Comments Are The Blog Spinal Cord

Great discussion yesterday about wordpress vs facebook. As always the post was just the kickoff of a wonderful discussion that is 75 comments long at this time. The big debate was whether blogging was truly social behavior and whether a blog platform could "know" anything about it’s readers.

On that there is no question in my mind. This morning I was working through all 75 comments and was floored by this one from PH Bradley. I’ve been marvelling at PH’s words in this blog’s comments for a while now. But enough is enough. Who is this guy? I need to know him, read him, follow him. Thankfully, all that one has to do when faced with that moment is hover over a person’s face in disqus and their profiles (note the plural) will be revealed. Like this:


I clicked on all of them, Phillipe is now a friend on facebook, a contact on linkedin, I follow him on twitter, and his feed is in my reader.

That’s the kind of adult social networking I was talking about in my post yesterday. Or as Phil said in the comment I linked to, comments are the blog’s spinal cord. Indeed.


#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Zach

    And with a rave review like that, I have no choice but to subscribe to Over The Counter Culture. Thanks Fred (and Phillepe).

  2. simondodson

    it certainly was a great post yesterday …

  3. jackson

    Comments are the spinal cord, and I’m the scroliosis.

    1. fredwilson


  4. cwodtke

    it’s ridiculous that this tiny feature — the ability to follow or “bookmark” users, essentially no different than flickr’s contacts and the base of becoming a social network as well as a platform — hasn’t been baked in natively by any of teh blogging platforms. This is the biggest stupidest “duh” and could end SixApart and WordPress’s underdog status. Why is this a third party plug-in?(speaking of, where is typepad/movabletype in your map?)

    1. fredwilson

      See the top post on my blog and you’ll see where typepad isI agree this is a feature right now but if disqus or mybloglog or someone else ends up with the large base of well developed profiles, then its not a feature, its a networkFred

  5. Venkat

    I track average comments/posts (or (allcomments-mycomments)/posts if you want more accuracy) as my main metric for my blog, and like to keep it between 3-4 (2-3 for the adjusted metric). When I see the metric go down, I make sure I write a more engaging, comment-inviting post. If I ever see it go UP too much, I’ll be worried too, since I don’t think I want to deal with 70-100 comment threads (my most to date has been 18. If I ever get there, at that point I’ll probably fork off a forum/BBS for my blog).That said, for me (and I suspect, a LOT of other serious bloggers) blogging is primarily about Writing 2.0, NOT about social networking. Content to a certain extent drives your use of the form (I write longish analytical essays mostly, which creates a very different dynamic than, say Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger type content, or controversy-inviting comment-bait bloggers). But at some point, if your content pushes the form boundaries too far, you’ll run up against the “medium is the message” dynamics, and you are better off going to a more hospitable medium for your intentions. Blogging as a medium is not optimized for social networking, adult, teen or otherwise, even if you, personally are able to use it as such (and I don’t need to educate you as to why YOU might be an outlier here :)). Yeah, Facebook is still much too adoloscent for my taste, but LinkedIn+Twitter+Dopplr etc. is adult enough for me.Of course blogging does form a sort of implicit social network for one class of users — people who actually like to write or otherwise produce high-quality content. But that’s hardly the same as “adult.”

    1. Philippe Bradley

      I write because I am a terrible writer and have zero memory, so it’s useful to have a record of my opinions that I can come back to and argue with myself over. Doing it in ‘public’ forces me to think about keeping it concise for your average ADD-suffering Internet wanderer; I think over time it’ll help me find my ‘voice’.

      1. Venkat

        Yes, i’ve heard others present that motivation. In my mind you’re still a writer though, not a social networker, in the blog medium.Personally, i don’t like to do too much of ‘public alpha arguing with myself’ agile content development because it would annoy my friends too much, so I stick to ‘public beta’ relatively polished stuff.

