Should we scrap website comments?

In the News

Should we scrap website comments?

NPR just did.

The arguments against website comments are as follows:

  • They’re uncivil.
  • They add little value.
  • They deter voices that might provide valuable viewpoints.
  • They are provided by a small fraction of the total number visitors to a website.
  • Proper moderation take away valuable staff time

I can’t object to these arguments. They’re all valid, and I’m not at all surprised to see NPR scrap them. I expect more to do the same.

I would object to something else I frequently hear from those who advocate for ending website comments: The conversation has moved to social media.

There certainly is a lot of conversation on social media, but I’m not sure why we would want to cede that tremendous engine of engagement to social media companies. We should be hosting conversations on our own websites. We should be leading discussions in our own communities. Why let social media own that exclusively?

I’m confident that there’s a way to host comments on a website in a way that addresses many or all of the objections above. We haven’t found it, but we won’t find it if we stop trying.