Comments Are Dead, Long Live Comments

Yet another mainstream media site took down comments this week. In the post explaining the move, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher explained that “as social media has continued its robust growth, the bulk of discussion of our stories is increasingly taking place there, making onsite comments less and less used and less and less useful.”

That led to a fair bit of discussion around the notion that “commenting is dead.” And like many things that are “dead”, the truth is that they are flourishing elsewhere.

Just this week we had a post here at AVC with 880 comments, which is not a record but is damn close to one. Commenting activity has been fairly steady here at AVC over the past two years with comments down a bit and voting on comments up a bit:

comment history comment history

But let’s look elsewhere on the web.

Let’s take Reddit where comments are the center of activity. They are growing faster than pretty much any site out there and are now #38 globally and #10 in the US according to Alexa. And the time spent on site is a whopping 17mins.



Let’s look at Buzzfeed, another super fast growing content site. Buzzfeed uses Facebook comments as they drive a lot of traffic from Facebook to Buzzfeed. But the comment activity at Buzzfeed is strong and some posts, like this one, get over 1000 comments. Buzzfeed is a top 30 site in the US and is a top 100 site globally.



Here are some stats from Disqus, a USV portfolio company that powers the comments here at AVC (from their about page):

– 20 million comments a month

– 80 million votes on comments a month

– 1 bn visits to disqus comments a month

– 2mm new commenter sign ups a month

And although they don’t show trends on their about page (they should), all of these numbers are up and to the right year after year after year.

Commenting is alive and well on the web and mobile. It’s just dead on sites that would prefer to have the conversation happen elsewhere. AVC is not one of those places, and even though I sometimes find the discussions hard to take here, I am committed to making this a two way experience for everyone who wants it to be.


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Communities drive discussions between people and invariably that drives comments.This happens here, and it happens a lot on Facebook within certain groups that are platformed there.Generally wherever people thought that comments themselves would drive community, they were being wishful and are fading away as you note.There can still be conversations without community of course (had one on the plane the other day) but that is a different behavior.

    1. bsoist

      Exactly. I’ve said this before, but AVC brought back my faith in online communities, after having given up on them for years.I don’t visit AVC every day for the comments. I visit to “meet” with people writing the comments.

    2. Elia Freedman

      Being on the west coast, though, I feel that it is very hard to participate. I either get up at 5am to be here early or be more of a lurker and occasional commenter. I’ve obviously chosen the latter although I wish I was still more involved.

      1. ShanaC

        Don’t let that stop you

        1. Elia Freedman

          Thanks for saying that, Shana, but I’m not going to write “me too” comments and anything new gets buried at the bottom and, I suspect, never read by anyone. I prefer not to talk to myself on Fred’s blog. 🙂

    3. Vivek Kumar

      Agreed, comments are just one measure of a great community. Measuring an active discussion where members feel inclined to express their opinion is a lot harder.Additionally there are always silent listeners in a bar, who like to hang out in the bar and listen in. Case in point, I have been an avid reader of the blog have learned a lot both from post and the comments but have never contributed to the discussion.

      1. ShanaC

        Anything I can do to change that, let me know

        1. Vivek Kumar

          not sure exactly what could be done, just goggled several metrics and all of them came a bit short. Seems to be a good area for investigation.

          1. ShanaC

            What areas of metrics? I actually do marketing analytics, how are you finding them short?

          2. Vivek Kumar

            From reading this post/comments some metrics for making a great community would beMeasurable1. Number of repeat/new visitors.2. Number of members who actively engage, comment, like follow link/participate in voting etc. …Potentially measurable 1. Number of members who refer friends or bring new members to the community2. Productive conflicts, different view points being reflected (not an echo chamber) 3. Number of comments which are moderated (higher moderation = censorship or too much spam.)4. How many ideas from ideas from one online community get disseminated into other communities. (e.g. vernacular, slangs spreading beyond the community they originated in.) 5. Quality of comments – logical thoughts vs. personal attacks….Hard to measure1. Change in people’s mindset. Members who learn from the community, are committed for life but may or may not engage in other means.(e.g. people like me)Not an expert on this field, but would like to know how big of a dent in the world a community is making. My gut tells me this community has made a big one.

          3. lisa hickey

            Thanks for this Vivek. I think the huge opportunity to think about is the jump from “how many ideas from the ideas from one online community get disseminated into other communities” to the bigger, loftier metric of creating a “change in people’s mindset” — which I agree is hard to measure.But all of your other metrics are within the community itelf, and those 2 are the ones that show a bigger impact on the world at large. It’s almost like thinking about it as a “tipping point”. Gladwell defined the tipping point as the path an idea takes from individuals to small groups to large groups. When something goes from small groups to large groups, that is the place where it “tips”. In this case, I’d say the same dynamic is at place. Ideas get disseminated into other communities (small groups) and then get embraced by the culture at large (large groups). The ideas you are talking about in a comment section “tip” when they spread out into the world at large and actually change the way people think about things. That is the very essence of innovation.If find that process fascinating. I think that media sites who are getting rid of comments on their because they are “happening elsewhere” are either missing the point or not being truthful about their real reasons for getting rid of them. It’s difficult to build a community where ideas are valuable, and it takes resources to do so. Not having enough resources to manage them so they stay valuable is certainly a valid reason not to have them. However — if you are really trying to disseminate ideas and change people’s mindset — then having that process start in the comments in your own community seems to be an important part of your strategy.

          4. Vivek Kumar

            I had never thought of it that way, but totally agree with you. A more analytical approach to how idea is “tips” and is disseminated would be interesting.

          5. ShanaC

            @disqus_AkSMH8ULbh:disqus @lauradierks:disqus – Gladwell is wrong. Pretty much anyone who is doing modelling in this area agrees that the singular fact of what causes an idea to spread is idea fit beforehand – aka openness. The structure of tipping also isn’t clear at all – Duncan Watts recently modeled incredible amounts of twitter, and the cascades of what went viral were not all “classical viral” at all.I read a lot of math papers on the subject.

          6. lisa hickey

            I have disagreed with many of Gladwell’s analysis before, but in this case the framework of a “tipping point is when an idea spreads from individuals to small groups to large groups” fits into what I see with our own analysis and has been really helpful. I’ll concede it might not be replicable (or even as helpful) in all cases.But first, I would be hugely interested in some more detail about what you mean by “what causes an idea to spread is idea fit beforehand — aka openness”.What we have found is that the ideas that spread, or the stories that “go viral”, have less to do with the idea itself and more to do with a combination of the idea and way the networks are set up to facilitate the process. There is certainly a type of idea that spreads more consistently than others, of course, but it’s not predictive without having network connectedness in place.As an example, we are a mid-sized media company and have 17 stories which have over a million pageviews. The top few stories are an order of magnitude larger than those at the low end— around 10 million. Big enough, for this example, to be considered “viral”. In all cases, what we could see happening in real time is the post taking jumps from individuals to small groups to large groups. The quicker it takes those jumps, the higher the total pageviews. In fact, more than once an author has said to us “Hey, I published with you guys and 48 hours later I was on the Today Show. How exactly does that happen?” It happens because we define “The Today Show” as a “large group” compared to us. In between those two points (an individual with an idea and that idea appearing on The Today Show) there are a lot of little jumps from individuals to small groups to large groups. The moment the author gets the call is the moment that post has “tipped”—as we define it. Note that The Today Show doesn’t see the idea in isolation — they see the idea plus the fact that “everyone” is talking about that idea. And that is why they call. Of course, the question of how the Today Show gets their ideas to whatever their version of a tipping point that works for them may well be completely different.I’m also not sure what you mean by “classical viral” but I’d be interested to hear more on that too! And yes, I’m all for math.

          7. ShanaC

            This is really a detailed coffee discussion because it involved 20 bazillion things like why did article x do well but article y didn’t with relatively the same audience characteristics, and how one could theoretically change that.

          8. lisa hickey

            Agree! We obsess over that constantly. To us, it’s continuing to make the “trees closer together” so the wildfire of virality spreads more predictably. In some cases, a forest fire will hit a bare patch with no trees and burn out. In other cases, there will be another group of dead trees where the fire can catch on and take hold. A related solution actually relates to your comment on another post about sub-communities. Sub-communities of a larger media entity will have the same effect as “small groups”—but since they are part of your larger community you will have more control over how the ideas make the jump from disparate but related groups.

