I've been thinking about the comments on my blog (and comments on blogs in general) for quite a while now. When I was about to launch QuirksBlog I seriously considered disabling them altogether, because I felt — and feel — that comments on blogs in general don't have sufficient quality.
In the end I decided to allow comments after all, more to follow the general rule that Blogs Should Have A Commenting System than because I enthousiastically embraced them. In the end I'm moderately — but only moderately — happy with my decision: a few comments on my entries were worthwhile to me, and a few more will be worthwhile to my visitors.
Nonetheless I remain unconvinced that the commenting system as it exists now is a Good Thing. There are too many people who only comment to hear themselves talk, and these comments will quickly overwhelm the real, sensible, ones. Ideally I'd like to see a commenting system that only allows people to link to articles of their own on their own sites. This forces would-be commenters to really think about their replies, since they'd become articles instead of comments, and it weeds out the script-kiddies who scream and shout but don't have any site of their own to show.
Apart from technical problems, such a system would not work because the current commenting system has become an ingrained part of How Blogs Work. Therefore I decided on a compromise: a maximum length.
Long comments are never interesting: if you have a point to make you can do it in a couple of hundred characters. If you want to seriously criticise an entry, you should publish an article on your own site and use the comment to link to your article.
Therefore I took a good look at the longer comments on my blog and decided on 1500 characters as the maximum length. I wrote a script that keeps track of the number of characters the user has typed, but I leave the actual enforcing of my maximum length to the Movable Type
For the same reason my script only gives a polite warning when the user exceeds the maxlength. This allows him to finish his comment and then edit it to get it below the maximum.
A few existing comments are longer than 1500 characters; they now appear in trimmed form.
Maybe I'll restrict comments even further later on; I'm not yet sure if 1500 characters isn't too long. It certainly isn't too short, though, and I will definitely not increase the maximum length.
I’ll be around at the following conferences:
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