Leaving the last word on comments on the LexBlog platform

99park—TwoCee

Illustration by Greg Storey

“First post,” wrote Jeff Croft. Back in the early days of blogging  (around 2000) if Jeff stumbled upon a blog post without any previous comments, he pounced to leave behind his short, inane response. I’m sure there was supposed to be a joke in there somewhere, but I never understood it—nor did anyone else I know who published a blog at the time. Unfortunately, it was a sign of things to come less than a decade later and something LexBlog is still combating today.

In April 2001, A Dollar Short by Mena Trott was the first blog I came across that offered a way for readers to leave a comment. It was a new feature that encouraged public discourse, created a way for readers to participate on the site and formed a small community around the author.

As soon as I saw comments on Mena’s site, my blog felt outdated and stale. Sure, I could publish my thoughts, but it would be so much better if others could respond in kind. So I stopped everything to redesign my site to accommodate, neigh, encourage this type of interaction. I signed up for Movable Type beta and put it to work as soon as it came out. It didn’t take long for a community to form around my own blog called Airbag. There were good days and a few bad ones (not everyone always agreed with my sentiments) but all in all, comments definitely added to the blog experience.

Blog conversations worked well for a while. They were ordinarily cordial and, from time to time, informative. I appreciated that it provided a way for someone to add  their perspective. For the most part, blogs and comments worked pretty well up until 2008 with the release of Twitter and the growing popularity of the Internet through a new mass-market device known as the iPhone.

And as more and more folks joined the Internet and discovered the ability to say what they wanted to say anonymously, comments as a viable platform for civil discourse tanked hard and fast. Despite new tools to help protect against maniacal bots and manage vitriol statements, blog comments seem to have had their brief golden age.

Comments have always been a part of the LexBlog experience. Over the years we have added tools for hosting and managing comments. But to do so comes at a big cost to site performance. As Google continues to evolve how it ranks content, site performance is essential in their criteria for acceptable sources including your blog and mine. Launched this week, Google Core Web Vitals is now in effect and it likes sites that load fast—really fast.

As far as “page weight” goes, comments have been our biggest resource hog. In a further study of this feature, we found that a significant number of blogs in our network (the high nineties) have very few, if any, published comments at all. As a result, we have many sites forcing folks to download a large feature that never gets used. And “Comments: 0” is never a good look.

Meanwhile, comments as a genuine means to engage with readers have come to a grinding halt across the web. Sure, there are a few outliers in our expansive network, but for the most part it’s Tumbleweed City. I would love for comments to make a comeback, but every attempt I’ve seen by very successful bloggers just hasn’t panned out. The web has moved on.

After months of conversation, we have come to the conclusion that blog comments need to go. You might have noticed that 99 Park Row launched without comments and this is why.

As of this week, LexBlog will not ship any new blogs with comments. Our current clients will receive an email from us in the near future about our intentions to remove comments from our platforms to provide a better reader experience, boost performance, and be compliant with Google’s new requirements.

Moving forward, if you want to hear from your readers, I’d encourage you to invite them to write to you via email. A friend and long-time blogger Jeremy Keith ditched comments in favor of asking people to email their thoughts and it works really well for him. When the responses are good he’ll gather some of them and post them as a follow-up. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me directly via email, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Greg brings a wealth of industry experience and wisdom to his work gained through years of work with agencies, medium sized companies, and Fortune 100 enterprises. It’s given him a unique and valuable perspective on what makes design successful in a variety of conditions. He publishes regularly at Airbag Industries, his personal blog since 2002.

Photo of Greg Storey
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