Starting tomorrow, NPR’s dropping comments from its site. NPR made the announcement last week, stating that while they want interaction with their users, very few people visiting their sites bothered to comment. They also noted spam and trolling, plus that most conversations about stories are taking place via social media.
There’s some number of sites lately that’ve moved toward turning off comments. Scientific American and Popular Science are a few noteworthy sites that shut comments off, largely out of being turned off by dealing with spamming, trolls, and (since they’re science sites) crackpots.
A few have changed their minds about turning them off, however. In 2014, blogging-related website Copyblogger shut off its blog’s comments, but later changed its mind. An editorial by a blogger in the Washington Post feels NPR did the right thing, as the writer dislikes comments. Of course, the Post itself still has comments active on its site.
As for this blog, I haven’t really had any issues with comments, so I haven’t considered shutting them off. The most comment consideration I’ve done is whether to keep the default WordPress comment system, or switch to Disqus. Disqus has some advantages, including its social networking tie-ins and supposedly robust spam/troll filtering abilities. However, it’d require relying on an outside source (and possibly increased loading time) just for a comment section. It should be noted that NPR, like most large sized websites these days, was using Disqus to run its comments section.
As for whether comments are worthwhile, I find some value to them for my own site (which I keep a close eye on), or other sites that’re similarly closely monitored, such as individual blogs or certain smaller websites. Otherwise, a lot of sites’ comments are probably worth avoiding.
Still, it’s up to web site owners to keep their comments sections civil places. Online visitors leaving comments aren’t guaranteed completely unchecked “freedom of speech,” no matter how big a temper-tantrum trolls and bigots throw. That said, trying to keep comment sections free of such hatred might not be worth it for some, or require too much work, as NPR concluded.
What do you think of NPR shutting off comments? Or Disqus/comment sections in general? Leave your thoughts in, well, you know where…