Comments or Discussions?

We had a dinner party the other night and seated to my left was a person who had been involved in writing one of the most popular blogs on the web for several years. That blog did not have comments initially and then launched a ‘velvet rope’ approach to comments where you had to get approved to leave a comment. The idea was sort of like TED. You supposedly increase the quality of the discussion if you keep the riff raff out. Guess what? It didn’t really work. It never does. The "riff raff" is always the source of the best discussions.

The next day I was talking to the founder of a popular blogging service about comments. He pointed out that many comment threads are filled with garbage like LOL, ‘you are an idiot’, or worse.

He pointed to the comments here at avc and noted how good they were.  He called them ‘discussions’.

First, I agree with him. The comments here at avc are the best thing about this blog. You all make this blog what it is and I totally appreciate it.

Back to the dinner party. On my right was our long time friend Helene. She’s totally into the presidential race this year and noted that she finds the political discussions on this blog quite good. She’s not much for the geek stuff that goes on here but she’s really enjoying our political debates

I pointed out to both of my dinner partners that I try to weigh in on the discussion as much as I can and they thought that had a lot to do with the overall quality of discussions.

I am not sure about that. First, until I moved to disqus and got the ability to reply to comments via blackberry, I wasn’t much of a presence in the comments here and they were certainly just as good for the first four years as they have been recently.

But I do think the blogger needs to be active in the comments. Arrington is. Winer is Scoble is. Jarvis is. And the comments at all of those blogs are pretty good.

I think that blog comments (or call them discussions) are fantastic and are often lost behind the main page. On many of the best blogs, the responses to the posts are where the action at, including this one.


Comments (Archived):

  1. jeremystein

    i agree, and i think disqus does a great job keeping the conversation going via email. its really helpful when you are notified of new comments, and not just from the bloggers standpoint. do you think there needs to be a better way to present the discussion? i wonder how many people actually read through an entire comment section. on blogs like techcrunch, engadget, etc, a lot of comments are repeated– dont get me wrong, im guilty of this myself.

  2. Fraser

    When I think of my favorite blogs over the years I rarely recall the posts. It’s all about the discussion. Chartreuse’s site is the perfect example of this. Sometimes I wonder what Seth’s site would be like if he enabled comments.

    1. fredwilson

      Chartreuse’s posts invite the discussionSo do seth’sFred

  3. Cory Levy

    Fred – What do you think the benefits of comments are? Both in your perspective as the blog publisher/moderator and to a blog reader?

    1. fredwilson

      They extend the post in all kinds of great directions. They make this two way media instead of one wayI learn so much from my comments. I am not sure I’d still be blogging if I didn’t have them to keep me goingFred

  4. John S. Kim

    It’s interesting to see how ‘micro-culture’ of comments emerge. Visitors are aware of the context of the blog that they’re visiting, so they don’t just post ‘you are an idiot’ on all the blogs they visit (unless they are spam bots, of course). They tend to dive in when there’s something that answers “What’s in it for me?”So as more comments accumulate, micro-culture begin to emerge in comments area. Even though the comment system may seem like it’s totally open to everyone, people actually begin to feel that ‘invisible barrier’ to participation, thus eliminating in advance those that are not fit in the micro-culture.It’s really up to the content of the blog, then the initial settlers who post the early majority of the comments.

  5. Kevin Marshall

    I’m a big fan of discussions around blog posts as well. Blogs without comments are basically just books in development. They serve a purpose for sure, and can even be quite good. But they are still just a one-way communication tool best suited for ‘teaching’ not ‘learning’.When people can run with a topic, weather that’s in a class room, in a debate, or say on a blog, that’s when the real questions and answers can come out.As a developer, I read a heavy does of tech. blogs – most of the time, my ‘real’ questions about a given technology or idea are addressed (or at least brought up) within the discussion (especially bug fixes and tweaks to presented code). That is where I tend to benefit the most, save the most time, and also gawk in awe of my peers opinions and intelligence!I’m guessing that the same thing is true of all types of blogs regardless of topic.

