Taking the cue from Tim O'Reilly's classic "architecture of participation" argument, the blogs across the Web have been set up to encourage conversations through comments sections.
Is it working?
Not very well. Much of what happens in the comment section of any blog is hardly worthy of the word "discussion." The only thing more depressing than getting no comments on a post is getting many, because a big percentage of them will include personal invectives and meaningless screeds. (As a blogger, I'm personally familiar with delivering and receiving both. :-)
Some of these people must also comment on Hugo Rifkind's blog, who cheekily denounces the commentator crowd:
So where have they gone, these lunatics, if they don't send e-mails and don't write letters either? Well, it's obvious. They're in the comments. And nobody even notices, because down there, madness is par for the course.
Rifkind takes his criticism to the extreme, of course, but that's often the sort of feedback a comments section encourages, given the relative anonymity it affords.
I therefore prefer the discussion that arises out of a blog, but is conducted over Twitter. It's hard to remember to go back to blogs I've written to check for comments, but in the real-time world of Twitter, it's easy and structurally encouraged: when someone hits me with an @mjasay, I notice.
Blogging is a broadcast medium, one that doesn't lend itself well to ongoing discussion (though there are ways to improve this). Adding a comments section doesn't help much. At best it separates the blogger from the interpretation of the blog and commentary thereon, Roland Barthes "Death of the Author" style, but encourages a lively discussion between readers of the blog.
That's not a bad thing, but it's not the kind of conversation I'd like to be having with the people who read this blog. For that, you're going to have to talk with me in an open forum like Twitter.
I'm mjasay. Stop by anytime.