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A comment on "A comment on comments"

I want to say something about Manu’s post A comment on comments. It’s an extremely short post, so you might as well read it now (it takes 30 seconds).

In a nutshell, he thinks commenting should be done in one of two ways:

  1. Privately via email or via direct messaging
  2. Publicly by posting a reply on your own website

I mostly agree, but I’d also like to add a third one (after all, 3 is the perfect number, isn’t it?):

  1. Publicly by engaging in a discussion on a neutral forum.

By “neutral forum” I mean that what really matters should be the topic at hand, like an open forum involving many people at once in the public discourse.

Back when I was a teen, internet forums were all the rage. And they used to be quite a neutral tool. By contrast, we can’t say the same for social media.

Anyhow, I don’t want to write about that right now. So let’s get back on topic.

I thought I’d mention forums because they add a new dimension:

  1. An email is a one-to-one conversation tool.
  2. A website is a one-to-many broadcasting tool.
  3. A public forum is a many-to-many discussion tool.

Interestingly, forums also include both the previous two dimensions:

Also, you kind of know the audience of a forum. It likely includes the person you’re replying to. That’s not a guaranteed when you reply on your website.

(In fact, I’m going to personally email Manu right after I publish this post.)

In a way, the comment section on a personal website or blog is an attempt to achieve what forums were already doing. A lesser attempt, in my opinion.

For one, I think it’s utterly nonsensical that one should be legally responsible of what other people put on their website.

But even if that wasn’t a thing, I still wouldn’t welcome the added complexity of managing a public discussion for each post, keeping spam bots at bay, etc.

All in all, unlike Manu I am a fan of comments in general. But I’m also a fan of simplicity, and I think they don’t quite make the cut in that respect.

There’s a quote attributed to Jorge Luis Borges that stuck with me ever since I read it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ascertain the source. But here it goes:

What I’m really concerned about is reaching one person. And that person may be myself for all I know.

My blog is where I share words with the world. My website is where I publish stuff just because I can. I may as well be sending out things into the void.

I’d still like for strangers on the internet to reach out to me via email. It’d be great to have a comment section. But that’s just not why I write publicly.

(Writing for a potential public is wildly different than writing for myself only on a paper notebook – which I also do. And I really enjoy this potential, which sometimes even turns into reality. But that’s a topic for another time.)

As a final note: if you have anything to add or reply, please do. In whatever form you deem appropriate. Just because you want to say something.

(For some time now I wanted to add a prompt to email me below each post, where the comment section would be. It’s an easy tweak to the layout. At the time of writing, there’s still nothing but the footer with a bunch of links. Mentioning time-sensitive and meta-blogging matters will probably make this post age badly, but oh well. As I’ve recently noticed, sometimes I just need to explicitly commit.)