          9. ShanaC

            So, some of this data is available through researchers, but not generally from private media companies because it can be closely tied to their private monetization strategies. Some of these questions (such as ideas spreading) are also among the most complex in social sciences and computer science.However, I think this paper might be helpful to start thinking about the problem…

          10. Vivek Kumar


          11. Firozal A Mulla

            Dutch central bank chief Klaas Knot said on Nov. 18 that he is “rather skeptical” of QE. Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann and ECB Executive Board member Sabine Lautenschlaeger, a former Bundesbank official, are among other policy makers who have signaled opposition to such a move. Weidman said today that he sees “high legal hurdles” for the ECB buying government debt due to the prohibition of monetary financing set in its treaty.ECB Vice President Vitor Constancio, speaking in Florence on Nov. 22, suggested officials are in no rush to act immediately as existing measures start to take effect.“In the first quarter of next year, we have to assess if indeed the programs are contributing to a pace of increase of our balance sheet that is compatible with the sort of expectation that we have,” he said. “If not, then we have to consider other options.”

          12. ShanaC

            I could have sworn I replied to this: I work in analytics, why do you feel that certain metrics come up short

  2. jason wright

    “I felt a great disturbance in the force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened”

  3. LaMarEstaba

    Commenting is not dead, but I think that Re/code is making the right choice for them. You just posted about how it feels to be tweeted about and hated on. Re/code is deciding to move all of the hating to social media, where they can’t delete it. It’s their choice.From The Oatmeal:…I use Disqus on my WordPress site, and I also use Blogger seperately. I am less than impressed with Blogger’s spam control, but commenting happens so infrequently that it’s manageable to go through manually and get rid of the random advertisements for Nike shoes.

    1. ShanaC

      Audience development choices are funny things

    2. SubstrateUndertow

      Typical Apple user 🙂

  4. alphabeta

    What do you mean by: “even though I sometimes find the discussions hard to take here”

    1. fredwilson

      All you need to do is wade into that 880 comment thread and see the hate being spewed at our president to know what I mean

      1. andyswan

        Very unpopular presidents tend to generate highly negative commentary, especially when they announce extremely controversial policy.Disagreement moves the needle. I’ve been called Hitler for saying something undeniably true; e.g. corporations are, in fact, a group of people.I’m surprised anyone is surprised by this anymore. In the US, it’s as old as the Federalist papers and part of our secret sauce.

        1. ShanaC

          I suspect he’s polarizing in the way he’s unpopular. He’s probably very popular with the people he’s popular with, and vile for the people he’s unpopular with due to the sorting problems in politics. He’s actually not just unpopular

          1. andyswan

            Yep the dem version of gwb

          2. ShanaC

            Emotively dislike changes the way people argue about specific policy because they push their emotions in it hoping to get their emotions reflected back.We never get to talking about the policy.

          3. bsoist

            We never get to talking about the policy.Don’t even get me started –

          4. ShanaC

            yup. yup.

        2. SubstrateUndertow

          Yes – andpeople are, in fact, a group of cellsbut the power-scope of a person’s volitional agency is magnitudes apart from that of the volitional agency inherent to a persons constituent cells !A corporation’s powers of agency constitute a MST (Meta-System-Transition) into elevated control that supersedes the relatively weaker power of volitional agency held by individual persons.MST (Meta-System-Transition) see also Principia Cybernetica WebThere exists a whole hierarchal stack of volitional agents with differing levels of power/resources which all compete to advance their own set of localized goals and interests.To conflate the social/political power-scope equivalency of volitional agency at these two distinct organizational levels seem factually/functionally wrong !

      2. LE

        While my thoughts on Obama aren’t and have never been exactly super positive by the “are you better than you were X years ago” metric I’m pretty happy with Obama I’d have to say.

      3. LE

        and see the hate being spewedBy the “rules of human nature” (page 1504 of my “book”) this relates to the fact that people feel powerless and they want to be able to blame someone else for their loser attitude or their loser problems. They are not (unfortunately) in control of their destiny.Reminds me of when I first got divorced and my ex wife, extremely unhappy, was on my case complaining about everything and anything. My dad said “eh if she was happy with the guy she met she wouldn’t spend so much time hassling you”. He was right. She became happy with “the guy she met” and all that negative shit totally disappeared. She was merely transferring problems in her own personal life and using me as a scapegoat and excuse for her unhappiness.

  5. JimHirshfield

    Re/code, and All Things D (where the editorial team at Re/code was previously) never had a lot of comments. People just didn’t go there to discuss things; they go there to read the news. I’ve read and observed a lot on their sites, and independent of commenting platform, community has not taken hold there.

    1. awaldstein

      I’ve always thought that Disqus never really understood that comments don’t create communities, the offshoot of communities is comments as connections.Otherwise they would loose the incorrect idea that Disqus is the community.Which it is not.It is the smartest commenting plumbing on the planet but not a community in its own right. This is something to embrace with long long market legs.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Can you please edit 2nd sentence? Not getting it.

        1. awaldstein

          What is not clear–Disqus is not ‘the’ community nor ‘a’ community.It is the enabler. That is it power.

          1. JimHirshfield

            Not debating your POV.Sentence is hard to read… Typo, punctuation, or grammar are making it hard for me to comprehend.

          2. awaldstein

            I will work on being a better writer Jim.I do every day.

          3. JimHirshfield

            Enjoy your workout.

      2. William Mougayar

        I agree with you. The communities are everywhere, and Disqus is a discrete enabler of that. The links and commonalities between the various communities exist, but they are less than one might think.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Yes. And Google is nothing without all those web pages they index.;-)

          1. William Mougayar

            Google has Search. Disqus doesn’t. If only Disqus had Search….Like blinking at someone in the dark. Only you know you did that (you indexed), but they don’t (can’t search).

          2. JimHirshfield

            Now you’re just changing the subject on me.;-)

          3. William Mougayar

            didn’t mean to. i thought that’s where you were getting at, i.e. equating your indexing to Google’s.

          4. JimHirshfield

            No. My point is that you can’t have Disqus without the people in the same way that you can’t have Google search without the pages they index. Further, it’s more complicated than saying Disqus (or Google) are just tools, barstools, plumbing, enablers. Google’s mission has extended far beyond those base descriptions… and their aspirations grow. Why shouldn’t Disqus’?

          5. William Mougayar

            Right. I think if Disqus enabled a killer Search that allowed users to discover the amazing people, sites and conversations beneath the hood, it would be a game changer. As you know, I had that vision at Engagio, and it still pains me to see that no one has picked up the torch on it.

          6. JimHirshfield

            It’s part of the plan. Like most product development, it’s incremental… and never as fast as everyone wants.

          7. William Mougayar

            I’ve heard this before for the past 3 years, and meanwhile Disqus works on other mundane things like dashboard re-design and bubbles. C’mon. We did a good chunk of Search at Engagio with 3 engineers in 3 months. It doesn’t appear to be on your priority. This isn’t a feature we’re asking for. It’s a game changer. If Disqus doesn’t see it that way, then it is what it is. I’m half in the dark about saying this, so I may be wrong of course. But I sure like to hear a really good reason for not doing it. School us please why search isn’t good for Disqus now.

          8. 6 one way half a dozen another

            Yes, Disqus just did yet another fiddle with their dashboard spreading your info around a number of now necessary clicks and trying to foster a community out of unrelated comment threads.

          9. ShanaC

            that’s actually a necessary thing in content

          10. 6 one way half a dozen another

            Which is necessary, the community fostering or spreading the user’s content over several pages and columns from one previously single page with multiple tabs?

      3. falicon

        Agree – If AVC is the bar, Disqus is the bar stools (and their placement around the bar)…only the people in combination with time make up the ‘community’ aspect of it all…

        1. awaldstein

          I’m a big fan for a very long time. I also believe in the market power of understanding who you are.

        2. bsoist

          I am not sure that covers all that Disqus does. It’s rare, for sure, but I have used Disqus to follow some of the people I meet from one bar to another, and discovered another bar I like to visit from time to time.

          1. falicon

            Sometimes they dabble with being the hostess…and when they do it can have some delightful consequences 🙂

      4. CJ

        But they COULD be, that’s my frustration and anticipation with Disqus. They could be like an ethereal reddit. I think they will be eventually.

        1. awaldstein

          Many people’s thought for a very long time, myself included from 2009: Comments, Conversations and Community longer.I’m completely happy having a commenting system that works as well as this does.

          1. CJ

            I agree. I love it, it’s the best commenting system on the web today, but I think it CAN be more and ultimately will have to be more to survive.

          2. awaldstein

            We shall see.A true mobile experience and smart search are the obvious things that I want as a customer.Beyond that I don’t know.

  6. JimHirshfield

    It would be insightful to see how much discussion of their content is truly happening on social media. Discount all the tweets and retweets of the story and show me the conversations about their news coverage. There’s no way it’s as deep and engaging as on page commenting…And that’s OK. Many sites are not conversation communities. I’m just skeptical of the justification that the conversation is happening on social media.

    1. andyswan

      Not even close. That metric is a joke.

      1. David Semeria

        Let it go Andy. Drink some Pappy.

