Have comments failed?

By now most website owners understand the importance of nurturing a community, but what is the best way to do that? Is it enough to add commenting to your blog?

If I say the words “YouTube comments,” what do you immediately think of? The chances are that words like stupidity, idiots, abuse, and hate spring to mind. Like digg.com of old, youTube has become, in the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, “a hive of scum and villainy.”

Recently, Popular Science closed its comments claiming they were “actively hurting the scientific community.” They are just the latest in a number of high profile sites who have decided to remove commenting from their sites.

Popular Science Announcement
Popular Science are claiming that commenting is damaging the scientific community.

There are also a number of prominent web designers who have chosen to close commenting on their personal sites for similar reasons.

A bleak picture for commenting?

All of this paints a very bleak picture for commenting as a means of building community.

But does it have to be that way? Look at this site for example, the debates we have had in this season of the podcast have been incredible, with mature, intelligent and informed conversation.

What is it then that makes some comments flourish, while others falter? Is it the technology itself or is it a management issue? If it is a management issue, is this a sign of some fundamental flaw in how commenting works.

This is something worth further discussion on the podcast. With that in mind…

This house proposes that comments have proved to be a poor tool for building a community.

But lets not stop there. If you agree that comments are not the best tool for building community, share some better approaches. If you still think comments have their place, share some ways to overcome the various challenges associated with them.

After all, we cannot talk about the importance of building community with users, without offering some solid advice about how to do that. Let’s use the comments to discuss.

  • richarddale

    I definitely think mobile sites have their place. Many of the sites I built prior to RWD, static sites that view great on desktop and tablet. Its only when you get down to smart phone size that things start to break down. For many of these sites a mobile specific site would probably work better than a RWD site where I could be more focused and target the medium specifically.

    I did a RWD e-commerce website recently and although the end results were good, trying to get the shopping basket working and looking correct whilst being responsive was a nightmare and I couldn’t help but think that a mobile specific site would have been a better solution. When I browse the web using my iPad Air I never visit a fix width website and think this is a poor user experience why don’t they have a RWD site. I ony ever think this when on my iPhone.

  • sanedevil

    I am not a web designer, but have a team that is building one for me. So in trad way, I have to have a “web designer” design the site in Photoshop which is then handed to “web developer” to generate code.

    You can imagine there are several problems w this – time, costs, rework, code doesn’t do what the design shows etc.

    I hit upon your blog while thinking if there are tools that would eliminate the design-to-code step

    I very much agree w the house and would love to know the process and tools to help achieve this.

  • David R

    The simple answer is yes, a website must be responsive and also Google is focusing more on responsive websites, a static design
    web development firm still works OK in most cases when you have separate mobile friendly website.