Blog Comments: Should You Close Up Shop?

Think back. Why did you start a blog? We all may have started for different reasons – but one things is unanimous, we all felt like we had something to say, and for most of us – we wanted our voice to be heard by others – we seek to encourage discussion – by putting our thoughts out their in public, we open ourselves to the feedback and conversation that ensues.

I’ve been in and out of blogging for over four years now – about a year and a half on Life Without Pants and through the transitions and ‘real life’ happenings, my focus, goals, and voice has changed. But one thing has always remained the same. The love, the PASSION for writing. Even if I’m wrong, even if some people absolutely despise my content, I write because I love it. It’s a release, it’s a learning experience, and it’s opened opportunities door time and time again.

Are you writing for yourself or your community?

But an interesting thing starts to happen with managing a blog. In that whole process of ‘community building’ – it’s easy to lose your voice. It’s easy to start writing for your audience and not for yourself. There has to be both – but when you give up your own perspective for the sake of what other people want to hear, or what other people might think or say in the comments, you’ve lost what it means to be a writer.

I read an excellent post yesterday by Derek Powazek about the value (or lack there of) when it comes to ‘online commenting’. Here’s an excerpt. Read on below for my thoughts…

“…But I’ve seen incredible communities form in the confines of comment forms. I’ve seen funny, helpful, informative, intimate, amazing conversations. I’ve seen groups of people come together using the crudest of tools to form intense personal bonds. I’ve seen it literally change lives for the better.

Of course, I’ve also seen comments on YouTube.

I don’t think the problem is that people are stupid. I think that people, when given crappy tools, with almost no oversight, no incentive to behave, and no semblance of real identity, often behave stupidly.

The choice is not really to have comments on or off. The choice is: What is the level of community interaction you want to foster on your site? What’s the purpose of the site, and is community interaction part of that purpose? Too many people don’t think about these questions as deeply as John Gruber clearly has.

I turned off comments in the last redesign of powazek.com because I needed a place online that was just for me. With comments on, when I sat down to write, I’d preemptively hear the comments I’d inevitably get. It made writing a chore, and eventually I stopped writing altogether. Turning comments off was like taking a weight off my shoulders. It freed me to write again.

I may enable comments again someday. But what I really want to do is fundamentally redesign the commenting experience. Most comment systems are practically designed to create stupidity. I know there’s a better way. But that’s another post.”

It’s interesting because I’ve always been a huge proponent of blog comments and community building – I’ve written elsewhere about how responding to comments is a huge priority to me – but I found a LOT of truth in what Derek said.

Like Derek, I have witnessed, first hand, the power of community here on my blog in bringing people together, learning, and sharing ideas. My blog has been a springboard in the forging of many, many real life relationships, both personally and professionally.

Do you know what the response will be before you publish?

But as I write this, as I write almost any post…I can almost predict what the response is going to be – who will agree and who will disagree.

This is why Derek’s reasoning behind turning comments off rings so true with me. With them on, it’s easy to dictate your writing approach toward your audience’s predicted response. With them off, the focus can really be, in the truest sense, about writing – why most of us started a blog in the first place.

Now before you say “You should always write for yourself and not worry about what others think” - I get that, I strive for that, we ALL do. But not many out there can admit that you write without even thinking about what the response may be. It may not sway you to write a certain way, but it’s that lingering thought in the back of your head.

Derek says that ‘most comment systems are practically designed to create stupidity’. Youtube aside (good luck finding an intelligent comment there) comments often end up as a sounding board for everyone who thinks they’re right about everything.

While a lot of learning and value can be had in the comments section of any site, it can also turn into a competition for who’s standing on the higher pedestal and who can rally other commenter’s around their opinion. If everyone’s right, what’s the point? Where’s the value?

Is closing comments cowardly?

There are a lot of folks out there who will label someone who closes comments as a coward – not allowing or welcoming different opinions – I agree to an extent – but if you’re REALLY burning to respond, there are about 764,984 other ways for you to sound off and have your voice heard.

So…this isn’t me giving up on comments. I’m not opposed to the idea of closing them somewhere down the line, re-opening them, whatever. We all evolve and our focuses change…

But I AM interested in your thoughts (yes…a closing comments post asking for comments, gotta’ love the irony). I see a lot of validity in what Derek is saying and want to know what YOU think.