  7. JimHirshfield

    Another example of a publisher removing comments is Reuters, on a large swath of their news pages. Having spent 8 years at Reuters, I’m well aware that only until recently they were exclusively a news wholesaler (in re consumers); they had no direct relationship with consumer readers of their news until perhaps 5 years ago. They’re a 100+ year old company. Discussion communities is not (yet?) in their DNA.

  8. andyswan

    Fred you didn’t fill up a huge bar in NYC with people from all over the country because we love your content and couldn’t pass up an open bar.The value is in the engaged network. I know I don’t have to tell you that.

    1. bsoist

      That’s exactly right. I had a list of people I wanted to meet. I remember saying to Andy and Elia “Hey, who’s that really tall dude walking over by the bar?” 🙂

    2. JamesHRH

      All over the world Andy!Well said.

      1. johndodds

        When did this happen?

        1. ShanaC

          A year a go. Welcome back john

          1. johndodds

            Relieved to know I ddn’t miss a recent memo.

    3. Aaron Klein

      It’s safe to say comments have never been more alive for engaged networks who like to talk with each other.Comments have never been more dead when there is a lack of any real knowledge and opinion is just spouted. Think comments on Politico…an utter wasteland.But I’ll tell you one thing…comments are going to be very dead if they can’t keep you signed in on mobile. The 5m of overhead before I can engage on my phone is ridiculous.

      1. bsoist

        I’ve been doing more and more of my work on mobile. Some days I don’t sit at my computer for more than a few minutes. On those days, I have a very hard time engaging in the discussion here.

      2. John McGrath

        Just logged in on my iPhone for a test. Hadn’t previously been logged into in to Twitter, still took only a minute to get back and start pecking (though I had to reload the page, bit annoying). As usual the worst part of the experienced is typing on a tiny keyboard, but that’s universal on mobile.

  9. LIAD

    Interesting juxtaposition of yesterday and today’s posts.Yesterday was the illness, today one of the major symptoms

  10. JimHirshfield

    It’s about the people, people!The people that write the content AND the people that read it…the people that the material written about connects with.If you wrote something, shouldn’t you connect with who you wrote it for?Why boot this connection out the door? The audience formerly known as your readers

      1. CJ

        SPOILER ALERT! 😛

    1. Anne Libby

      It’s also about moderation. Here, beyond Fred, William and Shana, there’s also some enforcement of norms happening from the community.I watched a school’s official Linked In alumni group devolve into flame wars a few years back, because the “owners” wouldn’t moderate the discussion. (Real names, friends!) I haven’t been back since. Whadda mess.Moderation is an investment in community.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Yesssss… But moderation is people. So I agree with you more than you agree with yourself, as a wise man often says around here.

        1. Anne Libby

          Exactly why I think some of these sites shut down comments. They don’t want to “spend” the people.

          1. JimHirshfield

            True. There is a cost.

        2. SubstrateUndertow

          Has much thought gone into the possible mechanics of crowdsourcing the moderation process ? On the surface that seems doable.This is superficial thinking I’m sure but maybe two buttons>>>ad hominem attack<<<—– button>>>extreme hater<<<———–buttonReach a certain # and the comment gets deletedI’m sure the whole topic is much more complex/convoluted, given people’s ability to game any system, but it would be interesting to hear more about that approach from informed sources !

          1. Dave W Baldwin

            It is as simple as ignoring those who truly hate, for lack of attention drives them nuts.Assigning buttons can lead to false accusation due to misinterpratation. If you think someone is out of line, either ignore or call them out for most on this blog may respond with oops.

          2. SubstrateUndertow

            Maybe not that simple as some sights are closing comments rather than face the overhead of managing them.Not that I disagree with your sentiment.Commenters could appeal the collective drop-kick of their comment to a moderator thus the crowd sourced policing step would largely act as a work-reduction filter to reduce moderator overhead efforts ?

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Totally agree. But it does takes resources, commitment. But I generally think it’s a big missed opportunity when content sites shut down or never offer comments.[Short version: What @annelibby said.]

  11. OurielOhayon

    i don t like blogs who don t have comments. the only one i truly read with no comments is daring fireball because the insights are so amazing. But in my view recode is in a different situation: i think they removed comments because they did not have enough.Many times the comments are the most interesting part of a post. And removing them is the equivalent of a quality cost cutting by force.i am surprised that a professional editorial team like recode made that decision.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Old school media, IMHO, are news and opinion “broadcasters” (i.e. one to many). New school media are bidirectional.

      1. ShanaC

        I actually think it’s a cross. You can’t be purely bidirectional in new media-you’d scale too slowly in a linear fashion. What you can do is control different viral and broadcast structures by conversations for maximum reach.I also have been reading too many math papers in this area

        1. bsoist

          been reading too many math papersnot possible

          1. ShanaC

            When you start positing exactly how to arbitrage traffic on Facebook without having a math degree, this just makes you weird. Also a bad candidate for audience development gigs. Despite factually being how buzzfeed grew.

          2. bsoist


          3. ShanaC

            I dunno, after having an argument with a boss about how you can’t change test parameters in the middle of an ab test…..

          4. bsoist

            Speaking of a/b testing, I’ve noticed that occasionally I see different titles in RSS than when I reach the page. I know editing the title after publishing can do that, but I’ve seen it enough with a few WP powered sites that I thought a plugin might be causing that.

    2. bsoist

      i don t like blogs who don t have comments.I tend to agree. I think comments add so much value, but the choice to disable comments makes sense for some sites, in my opinion. Seth Godin wrote an interesting piece some time ago about why he doesn’t allow comments, and I actually think it makes the most sense for the kind of posts he writes.

    3. Olog-hai

      There’s an extension for Chrome and Safari called Daring Fireball With Comments. A couple of people who use it are insightful and you can tell they put a lot of thought into their writing, but there’s also quite a bit of trolling and over-the-top insulting remarks about Gruber.

    4. ShanaC

      From an audience development point of view, I’m not. There is a cost to dealing with comments. If they aren’t driving their audiences development goals, why keep them?

      1. OurielOhayon

        i have dealt with large audience blogs in my past lives (techcrunch being one of them). here is what i learned. dealing with comments is the most rewarding part of blogging. the second thing i learned: you get the comments you deserve. If you get spam it’s because you re not cautious enough. if you get low quality comments: it s because your content is of low quality. If you get silence: it s because readers don t care. Comments are the reflection of the voice of the author.Ignoring them or dealing with them is killing the feedback look that makes great blogs great. like this one

        1. SubstrateUndertow

          “Comments are the reflection of the voice of the author””you get the comments you deserve”BINGO !

        2. ShanaC

          So have I. Is it worth it for Kara swisher to go into the comments for an hour and then have someone else take over, then go into Twitter for an hour, then Facebook? (Remember she still has leads to follow up on meetings to go to, and other stuff to do before writing articles)Readers could be caring elsewhere in ways for them where if Kara spent the experimental hour elsewhere to see what has high correlation to traffic.If onsite comments aren’t developing and aren’t driving traffic and revenue goals, that’s ok. It happens. Every site is different.

          1. OurielOhayon

            1. she does not write every post. she has editors2. she does not have to read every comments. but have them moderated and occasionally participate3. recode is more than 1 writer

          2. ShanaC

            1.ok so how should readers and editors take this. Editors still have jobs and lives. Kara swisher is just a prominent should this system work? What should its goals be? How much total time should be spent on it? What if we find out later that staff overall (main point above) could spend equal time cultivating a conversation/community elsewhere and exceed traffic goals? For a site like recode, that’s not insignificant. Depending on how much more, that could be a lot of money they are leaving on the It’s an example with their most famous writer.

          3. bsoist

            I couldn’t agree more. Sites are different. Some – most? – of the value here at AVC is the discussion that ensues. The value at Seth Godin’s blog comes from his usually very brief comments designed to make one think and act – not talk. John Gruber is another great example. In my opinion, comments there would water down the entertainment value. I want to read his snide comments ( even if I disagree with about half of them ). I’m not interested in reading a bunch of people trying to out-Gruber Gruber.

        3. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Would you classify re/Code as a blog?

          1. OurielOhayon

            Doesn’t matter. Applies for any publication who wants an audience in 2014

    5. Dan G

      Gruber’s an Apple shrill and Daring Fireball is an echo chamber

  12. Jim Peterson

    I really enjoy the comments at AVC and learn from many of them. It is interesting Fred that the 880 comment day was the day you considered out loud closing it, you were pretty pissed).

    1. JimHirshfield

      Bars close when they get too crowded or unruly. But they open up the next day. 😉

      1. Jim Peterson

        And on that note: would all the effected parties who are regulars here consider a detente and just call it a bad day? If they haven’t already.

        1. JimHirshfield

          I think most would

        2. Anne Libby

          A lot did. I haven’t gone back to that day to double-check, but the last time I looked (that evening?), the gender split was far more pronounced than usual.

          1. ShanaC

            That is not atypical during a politics days.

