Why Close Comments?

I have never understood why some blogs and web sites turn off comments to items, sometimes just a few weeks after they post an item. I’ve always thought this was a bad idea.

The other day, for example, I was researching a new urban legend (well, at least it was new to me). In the course of my websurfing I came across a brief item on a very popular blog that is run by a few academics. The blog entry repeated the urban legend and then linked to a study that supposedly supported this particular myth. There were a number of comments, all speculating on why the urban legend was true.

But, it turns out, the urban legend really is just an urban legend. The study cited was several years old and there were serious shortcomings to it that emerged after it had been published. I thought I’d set the record straight and post a link to a point-by-point critique of the study’s methodology that appeared in a peer reviewed journal.

Except I couldn’t. Even though the item was posted in February 2008, comments had already been turned off. Anyone researching this urban legend who happens upon this particular blog post will assume that the question has been authoritatively resolved in the affirmative when that simply isn’t the case.

Which is why I never close commenting. If someone comes a long a month or year or decade later to somethng I’ve written and can offer insight into the issue, more power to them. The web is not a synchronous media so I’m not sure why commenting should expire after some arbitrary length of time.

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3 thoughts on “Why Close Comments?”

  1. The best reason I’ve seen is sites that find that the vast majority of new comments after X time is spam, so there’s no point to it.

    My tool can’t even close comments (how would you shut off e-mail replies without shutting the mailing list off completely?) but I can understand it.

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  2. Very good points, Mark. Akismet seems to capture almost all of the spam. There are literally hundreds of spam comments posted to this blog every week, but only about 1-2 actually show up on the site, and marking them as spam is fairly painless.

    But the site I was writing about above uses an odd platform I’d never heard of before and doesn’t appear to have any anti-comment spam system so yeah, that makes sense.

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