Tendo Dev Blog

testing site

To comment or not to comment

I’ve noticed a change in my own Web behavior.

More and more, when I finish reading something online I click on “View Comments” to see what others have to say. (I originally typed “what they have to say about the article” but I deleted it because it seems that most of the comments are about the subject of the article and not the article itself. More on this later.)

Whether I’m checking local news on SFGate.com or reading the latest industry blogs, reading comments is an increasing part of my online experience. But do they really add value?

If you can get past the misspellings and vitriol that plague many postings, there are often one or two nuggets that are good for a laugh…but I don’t know that they really illuminate the topic or make me more loyal to that particular news source. They definitely add to the “noise” that is out there on the Web.

In an article in this month’s Esquire, Chuck Klosterman offers four ways to save sports media. He suggests that networks DE-emphasize what he calls “the fan’s perspective.” In doing so, he raises a relevant issue for all of us engaged in online community building:

“It’s easy to become infatuated with working from “the fan’s perspective”: It makes it simple to come across as passionate and charming, and―for a moment―being publicly partisan seemed like a revolutionary concept. But now it’s normative, mostly uninteresting, and never useful. This is best witnessed through caller-dominated talk radio and on Web sites driven by reader comments: By dramatically increasing the amount of discourse, there’s always a decrease in its overall quality.”

As Klosterman suggests, democratizing your website via public comments may have once seemed like a revolutionary concept, but that doesn’t mean that it adds value to either your company or your website visitors.

Some suggest that comment functionality is the “gateway drug” to blogging–allowing people to dip their toe into the blogosphere. But does it add value to your site?

Before you add commenting capability to your own site, it’s worth asking the question: is it useful? Does “increasing the amount of discourse” get you closer to your business objectives?

Another quick note: The comments feature is almost never an effective tool to measure the value of the original content. As I mentioned above, comments tend to be about the subject and not the content presentation.

In other words, you can post content about Britney Spears and generate a lot of comments, but what does that have to do with your business? Would you deem that piece of content more valuable because it generated comments if that increased dialogue never led to a sale? ―John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services


September 24, 2007 - Posted by | Custom Content, John Kovacevich, Web Content


  1. Is it too “meta” to add a comment to my blog posting about comments? Am I demonstrating my point by adding a comment that has absolutely nothing to do with the content?

    Comment by John | September 26, 2007 | Reply

  2. For a really funny and interesting look at comments gone wild, read the Onion A.V. Clubs comments on the interview with Sam Beam, singer of Iron & Wine. Some of the language is NSFW.

    Here: http://www.avclub.com/content/interview/iron_amp_wines_sam_beam_on

    Comment by JoshK | October 18, 2007 | Reply

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