          2. Anne Libby

            Exactly — to @jimpeterson:disqus’s point. Many of us don’t like walking into a bar brawl here.

          3. bsoist

            I like walking in, but I try to stay out of it.

          4. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I just don’t like wasting my time and breath. No one ever changes anyone’s mind in those exchanges. It’s a tail-chasing fest.

          5. bsoist


        3. JamesHRH

          Jim, i wouold love to see a breakdown on activity yesterday.A lot of it was regualars getting into lengthy back and forth with newcomers.

      2. William Mougayar

        Yep, cooling off periods are helpful.

    2. fredwilson

      still am

      1. bsoist

        Thanks again for Friday’s post. I wasn’t kidding. Let’s talk more about it sometime. How about Thursday over dinner?

        1. fredwilson

          we might do that. we’ve got our whole family in town. but everyone loves Obama so there won’t be any Obama hating going on then.

          1. JamesHRH

            I am going to suggest to you, one last time, that there is no hating here.I can speak for myself that I am deeply dissappointed in your President, probably not because of what he has done, but because I was convinced of how much more he would do.You also, in your lone substantive comment yesterday, opened my eyes to the possibility that this is a tactical ploy. That type of thought out maneouvering is one of the things I thought would be a hallmark of an Obama Presidency, but has not been, to date.I wish i shared your enthusiasm for last week’s New President Obama, but I am in wait and see mode, after 6 years of dissappntment.Fair?

          2. fredwilson

            i don’t agree. i see longstanding hatred and bigotry at play. i am not aiming that at you. i am just saying its a big part of the anti Obama rhetoric and it is deeply upsetting to me.

          3. CJ

            I see the same. In fact, I see it is as the only anti-Obama rhetoric when there are clearly so many legit avenues of criticism that could be taken. I voted for him twice and I’m VERY unhappy with a lot of policies. I just don’t get it.

          4. SubstrateUndertow

            I sometimes thing that it is not so much his blackness/bigotry that is out ahead of America’s acceptance as it is his overly optimistic sense/expectation of rational political collaboration as foundational to a new era of progress.To work their magic those elements of progressive leadership require a preconditioned social/political environment with which to engage.Without such baseline social/political environmental conditions those potentially progressive leadership skills have been flipped from tools into impediments.It is a cruel fate to be a man to far ahead of your time ?

          5. CJ

            I think it’s definitely bigotry. Are there other factors at play as well? Yes. But when it comes down to it, a lot of it starts with the fact that he’s a black man that’s President. That’s about 80%, another 10% is sour grape that they lost and the remaining 10% actual policy issues.

          6. SubstrateUndertow

            I’d like to believe otherwise but what the heck do I know.I’m on the outside looking in from Canada 🙂

          7. LE

            But when it comes down to it, a lot of it starts with the fact that he’s a black man that’s President.I haven’t said that much about Obama here but to me the issue is the fact that he came into the job with a true lack of experience more so than any other President that I can remember. It might be convenient for people to assume that someone who is a) Black or b) a Woman or c) Jewish or d) Young or e) Asian (and so on) is being discriminated against for those reasons but it could very be for another reason entirely that has nothing to do with those things. Not saying people aren’t racist of course. They are.Look I can say for sure that I feel more comfortable, as a general rule, around people “like me” than I do people “not like me”. That’s the way it is. What’s wrong with that? That said the President is not my friend and I won’t ever spend any time with him. So I’m all on board with having the “best person for the job”. Regardless of whether he is “like me” or “not like me” in skin color or upbringing. I don’t like Elizabeth Warren but I like Hillary somewhat.You are Black (at least from what you have said in the past and your picture…) and I can tell you that I’d have a more interesting conversation with you (which is what matters to me) than I would with “people like me” (who would tend to talk about where they ate, where they traveled and how they decorated their house). As such the color of your skin doesn’t really matter to me at all.

          8. JamesHRH

            I can’t speak to that.I honestly believe that race in America is not a topic that outsiders can comment on with much validity (unless you have lived there for some time).I don’t doubt the validity of the inputs that have you upset. One would hope, in the 21st century version of America that you would not be registering those data points…………

          9. ShanaC

            Read all 880 comments as if you are 10 and would need some help being explained why person x is saying things that way by your mom.Our youngest regular commentator is about age 10 if I remember correctly.

          10. JamesHRH

            Shana, I truly appreciate your sentiment. But life is a triangle: you, me & us. The people who make AVC what it is, in order of importance are:- The Bartender- The Regulars- The ReadersDo you really expect the best commenters on AVC to be interested in talking at a 10 year old level?Admittedly, poliitcs tends to have people react like 10 year olds, but that is a different, broader topic.

          11. ShanaC

            The 10 year old in question is a regular. And people do talk to her, because she brings the the occasional college level entrepreneurship question to the table. Different parts of people mature at different rates.Her mother is also a regular.If we talk about serving the community we also have to talk about serving the community’s edge cases. Which means we have real life 10 year olds to worry about. And since the community is actually large, I have no idea what else, but assume more heterogeneity.

          12. LE

            I must not be reading those comments who is that?

          13. ShanaC

            pantherkitty. It is alex’s daughter, she’s about ten, and she occasionally also comments under alex’s handle as well.

          14. LE

            Oh ok yep now I know.

          15. ShanaC

            now imagine she sees the politics post. Yeah…that could be interesting in a not good way.

          16. LE

            There are many times when the language and discussion here are not really good material for a 10 year old or even a 14 year old. I wouldn’t let my 10 year old read AVC.

          17. JamesHRH

            So , can I express some creative license while keeping it clean?Skin thickness is an issue in a large group, I agree.

          18. LE

            Do you really expect the best commenters on AVC to be interested in talking at a 10 year old level?I think if that happens nominally it’s ok (to me at least). Similar to the fact that there is only one Fake Grimlock at AVC. If 20 people posted 10 comments each that were “fake grimlockesq” that would definitely be something that I wouldn’t like. One Fake Grimlock is nice though.

          19. Anne Libby

            The angriest I ever got here was a day that we had a bunch of HS students visiting, and the way that some of them were treated by the collective “us” (adults).

          20. leigh

            what day was that?

          21. Anne Libby

            A couple of years back, Fred posted on Girls Who Code.I will hold my editorial comment on the discussion that ensued.

          22. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I remember it well. I also remember at least a few of those high school students conducting themselves far more professionally, diplomatically and eloquently than a few of the ‘adults’ here.So while it was a disappointing (and enlightening) moment for me at AVC, it also reinforced my absolute faith in the future of humanity. It’s in good hands.

          23. Anne Libby

            Yup! and I still remember what pushed me to actually feeling angry, a young woman who expressed confusion — as I recall it — about what some of us were saying to them. What we were saying to kids!(#stillalittlebitmad)

          24. leigh

            881 – i missed the post and just commented although no time for all 880 so i think i better shut up now – sounds like it got everyone pretty heated

        2. ShanaC

          You guys have dinner?

          1. bsoist

            I’m sorry, should I have said supper? 🙂

          2. ShanaC

            I just want to try this dinner?

    3. leigh

      What did i miss? Damn i hate when i miss the political posts — going to see now!

      1. SubstrateUndertow

        See you in a couple of hours 🙂

        1. leigh


  13. pointsnfigures

    I think the worst part of it is in the echo chambers. I don’t see AVC as an echo chamber since it’s pretty diverse. I can learn things here. Politics is a subject where it’s harder to keep the echo chamber out. However, when the subject is extremely passionate, you can still see some similar behavior come out. Watch Brad DeLong and John Cochrane go at each other over economics. Or techies on open source v using Microsoft to write code.It’s easier to be raw on the web when you have zero chance of meeting that person. It’s also easier to be raw when the comments are fake. “The official Obamacare Facebook page found that 60 percent of the page’s 226,838 comments generated between September 2012 and early October 2014 actually came from fewer than 100 unique profiles.“Many of those profiles belong to just one person who created multiple aliases or personas to widen her influence and multiply her voice,” according to the Times, which conducted the analysis with an outside data analytics teams

    1. Alex Murphy

      “I can learn things here” … 100% agree. The diversity of thought, perspective, and place on the ‘path’ makes for a truly engaging dialog.Out of the echo chamber and into reality.Cheers!

    2. ShanaC

      There are ways to talk about politics by taking the passion out. One of the ways is tabooing words: making it forbidden to use the word and forcing the person to use a definition instead. Usually the definition is less emotional. Another is actually calling people out over attacking the issue over the person.We as a community do not police enough in a wide variety of ways about how to defuse passionate things to get to substance.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Certain words are used for short hand too. Also, important to note that it’s impossible to mind read via digital. Professor Nick Epley has found that in study after study at U of C. It’s important to very clear in your internet communication. I try, but am sometimes guilty. Emogi’s help, but aren’t a cure all. Here is his book: http://faculty.chicagobooth

        1. ShanaC

          It’s impossible to read the mind period, but you get further away in a text only medium.I’ll look at the book.And we’re all guilty sometimes, it is what we do as a community to redeem ourselves that matters.

