I recently moved my blog site to a new responsive design platform and as I made the move I gave some thought to what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to drop. One of the elements of the blog that I'm considering dropping is commenting. While commenting was rather central to blogging in the early days of the technology, there are now three reasons why I'm considering dropping the capability: spam, the decline of RSS readers, and the increased use of social media services.
It appears that even though email spam still exists, companies providing email services have largely won the battle of preventing most of it from getting to users. That isn't the case for blog commenting spam. Likely due to the desire to improve search engine optimization, automated systems now regularly submit text and some links as comments on blogs. Marking those as spam and deleting them takes a surprising amount of time for blog authors. So much so, that this itself may well be enough of a reason to turn off commenting on my site. Other bloggers have experienced problems with trolls which had led some of them to turn off commenting or to abandon blogging altogether in favor of sending out newsletters instead in a couple of instances. I haven't experienced that problem thankfully but the spam comments are bad enough.
I've also noticed that over time the number of legitimate substantive comments has gone down. I think that's partly due to the fact that I don't just write a blog post and leave others to find their way to it. You used to be able to do that because many people used RSS readers and would thereby subscribe to a feed and then be notified of a new blog post that they could then either read in the RSS reader itself or on the blog site. Google realized that the use of its own Google Reader service was drastically declining and therefore decided to kill the service. While there have been complaints and a rush to alternative services, most of the attention given to the demise of Google Reader was by journalists who naturally still used the service. Most regular people simply don't anymore.
People now write a blog post and then tell others about it via the social networks. A natural outcome of that method of notification is that those services also have a built-in commenting system. It's much more natural to immediately comment on a Tweet, Facebook update, or LinkedIn post in-line then to go to the blog itself and leave a comment there. I've posted links to many blog posts and had healthy discussions about them on the social networks while virtually no comments were left on the blog site.
I'm therefore considering turning off commenting and simply using the blog as an authoring and publishing environment. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this and any experience you may have on this (likely via the social networks where I'll post a link to this).