How much value do you place in the comments of your own blog?

To those of you who don’t allow comments – what’s your reasoning? Why keep things quiet? Are you denying the chance to build relationships by limiting conversation?


61 Responses
  • TimB Reply

    Hey Matt. First off – fantastic site – it's one of the first I check every day and since I've been following it I've got a load of useful and thought provoking stuff from you. Keep it up, man. I think by their very nature blogs like yours are essentially an interactive thing. It's clear from your content that not only do you love to write but you have a passion and knowledge of your subjects that flows through every post you submit. I'm not blowong smoke here but your blog and a handful of others have inspired and assisted me in getting a similar thing off the ground myself. On any of the blogs I read regularly, the comments section normally provides at least as much useful content as the post itself and I end up checking out the commentators in more detail more often than not and hitting their blogs too. My two cents worth is that you should continue to write passionately and knowledgably with a view to encouraging constructive comments otherwise how else do you measure the success (or not) of what you're doing? How do you know if anyone is touched by what you write or even if there's anyone out there? I'm new to blogging and don't really have many followers and I would love to see more comments on my site, even at this stage if they're just to say what I'm doing wrong. Bottom line is, if you get idiots posting crappy copmments just delete them without response – it's YOUR blog after all. You don't owe those guys a board to sound off on…

    If you just want to write and not encourage real time feedback and debate publish an eBook maybe ;-)

  • Mars Dorian Reply

    Heya Matt,

    that's a interesting discussion. It's true that even if you write with our own voice, you always have that thought about what your audience will think.
    I do enjoy my comments a lot, and it's finally starting to become a community by now. Shutting off your comments would only make sense when you are already established with a huge reader base (Seth Godin), where comments are just unnecessary because there would be too many. (I believe problogger and copyblogger don't need any comments).
    It always comes down to what your voice tells you to do.

  • Ashley Messick Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Great post. I'll be honest – I'm truly in awe of how many bloggers not only take the time to write thoughtful, informative blog posts but also come back and respond to the comments, continuing the discussion with their readers. Of course the community of commenters can provide interesting insight as well, forming their own relationships with one another, but I think some of the real power comes from the blogger responding. I imagine (and hope) that comments can not only give the blogger feedback on their post, but can also help you to understand what part of your information might not have been clear and allow you to further expand upon, or defend, your post.

    I do agree that some of the ridiculous comments and negative attacks that come out in commentary should be cut off. I would have no problem with a blogger who, as long as they have posted commentary policies, deletes comments and blocks certain commenters who are not contributing anything of value.

    That said I would hate for those hilarious comments to be taken off of certain sites, like Gawker. Now that's always good for a laugh!

  • LostInCheeseland Reply

    I definitely agree with Ashley – in fact, it was as a result of following your blog that I developed a 'respond-to-every-comment' rule. It does build discussion and it makes the blog feel more interactive, less one sided. I don't have many negative comments and when I do, I try to reply diplomatically without getting angry. And of course, I often get disappointed when a post I was proud of didn't result in many comments (even if it was widely read).

    It's an interesting issue and I can identify with what Derek expressed – that he lost interest in writing, the inspiration was gone and he needed to get back to writing for himself. In a way it depends on what you're blogging for – if you're all about giving the readers what they want, then you should in essence be writing with them in mind. But if it's more of a public diary, and closing the comments help to stay focused on writing for personal enjoyment, then by all means I agree it's a good idea. Not cowardly. What is cowardly is someone who turns off comments because they can't handle criticism.

  • Jenn Sutherland Reply

    I think unless you're a luminary in your field who isn't looking to get new business, make new connections, be a part of the online community, turning off comments is a little silly. I certainly don't comment on every single blog post I read, but the discussion in the comments is as important as the content being served – sometimes more so. Especially on blogs like yours, so much of the learning comes from the different perspectives offered in the comments.

    I'd love to be Seth Godin and not need to deal with comments at some point, but I'm not going to get there anytime soon…and that's okay.

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Hey Tim. First and foremost, thank you for the great feedback – I'm glad my blog has been a source of inspiration for you and you've found it useful in getting your own blog off the ground. If I can do that, I know I'm doing something right.