          1. pointsnfigures

            Need to make it safe to disagree without personal attacks. The personal attacks here are relatively few. I think if you are going to comment publicly, you better thicken your skin.At UChicago, when professors defend research, it’s cut throat. They really dissect the idea and go after each other. Different disciplines engage. When professors of other schools present their ideas at Chicago, they are not used to the open passionate debate that happens. It’s intimidating.I like the open debate here and don’t want people to censor themselves. I’d prefer tolerating someone calling me an idiot in order to have a free flowing conversation. Or, if someone calls a politician an idiot, I’d prefer it tolerated as long as it’s not a threatening attack.I also don’t think attacks based on envy are worth the bits in cloud they are stored on. I may not agree with everyone on this blog, but I hope they are each super successful at whatever they decide to attempt. If their goal is to make a lot of money, then I hope they get there. A rising tide lifts all boats.

          2. ShanaC

            As a maroon, the undergrad housing policies and structure is basically designed to start forcing people to have free flowing conversation without attacking people as individuals. So did early core classes. Because undergrads really are crazy.Though my first hum paper from James redfield Did have a comment of “you’re driving me to drink, miss carp.”

          3. pointsnfigures

            Among the PhD faculty that present, ripping apart papers and theories is bloodsport. I have seen a taste of it in a debate between the Federal Reserve, John Cochrane and Nobel winner Lars Hansen. It wasn’t pretty. But, the blows were delivered with humor and with respect (backed up by data)Interestingly, Coase Theorem is a product of the Chicago method. Coase initially presented his theory to the Chicago Boys at a monthly dinner they had. They tore it up. Friedman thought it was rubbish. They massaged it, worked it, and the product is amazingly simple, but awesomely powerful when you think about the big ideas and implications behind it.

          4. LE

            Part of the reason for that is to knock the opponent off balance if they are not used to arguing in that way. So the immediate reaction would be an emotional reaction which makes it less likely that you will be able to pull up relevant information to win the “argument”. That’s one of the reasons also that people find that if they use anger they get what they want. Makes it hard for the other side to argue logically with someone who is all upset and angry about something. It will set someone off balance.

          5. LE

            I’d prefer tolerating someone calling me an idiot in order to have a free flowing conversation.Calling someone an idiot is the lazy way (using anger) to get at the “opponent” and somehow “win”. It shows no effort or intelligence at all. Also shows a degree of mental instability actually.If you say something wrong and someone knows more than you do they should be able to, in words, show why what you said was incorrect and enough confidence to potentially convince you.

          6. Matt Zagaja

            Agree, insults, flaming, etc. are pretty boring arguments. Also at some point you realize there is little value to trying to convince someone that doesn’t want to be convinced of something.

          7. LE

            Someone publicly agreeing with you doesn’t mean that they don’t privately agree with you. They just may not want to say so. Which is fine. As far as “no point” there really isn’t any point to making comments at all other than it feels good and is a learning experience as well as other benefits.

  14. Keith

    I do not read any news site that does not allow comments. I also so not read any site that requires me to chain my Facebook account in order to comment. I have been using discus for several years because of some news site that used it. It has grown and now offers content so I really enjoy it. My only complaint is that Disqus does not have a way for direct contact to those media outlets.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Every comment you leave is or can be brought to the media site’s attention…at their choosing. IOW, whether they see and/or reply to your comment is a function of how the publisher has set their Disqus settings as well as their own decision to engage.

      1. Keith

        Jim, I think I understood that from my interactions with some sites. My complaint comes from my comments being blocked on some sites that I have never commented on in the past and in two cases when I was blocked I could never get anyone from that site to tell me why it happened, because as far as I am aware I have not violated any of the guidelines for commenting.

        1. JimHirshfield

          That’s true. The bouncer at the crowded bar sometimes arbitrarily chooses who gets in and who doesn’t. And a lot of those guys are not conversationalists.Other times, the moderators are not paying attention, close comments, or have pre-moderation on but have moved on.

  15. Mike

    It is civility and the quality of the content in the comments that algorithms can’t measure. We live in a world where on one day, the two top news stories are landing on a comet and Kim K’s backend. People want to talk about both. Two different conversations.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Sentiment can be measured. But like all software, it is a journey towards improvement. And never perfect, especially worth something like this where when humans can’t always interpret the tone that the writer intended.

  16. gregg

    I don’t think the issue is the “conversation” having moved to social media it’s that most comment sections are filled with insults, trolling and lack of anything resembling civility.Scientific American described the problem well when they shut off comments last year (…The more mass market a publisher goes the more prone they are going to having a cringe – worthy comment section. Take a look at CNN’s comment section for just about any story – you can’t get past 4 or 5 posts before the thread devolves into name calling and personal attacks.Personally, I read a lot of sites where reader comments truly add value to the publisher’s content but they’re all very specialized – in my case, it’s fabrication, woodworking and photography – these sites have a small but engaged and passionate group of usersWith regard to AVC … having been a reader since the start comments are at least as valuable as Fred’s posts – I’m not sure how he’s maintained the level of integrity of the community but other publishers would be well served to follow his lead.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Umm… Scientific American is not the same as Popular Science, but I get your point.In their case they pointed to the purity of science as justification for turning off comments. In their view (or justification) it wasn’t the vitriol, it was people posing opinion as science in the comments, and therefore falsely influencing other readers… obfuscating the facts, in their opinion.

  17. sabelmouse

    the comments are often more interesting than the original article, and more informative to. would that the guardian had disqus though. the moderation and the fact that the close for comments after about 3 days, often in the middle of the day , drive me crazy.

  18. William Mougayar

    Truth is sites that take down comments can’t run an online community, or don’t even understand the meaning of one. As we know, online communities take time to develop, and it’s a lot of work, especially on the blog author who has to be committed for it. Not all writers want a community. And not all people can behave like good commentators.I’ve dropped close to 15,000 Disqus comments since 2008 according to my profile (about half of them here), and don’t intend on stopping. I have met some great people in these commenting communities and learned a lot.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      It blows me away how others don’t understand. It all comes down to establishing the rules and stick with them. Of Course, it is helpful here where Fred has been able to enlist you and Shana. I’m curious and don’t want to know the exact, but how many people do you think you’ve had to block off from AVC?

      1. William Mougayar

        Not many. It’s mostly the bot-spammers that Disqus doesn’t catch that we squish, but there has been perhaps a handful of extreme haters and poisonous commentators that said unacceptable things. It’s rare. The community self-cleanse itself. Good behavior is replicated when newcomers arrive here.

        1. Dave W Baldwin

          Thanks. That’s what I thought.

      2. Richard

        “Badges we don’t need no stinkin badges”

        1. Firozal A Mulla

          More depressing is how miserably the editor’s profiles are disconnected from reality. The editors live in some fantasy world where titanic politicians have the capability to fix any problem. In the real world politicians are doing well if they find they manage to find their way across the street. The racial profiling rampant among the American African American population, the liberal media, and the Democratic Party has fit this event to the very racist profile that is all they are able to see. Whatever, the truth is about Michael Brown’s fate, the primary problem in Fergusson is poverty. The liberals and the Democrats have totally failed to do anything effective to address that problem

      3. ShanaC

        Basically you have to be threatening someone or a prolific spammer. The last person we had a discussion about was me trying to figure out if the site was being trolled by black hat Seos through comment spamming because of another forum I have currency on where I called out some black and grey hat Seos for bad math and bad advice

        1. Dave W Baldwin

          Your work IS appreciated and I need to send you a ruler.

          1. ShanaC

            Thank you. Though I think William probably works harder day to day

        2. Anne Libby


          1. ShanaC

            Guy didn’t know what spearmans rho was

    2. bsoist

      Be careful dropping half your comments in one place. One publisher or moderator in a bad mood can flush them with the click of a button. Go ahead, ask me how I know that. 🙂

      1. JimHirshfield

        Fred’s not a flusher.

        1. bsoist

          Good thing for me, huh? 🙂

    3. Alexus Washington

      This is true everyone needs their own voice

  19. tgodin

    I’ve read AVC – and the comments – for years now and even though I am an infrequent commenter myself, I feel like the regulars are family in a sense, much like how I feel about the guys who host a morning drive-time sports talk radio show here in DC that I listen to. The comments are an integral part of the experience, sometimes because the original post is brief. I compare that to Mark Suster’s blog on which his posts are usually much longer and stand on their own.

  20. Greg Kieser

    This comment is alive.

