I've received a few emails from some readers who are wondering why I have turned off the comments field. They have all been good natured and I'm flattered that anyone even took the time to write such complementary things about our Spirits Journal. While I agree with all views on how comments work as attributes to good writing (bringing up new talking points, presenting different points of view, rounding out a discussion, etc.) I will list the reasons why I personally want to remove commenting from the blog. I hope they don't anger or upset anyone because I'm speaking purely from my perspective and don't want to start any controversy.
1) Comments Bring Out The Ego - Have you ever noticed how most comment fields have been adapted to allow users to rate the popularity of the remark? Thumbs up or thumbs down? I hate that. I hate it because people then sit around and think about something clever to say, then check back in all day to see if people liked what they said or not. If someone went so far as to reply to their comment and disagree with what they said, it can anger the original commenter who now feels defensive and a need to retaliate. This goes on all day on ESPN, the SF Chronicle, CNN, and other websites where I get my news from. It sickens me, literally. While the SJ is not nearly on the same wavelength as these major sites, I too have an ego and when people comment or don't comment it makes me nervous. Not nervous as in "I'm scared and don't want to look," but nervous as in "I hope people comment and say nice things because that's the sign of a good blog these days." Then I check back in over and over throughout the day to see if anyone as posted anything. I can't live that way and I would rather just write something and be happy if people read it. I'm always available via email if anyone feels the need to respond.
2) Comments Affect How Bloggers Write - I can't tell you how many sites use their articles to pander to the comment field. Too many would be the best answer. Sometimes it works well as a way to start a dialogue, but most of the time it just seems like the authors use the opinions of their readership to make the website interesting. That's fine if someone wants to do that, but that's not my philosophy. I want the SJ to be interesting because of the hard work that I put into it, not because I have a strong following that comes up with interesting comments. This should be a site where people come to find out about what's new in the spirits world, not to debate the merit of any one topic. There are plenty of other sites that offer that service and I don't want to become another one.
3) Comments Signify Worth (but not to me)- In today's Facebook-driven society, you're not cool unless you've got a million "friends" on the social network, thousands of followers on Twitter, and dozens of people commenting on everything you say, write, think, or post. People look at websites and determine how good they are by how many people are following them. Most of the time our articles on the SJ average around 2-3 comments, which makes us look like a tiny and unsubstantial resource. However, based on our hit counter and the amount of people who read the SJ and then go the KL Wines website to shop, I can tell you that our readership is a great deal larger than the comments reveal. I don't want people stopping in and evaluating our blog based on the amount of people commenting. Turning them off is a way to prevent that.
4) Comments Need to be Answered - Comment fields are a way for the readers to communicate with the author and when people leave a comment they expect it to be answered. I barely have time to answer my emails and voicemails, so the comments here might go unnoticed for a while if I'm busy. I don't want to anger anyone awaiting a reply, so it's easier if they're just turned off. I'm pretty good about answering my email, so I don't feel like I'm inaccessible or anything.
5) Comments Detract From the Original Message - There are so many instances where I've began reading an article, only to get caught up in the commenting underneath. After ten minutes of complete timewasting, reading the battles going on in the comment field, I have forgotten what the original point of the article was and I feel stupider for having read the comments. Not that this type of scenario happens here, but to say I agree with comments in one sense, but not in another is borderline hypocritical and I hate it when people have double standards.
For these reasons I think the SJ will be a better website without the comments. I'll be more inclined to write better articles because I won't be worrying about the opinions of the readership. Granted, I can always turn them back on if there's an important topic like "Should we buy a cask of ____" or something where feedback is a valued commodity. However, for my own peace of mind and my sense of duty to good reporting, I think we're a better website without the comments field.