Are blogs without comments good blogs?

When is just having an RSS feed != to a good blog?  This question came up recently on an internal DL regarding executive or other high profile blogs that don't enable comments.  Personally I think these "blogs" set a bad example to lower profile blogs for the wrong reasons.  If you are not steveb, Ray Ozzie, Scoble, etc I don't believe that enabling comments on your blog really costs you much considering what you lose by closing a connection channel.   Here are some excerpts from the mails I've sent on the subject. 

<regarding the value of trackbacks versus blog comments>

Part of the issue we have here is one of scale.  Not every exec is billg or Ray or Scoble. 🙂 Sure, once you reach that level you’re likely to have formed your own community in the blogosphere that orbits your every word. Thereby ensuring you’ll hear everything if you open your ears.   

The cost/benefit analysis (where dollar signs, attitudes toward, satisfaction with, and opinions about are all forms of currency) works out very differently at that high a level.

It doesn’t cost every exec who blogs the same thing to have comments turned on and the potential for missing benefit from comments increases exponentially the smaller the audience you have.  If you aren’t Ray, Bill, or Steve you should probably just leave comments turned on and set expectations appropriately.

Here are a couple of good reasons for execs to turn on comments.

In the last few months I have had the opportunity to interact with many of you.  Thanks for your encouragement, comments, feedback and words of wisdom.  Your comments have helped me change the way I think about several things.  Like I mentioned a year ago, if there is one thing that I have consistently noticed in these interactions, it is the passion that folks have around our products - both in terms of what we are doing well and more importantly what we can do better.

First of all, I want to thank the dozens of people (well-wishers) who sent me super encouraging mails welcoming me to the blogging world.  I should confess that I was reasonably nervous about my first blog posting, but all the words of encouragement did wonders for me.  Thank you for that.

<Regarding execs looking aloof by not replying to comments and trackbacks in place of comments>

I think we worry too much about execs looking aloof. If the blog is clearly coming from an executive its been my experience that customers have an understanding that it’s not exactly a job with a lot of free time. Also, keep in mind that the exec isn’t the only person who is looking at the blog comments to make things happen as a result of them. 

As simple as trackbacks may seem… not everyone wants to create a blog and new blog entry to comment… you miss out on good comments and feedback without comments enabled.  

As far as blog search services go, I’m sorry, it’s just simpler to have the comments right below the blog for the readers of the blog. Trackbacks and search services are not perfect.  They miss a bunch of posts from bloggers who’s sites might not be correctly pinging their services or fell under the radar. 

I agree that one solution, as Scoble mentioned, is to go create a discussion on channel9 for every post. But then why not just enable comments?

Back to my first point, it’s not just about the executive reading the comments.  Take Soma’s blog entry on MSDN Benefits as an example.  I’m sure the MSDN Benefits team is reading the comments, trackbacks, and blog searches for feedback. Why cut off one channel?  Of course, maybe this is a bad example since Soma replied to the comment. 🙂

The short story is that I'm think I currently fall into the "Comments can't hurt" camp as long as you set expectations to your readers.  And I guess I also think it's pretty cool our VP blogs regularly and also replies to several comments.  Even if he doesn't reply to all the comments I know he forwards them on to the right teams... and it generally causes good things to happen.

Your thoughts?

Comments (9)
  1. PatriotB says:

    Sometimes it makes sense to not enable comments. The MSRC blog ( has comments off, and I can only imagine what would happen if they were enabled–they’d be filled with such hateful comments and spam.

    Of course, having comments enabled doesn’t mean much for those blogs where the blogger never or rarely replies to comments. In cases like that maybe they’d be better off having comments off too.

  2. MSDNArchive says:

    People have negative comments anyway. Not having comments just makes it easier for the team to ignore the perception they have.

  3. Sometimes you wish to tell a story, sometimes you wish to start a conversation — I personally wish I could turn the "comments" feature ON & OFF per blog entry.

  4. AlfredTh says:

    Scoble has talked about people commenting on their own blog and PubSub or other tools to "follow the conversation." I don’t think it works that way for most people. It may for a power blogger like Robert but I think that most people want to comment where they can be part of a unified conversation. People don’t want to link to 5 other blogs to comment on 5 other reactions to the same entry on an original blog. They want it together.

    I think having comments is easier for a busy blogger like an executive. I was not happy when I saw that Ray Ozzie’s blog, especially the internal one, had comments off. The empowering thing about a blog is the ability to respond to it. Sure I can respond in my own blog but that doesn’t give me the same feeling of conversation.

    OK maybe if you are an important person who is going to get a lot of comments you don’t have time to read them all. Fine. Say so. Set expectations. Say you’ll read them or that someone on your staff will read them. Explain that you can’t respond to all of them. But at least tell people you want to hear what they have to say.

    A good information outlet may not have comments but to me a good blog does.

  5. Dean Harding says:

    It kind of annoys me when someone has comments turned off. I mean, I’ve got my own blog and I *could* write a trackback, but what’s the point if all I want to do is write a couple of sentences anyway?

    I really like the Internet Explorer team for the way they have comments turned on. They’re probably one of the more controversial teams at Microsoft, and they often make posts which get hundreds of comments, yet they still reply to many of them and it’s obvious that they at least *read* all the others. So I think they should be applauded for their efforts.

    And if you’re not going to read/reply to comments, I can’t see how you’re going to do any different with trackbacks anyway…

  6. CJ says:

    A blog without the ability for people to join the conversation ISN’T A BLOG. It’s just a web page, simply a broadcast-only method of communication little different than a commercial or brochure.

  7. Joku says:

    I’d also like to point out the IE blog. For long time the comments seemed very very negative, for a reason obviously, but they’ve got a lot of feedback in that respect as well and worked to address some of the issues. Looking at some of the latest IE blogs and comment on them, they have clearly changed in tune or perhaps the most negative crowd got over their negativity after bursting it for couple months there first.

    So while it can certainly be tough for a "controversial team" to take in some negative bashing for couple months in row at beginning, with some communication effort and if not outright fixing the issues, atleast explaining the issues in the product and what was the history behind those decisions (in the IE for example), I believe the outcome has good chance to turn out better.

    I also think it would be beneficial to have earlier bloggings about hot issues very visible, so new readers would not have to crawl through the archives to find them. For example the IE team would be better of turning off the calendar and replacing it with links to some of their more interesting posts about why things are like they are and what they’re doing about it.

    Hope this made some sense. I am eager to see Windows Media Player blog, everyone has a word to say about it and all said and done it might turn out or atleast people would have some clue into why it isn’t like they expect. For starters I’d like to hear why I can immediately start viewing a Channel 9 video by clicking the download video link – Very cool, but seeking does not work even though the video is being saved to HDD. Why can’t WMP build temporary index while downloading? That would remove the need to setup streaming servers when serving your home video to friend for example.

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