  21. leigh

    To me, this is all part of a larger trend to make social media about mass awareness. Advertisers wondering ‘what does engagement do for my brand?’ (and very few case studies to answer that question with) and marketers not knowing what to do with a 1000 niche markets to connect with vs. a mass audience to advertise too (one being complex the other, a simpler more familiar model) . This too shall pass, because i simply don’t believe, using an old model on a new medium/media will ultimately work – but the shift will take time. #followthemoney

  22. aaronbbrown

    I just love modern half ass journalism, ‘Yet another mainstream media site took down comments this week.’Who took down their comments? WHO?BASIC JOURNALISM 101, truly amazing how many people in the business can’t do it anymore.

    1. fredwilson

      i linked to it in the postthat’s how you do it on the web

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        well, ‘your an idiot’ after all 😉

        1. bsoist

          BASIC WEB 101 cc @fredwilson:disqus

    2. Elizabeth Spiers

      I find it amazing that anyone thinks having comments is part of “basic journalism.” News orgs do not exist to “create community”; they exist to report the news. If you want to create community around that and monetize it, fine, but it has nothing to do with mission. And there are plenty of reasons to dispense with comments if it’s getting in the way of that.

      1. aaronbbrown

        What’s amazing is your lack of reading comprehension, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re in the business, another child who doesn’t recognize quotation marks, or likely use them Either.Try reading it again and then maybe you’ll get the point I’m trying to make.As to your point, I understand journalist today don’t like being challenged or having their BS called out, that’s why Pseudo journalistic hacks like Andrew Sullivan are genuinely afraid of comments and thoughtful commenters. Andrew doesn’t like nobodies pointing out what a two bit huckster he really is, with some mundane point of logic that pokes giant holes in his foaming rhetoric.Journalism is dying, or more accurate to say it’s being killed by those who think that the monetization of news Is the primary mission, priority one, all other priorities rescinded. That’s why the corporate owned Free Press is now an endangered animal soon to go extinct. Which is the real mission of those who have been buying up Journalism outlets since the 1970s.The only thing stopping them from total victory has been the Internet, which they are going after as well. The destruction of the press is proceeding as planned, if a bit behind schedule, and doing away with comments is all a part of that. It’s called silencing dissenting voices. Marginalizing them and Portraying them as fringe elements in society, When actually they constitute the majority.

        1. Elizabeth Spiers

          As an editor, I’ll tell you what I’ve told every reporter who’s worked for me: If people fail to understand what you are trying to communicate, perhaps your writing is to blame. (Your failure to use to correct grammar anywhere in that comment would seem to point to that.)And yes, I’m a journalist and a professional writer. I don’t particularly like Andrew Sullivan, but if you think he’s afraid of commenters, I think the childish naivete is certainly not happening on MY end. But your response is fairly typical of the kind of person who thinks Sullivan owes you a platform to voice your opinion. The reality is that journalists don’t have the time or inclination to address everyone who has an opinion about what they do, any more than you would care whether the average man on the street who has no training in your industry thinks about whether you’re doing your job well. That doesn’t mean we don’t care what anybody thinks, but we’re also not customer service reps. It’s not our job to produce stories, or even opinion pieces, that everyone agrees with or likes. And the fact that you read the news does not make you an expert on how it is assembled or produced. So criticize away. What determines whether you get taken seriously is the strength of your argument, not the ferocity of your vitriol or the extent to which you demand to have a voice.And if you think dissenting voices are less heard in the age of the Internet, that’s just ridiculous. It has never been easier–even for elements that really are fringe–to publish and maintain an audience. You want to be a dissenting voice? Great. Start your own publication. Build your own audience. But I don’t have to give you real estate on my own site to blather incomprehensibly or call me names.

          1. ShanaC

            So the one thing I actually disagree with you about – it is harder than ever to flywheel an audience on totally unique content because there is no model audience to look at. And even with not totally unique content, why x piece of content will fit and y won’t fit with a statistically similar audience when in absolute terms x and y are very similar is still unknown.I think some of the math behind content and “content risk” is way underdeveloped, partially for historical reasons , partially because a) congress sucks about research money in the social sciencesb) content issues actually are among some of the most complex CS issues in terms of what and how to look at.

        2. Emily Merkle

          Disagree. Good journalism lives. You just have to be able to identify it when you see it. Critical thinking that many simply take for granted. I have my go-to sources that I have vetted over time. Mainstream journo is dying because there is no one holding them accountable (the public)(critical thinking). I propose oversight. Bad journo is very dangerous. It is a threat to the public.

        3. ShanaC

          also you and @disqus_YsPQXLC62X:disqus argue about points not about if you are smart or not smart. I dealt with enough crazy angry emotions about stuff on friday because of politics posts.You’re both people. You both deserve respect even when you disagree. Just because you have vested emotional stuff about content, its morality, the place of journalism, how it can or should make money, ect, doesn’t mean you have to use said emotions to argue about journalism.*grumbly moderator is grumbly*

  23. Oo Nwoye - @OoTheNigerian

    The publishers decide (knowingly or unknowingly) if their comment section thrives. You have to engage and respect your commentators if you want it to thrive.In real life, people do not go and hang where they feel unwelcome.Of course, I agree that social media is stealing the thunder of comment sections and that is because that is where the people feel engages.Thanks Fred, for making your commenting section alive and healthy.

    1. ShanaC

      Welcome back OO

      1. Oo Nwoye - @OoTheNigerian

        Thank you! I’ve been around. I will participate more 🙂

  24. JustinCambria

    Context is key and business the bottom line, no? A big site that’s in business for traffic is likely better served in forcing users to choose to either make a comment on twitter or FB, and create a referral link, than allowing on site comments. Reddit is a poor comparison as it’s a forum and has legacy culture of being an on-site, thread based site – buzzfeed, etc., which are fundamentally blogs that came of age in the social media age are more off site link driven. Also, the user experience of reading comments on highly trafficked posts on large sites mostly sucks, is widely driven by a less than valuable base of commenters, and from my perspective as a pure user experience piece of value on sites like NYT, it’s just not very good. A site like this which has a focused community of valuable commenters is another story.

  25. Emily Merkle

    Observing and participating here for the past few years, the community is generally intelligent and informed, and engaged. I think we’d all learn even more if we questioned opposing viewpoints, really dug into what another is saying, instead of just firing at one another blindly. More discussion and debate, and maybe a willingness to or an attitude of being okay with backing off a position; we’re not all right all of the time.

  26. Mark Gannon

    My impression is that the people who complain about comments are traditional journalism sources. My home town paper, the Sacramento Bee, dumped Discus for a new system that requires a real name. Commenting is down 99%. The previous set of commentators were a feral horde of conservatives, but they were some of the most dedicated customers the site had. I’m sure they lost a non-trivial amount of page views.Another site I some times visit is the Guardian. They have paid moderators who delete comments. Frequently cogent, polite, comments are deleted because they didn’t agree with the author. The columnists complain bitterly and publicly refuse to read the comments. Like the NY Times columnists, they are frequently full of BS and appear to not like having people disagree with them.My preference will always be for sites with comments, because you often learn interesting information the author didn’t know. This is particularly true in a local news context where the journalist might not be familiar with the details of the topic.

    1. ShanaC

      Remember, the conservatives think the liberals are also feral…..(trying to stop problems)I bet they have less commenting and corresponding page views. I also bet they aren’t paying someone to ask if a comment went too far anymore.

  27. Eric Snyder

    If I look a Recode, I think their challenge was that they fell below the engagement tipping point for comments. Whereas the typical Techcrunch article might have ~5 comments, it had become a rarity to see even 1 comment on a Recode story.This not only makes it look like they’re playing to an empty room, but it also puts up a big barrier for me to comment– it’s a lot easier to be commenter #5 (or, here at AVC, #105) than #1, and I think Recode just didn’t have enough readers willing to raise their hand and make that 1st/2nd comment.

    1. Mark Gannon

      Great point. Reddit founders have said they created fake accounts and comments to make it look like there was a lot more activity.

      1. William Mougayar

        That kind of growth hacking is OK, as long as it’s only done initially to grease the wheels. How else would they have known if this was going to catch-on or not? Airbnb also placed dual side listings on Craigslist to fuel demand for the Airbnb listings to show activity and interest, then it took off from there.These are marketing stunts, and every startup is allowed to think of their own stunt to help their growth, as long as it’s legal.

    2. CJ

      TechCrunch used to have primo engagement but 7 or 8 comment systems later and no one comments there at all now. To me, you’re missing a huge money making opportunity if you’re not encouraging a vibrant community.So many engaged users who are ‘sticky’ to the site, why wouldn’t you want that?

    3. fredwilson

      they used a crappy comment system that did not encourage commenting too

    4. Kirsten Lambertsen

      I think an important factor here is that Re/Code pumps out a cr*p-ton of content every day. Fred has but one post a day. It’s (i) much easier for people to engage on a single daily post, and (ii) much easier to manage the comments and create a conversation around one post a day.Too, a lot of what Re/Code posts just isn’t the kind of thing that people are going to bother commenting about. Some of it definitely is that kind, but possibly not most of it.

