Design View | Articles and opinion on design professionalism, technique and culture by Andy Rutledge

No Comments Here

January 9, 2006

I get email every week asking why I don’t have comments enabled on my site. After all, this is my weblog and part of being a blogger is inviting comment on what you write, right? Maybe so, but I’m convinced that the ubiquity of weblog comments is part of what’s wrong with the Web.

Before I get to the what’s wrong with the Web part, let me first admit that I’m not interested in building a community around my site or in providing a forum for others to sound-off. If you read my articles regularly you’re aware that I don’t write about what makes me tick or about what I’ve got going on in my head at the moment. This site is not my personal diary and I’m not trying to share the many facets of Andy with the world.

Instead, I write about things that I believe are important to the business of design, development and marketing, and to the culture that surrounds these endeavors. I write to focus attention on things that are done well or not so well, on examples of astute or idiotic concepts or behaviors. My aim in this is not to generate debate or even discussion, but rather to affect change. I want to change your mind about certain things or confirm certain thoughts you may already have, but haven’t devoted energy toward bringing to fruition. I want to inspire thought, not reaction - action, not more words.

I am not at all interested in our sitting around talking about these issues so that we feel like a more close-knit community of like-minded thinkers. Ideas and consensus aren’t worth diddley unless they’re acted upon and behaviors changed. As Elvis said, “A little less conversation, a little more action please.” Anything less is not just useless, it’s harmful. Hmm, that’s probably the first time I’ve ever quoted Elvis.

Take the issues of Web standards, usability and semantic code, for instance. These things get a lot of play in the designer/developer blogsphere and they generate copious comments from readers. I find a disturbing amount of comments that go something like, “yeah, I’m totally devoted to this, too, but I’m not able to do it at work.” Bullshit. If so, then all your commentary is just so much fart gas that vanishes in the wind. Thanks for playing, there are no lovely parting gifts.

This is an example of the harmful culture of delusion from a kind of comment-fantasy saturating the Web. The harm comes from the mistaken idea that if I’m commenting on enough things and writing about enough things, it amounts to something tangible and consequential. And that’s simply inaccurate. Such delusional thinking is indicative of a lifestyle of hypocrisy. Participating in such things is a waste of your time and everyone else’s. You might as well put one of those idiotic “end poverty now” banners in the corner of your website; all style, no substance.

Online, anyone may put forth ant sort of drivel or shoot down any sort of real shared wisdom with complete anonymity and without consequence to themselves. And that is an unhealthy thing.

I also don’t appreciate the effort to use comments – requested and offered – as a display for others to see. I have no desire for the world to see a bunch of supportive comments on my website. I also don’t want to participate in how some seem to want to post comments to weblogs as nothing more than a display. Comments directed to an article’s author are often appreciated and useful. No need to do so in the full view of the rest of the world. That usually amounts to little more than showing off.

I can count on one hand the weblogs I’ve posted comments to. I’ve probably posted less than 15 comments total in my life. And some of them were efforts at showing off, which is not a good thing. So I speak from some experience, not as a demagogue with a theory.

Another reason I don’t have comments enabled on my site is that the great egalitarian playing field that online community presents us with is at once a wonderful thing and a barrier to useful endeavor. Anyone in the blogsphere, regardless of intelligence, experience, education, understanding or skill, may comment on anything in the world and “teach” or deride anything they care to. Online, anyone may put forth ant sort of drivel or shoot down any sort of real shared wisdom with complete anonymity and without consequence to themselves. And that is an unhealthy thing.

I choose not to facilitate contribution to the cacophony of mindless experts who use others’ weblogs as soapboxes from which to fire salvos of idiocy at those who are actually working for better, more widespread understanding and useful information. My weblog is for me to share what I know and believe, and everyone knows where and from whom my words come. I don’t hide behind a pseudonym and won’t enable others to do so here. Anonymity makes paper tigers of ignorant cowards.

I do, however, enjoy the emailed comments I receive. The vast majority are from people who sign their names and use real email addresses. Anyone who feels the need to comment on what I write may send an email to me just as easily as writing a comment in some form on my site. Further, if someone takes issue with what I say, they may write about it from their own website and take responsibility for what they put forth, as everyone should.

In any event, I enjoy comments as much as the next guy. I just feel no need to make them a public feature of my website. If you have something to say, speak up! You can contact me at andy [at] andyrutledge [dot] com. If you want to share with others your ire or disagreement on something I say, write about it on your own site. Surely you’ll get plenty of commentary from your readers. I wonder if that’ll actually change anything, though.

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Read this article in Belorussian, as translated by Paul Bukhovko

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