Alright so I am not exactly on the bleeding edge of this subject, it’s been knocking about for a while, but if you are taking your first steps in engaging with your audience it’s still a tough decision to make.
Genuine feedback is useful and can be very rewarding, but a quick poll around our office shows wildly different views – and these folks are seasoned web professionals.
Firstly, why not? Well Joel Spolsky wrote an excellent article about this, building on an article by Dave Winer to make a pretty compelling reason for not having comments and encouraging people to share their views through their own blog.
Seems very straightforward, he basically argues against anonymous comments and suggests that people should engage through the blogging community and share their views and be accountable for them through their own blog (please read the articles as I am summarizing wildly here). I agree whole heartedly, his example of a community conversation on a real estate blog degenerating into, well, the worst kind of hatred and bigotry makes a pretty convincing case. In any case, throwing up a blog is simple and free for most people
On the flip side this article from Jeff Atwood, a well articulate opinion that “a blog without comments is not a blog” – a position apparently completely opposed to that of the Dave Winer view that a blog is “one voice, unedited, not determined by group-think”
Jeff’s lucky, he then gets a stream of fairly well ordered comments from his audience and all seems well, until 24th April Jeff reveals he’s been deleting comments. So, without his moderation what would that conversation have looked like?
I agree with Joel that when a comments spiral out of control an article can be “followed by a long spew of noise, filth, and anonymous rubbish that nobody … nobody … would say out loud if they had to take ownership of their words.” I personally find that distracting and I’ll take this opportunity to add my personal annoyance; someone who comments and freely admits they didn’t bother reading the previous comments. That’s not a conversation that’s barging into a discussion, covering your ears and shouting.
I am also in a slightly different position in that I am using our product (Morello) to write this and I’d like to show off its community features. I could compromise, have moderated comments, using workflow approval to display only those comments that I like. But that’s not really going to make the comment camp happy as they want a free and open discourse.
I also found parts of this article interesting on ReadWriteWeb, the 5 Tools Everyone Working Online Should Have, specifically of relevance here is the view that everyone should have a blog and the authors experience of including all of his contact details on his blog.
So, I settled for agreeing with Joel and use reddit, so if you find the discussion of an article distracting you can ignore the reddit link, if you want to contribute you have a public forum. But, I also include my e-mail address if you want it to be more personal.