    I agree with you – I agree that at least with my blog – one of my primary goals IS to spark discussion – to showcase varied opinions and to have intelligent, constructive conversation. Sometimes it works beautifully, sometimes, not so much – but that's the nature of the beast.

    And, as you said, a great benefit of leaving comments open is that you (or anyone) can click through and discover new writers simply by visiting here. I pride myself on being somewhat of a 'connector' in the online world – so shutting down comments would obviously limit that connectivity thing I have going on here.

    I think for me – the very interesting point that Derek makes above is related to the creative flow of the writing process. I found myself nodding my head when he mentioned that, with comments open, he would begin to visualize what the response would be before publishing, and that stifled his writing process a bit.

    Not that the thought process there is going to RUIN your writing, but it plays a factor, and as I'm sure all writers can attest, it's easy to start writing FOR an audience and forget about writing for yourself…

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Hey Mars – good to see you here man.

    Like you, I very much value the comments here and, as I've said many times in the past, I think there's a lot more value in the comments here than in the post itself. I may be good at instigating discussion, but beyond that, you and everyone else who comments here is what carries the conversation – the back and forth is where the 'learning' really happens. I've never been a fan of becoming a 'talking head' where I shout my opinion from my soapbox here and expect everyone to nod and walk away.

    So, with that being said – I don't think I'll be closing down comments here anytime soon. It's ultimately the decision of the blogger – you are the master of your own domain, but I think it would be somewhat of a disservice to completely close things down and cut off all conversation. There are other outlets to pursue that 'comment-free' writing…

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Hey Ashley. Thanks for the comment.

    I've always been a big proponent of responding to blog comments – mostly because at this point I still can if I budget it into my day – I'm not getting an insane number of comments that are totally unmanageable. I parallel not responding to blog comments as shrugging someone off who walks up to you and starts talking at a bar – in real life, ignoring would be rude, and the same goes for online – for the most part – continuing the conversation is where those 'connections' really happen.

    However, I don't know that the REAL value soley lies on the blogger responding to comments. In fact, I think the real magic happens when I can write something, and then commenter's start talking to EACH OTHER. When I'm able to sit back and watch conversation happen amongst you guys, that's what community is all about. Not you and I talking back and forth (although that's great), but all of us talking to each other and bouncing ideas around.

    As with any site, you have the right to shut things down whenever you want – you have the right to delete comments, block people, etc. I think that this should be done delicately, but if someone is being openly malicious or attacking you, there's no place for it.

    Constructive conversation is always welcome – the rest is essentially a waste of breath (although, as you said, in some cases can be pretty hilarious).

    Although the stuff on Youtube is just downright nasty and cruel…It's all out anarchy over in those woods.

  • Tim Jahn Reply

    I think it all comes back to your goals. If your goal is to be liked and loved by everyone you meet, then you should write for the community and not yourself. If your goal is to keep a journal or express your creative thoughts, then write for yourself.

    If you want discussion, turn the comments on. If you could care less about discussion, turn the comments off.

    I definitely don't think there's a right or wrong answer, it's 100% personal preference. I can't see you ever turning the comments off, Matt, as I think you value the discussion too much.

    Me personally, I think blogs as a medium need comments, as that's what makes them what they are.

  • srinirao Reply

    Matt,

    Thought provoking stuff as always. I actually enjoy the comments on my blog. One thing that I get from the comments is often inspiration for my next idea. I think that without the comments, blogging wouldn't have necessarily have the same instrinsic benefit I get from it. I can understand if a blog i getting in the millions of page views a day or there are so many comments that they can't keep up. For example Zen Habits, turned off comments a while back. You could definitely get some of the same benefit from twitter, but with the character limitation in the way, even that becomes challenging. So it's really a matter of choosing the right time to shut them off. I bet even Darren probably makes use of the comments to come up with blog post ideas.