      1. LE

        It’s (i) much easier for people to engage on a single daily post, and (ii) much easier to manage the comments and create a conversation around one post a day.I agree but would add that it’s more typical here for the comments to fork to multiple issues whereby Fred just provides the initial kindling.

  28. Supratim Dasgupta

    For last few days am thinking hard if I should have a comments section right on my startup website as a customer service tool. People can talk about good service, people can talk about bad experience & raise a complaint. Everything is right there for everyone to see. Am not sure if this degree of openness would be a good idea.AVC readers, Your kind views would be appreciated in this regard.

    1. ShanaC

      There is no right answer

      1. Supratim Dasgupta

        Are you aware of any company that has done it before? Or we would be revolutionary(and maybe foolish) to do it first

        1. ShanaC

          Yes. Most companies have some sort of customer service ticketing system, sometimes they are openly crawled

          1. Supratim Dasgupta

            Yeah. but has someone used a freeform service like disqus for hearing customers on an open forum

          2. ShanaC

            Not off the top of my head. For content marketing in blogposts, but not for these ticketing issues

          3. Supratim Dasgupta

            Gotcha! I think its worth an experiment and we will probably do it. Simple.Customer Appends Ordernumber and write anything he wants. e.g. order received late, food was cold, guy didnt show up etc….CSR immediately gets on top of it. Sends, apology, maybe refunds and promises will get back with resoultion. Sometimes quick response is all a customer is looking for to stay with a service.

          4. Supratim Dasgupta

            And. Promptness of Customer Service wins hearts of other customer reading the forum as well!

          5. ShanaC

            You’d still want a ticketing system, not a commenting system, because how it would have to interface with internal product development

          6. Supratim Dasgupta

            Not sure why my post dissapeared for and i had to retype. Now its back and now am editing the dupe.

          7. Supratim Dasgupta

            Yeah absolutely agree! The way am thinking is. When a customer comments, the system triggers an event that creates a service ticket with an order number, and the comments. Any further discussions on the same comment just updates the ticket. For a lot of simple issues the resolution can be provided in the comments itself, e.g. refund notification(say for UBER)…looks like we are we are inventing a new system here! Thanks Shana

          8. Matt Zagaja

            Most do it in online forums. I used to participate on DSL Reports and companies would have reps that resolve issues there. has support forms with employees (if I recall correctly) and some other small companies like Adam’s detailing business does support in their forums but usually steer people to talk to the phone support. Also there are may companies that try to do it over twitter.

          9. Supratim Dasgupta

            Yeah exactly similar to Apple support..Am thinking of what if instead of twitter we keep the traffic within the website itself and tie forum with the service ticket system.Pl see and my responses to Shana.



      1. Supratim Dasgupta

        Am not really sure of the different ways 4Chan works. Can u pl appraise me of the pitfall?

  29. Steven Kane


  30. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I can see why a site like Re/Code might drop comments. You can’t just add comments and expect a community to emerge.And if one doesn’t have the resources to cultivate a good commenting community, what usually emerges is a mosh pit of trolls (and people foolish enough to engage them). The equivalent of graffiti all over your site (not the good kind of graffiti).I agree that if they don’t have the will and the resources to tend to comments, they’re better off without them. On the other hand, I often feel it would be worth the investment for sites like that to build a positive commenting environment.



      1. Dorita

        Jealousy and envy never pleases me.Hating is a waste of my breath

      2. brian

        good comments are better than bad comments

    2. LE

      And if one doesn’t have the resources to cultivate a good commenting community, what usually emerges is a mosh pit of trollsPart of that commitment is having someone who is a “somebody” being part of the community (say Kara Swisher on recode) even if just on a nominal basis. I don’t think you can as easily start from scratch if you are going to go the strictly moderator route. I’m not a user of reddit but I do read HN (the only other site in addition to AVC that I follow religiously). Although he doesn’t do it anymore PG (Paul Graham) had a fair amount of interaction on that site. And now Sam Altman takes up where he left off.I don’t think HN would have flourished like it did without PG’s involvement and I absolutely know for sure AVC would not be where it is today if Fred didn’t reply to comments here. No question in my mind about that. That interaction and personal touch is key.

  31. Matt Zagaja

    Not all comments or pageviews are created equal. Android might have more users than iPhone but more iPhone users buy apps so the app ecosystem in iPhone is bigger and more profitable. BuzzFeed might have more comments but I don’t think I’d meet Joe Wallin, Jorge Torres, Shana, Kirsten, and many other people that I’ve “met” from here, over there.

    1. William Mougayar

      I introduced you to Joe Wallin from here, right?

      1. Matt Zagaja

        Yes you did, and I still appreciate it to this day :).

    2. ShanaC

      My hair is straight now though

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      +1 I’ve met SO many great people here.

  32. Medicalquack

    Just like anything else on the web, we have choices on where and when we want to comment and what format we use, social networks, comments areas like this and so on. My only concern about myself is the time I spend commenting and have to watch it so I don’t get too captivated and end up commenting on some “virtual values” and I try to stay where issues are important that impact the “real” world. It’s a big problem out there today and people can’t tell the difference between virtual and real world values. It’s bizarre when you read comments in areas to where folks think they can do something about code running on servers when they can’t.Some of this is planned to make money too as you can look at Facebook as an example as far as generating content and titles are created as such called “click bait” which hit an emotional tie and will make one either mad or happy enough to add content:)

    1. ShanaC

      these worlds do intermix. I’m not sure you can fully separate what is real from what is digital

  33. Guest


  34. Kevin Hillstrom

    Have written 2,800 blog posts in nearly a decade … used to get 5-10 comments per blog post. I have had one valid comment in six months (125 posts), and minimal comments on Twitter about my blog posts. And yet, my business has never been better. Comments are good if you are looking for diversity of thought.

  35. Semil Shah

    I love comments, but (1) comments on mobile are hard for most people and (2) though I love the company, Disqus spam is kinda getting out of hand. (I wrestled with this a few months ago and decided to keep comments, but I’d be lying if I said the thought didn’t cross my mind. I do believe Chris has temporarily taken comments of his blog, citing struggling with the format as well.)

  36. kirklove

    I think that’s the beauty of “The Internets”. Comments work in some places and don’t in others. It’s not a they work, don’t work argument. It’s a will it work “here”.A lot of comments here on AVC are just slurping. That’s fine. It is what it is. Digging through all that shit of ass-kissing does indeed reveal a few ponies every now and then and I’ve learned a lot as a result so I’m grateful to you and those commenters.

    1. fredwilson

      stop sucking up 🙂

    2. LE

      A lot of comments here on AVC are just slurping. That’s fine. It is what it is. Digging through all that shit of ass-kissing(I’m not sure what you mean by “just slurping” (explain?)) but I do know what you mean by “ass kissing”.And I’m not sure in most cases it’s even ass kissing that is going on. Rather it’s people’s tendency to not want to say anything negative and/or to be negative. Also not wanting to feel uncomfortable taking a contrary position (that might be frowned upon by the crowd).Another reason is that people may have a lack of confidence or conviction in what they say. They are more likely to say something once they see others take a contrary viewpoint or say something negative. They feel emboldened by that. They feel they (because of lack of self esteem or confidence in their abilities) may be wrong instead of thinking “hey I’m right about this and everyone else is wrong).Similar in real life as well. You talk to your friends about something and they don’t want to say something negative they’d rather just either “say something positive or not say anything at all” apparently feeling it is less risky. And of course it is less risky as a general rule. But things are then boring at least to me they are. Most people don’t want to learn or correct. They don’t, as a general rule, despite what they say want to be told they are wrong. Just like most people don’t like the bearer of bad news.Here’s the thing though. Commenting is great practice for in real life where it actually typically matters what you say. Here it really doesn’t matter at all. Better to say something stupid here (if you want to call it that) then to do it in a real meeting or conversation with someone.

      1. kirklove

        Slurping = kissing up for approval. I agree with your point. People are afraid to be contrarian or take the first negative or opposite opinion. I agree.

  37. Alexander Ainslie (@AAinslie)

    Comments are currency.

  38. Pete Griffiths

    I am pretty shocked that anyone would suggest comments are dying. Passive consumption of content is over. Interaction is the new normal. The problem with comments is not that we comment too much but that there is content we can’t comment on.

  39. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    I get very very few comments but the one or two I get are sometimes well informed or provoke thought.One reward is what I learn from the process (in writing as a discipline and in considering the comments)Even with very little feeling of community, the idea that people are removing comments because they are somehow embarrassed at not getting them for me misses the point.To enable comments is a facility not a badge of honour.and I LIKE IT HERE !

