Bringing back comments on this blog


In 2015, when I transferred this website from Blogger to its current home on a self-hosted WordPress installation, I made the decision to disable comments across the entire site. Today I am reversing that decision.

The rationale was good at the time. Conversations were shifting to social networks, and it felt redundant to have a comment system here on the blog as well. I was also tired of dealing with a never-ending wave of comment spam. I have always striven to achieve a focused minimalism on my own website, paring things back to leave only the essential elements. This ruthless focus has resulted in the clean, calm, readable space you see today.

However, I failed to take one big factor into consideration. When you shift the conversation away from the blog and onto the social networks instead, you help to accelerate the hollowing-out of blog communities. This may seem obvious, but without comments, blogs are no longer places for discussion and community – they are more like magazines, or lists of articles.

I thought this was what I wanted. But I have been gradually withdrawing from social media. I no longer use Google+ or Facebook, and am cutting back on Instagram and Twitter. Why? Because they are toxic environments by design, and I have witnessed them growing stronger as the blogging community grows weaker. I also resent the amount of time Twitter steals from my daily life. I’d far rather pour that time into this blog, a space I control down to the last pixel.

So I’m going to start allowing comments on new entries. I’ll start commenting on other people’s blogs again. I’ll further reduce the amount of time I spend on Twitter. Who knows? Maybe in a small way this will help to bolster the community spirit of blogging that I once appreciated so much, back in the early days. They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone (or going), and that’s very much the case with the ‘blogosphere’.

If you’re a regular reader, please drop a comment and say hello!

Comments

  1. Bernard says:

    Hello Alex!
    Good idea to allow comments again. I have never used FB or Twitter anyway… But comments on a blog, that’s a good way of interacting. Let’s hope you will not be inundated with spam though.
    By the way, are you going to post some more on your new Atom pack? I am very interested.

    • Alex Roddie says:

      Hi Bernard! I plan to write a much more detailed review of the Atom Pack Prospector. It’s sitting in my cupboard awaiting warmer weather at the moment, but it’ll come out again in the springtime (I am using a much bigger pack over the winter). Watch this space…

  2. Paul says:

    Hi, for some reason couldn’t comment from another browser, but this one works (hopefully). Giving FB and Twitter a miss this year, so applaud the re-introduction of blogs and comments — long live RSS 😉

  3. Lizzi says:

    Hello on here! I’m either following your lead or coming to the same conclusions about Social Media as you – my Twitter break is being very beneficial. It’s freeing up time to enjoy more in depth articles on the blogs I follow.

    • Alex Roddie says:

      Thanks Lizzi – glad to hear it’s freeing up more time for enjoying the blogs you follow. There’s only so much time and we have to decide where to invest it. I feel that consciously investing that time in things that we find useful or interesting is a better plan than passively browsing social media…

  4. @pilgrimchris says:

    Hi Alex,
    I’m following your social media withdrawal experiment with interest.
    I’ve never really suffered from the pains you describe as I’ve always had a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude to social media. My main platform is Twitter which I enjoy immensely – although I have to proactively adjust my feed settings to filter out content I’m not interested in – and think of my feed on Twitter as a news feed of friends that I can interact with at MY discretion.
    Your decision to reinstate comments on your blog makes sense as you withdraw from other ways to interact with your readers and online community.
    Always love our interactions buddy.
    Regards
    Chris

    • Alex Roddie says:

      Cheers Chris! I really struggle with Twitter – at its best it can be fantastic, but at its worst I find that it stokes my anxiety, disrupts my attention and shatters my ability to think deeply or creatively. No exaggeration to say that social media has torpedoed my ability to write fiction.

      I’ve always struggled with these internet demons, but modern social networks are far worse than forums etc. ever were. Partly that’s by design, of course, but individual psychology plays a huge role too. I’ve always been the kind of person who thrives in silence and solitude. It’s just becoming a lot more difficult to find those things on your own terms these days.

      On the other hand, maintaining a blog has always been the right kind of online interaction for me – blogging respects my attention, and because the blogs I follow tend to be designed and run with digital humanist principles (unlike any modern social network), I don’t find them grabby for attention. In short, spending time on my own blog, and talking to people on other blogs, makes my life better… while social media is a net negative for me, despite some clear benefits. I admire people who can use social media mindfully though. I am not one of them…

      There will be a book about all this some day 🙂

  5. A little late to the party but glad to hear you’ve brought back your comments section. I often like to reply to a blog post I’ve enjoyed, even if it’s just to let the publisher know people are reading it and enjoying their content. I’m looking forward to hearing all about your trip when you return!

    By the way, how do you keep track of other blogs that you follow? Do you use an RSS reader or something? I’d like to get back into reading blogs more often and could do with a way to keep track of them.

    Thanks

    • Alex Roddie says:

      Hi Steven, thanks for dropping by. I have always used an RSS reader – currently my reader of choice is the new version of NetNewsWire (I used the original version many years ago).

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