This was originally scheduled to go up in a week or two. I messed up the posting date due to a lack of February 29th, so it ended up posting right now. Then. Somehow Tobold got it during that 5 minute window and made a post about it. I'm afraid this will end up looking a bit too much like a war, so I want to reiterate: I enjoy reading his blog, comments or not; he's a good writer.
Supposedly blogs are about conversation. Not normal conversation with constant back and forth as we'd have in real life or text chat or whatever else. But an exchange. Someone says something and someone else responds. And they do so in a manner that encourages response.
Blogger posts, commenter reply, more commenter reply to the comments and to the post. It's like a snowball of words. Sometimes the snowball gets too big, rolls away, and crushes a mountain village. This seems to happen often on big blogs. That's the first thing hurting Tobold.
Then there are the trolls. They are drawn to giant snowballs as a mosquito to your breath. And spammers. And so Tobold has added comment moderation. It goes downhill from there.
I don't mean to criticize him. His posts are good and I enjoy reading them. But I have a hard to commenting. It's a terrible mockery of a response and conversation when it is delayed by hours, and then published along with a dozen other comments that say more or less the same thing. It's hard to advance a discussion when you don't know what has already been said, until it's been said ten different ways ten times.
The terrible irony is that it takes a decent-sized crowd to make a discussion. If a post has two comments, they're probably both responding to the blogger and maybe he'll respond, but at best you can some back and forth. You need the crowd to get a discussion going. But when there's too much crowd and even worse the blog becomes so well-known that it attracts not only those who care, but also the trolls, then it becomes tempting to moderate comments, and then it dies.
Not so long ago Tobold put out a vote: Moderated comments or none at all. I was a bit apathetic. None at all makes it just him stating opinions into the void and what can we respond with: emails or our own blog posts. Emails easily vanish as a response is likely to be a reply email; only a few will be worth a post response. Other bloggers can make posts to respond but, pardon the egocentrism here, I can hardly afford to start losing posting days just to respond unless it's going to be a full topic all to itself.
No matter how great a post is, it is missing something if you can't say anything about it. It's some weird human flaw that we can enjoy few things in isolation. We want to share and discuss and disagree and argue. We post comments and we find others to talk to. I'm sure I'm not alone in living in a world in which people aren't really interested in talking about some MMO blogger's latest post. That leaves the blogosphere. With no comments we're left with only our own blogs. Or for some, nothing at all. With no comments, everyone else is silenced and the whole experience is weakened.
In the end only one person is left with the ability to respond fluidly: Tobold. He can stick his replies up right after he puts out the non-troll posts. That makes it all rather one-sided. He sets the topic, decides what responses are acceptable, and is the only person who can respond effectively. I'm sounding rather harsh, and I know how he'd respond, as he has many times: It's his blog. That's quite true. But what is a blog without commenters? It's quiet and even more lonely than usual. Early on when I had few comments, it was a little sad. Even still, when a post has no comments I start to wonder, does anyone care?
I'm bad at wrapping up topics, so be distracted by this instead: MC Frontalot - Indier than thou