  40. mikegre

    Has anyone done a study on liberal vs conservative sites and which ones allow or do not allow comments?

    1. ShanaC

      off the top of my head, no



    1. Lisa

      any comment is better than no comment but some do hurt peoples feelings thats like bullying

  42. Matt A. Myers

    I certainly haven’t been contributing to comments on the web much lately. Maybe time to start again – though finding them a bit too engulfing, easy time sink when value of time is at an all-time high.

  43. Mariah Lichtenstern

    Much respect, Fred: “…even though I sometimes find the discussions hard to take here, I am committed to making this a two way experience for everyone who wants it to be.” I’ve noticed closed comments on some sites (particularly news sites with particular political slants). While it is true content is often shared and commented upon on external social sites, it is like preaching to the choir. The ability for people with different perspectives to come together and comment at the source is an important learning / cultural experience.

  44. Thomas Cornelius

    The issues are:1. Comments are content > now the content is owned by social media operators2. Comments on social media are diluted over time and therefore difficult to capture the sentiment later of that point in time3. Social media companies can delete the content.I am surprised about this direction. I started a project to teach kids to “OWN” their digital expressions and content, learn to blog, understand that you don’t own anything on a social media site, etc.Was surprised to see Kara and Walt not recognizing the potential risks considering they are creating content for profit and content is what drives their value.

  45. LE

    One thing that I’ve mentioned previously, that I’m curious about, and have never received an answer on, is if disqus has done any studies on why people comment or don’t comment. Who does, who doesn’t, and why they do or don’t. I’ve also suggested that you pose a question specifically to the regular readers of AVC that don’t comment asking why? As with anything requesting as much detail as possible.

  46. Laura Dierks

    The question for me is what will the landscape look like five or three or even one year from now? Twitter has certainly changed the landscape of how one can “comment” on content out there. Comments flourish *and* die on the vine – depending on the site and the curation of the community by content creator, it would seem. Disqus has changed it as well, making commenting less about adding your name to the end of a long list and allowing more conversational style interaction. What’s next?

  47. Sim Davis

    Personally I find it very strange when a site doesn’t have a commenting system.Are they scared of what people might say and is any contradiction to their brand message is seen as too big a threat that it just simply can’t be allowed.Instead of an open invite for conversation, by removing comments you are really just turning your page into a soapbox from which you want to stand and shout over the heads of everyone else. I understand that social still exists but it’s a stage removed.I also wonder how valid Walt’s point of ‘all our conversations happen on social media now’ is. Yes i’m sure a lot of conversation does happen there but it’s not the same thing as commenting.Comments let you leave a record and spark a new conversation regardless of ‘real-time’ sure everyone wants everything now, now now but what about the person that turns up a week after the post is published, or the person that has a job and cannot be reading twitter all day everyday.Comments are staying on my site.

  48. Firozal A Mulla

    You mean to say what we want to express is now under the umbrella of scrutiny???

    1. ShanaC

      If you are expressing something to someone else, it is under an umbrella of scrutiny by default because the other person has to understand you. What kind and how that scrutiny works is an ongoing philosophical question since the greeks.If you are expressing something to no one, with no possibly of anyone listening, there is a question of what makes you human in that context. Indeed, the word barbarian classically had to do with who could communicate in greek.The in between is the interesting place, where accidents happen.What kind of human you are and you consider me to be in this, I guess is something we can all think about.

  49. Firozal A Mulla

    More than 20 years ago I traveled across India for a book on the fresh energies unleashed in small towns by economic liberalization and Hindu nationalism. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had promoted a national ethic of austerity and self-restraint. But by the 1990s, his project of collective welfare was in ruins and was rapidly being replaced by a culture of private wealth and consumption.I had no more thought-provoking guide on my journey than the two highest-grossing Hindi films of the season. In “Darr” (Fear) and “Baazigar” (Gambler), Shah Rukh Khan, today India’s biggest film star, famously played a deranged stalker and a murderous avenger, breaking all previous molds of leading men.To be sure, the earnestly idealistic India projected by male heroes of the 1950s had been long dead, killed by Nehru’s own ruthlessly immoral daughter, Indira Gandhi. My generation had grown up in the 1970s and 1980s watching Amitabh Bachchan, the “angry young man,” carry the burden of our rage against pseudo-socialist and hideously venal politicians and bureaucrats: In one memorablecinematic climax, he machine-guns an entire cabinet of ministers.But Bachchan seemed high-minded in comparison to the misogynist anti-heroes Khan played in 1993. As small-town audiences cheered his persecution of innocents (a phenomenon much remarked upon at the time), Khan seemed to be assaulting the Nehruvian elite’s claims to virtue just as, the year before, Hindu nationalists had torn down the medieval Babri mosque — a symbol of that elite’s fatally compromised secularism.


    Totally agree! Social media keeps growing fast!

  51. Firozal A Mulla

    Plunging gasoline prices offset increases in housing, medical care and airline fares to keep the cost of living for U.S. consumers unchanged in October.The consumer price index was flat last month, the Labor Department reported Thursday, offering more evidence that inflationary pressure in the U.S. economy has waned. The pace of inflation over the past 12 months was unchanged at 1.7% in October, but that’s down from two-year high of 2.1% earlier in the year.The more lax rate of inflation gives the Federal Reserve leeway to keep a key short-term interest rate near zero longer than might otherwise be the case to help stimulate the economy. Most economists don’t expect the Fed to raise rates for the first time since 2006 until mid-2015 at the earliest.

  52. Alexus Washington

    Speak out loud.Be heard

  53. JohnDeo

    Commenting strategy is one way of engaging your audience. I do agree that it is still useful in the community

  54. fredwilson

    that’s where a network model has a lot of power. when i blacklist spammers and trolls in the disqus moderation panel, they almost always have low reputations and have been blacklisted elsewhere.

  55. JimHirshfield

    A lot had changed in 15 years; better tools, etc.But it does take a human touch to set the ground rules, instill proper behavior, and to recruit community members to help.

  56. JimHirshfield

    You wanna talk about it?

  57. JimHirshfield


  58. awaldstein

    With this truly great comment, I am signing off and going to the gym.

  59. JimHirshfield

    But I’m over at Twitter. Don’t leave me hanging bro.

  60. William Mougayar

    Yup, and some of them are programmatically set up to parallel spam a bunch of posts at the same time.

  61. JimHirshfield

    I spend a lot of time thinking about these things.I guess it shows.

  62. bsoist

    that – a bunch of the same post – is, by definition, spam

  63. JimHirshfield

    Tramp stamp?

  64. CJ

    Lawyer up, delete Facebook.

  65. William Mougayar

    But you know, prior to the form of online commenting we see today below the posts, there were online forums previously that flourished, e.g. Chowhound for discussing food. I met some friends on Chowhound forums in 2002.

  66. awaldstein

    Definitely not.I have strong communities there.

  67. CJ

    It’s a Reddit meme. Something happens you hit the gym, lawyer up, and delete FB. Or Hit FB, gym up and delete the lawyer. Or something similar.

  68. ShanaC

    They could be. They could build up subgroups of people interested in different topics

  69. lisa hickey

    I think that is the way of the future for media. Subgroups that overlap and are interconnected just enough with the central mission of the larger entity.

  70. Firozal A Mulla

    Smarter, more educated people rely on critical thinking, analyzing many sources of information, weighing one source against the other, then carefully arriving at a conclusion and that conclusion is always subject to change. More of a scientific approach. People who are less educated, are predisposed to form their opinions from what they already believe, as the article above clearly shows. A good example are those people who watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh and sport “Don’t Trust The Liberal Media” bumper stickers on their cars. That these people are skeptical of scientific fact relating to evolution and global warming comes as no great surprise.

  71. ShanaC

    that depends.The LA counties that are most undervaccinated are also among the wealthiest and most educated.* They also are areas where if you want to fundraise in politics, you probably are fundraising for a democrat.I could bait at least one person here with the word GMO. That person is definitely liberal. I don’t know what he knows about plant breeding programs on the university level – though I know he works currently with food production and university educated. Even so, I don’t know what he knows about current cutting edge questions in computational biology trying to identity gene links to proteins, and its relationship to GMOs, or cancer drugs, or many areas of biology. Most people who are educated, who drive the discussion of GMOs, aren’t necessarily knowledgeable enough about how DNA <->RNA <-> protein <-> action<-> environment (highly simplified) reactions work to completely cut off the conversation on many sort of ethical questions that involve biology and the self, including complex ones that we are sorting out currently like how much truth there is to “theory of the mind” in neurology, let alone what to do about plant breeding programs. Don’t label a group as better or worse based on political ideology – or more likely to be reasonable.*That said I sympathize with some parents call for more data about the current vaccine schedule which has tripled since the 1960s. Vaccines are a public good, and good for children, but I have no idea about current data about what the schedule should be like.