I will be switching to a new service for publication of this blog in the next couple of days. Among the questions on my mind as I make ready for the switch is whether the comments section to the blog serves any real purpose.
I am aware of the "engage" theory of blogging: encourage comments, comment on the comments, and engage readers in a running dialogue. You can really make your site visits spike if you can get the commenters to engage with one another. That's one theory of blog use.
But I've noticed in the past week or so on these pages a nastiness to it all that I don't care to share. Readers are attacking one another, calling into question not just one another's point of view, but one another's mental health and integrity as well. I don't feel the need to facilitate that. In recent days, I deleted several comments and have refused to post a bunch more from the authors involved. This page is no poorer for the absence.
And from California came a note questioning my own integrity. I did not run a comment critical of me. The writer wrote back in sarcasm asking whether I'd publish a note gushing in praise about me. She raises a good point: It is easier to run the nice comments than the comments that poke at me. Of course, I'd rather have glowing comments, who wouldn't? But the desire, even the need, is a weakness, I suspect.
Engagement with commenters is not something I do well. There's too little time in the day to please all, and some never get enough. And then there is the school of Internet engagement that declares victory simply by repetition: Stick a needle in my eye. Beyond the first ouch, there's not much to say other than I am grateful to have such faithful and careful readers: That I have inspired you to care is a power that I have sought. But I also know that giving me your power reflects the same weakness in you that makes me crave the praise of strangers.
Engagement is a trap for the unwary, and a snare for those pressed for time. My law practice takes me to court most days. I prefer writing about that. I don't have the time or inclination to suit those looking for validation from this page.
So the question on my mind is whether to enable the new page to receive comments at all. I can see the pros and cons well. Everyone likes seeing their name in print; and even the anonymous writer, or the writer posting under a pseudonym, can take pleasure in the sting she imagines her words will cause. There is even a species of writer who seeks to build readership by commenting on what others are doing on line. On the theory that any attention is good attention -- is there no such thing as a bad byte? -- comments are good.
But life is short. The care and feeding of readers is much like living on a farm: the various readers must be fed, cared for, and made to feel loved. I am afraid I am not loving enough to succeed in that and meet the needs of those who pay the bills.
I've posted a poll to the right of this post for your views. I am not promising to live by the poll results. But I am interested in what those few who read this page think. As always, you can find me at my private email: email@example.com.