  • Marian Schembari Reply

    I put a HUGE value on comments – maybe too huge. I have definitely found myself writing a post, knowing that it will generate a good discussion, but sometimes I just post things for the fun of it, knowing it won't spur a huge discussion. I kind of whore myself out to commenters, but at the same time, I don't really write my blog for me – which is okay. However, I have started developing a 6th sense on which posts of mine or going to get the most comments. I would never EVER close my comments section because it's a huge part of what my blog is. That's not the case for everyone though and this post mentions some great examples of how we all blog for different reasons…

  • Anyes Reply

    Hello Matt,

    You are the one to know why you are writing either for yourself and your readers or just to voice your inner thoughts on a grand scale. I believe you can learn from your readers as much as they can learn from you. Closing comments might make you feel lonelier or it might spark up your creative flow in a different direction. Follow you heart…

  • sameve Reply

    I think having comments open on a blog is one of the things that distinguishes it from a diary. Personally, I write for me, because I'm absolutely passionate about writing and I love having my blog as a creative outlet. But, I also write for other people. I write about the things that I have experienced, but I don't just tell a story, I try to offer some advice that people can apply to their own lives.

    You're right that we have to find a balance between writing for ourselves and writing for our community. Although I do consider what people's reactions will be before hitting publish, I don't let that dissuade me from saying what I want to say.

    We all have to recognize that by putting our words out there in the open, we are giving people the opportunity to respond. Some of those responses will be positive, and some will be negative, but if you believe in what you're writing and understand that some people just say things to get a rise out of you, then why not enjoy the discussion your posts inspire?

  • Danny Brown Reply

    The way I look at it is that I write for me as a member of my community. I write what I'd like to read; what I'd like to be informed about; what I'd like to share a view or opinion on.

    If others like it and respond, and help foster that community, all the better and a major bonus. But the day I stop writing what I'd like to read is the day I'd stop blogging, period.

    Comments are an intrinsic part of a great blog; without them, you're just a static website. And who likes to be static? ;-)

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    I agree Jenn – I like to instigate conversation – with the emphasis being conversation. At 24 years old, I don't position myself as an expert in any field – I, like you and everyone else, have opinions that I want to share – luckily I've got a great platform to do it on, and an outstanding community of people who, for the most part, add a ton of value to every conversation. As a writer my biggest inspiration comes in two ways:

    1) Reading – and reading a lot.

    2) Conversations. Those conversations can take place here in the comments – they can take place face to face over coffee (great to chat with you last week, by the way) – but those conversations are what help someone like me, in my position, learn a heck of a lot and continue to develop personally and professionally.

    So yes, maybe Seth Godin has 'made it' when it comes to the blogging world – but even if I was on the same playing field as him, I don't know that I'd want to completely close off comments. No, he doesn't need them, but no matter where you're positioned, there's still a ton of value in that interaction.

    Of course…maybe my tune would change if I had numerous best-selling books and his kind of experience under my belt…

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Danny. Always great to have you in these parts. And I couldn't agree more – I always talk to other writers and bloggers about this – and amongst all of the blogging politics, the responding to comments, developing a consistent schedule – all the 'rules' that lead to effective blogging – at the end of the day, you have to like what you're doing…better yet, love it and have a passion for it.

    Passion and genuine interest in your own writing is what others connect with – it's why other people subscribe, it's what makes you stand out amongst the millions and millions of other writers out there.

    So I couldn't agree more. It's conversations like this one that's happening right now that makes it obvious that I won't be 'closing up shop' anytime soon…

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Hi Anyes. I think, for me, a blog is about community and conversation – and there are other ways and mediums for me to write without 'feedback' so to speak. I prefer to talk with people rather than at them – but I can understand the desire from both angles. It's a personal preference, yes – but an interesting topic to explore and I think Derek makes a great 'argument' for 'going quiet' in regards to blog comments.

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    First and foremost, I believe 100% that a blog should be an extension of yourself. And in that, it might not always be 100% dead set in one direction. I can write about Social Media Marketing one day and my thoughts on gay marriage the next (as you know, been there, done that). Because as a human being, my interests and thoughts vary day to day. In my 'niche' it's more important to be a genuine human being rather than dead-setting my focus on one specific topic.

    So going with what you said – my blog is a creative outlet. I started it a year and a half ago to 'escape' the mundane routine at my agency job in Nashville – since then it's gone in different directions – some love it, some hate it, I still love it.

    Some folks strive to 'get a rise' out of others – and that's OK, it's part of the blogging game and I understand there will always be some 'soap-boxing' – we all want to learn, we also like to be right, it's part of being human.

    I wouldn't give my blog up for anything at this point – too much value – too much good – too much fun. The minute I stop enjoying what I write, I'll either refocus or close up and, you know, just go write my memoirs and make millions or something, haha.

