Put This In Your “Markets Are Conversations” Pipe

Tom Sherman recently wrote a great post on blog comments and the various problems they encourage, expose and amplify.

One of the biggest potential problems with the weblog format is also a hallmark and defining aspect of the blog: comments.
Most blogs allow comments. Most blogs encourage comments. But comments are limiting, (usually) non-hierarchical, and almost always disorganized. A blog is not a message board. A blog is not a forum.
Since the weblog phenomenon now appeals to an audience far broader than techies and niche readers, the pitfalls of blog commenting are exposed to every lackey Google searcher. This broader audience often has no real concept of what a weblog is and lacks the etiquette and/or technical skills to compensate for the poor technical architecture of blog commenting systems.

Tom cites Amy Gahran’s write up on the subject, which is equally telling. If this topic is one you find interetsing, her post is a must read.
There is a reason A-listers like Seth Godin and Heather Armstrong do not have comments on their site. If they did, their inboxes would overflow. And they’d spend half their time striking innapropriate or rude comments (something I’ve had to contend with, of late).
This issue is a real struggle. I put a lot of faith in our comments. Since, I do not like to approach each post with a heavy hand, I trust that my thoughts on an issue and yours will come out in the comments. Sometimes this works perfectly. Just as often, it does not. It’s no one’s fault. As Tom says in his post, we’re dealing with an imperfect system.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Well, this is a dangerous post to comment upon.
    But I’m going to go for it anyway. I think comments are what make these things blogs. Otherwise it’s just an online newsletter. To have the ability to pipe in is empowering to people. People like to feel empowered. Yes, that can make your blog a repository for every wackaloon with an opinion. Then again, it also allows people to call bullshit on you- keeping you honest and in touch. Even “Google Lackey’s” have a valid point sometimes.
    Case in point: I wanted to call bullshit on Seth Godin’s post about “the culture of dissatisfaction” which is just a sly way of putting a label on a natural human phenomenon, but I couldn’t. I could, however, read all of the trackbacks to articles applauding his astute observation that, if you really think about it, is nothing new at all. I think Seth could use a little free flow of info. Dooce, probably not as much.

  2. I agree with everything everyone wrote on this topic. But my ultimate response is: Who gives a shit?
    I’m not clear on why some folks believe they should be regulating or creating guidelines for blogs. Is it an imperfect system? Hell, yes. But I’m constantly in live meetings/conversations with teammates that are just as incoherent and imperfect. There will always be misunderstanding, misinterpretation and imperfection in communications whenever human beings are involved.
    Otherwise, things wouldn’t be any fun.

  3. Todd,
    I appreciate your comment. I love the give-and-take of blog comments, but it does become tiresome when people turn nasty. Yet, I’m willing to accpet the bad with the good, and luckily the bad is manageable for a blog of this size.
    High Jive,
    I give a shit. I have to, because I have to take responsibility for what appears here. And I hear you on misundestandings and posturing being a human condition, first and foremost.

  4. teeveedubya says:

    seth godin doesn’t allow posts. why not? because he’s beyond reproach? seth-adoration worries me. and there’s a lot of it in the marketing/advertising blogosphere. he’s a smart cat, but…
    blogdom is fast becoming stratified like everything else in human history. let’s face it, one of the principal reasons people blog is because bloggers, just like everyone else, like attention. and the attendant feeling of power that comes with that. don’t lie to me now!
    tom sherman would do well to remember the little people who put him where he is. wherever that is.

  5. Seth allows trackbacks but no comments (“posts” are those things he makes). Anyway, by allowing trackbacks he tips his hat to “the conversationsal nature” of blogs. But the problem is, it excludes people with no site of their own from “commenting.” So, there’s an insular and elitist nature to it.

  6. david,
    didn’t mean for my “who gives a shit?” to be taken the wrong way.
    but at the same time, we won’t dictate the blogosphere any more than we dictate consumer decisions. the people will do with it as they please.
    i also agree with an earlier comment about blogs that don’t allow posts. they’re really just online newsletters.
    thanks for having the guts to let people post with minimal censorship. in the world of advertising, we’ve all got to realize that no one person is totally right or wrong on anything. the only possible exception being bad account people — they remain totally wrong on everything.
    but that’s just my opinion.

  7. “Tom sherman would do well to remember the little people who put him where he is”
    If you read Tom’s post, he’s not turning comments off totally, he’s addressing the problem that pops up when he happens to strike a mainstream nerve and get’s OVER 500 inane comments (http://underscorebleach.net/jotsheet/2005/01/lindsay-lohan-skinny)
    I think comments are an important part of our present understanding of a blog, but I disagree that they are the only thing that seperates a blog from a newsletter. Originally, most blogs didn’t have comments; they were little more than online journals. “Blogs” caught on because they were written by people who talked plainly about something they were passionate about. To me, that’s still what make a blog great.
    I guess I say all this because I don’t really mind when/if comments are disabled. The idealistic point of view is that the author is writing for himself and not to open a discussion or generate traffic. I don’t read, say, Tom Sherman’s blog solely so I can comment…I have my own blog for that.

  8. teeveedubya says:

    i meant “comments” not posts. doh.
    conversation is messy by nature. it just is. (look at the crap i’m writing). i’m just wary of people who want to control something that very clearly does not want to be controlled. it’s a bit like complaining advertising would be great if it weren’t for those pesky clients.
    as a professional writer i find it difficult to imagine “writing for myself”. jesus, what a waste of time that would be. the horror!

  9. Right now, before I disable comments site-wide on my blog, I’d like to thank all the little people for making me the King of the Fucking Internet. I appreciate it.
    Tom Sherman, A-List Blogger
    p.s. Don’t forget to click on my sponsored links.

  10. That’s what IT is about?
    Email = some preconception of intimate, one on one, relationship communication.
    Forums = brothels for hes or shes
    Bulletin Boards = legal swinging bars
    Blogs = a full blown rock concert size orgy
    I’ve written in all. All I took in was air or electronic signals. Then again “what is air?”