Old comments and the deal I made with the Internet

I try not to write these inward-looking, inside-baseball posts anymore, but I’ve been wondering about this one for a while. I know few people want to read blog posts about blogging, but throw me a bone.

Michael asks a question that I’ve been wondering about for a while: “should you close comments on older blog posts?”. This September, this blog will be ten years old (the site itself is a couple of years older). I’ve published roughly 5600 posts over that period. A handful of them remain–relative to the others–quite popular.

Why are they popular? Because they accidentally appear high in the results for related searches. For example, last year nearly 25,000 people searched for some variation of “worst baby name ever” and found this paltry post from 2005. It has 910 comments on it.

Lately, this longer piece about Freedom 55 Financial has attracted lots of comments. 5000 people visited it last year, and it’s up 286 comments, mostly of the highly incendiary variety. For search, the most popular post on my site remains this 2005 post about textual tattoos. Over its seven-year lifespan, nearly 750,000 people have viewed it, and 100 have commented.

Any site publisher or blogger has pages like this, where a long tail of visitors carries on and on and on. A page on Michael’s site, for example, has become host to a discussion of tax software. My favourite is probably this one where 101 commenters have shared their weird, creepy tales of sleep paralysis.

There’s over 40,000 comments in all. I wonder who has written more words on this site: me or all the commenters put together?

The deal I made with the Internet

When I started writing this site, what deal did I make with the Internet? When I say ‘the Internet’, I mean all the people who, in the ensuing decade, would visit and possibly comment on this site.

Did I, for example, guarantee that the information I published would remain timely and accurate? I hope not, because much of it is out of date and, in many cases, totally wrong. And some of the sites I linked to are gone. For very boring reasons, I’ve been revisiting some of the very oldest posts on this site. As part of that work, I’ve been sampling the links I’d published in 2002 and 2003. As of now, 48 of 74 old links are still live. Am I going to try to fix those other 26 links? Nope.

And what about the ad hoc communities that form around these unexpectedly evergreen blog posts? Advice is shared and debates rage without any input from me. Why wouldn’t I leave comments open?

The only reason might be comment spam. While Akismet does a fantastic job of killing 99% of spammy comments to this site. 99.93%, to be exact, which means that it’s handled about 2.2 million spammy comments since I installed it in 2006. That 0.07% still represents 10 or 15 spam comments that I have to manually remove every day. It’s less than five minutes of work, and not a burden at the moment.

Occasionally, a commenter thinks better of what they’ve written on this site, and emails and asks me to remove their messages. I’m usually happy to do this.

So, until I get busier or lazier, comments will remain open on all the blog posts on this site. Those ongoing discussions don’t particularly interest me, but nor do they feel like a burden.

One comment

  1. Thanks for the mention, Darren. I think it really has become true that our blogs aren’t just about ourselves; it’s about the discussion that ensues.

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