The Linked List is the Comments



Comments drastically change the tone, feel, and content of a website. I’ve never had comments on my site, and I can’t fathom how much energy I would have to spend to keep the tone I’ve established here if comments were enabled.

Even if every comment were kind and clever there would still be a different feel to shawnblanc.net. Each post would have extra metadata: who commented; how many total comments; who’s the most commenting commenter; gee I haven’t commented in a while, I guess that makes me a lurker?

Moreover, comments would affect my time. I don’t want to spend one minute unnecessarily moderating rude comments or robot spam. Nor do I want another incoming distraction of having to keep tabs on what content is being put onto my site.

So for one, comments don’t serve me or my heart for this website. But they don’t serve the reader either.

Having commenters does not necessarily make a community. Most comment threads I’ve seen are just a lot of people posting replies with no regard to the other comments. (And sometimes with no regard to the original post, even.)

When someone comments, they are giving a one-on-one reply to the author. This can be done just as easily via email. I love how Marco put it earlier today:

A blog post is a one-to-many broadcast. Comments are the opposite: many-to-one feedback. A true discussion medium would encourage more communication between the commenters, forming larger quantities of many-to-many interactions and de-emphasizing the role of the blog post’s author. In practice, that rarely happens.

If comments are behaving as many-to-one feedback, there’s minimal value to showing them to the world, because the world largely doesn’t read them. […] We already have a widespread many-to-one feedback medium that avoids this: email.

On my site, and many others, feedback from the reader is welcome via email or Twitter. And if the reader wants to add to the conversation in a public way, they are encouraged to write it on their own website. And this is where links come in — to keep this site from becoming an island.

Chairman Gruber describes it as a curated conversation. John posts his own thoughts, opinions, and commentary, but also links to other people’s. In a way, the DF Linked List is the comments. And it’s extremely moderated and painstakingly curated.

Instead of discovering new people and content through the who’s who list of comments on Daring Fireball, you discover them through the Linked List. This is how John maintains the quality of DF that he’s so particular about. But it’s also John’s way of encouraging people to put their thoughts in front of their own audience. Which is, in my opinion, the best reason of all to not allow comments.

What frustrated Joe Wilcox about the lack of comments on Daring Fireball was his inability to respond in context. But John’s goal of a curated conversation is not about keeping his writing protected from criticism. He is passively encouraging people to build their own soapbox, write something of substance, and to curate their own conversations.