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Hey Marian – hope things are great with you.

    It's weird because, like you, I generally get a pretty good idea of when a blog will spark good discussion, but somehow, your blog always has the ability to surprise you. There have been posts in the past that I thought no one would take a second look at that have blown up, and others that I personally thought were some of my best and no one said a peep.

    We do all blog for different reasons and that's why I really wanted to feature Derek's thoughts. It's not too often we hear a valid argument for why comments SHOULD BE CLOSED (still hoping that someone who closes comments will come by and share their reasoning here)…

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Your final point is on the mark – if you close up shop because you can't handle the heat (constructive heat) – then maybe a blog isn't for you…

    I didn't know I was passing down the 'respond to every blog comment' rule. Haha, I'm generally pretty good at this – but since starting the business it's no easy task. I just believe that if someone puts forth the energy to respond to me, I owe them a response, at least in most cases.

    I'm not sure how many people out there are like me, but I actually very much enjoy reading through the comments of my favorite blogs. I know a lot of folks read the post, leave their comment, and go about their day (as is apparent from their responses – you can tell when someone has skipped over all of the comments). I think there's much more value in the back and forth than the one way.

    Another point you bring up – being disappointed when you DON'T get comments…this is probably one of the biggest obstacles new(er) bloggers go through – I know I did. You write something that you think is AWESOME and no one says a word about it. It's easy to say that you have to get over that but you really do – because no blog is going to be booming from day one.

    Good thoughts and good discussion all-around…

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Yo Srini – I'm with you here – some of my greatest writing inspiration comes from the comments and conversation that takes place here and on other blogs around the web. Reading and talking to other people, as I mentioned in my reply to Jenn, are two of my biggest inspirations. I feel like things would be a lot less interesting if things turned into a one-way communication channel.

  • Everett Bogue Reply

    I've never made comments on my blog a priority, why? Because it's the most time-consuming activity that a blogger can engage in.

    There are only so many hours in a day, and I'd prefer to work less of them. If I focus my attention on creating work, instead of answering every comment whether or not it's useful, I've created work and now I can support myself. I honestly doubt I would have got to that point if I hung around in my comments section waiting for new messages to drop in.

    Consider this. If 3,000 people visit my blog a day, and only 12-32 of them comment (and most don't say anything important.) That's a really small percentage of people who I'm focusing my attention on.

    The attention needs to be on the work.

    That doesn't mean that I'll turn off comments. They contribute value. It's just that there are better ways to spend time, at least in the work that I'm doing.

    This is all about me though. Matt, you've made your blog about the community, which is why you're talking about it. :)

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Hey Everett, I almost didn't respond because I was going to go do something more worthwhile…

    Kidding, totally kidding, ONLY kidding. But I'm really glad you came by. I find a lot of value in your mantra of doing work that matters – which overall leads to less work and more 'real life' enjoyment. Full disclosure, I work way too much – as most people do – and I am constantly working toward that balance. Luckily, responding to comments doesn't feel like a chore – granted it would be that much sweeter if I was making money doing it, but it's a release for me from the work work.

    Not that I'm complaining – life is a bit nutty, but it's great. We all have a different focus and that's what keeps things so interesting in the blogging world. Cheers buddy!

  • David Siegfried Reply

    I know it can be tough taking criticism, but isn't that the point of blogging? Go in with the mindset of, you are learning, experiencing and sharing what you know, some know more, great, some know less. I recently launched my blog and my mindset is this. When I know more than everyone else, I'll write a book, until then, I hope I get lots of good and bad feedback, that is how I will get better.

  • Frugal Babe Reply

    My blog tends to generate mostly comments that agree with what I say, but I will admit that it's tough for me to deal with critical comments that sometimes show up. But they usually generate a better discussion in the comments section, and that's a good thing. I still respond to comments that need a response – that's one of my favorite things about blogging.

  • Grace Boyle Reply

    I don't really get this. If you're writing for yourself, WHY would you write a public blog. To me, it's the most narcissistic, selfish thing.

    Let me clarify, I write for myself all the time. I have scrap pieces of paper in my purse, a notebook for business ideas, to-do lists and a journal. All of which, are very personal and are FOR ME. I don't post those things about me to the world, because no one really cares and it's for me.

