Torill explains why she doesn’t have comments in her blog. It’s in Norwegian, but the main arguments are:

  1. Comments require more maintenence, you might get trolls, and you probably have a legal, editorial responsibility for what’s in the comments so you really do have to check them.
  2. Her blog is more for working out her own thinking than for dialogue.
  3. Trackbacks aren’t democratic. In fact, they make only one network visible, because they only display links from other MoveableType blogs (like this one). MoveableType is one of the most difficult blogging applications to install and requires not only the money to pay for a server but also a lot of technical skills. So Trackbacks only make visible a particular elitist conversation.
  4. Anyone who wants to comment on something in Torill’s blog can start a free, simple weblog and write away. Torill will find it.

It’s good to have reasons like these made so explicit, and Torill’s not alone here: Anders agrees with her (July 5) (incidentally SMSes announced the birth of Ander’s son on Friday so the “the baby’s not here yet sign on his blog is outdated. Congratulations!) Finally, whether to have comments or not is just a choice that depends on what you want your weblog to be and what you want it to do for you. I love comments, and love the slightly scary feeling of opening up my writing and thinking like this. I also love being able to comment at other people’s sites. That doesn’t mean everyone needs weblogs.

The troll issue: it’s true, I did have a troll. Once I actually talked with him instead of just fighting him, as other people he plagued did, we became friends, and now he’s one of my favourite commentators. He even sends me supportive emails at times 🙂

And then there’s the legal responsibility question – I’ve just spend half an hour searching for a report I’m sure I saw a link to the other day about a court case that somehow creates a precedence for bloggers not being responsible for comments made by visitors to their sites. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

11 thoughts on “reasons not to allow comments

  1. torill

    I think you are talking about a sweedish case where the editor was slow about removing racist comments on the site of a newspaper. I think it was late April early May this year, I’ll see what I can find. This doesn’t really apply to personal weblogs although it can be used in our defense, and as far as I can remember it stated that while they could not be sued for people putting racist comments in, they have a duty to remove them.

    As for your favourite troll – what a happy ending!

  2. torill

    Here you are, it was Sweedish Television – SvT – and they will not be accused for being slow removing the racism attack, but they may be required to give out the IP address of the offenders to the police.

  3. Jill

    No, that was Aftonbladet in Sweden, they were alerted to racist comments in their discussion forums and didn’t remove them “within a reasonable amount of time”. ( had a brief report and it was also discussed at Kuro5hin.) Aftonbladet’s editors were found guilty and now their discussion forums are, I think, completely moderated – every post is checked before it’s published. I’ve just been reading an MA thesis by Bj¯rn Breivik about online communities, and he’s interviewed the editor of Aftonbladet about this – it’s interesting reading. If Bj¯rn puts his thesis online I’ll link to it 🙂

    As far as I understood a major cause of the court finding the editors responsible for the content of the forums was that the editors had been alerted to the racist comments. I haven’t read the court documents, but that seems to suggest that editors’s are not absolutely responsible for everythign – perhaps they just need systems for making sure that illegal content is removed appropriately? Lots of forums have buttons so users can easily report a particular post as being offensive.

    But the case I was thinking of was very recent – as in only a week or so old – and the editors were found not to be responsible for comments or forum content posted by readers. At least I think that was the point.

  4. Jill

    Oh, you posted at the same time as I was writing! And now I see, Aftonbladet was the older case, Swedish TV were given a different treatment… thanks!

    I’ll have to read these properly some time 🙂

  5. Liz

    So, wait…let me get this straight…”Cassandra” is a man?

  6. Liz

    Oh, and more on topic, I wrote about why I like comments so much a month after I started blogging. It still holds true for me.

  7. Jill

    Yes, Cassandra is a man! Some studies show that 95% of female-presenting online characters are, indeed, men.

    Of course I can’t cite you the study, I may have made it up (I’m not sure!), and that would have been in the 80s in MUDs I guess, but at least I do remember the word female-presenting 🙂

    And Liz, did you start blogging that recently!? I feel like you’ve been round for ever!

  8. Mike

    I wonder: how large is the difference between trolling and agonistic discourse? At the public American university where I got my Master’s degree, agonistic discourse was common in seminars — not of the “mean” or “bitchy” sort you’ve described, but witty barbs were traded frequently — to the point where, as a part of my graduate training, I learned to approach difficult texts by finding possible ways to disgree with them. (By such a measure, agonism might be considered one-half of the “believing and doubting game” Peter Elbow describes in “Embracing Contraries in the Writing Process” or as just a contemporary version of the classical disputatio.) One could suggest that “provocative” comments are useful for drawing otherwise quiet people into the discussion (which actually seems to be a big component of the definition of trolling that you link to), and thereby enlarging its scope (while, yes, also altering the signal-to-noise ratio).

    While I agree about the “mean” and “bitchy” comments, I found Cassandra’s “unconstructive” response about not teaching English inscrutable as an insult, given how well you write, but I wonder given the context whether his response might have actually been a swipe at the discipline of English, which — in its sub-discipline of composition — has embraced the process movement and evangelizes “critical thinking” (sometimes, unfortunately, to the point where “critical thinking” becomes synonymous with “ideas with which we agree”).

    (I’m posting this as someone who sometimes has a hard time restraining himself from engaging in agonistic discourse, and has recently made a couple of comments that could be considered, at the least, rather snippy, and so worry that I might be the sort of troll you’re talking about.)

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  10. Eiriks forfatterblogg

    Diablogg-monoblogg redux
    Min posting om monoblogger og diablogger har skapt litt oppstuss i den lokale bloggosfÊren (skulle gjerne ha sagt andedammen, men

  11. I must be lonely

    Jill Walker discusses the pros and cons of blog comments. I think what may be at issue here is whether one is ‘breaking the rules’ by not encouraging community… My blog barely exists and this is the first time I’ve…

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