      2. mrclark411

        Good point. Which is what makes this Disqus stuff so great. Side note: I’d love to have a “blog it” button on Disqus so i when I write a comment that I’m particularly proud of (or invested way too much time in a comment) I can post it immediately to my blog…

        1. fredwilson

          Me too. Been asking for it for a long time. Someday our dream will cometrue.

      3. fredwilson

        That basically describes me too. Remember that einstein said that he didn’tneed to remember anything, he just needed to know how to find itfred

  6. Philippe Bradley

    First FastCompany fawning over Ning, now this ridiculous eulogy. There must be something in the water over yon States!Bio-mumbo-jumbo.

  7. confusement

    Yes, great post yesterday and a great example today. A thought occurred to me while reading these two posts. Blogging stated out as a monologue and we discovered content by reading a post, finding it interesting and following the links within. However, that limited the discover to entities known by the author. People are social beings and I find it quite a pleasant thing that services like disqus are being built. Allowing us, the readers, and sometimes the bloggers, to discover other content. By reading people’s comments first, you get a sense of whether or not you want to follow up on that individual.Give us a platform that we find useful and a the social network will follow 🙂

  8. Alberto Escarlate

    Joel Spolsky once wrote ( against comments and defending that blog posts themselves carry the real conversation. I enjoy the comments here but there seems to be a few comment oasis out there. Services like Disqus could enable bozo/troll filtering to feasible levels.

  9. bobby

    uhm.. am I missing something, but isn’t the majority of the population, uhm, not as extroverted as the tech community.I’ve only seen a glimpse of Discus, but I’d never want strangers to know what where I’ve commented (like comments on my fav furry or tentacle porn forums/blogs). There are parts of my personal lives that I want to keep private. This is what I believe is fundamentally wrong with Disqus, and wordpress–It assume extroverted personality types who are willing to share. This disposition is very common among the geeks, but I’d be hesistant to generalize this behavior to the wider population. Most of us are guarded consumers, not sharing producers. Let’s look @ twitter.Twitter is a niche web service. It’s provide a service where anyone can broadcast what they do in 140 characters, but honestly, other than geeks, who enjoys sharing this type of info, and in this form? I’m assuming Joe six pack doesn’t. Moreover, Joe six pack isn’t open and social. Therefore changing his personal behaviour is a huge barrier for adopting this technology.Being non open and social seems to be the trend, and not the exception. As I recall, Initially facebook and myspace users had set their profiles to public, and were somewhat open to interacting with strangers. But as soon the sites scaled, and the ‘public gaze’ was apparent–wham–their profiles were set to private, decreasing the potential for interactivity with non familar people. So I’m guessing this social behaviour will eventually occur @ wordpress–bloggers setting their blogs to private or protected (Oh wait, isn’t this what happened @ livejournal. oh snap).

    1. Philippe Bradley

      really that difficult to log out and post anonymously? sure, Disqus might benefit from advanced privacy options, like being able to exclude certain comments (or even all future comments to a particular site) from your publicly displayed feed. Problem solved, unless I’m missing something?on a side note, that’s the first time I’ve seen dotcom types described as more extroverted than the general population. I don’t think that’s true, I think most people have (at least a little) gobshite in them, online or offline.The collection of your latest spewings is of great service to anyone wanting to know more following a comment you make – either about your particular opinion on a topic (which you may have echoed/developed in other places) or your wider opinion/belief system. Same reason many people follow Fred’s blog despite (or because of) the diversions into music, life, culture, etc. Likewise Twitter – it’s a good mix of lifestyle and functional conversation. Forgive the cynicism, but it’s also playing to your vanity to have all your comments in one place. That’s a winning combination/formula for Disqus that also works for many other social communication tools – a useful tool for readers, and a pulpit for you = strong two-sided motivation to participate in it.As for twitter, again, I think you’re wrong, though before a debate with @stein I was defending a not too dissimilar position to yours (though it certainly wasn’t based on the unsubstantiated, and probably false, assertion that geeks are more open people than Joey Noblog). The emergent truth, having met @stein halfway on this, is that right now, twitter is geek-dominated, because the social object bringing people to it is new media chatter, which dwarfs other ‘social objects’ because it was first on the scene and Twitter has amazing network effects. But what any Twitter user realises is that the new media ‘social object’ is not mutually exclusive of (squeezing out) other banter, despite its prominence and despite having been what brought people there in the first place; witness @DowningStreet, discussion of sports, @lotd, etc. What this suggests is that once other social objects take hold – say, politics, entertainment, etc – all of which have the sort of constant breaking news and fractal discussions that suit Twitter perfectly – these will all experience thunderous growth amongst non-newmediageeks (because of the aforementioned network effects).why don’t you go browse around Flickr for the rest of today, see just how nongeeky and open people can really be online – and the wonderful things – conversations, development of creative themes, cross-pollination – that can happen when they do.