    When you press publish, buy a domain name, tweet out to the world the latest post, have a Facebook fan page and write to the Internets then it's public and to me, that means you want people to read your stuff, have no reaction, then walk away. If you don't like a comment, then delete it. You always deserve the right to do so…or react however you see fit.

    I see the mechanism behind closed comments and have seen many people do it. However, I don't know how else to not write as I write best and that means for me, combined with what people might be interested in. However, if I write a post that some people may not like it doesn't really matter because it's my blog. I will always listen and community means something different to everyone, but it's not writing for other people only, that becomes complicated and that would be more like writing for a publication online or magazine – that is when you need to write for your readers…

    Blogging by nature is public, so if you close off the interaction with the public (comments) why blog, but to promote you, yourself and your thoughts with nothing on the other end?

  • Lauren Reply

    Great post, Matt. And this just nails it. “There has to be both – but when you give up your own perspective for the sake of what other people want to hear, or what other people might think or say in the comments, you’ve lost what it means to be a writer.”

    This is actually something I've been thinking about when it comes to all online presence – not just my blog. Do I tweet things that I think will get a lot of replies? Do I write posts that I know will get a lot of comments? Is having a lot of comments a good thing? Is NOT having any comments a bad thing?

    Who knows. And honestly, it doesn't matter to me. I spend the entirety of my day building communities around brands. All these brands care about (at first) is the number of fans, followers, comments, likes, shares, etc. It's my job to “convince” them that it's not about the numbers, it's about the community and TRUST. If we work to build that trust up, the numbers will come on their own – GENUINELY.

    That's how I approach my social media/blog – constantly genuine. I write for me. Bottom line. And I welcome anyone that has anything to say about it. But it's still me, writing for me.

  • Tim Jahn Reply

    Well said, and I definitely agree. The medium of blogging is inherently a public medium the minute you share the URL or give access to search engines or whatever.

  • Tim Jahn Reply

    “That's how I approach my social media/blog – constantly genuine. I write for me. Bottom line. And I welcome anyone that has anything to say about it. But it's still me, writing for me.”

    Hmm, I'm not sure being genuine means you're always doing it for you. For example, I consider myself a very genuine person, but I tweet things that will hopefully purposely get a lot of replies, in the interest of business.

    I think you can still be a genuine person but understand how marketing, advertising, and the system in general works.

  • Lauren Reply

    I understand what you're saying, Tim. However, I don't tweet things I don't actually think are interesting. Of course, I want to get @replies, but I get them because I'm genuine. People can turn to me for information and as a reliable person because I stick to what I believe and what is genuine to me. Of course, there's business in everything we do, but I will never lose sight of what is true to me “just in the interest of business.”

    Ant the bottom line really is that IF you understand how marketing, advertising and the system in general works, you know that being genuine is the key to gaining trust in all businesses.

  • Tim Jahn Reply

    Totally agree. Not suggesting you should lose sight of who you are in the interest in business. I immensely respect people that stick to what they believe and stand for something.

    I think we're on the same page here.

  • Tim Jahn Reply

    Criticism is a necessity in anything. If you can't learn to take criticism, you won't get anywhere in anything.

    Amazing how many people can't take criticism these days.

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Hey Grace – Good to see you here and hope things are great out in Boulder.

    Your response is exactly why I was hoping (although they may not show) we'd get some feedback from those who DO close their comments. I don't so it's hard for me to make the argument against it – and I really see a ton of value in blog comments (for the most part). I think Derek makes a great argument and in his case, it appears that he felt the writing started to feel manufactured and as if he had 'lost his voice'. Personally, I think things would be pretty stale if it wasn't for everyone coming in and 'stirring the pot' in the comments section – but that's the nature of my blog, and all blogs are different.

    Someone like Godin, or others 'at the top' so to speak – I'd be interested to hear their logic behind no comments – because they are out there, promoting themselves and what they do, but aren't 'giving back' to to speak – at least not in the form of online conversation (although I'm sure they're doing a number of other things to get involved with community OFFLINE). Does that make him narcissistic? Self serving? Maybe…I don't have a definitive answer – as was discussed in other comments here – maybe when you get to his 'level' – priorities change and comments start to mean very little?

