Letters to the editor

Eagle-eyed, regular readers of this blog may have noticed that comments are no longer open on new posts. Indeed, it has been a few days now. I wanted to explain the reasoning behind the move and then tell you about a proposed occasional feature that I hope to have in its place.

Whenever one chooses to close comments, there is an inevitable sense in which the last comment (or set thereof) is what done it. I did attempt to close comments a short while ago and immediately got some pushback from someone who had been recently commenting on a post. They immediately assumed comments had been closed because of something they had said. In truth, they hadn’t said or done anything that made me do it. But I was compelled to re-open them so that they could close the discussion.

I am telling you this so that whoever commented last doesn’t now feel they have been closed because of them. Please, rest assured, nobody has said or done anything to offend or upset. Comments haven’t been closed because I am unable to deal with criticism, disagreement or discussion. But there are a few reasons why I have chosen to close comments, some perhaps more important than others (some, no doubt, you will consider more credible than others).

First, I have found I don’t have a vast amount of time to reply to all the comments I receive. You may (rightly) think I don’t appear to receive all that many. But the time it takes to consider the points made and fashion a reasonable response were all taking me away from other more pressing things.

Second, I am finding most comments seem to revolve around a view that I didn’t say enough, or could have said something different, or someone wants to take issue with an angle I took on a particular issue. It is a point that I noticed Stephen McAlpine also found on his blog. He comments:

The pushback I get about my writing is that I don’t say everything, or more particularly, the one thing that someone wants to me to say.  To that end I would say, a blog is not meant to do that.  Up to one thousand words is enough.  Any longer and it starts to meander. If people complain too much about what I have left out I just say “Hey, write your own blog.”  A bit rude perhaps, but that’s the point of having a blog – it’s my thoughts, not yours.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is better to turn such comments off, at least here on the blog itself.

Third, connected to the previous point, you might think that this means I am not keen on receiving comment at all. That could not be further from the truth (more on which later). But in order to get the kind of positive and negative critical comment that is more valuable, I think a level of distance between brain and thread can be useful. Some of the most helpful and insightful comment I have received has come via email. This approach has usually forced the commenter to consider what they are saying more carefully and write it in a way that is more valuable. Whilst it doesn’t take much to fill in a contact form and fire off an email, it does add a little distance between gut reactions and making a comment and, I suspect, will lead to more thoughtful, helpful comments in the long run.

Fourth, this blog is intended to be a conversation starter rather than a definitive statement on any given subject. For a blog to be properly discussed (or refuted) it probably requires another blog post, or series of posts, rather than a couple of comments at the end of a thread. Such posts have both been made on this blog in response to others as well as written on other blogs in response to things written here. Such posts are inevitably more thoughtful and well-considered than a comment fired off in the immediate aftermath of reading a post.

So, for those reasons, I have decided to close the comments. But, if you want to pass comment and desperately want to do so on this site, fear not! In lieu of a comment section under every post (which, let’s be honest, scarce few are going to bother reading at any rate), I am going to run an occasional piece called Letters to the Editor, offering a rundown of some of the comments received. If you wish to comment on any blog post, you will be able to do so using the contact form at the top of this blog.

Anyway, I hope this will lead to more thoughtful comment – whether by email or in the form of follow up posts on other sites – and will make the comments I receive more visible in the form of their own standalone posts.