it was.

You and Amit have stirred up the pot a bit.


Personally, a blog doesn't HAVE to have comments. It's up to the writer whether he/she want's to enable comments or not. I think it's clear that you cannot force a writer to enable comments.

However, having said that, having comments enabled greatly benefits a blog. It enables a lot of good community discussion, which is not possible via email. I think this very page is proof of that. The discussion here has added so much to this blog entry, something that is not possible on the original post.

So while blogs need not have comments enabled, they do greatly benefit from having them on.
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