  6. McLarty

    In the beginning stages of a blog launch, it can almost be depressing sending asynchronous communication into the world, without having any readers. But, I can’t begin to put into words the high I got/get from from when readers started randomly adding comments, adding value, or better yet compliments. It’s been almost half a year since I launched the blog at “blue moat”. Since then, the comments have inspired me to actually write more, research more, and add more value to my own writing and thoughts.I’m sure Fred already knows this, but I’m adding this comment for his readers and potentially the blog voyeurs. My point is, it’s amazing how encouraging random comments can become. I can only hope that I continue to get the high from random value adding comments. I mean, I hope I never become too popular or too busy, that I get too many comments, and they simply become noise. *crossing fingers*.Also, when you start taking digital relationships built from the comments, and doing things & networking, face to face…we’ll, it’s great.BTW, I’ll be switching to DisqUS, because of you and Howard, these features are great!

    1. fredwilson

      Amen brother

  7. Kevin

    your an idiot……..!

    1. fredwilson


  8. johndodds

    I think you just called your readership riff-raff. Thought I wouldn’t notice?

    1. fredwilson

      i would way rather hang out with the “riff raff” that populates the comments on this blog than a fancy invite only conference.

  9. scott crawford

    Fred, Thanks for this. What a strikingly different expectation is set up when you invite someone to leave a comment vs inviting someone to join a discussion. We need to change the very labeling of the action.

  10. Daniel Weinreb

    On my blog, anyone can submit a comment, but I have to approve it. I like this system. I approve almost everything, but sometimes there are insulting comments, or even outright spam, and I appreciate the opportunity to remove that kind of uselessness so that the comments are more pleasant for everyone to read.The comments are great. It’s wonderful to find out that people are reading, and thinking about, what you wrote. It’s instant gratification! When you publish a paper or a web page, you never get to find out how people are reacting to it.

  11. S.t


  12. Chris Rechtsteiner

    It is easy to talk / riff / rant and make sense and be engaging. It is far more difficult to facilitate the conversation. Think about why it is so hard to find good moderators for a debate or a conference panel yet oh so easy to find people to be the panel.The skill set and vision needed to facilitate are very unique b/c ego can’t be in the way.The reason the comment (discussion) threads here are good is b/c there is no ego in the way. It is an open environment designed FOR the discussion, not AGAINST the discussion.

  13. RacerRick

    You also have a knack for writing stuff that welcomes comments/discussion.Don’t know exactly how you do it but you do it.

  14. RacerRick

    Also, I just wish had a little more Jackson these days.

    1. fredwilson

      I do tooHe kind of bailed when I moved to disqusI don’t really know how to get him re-engagedfred

      1. RacerRick

        He’s pretty funny. I miss that.I called him a commie. Thought that might bring him back.

  15. Xavier Vespa

    Actually I think that your friend’s velvet rope model of blog commenting is something we should get closer to.If a site has 700 comments, I run away from it. There’s good chances that the discussion has turned towards unrelated topics.It’d be great if Disqus had a Fb app to connect your blog posts directly to your friends, with the option of directly commenting the post without leaving the social platform.Is Daniel listening (you probably thought of it a thousand times)?

  16. jackson

    First off, I am a commie so, thanks, i guess.The move to disqus didn’t put me off, it was the ‘two blogs’ move. Before you started your other blog it was all right here, now this space is mostly full of boring tech stuff and charts I couldn’t care less about. So I wait until there’s call to comment. Read both blogs? LOL…….don’t be an idiot…..At any rate, long live the riff raff……

    1. fredwilson

      Everything is on fredwilson.vcBut the discussions aren’t as good over there

  17. Stefan

    Hey Fred,Do you guest blog on other sites? I would be honored if you wrote a piece for my new magazine,

    1. fredwilson

      At timesNot oftenWhat is liberalati?