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Hola Lauren –

    I really love everything your saying here and I genuinely believe that when you lose sight of who you are or why your writing, or why you're doing whatever it is you do – when you let other people define you – you HAVE to take a step back and reassess things. Being YOU is the single most important thing. And as I said in a reply above, being genuine and passionate about whatever it is YOU do and what you represent is what people connect with – it's what defines you.

    You hit the nail on the head when it comes to the ESSENCE of effective Social Media and marketing – both online and off. It's not a quick fix, it isn't something that can be manufactured. Trust and respect has to be earned, and that takes time – Social Media is a cost effective way for businesses to build relationships – but it takes time.

    I was having a conversation with two good friends of mine today about this exact topic – about how our clients are, at first, fixated on the numbers game. And I get it, like anything in business, ROI is important, but ROE (return on engagement) – while it may be a little intangible, is equally important. The time you invest into truly building up those relationships and earning trust will pay dividends to the bottom line.

    You get it, and that's why you are where you are doing what you do. :)

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Well said, David. Blogging for me is a daily learning experience. I learn a ton and fill my mind with new thoughts and ideas by writing, discussing, and reading things all over the place. If you go into this with a closed mind, you're not going to get much out of it. If you're always right..what's your goal? To prove to everyone else that you're right, they're wrong, and you're better than them?

    Constructive criticism, dialogue, and conversation is how we all grow, mature, and play up to our 'A' game.

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Agreed – CONSTRUCTIVE comments that are critical are great and inspiring thoughtful conversation – if everyone agrees with you 100% of the time, it gets to be pretty boring, right?

  • Grace Boyle Reply

    @Matt When do you reach “that” level, in which those who support you, read you and contribute EVER become very little?

    I don't know. I'm obviously not Seth Godin, but clearly, his approach is unique. There aren't a lot like his, which is why he stands out, why he's prolific and why he's a great contributor.

    Besides him, I don't know anyone who closes their comments and I work with thousands of blogs each week. I know it is done, but it's not common. That's probably for a reason.

    Of course, it's always interesting to see an opposing view and those that do otherwise.

    Just my opinion and I still believe it to be true – if you're going to make it public but close it OFF to the public, why make it public?

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    I've seen bloggers close out comments here and there on 'some' posts, but you're right, it's not done very often. That's why Derek's post and reasoning was so interesting to me. And I think that the 'issue' he was going through where he felt like he was crafting his thoughts FOR an audience and losing sight of his own voice is something that many bloggers and writers can attest to – even if it doesn't drive them to close off discussion or completely close up shop.

    Like you said – why start a blog for everyone to see if really don't want any feedback? I cant speak to that because the conversation, and feedback, IS very important to me…'Community' is the essence of what I'm trying to do here.

  • Tim Jahn Reply

    Without critical comments, there's no discussion.

  • Annabel, Get In The Hot Spot Reply

    True words but I like to let readers know that their comments are read and appreciated. Ithink having comments on your blog is a key indicator of how successful it is and I'll leave them there until I get to the point where my blog is so well read and commented on that reading them saps too much of my time. Thanks EB and MC:)

  • dougshaw Reply

    …maybe I need to get out more. I (think – oh crap identity crisis looming first thing in the morning!) write for me and thee. I write about stuff that interests me, and maybe a few other folk too. If I really really really just wrote for me, hell I've a little notebook here with lined pages and all that I can, and do scribble in. And I don't share it (except with my daughter who likes to sprinkle the book with doodles). Maybe it's us oldies, but though I sometimes get a lot of visits to my site, I don't tend to get too much comment. Maybe I'm boring (zzzz) maybe it's just a sign of the stuff I write about and the nature of who I interact with. And the comments I get are useful. And I don't write with them in mind – honest – I just….don't.

    I've caused unexpected laffs, unexpected offence, unexpected pleasure and unexpected pain. I'm not sure I'd know about any of those if I hid behind a no comment veil.

    With that in mind, the act of blogging sans comments feels kinda arrogant to me. Matt, I honestly can't remember exactly how when we met here in onlineland, but I reckon that without the opportunity to bounce ideas, share some silliness and get to know a little better, we wouldn't have done work together. You gained a happy client who tells folk about you, I gained a much better website (alert – I need to talk to you about some advancements I want to carry out).

    It's already been said – if its one way comms that folk desire, then maybe a book is a better idea. Social media, is social.

