Comments allow readers to be challenged further by engaging and synthesizing complementary and opposing views. Allowing comments aids greatly in the development of a readership community.  Readers have opportunity, by their comments, to participate in the discussion and can even influence the direction of future articles. A readership can provide needed pushback and instant feedback on ideas and on the quality of how those ideas were communicated. On many occasions readers have challenged me to rethink how I have communicated. This is a very helpful process for refining one’s writing style.

 comments picAllowing comments does have a downside. First, and perhaps most obvious, is the time required in reading and responding to all the comments. One only has so much time, one must consider whether they want to spend their time researching and writing, or dialoguing (obviously, both are important, but you can’t do everything, so you must choose only some things).

 Second, if you answer some but ignore others (as time will necessitate), then readers are left wondering why you are inconsistent in responding. Did an unanswered commenter propose an argument you couldn’t handle? Did the comment simply not deserve a response? Were you too preoccupied to answer? Do you really care whether they read your writing or not? Or are you just a jerk? These kinds of questions in the minds of readers can cause the original intended message of the blog post to get lost.

 Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a blog has to have an identity. What is the purpose of the blog – the mission? If there is no identifiable mission or purpose for the blog, readers will find it difficult to become and stay interested. If that mission is dialogue, then comments will be a necessary element of that blog. On the other hand, if the mission of the blog is more about the communication of pure ideas, then comments can detract from that greater goal, as they can water down that message.

 Blogs with comments are jam sessions. They are guided and inspired by the original post, but take on a life of their own as others get involved in the conversation. The end result is often rich and rewarding, but it isn’t necessarily what the original artist intended. Blogs without comments are symphonies. They are more formal and intentional, and if they are well done, they can be remarkably effective (if not, then all bets are off anyway).

 As for www.drcone.com, after more than a year of allowing comments, I decided to turn them off in the second year. While I fiercely value interaction and dialogue, I found that acknowledging and answering some comments but not others became untenable. Especially in a blog focused on presenting Biblical perspectives on everyday issues, the stream of consciousness associated with comments, I felt, ultimately detracted from the mission. Again, it is not that I don’t appreciate diverse perspectives – I do indeed. But representing diverse perspectives is not what www.drcone.com is about. For the record, I welcome interaction, and usually find that Twitter and Facebook work best for public conversations, as they allow a bit of distance between the blog post and the ensuing discussion. Social media helps the message of the blog remain untarnished, while at the same time providing readers the opportunity to engage.

 As a further alternative to comments on the blog site, email allows for private discussions which avoid possible embarrassment of those who are sincerely wanting to learn, but are too afraid to expose their lack of knowledge for everyone to see. Remember Nicodemus? He wasn’t a bad guy, but he went to Jesus at night because of peer pressure. Private discussions also help eliminate the angry mob mentality – the fomenting that can develop when commenters disagree more violently or discourteously than they ought. Those kinds of discussions, while admittedly they drive traffic, are not really desirable for most blogs (unless they are specifically designed for that kind of interaction). They certainly aren’t becoming of a blog designed to talk about the love and kindness that Christians are supposed to exhibit toward others even when they disagree. So, again, private discourse in this context can be far more effective, though perhaps even more time consuming. But people are worth the investment of time. People last forever. Time doesn’t.

 So, while www.drcone.com does not currently have commenting features enabled, not all blogs are designed with the same purpose in mind. In short, there is no right answer. In my case no comments is the better option, but your case may be entirely different. Before you can answer whether or not allowing comments is the better option for you, you need to be certain of what you intend to accomplish with your blog.

 cc

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