    2. fredwilson

      I think its a generational thing more than a geek vs joe six pack thing. Among the over 40 crowd, social networking and internet extroversion does skew geeky but that’s not so true under 30Fred

  10. Philippe Bradley

    I got a few followers on Disqus after this (thanks Fred!); I didn’t know that was a feature, but it’s potentially huge. It prompts the following question: do I really need a blog at all now, or could I just go from site to site, leaving my views and perspectives (which currently reside mainly on my blog) as comments (where they benefit from far more context than they do on my blog: original story written by someone else is directly adjacent, as are a multitude of equally high-quality [and not-so-high] comments showing alternate views and opinions?Could Disqus, ironically, cause total redundancy of blogs and personal soapboxes, replacing them with a fractal commenting ecosystem where my comments page on disqus spawns other discussions which people weigh in on, only for THEIR disqus page’s visitors/followers to weigh in on, etc etc… without ever seeing ‘the light of day’ outside the Disqus ecosystem?If we accept to be a social network, as Fred previously argued (I disagree slightly), then Disqus is potentially’s most threatening rival…!Earlier in the week you compared WordPress against Facebook. But you might be missing a third entrant: Disqus (doubt it, since it’s very wisely already in the USV portfolio!)Closing thought: the meme that Facebook is trying to build an ‘internet within an internet’ is well established. Should a new meme be recognised here: disqus creating a usenet (comment/discussion-focused internet) within the internet? Causing the death of the blog?

    1. obscurelyfamous

      Content publishing, i.e. blogging, is and will always be important. With Disqus, we’re saying: hey, the entire discussion around the content is just as important.That’s why there needs to be more focus on the comments. It can easily have a life of its own, as you said. But at this point, the role of the blog is still crucial.I’m not a regular blogger, but I like reading and commenting. There are a ton of people just like me and their contributions should get recognized.

      1. Philippe Bradley

        Sounds like we agree – blogs are still the primary sparks for conversations, and will be for the foreseeable future.But over time, Disqus is likely to resemble more and more a service like blogger or typepad that’s turned inside out – I have a home page, but it’s only a collection of comments I have made in other people’s threads.It sounds like a world-wide forum.

        1. obscurelyfamous

          > It sounds like a world-wide forum.:)

  11. Philippe Bradley

    Sorry, my original comment requires a fair amount of context to be clear. I called technorati the ‘blog brain’ because it is a single organ that collates blog activity/inputs. Disqus links comments (stimuli) between blogs (different parts of your body, reflex arcs, and eventually, the brain, if a ‘brain’ e.g. technorati was smart enough to merge with disqus) like a spinal column (peripheral nervous system).So, Disqus isn’t YOUR spinal cord. It’s the one linking people who visit my blog, and people visiting yours.(minor difference between ‘blog spinal cord’ and ‘blog’s spinal cord’)Weak analogy, i know. See my comment ‘bio-mumbo-jumbo’ above. I’m just freeballin’, trying to put off work.