  • dougshaw Reply

    dude – ROE – love it. steal with pride?

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    It's tough because I do think on a surface level, comments are a sign of 'success' – many of my clients want to have “X” number of comments per post – and part of the day-to-day challenge on my end is breaking people of that 'numbers' mind set – there are plenty of other ways to measure the overall success of your blog. Comments may be one form of currency, but, as long as your enjoying what you do – the rest generally seems to fall into place, one way or another…

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Haha. Doug, I wish I could take credit for inventing that one. I'm not sure who 'said it first' – but here's another great article on measuring 'Return on Engagement' from Sarah Evans –> http://prsarahevans.com/2009/05/15-ways-to-meas

  • Matt Cheuvront Reply

    Blogging and Social Media is inherently a 'social' experience so to cut out the social aspect is a little confusing to me as well. Like you and I, I have built MANY relationships, both personally and professionally, because of my transparency and willingness to engage in conversation here and everywhere else on the web. Cutting out the discussion would likely make things here pretty lame, and could even potentially be harmful to my business.

    Good thoughts, Doug. Thanks as always for stopping by!

  • David Siegfried Reply

    true story.

  • nicolecrimaldi Reply

    I almost wrote a post about this general topic today but then I read this article and decided to post my thoughts here instead. I see a lot of my regular commenters are on the thread.

    As Matt and some of you here on this comment thread know, I recently made a big decision to change the focus of my blog from career for gen y women to digital marketing for gen y women. I'm sure some people think I'm indecisive or whatever for doing this, but I have to tell you: I CANNOT BELIEVE WHAT A RELIEF IT HAS BEEN TO GET AWAY FROM THE CAREER SCENE.

    There is nothing wrong with the scene. The problem was that my quest to help everyone elses career was not helping my own career. Sometimes you have to stop the madness and think about who you are really writing for and why you are writing. I'm big into 5 year and 10 year goals and I knew for a fact that that being a career blogger was not bringing me any closer to my 5 or 10 year goals.

    Blogging is a funny thing. Sometimes it is a loaded gun. I've never been afraid of what people will say in their comments, but I will admit that there have been 2 or 3 comments over the last 18 months that have gotten under my skin and stung.

    So in conclusion, yes, write for yourself. But most importantly, ask yourself if your blog is leading you closer to your goals. Once you do what's right for you you will find that writing and passion come much easier.

  • Tasha Reply

    I actually enjoy comments. Call it the GenYer in me to welcome feedback…. but I'm extremely vulnerable on my blog, and so I appreciate diverse thought (the good, the bad, and the ugly). It think that's the key to being authentic. That's the spirit I try to foster…..Authentic bloggers get authentic comments.

  • sridhara Reply

    There are a lot of folks out there who will label someone who closes comments as a coward – not allowing or welcoming different opinions – I agree to an extent – but if you’re REALLY burning to respond, there are about 764,984 other ways for you to sound off and have your voice heard.

    So…this isn’t me giving up on comments. I’m not opposed to the idea of closing them somewhere down the line, re-opening them, whatever. We all evolve and our focuses change…

    But I AM interested in your thoughts (yes…a closing comments post asking for comments, gotta’ love the irony). I see a lot of validity in what Derek is saying and want to k

  • sridhara Reply

    Hey Mars – good to see you here man.

    Like you, I very much value the comments here and, as I've said many times in the past, I think there's a lot more value in the comments here than in the post itself. I may be good at instigating discussion, but beyond that, you and everyone else who comments here is what carries the conversation – the back and forth is where the 'learning' really happens. I've never been a fan of becoming a 'talking head' where I shout my opinion from my soapbox here and expect everyone to nod and walk away.

    So, with that being said – I don't think I'll be closing down comments here anytime soon. It's ultimately the decision of the blogger – you are the master of your own domain, but I think it would be somewhat of a disservice to completely close things down and cut off all conversation. There are other outlets to pursue that 'comment-free' writing…

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  • Sonicsuns Reply

    If you allow comments, you might be worried about what the comments will be, and this worrying may affect your writing.
    On the other hand, if you don't allow comments, you might be worried about what the comments would have been. (“Maybe everybody hates what I'm writing and the only reason I don't hear much about it is because I turned off the comments!”). This can also affect your writing.
    It's a tricky situation.

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