You may have noticed how over the course of the last few days I haven’t had much of a chance to blog over here. And it is not because things may well be so incredibly hectic that I wouldn’t have enough time for it. Quite the opposite, actually. I am continually looking at the prospect of writing away, as, you know, there is always time for blogging, right? In my 11 years of blogging itself I don’t think I have ever experienced the good well known writer’s block when putting together the next article. I have always felt it’s just a matter of whether you have got something interesting, relevant and valuable to share across for others to keep improving with their additional commentary and eventually have a really good conversation on a given topic as a result of it. And today’s musing, while it’s been in my mind for over a week now, is pondering what is a blog without comments, after all? Is it still a blog? Or, on the other hand, just a regular Web site that you dip in your toes for a minute or two and then move on? Should blogs have comments turned off by default and still be called a blog? What do you think?
The main reason why I am reflecting on this topic of whether a blog is still a blog without comments enabled is because over the course of the last few days (nearly a week now!) elsua.net has been under an attack of spam comments that I have never seen in the 11 years that I have been blogging away. So vicious that I eventually had to turn comments off, because even Akismet couldn’t handle the load. And they are still disabled. And it hurts. Tremendously. More than anything else because I feel like I have just killed off the conversation.
This is not the first time that I get hit by spam comments. In fact, till recently, Akismet was telling me it caught over 4 million of them since October 2005 when I started this Internet blog (two years after my Intranet corporate one came alive). However, this is the first time that it’s taking me so long to turn on comments and bring back the conversation. And the issues are still there, which is the main reason why I haven’t been blogging in the last week, because I kept thinking what’s the point of writing over here, if other people can’t read AND comment on the blog, right? (If they so wish, that is…)
Yes, I know plenty of people out there would still view blogging (despite the 20 years that have gone by since the first weblog came out) as a publishing platform where people just show off. Of course, they do. They show off constantly, but not necessarily their selves, but, most importantly, their ideas or deeper thoughts on those topics they are truly passionate about and that they would want to share with others to start off a conversation. That’s where comments kick in.
Yes, I know plenty of people out there think that blogging, in some way, is a kind of therapy and I would probably have to agree with that sentiment, as that is, some times, the kind of effect that I get when I sit down and start writing myself. Like in this case, for instance, this article I am putting together, where, out of sheer frustration about that spam comment attack, I am using it as an opportunity to flush it out, get it out of my system and carry on, hoping that at some point things would go back to normal.
Yes, I know as well plenty of people have been writing over the course of time about the multiple various benefits of blogging and how to get things started with your own, whether for personal or business interests, but perhaps one of my favourite quotes that would keep justifying for me the argument as to why a blog is still incredibly powerful is the one that, just recently, Dave Winer put together under the heading Why Blog?:
“The mission of blogging is to empower all of us to go directly to each other with our expertise. So if you know something as well as anyone else, or you learn something or know something that should be shared, then you should share it on your blog” [Emphasis mine]
And, once again, here I am finding myself debating what’s the point of having and maintaining a blog if you cannot keep the comments open and available to everyone who may want to share their ¢2. Rather frustrating altogether. Then you remember the beautifully crafted articles like David Weinberger’s “What blogging was” or Tim Kastelle’s “You Should Start a Blog Right Now“ and you realise that you just need to build on further on your patience levels and wait for the attack to go by to then turn comments back on and you will be fine. Back in business.
Well, that’s essentially what I will be doing. I will keep hanging in there and see if the spam comments attack will eventually go away so that I can get back on track. After all, blogging is still lots of good fun! And I miss it. Terribly. So I suppose I will just keep blogging away from here onwards imagining the wonderful conversations I could have had with you folks, but that they may need to wait for a little bit longer. So, please bear with me while we get over this spam storm. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we get back to normal …
Interestingly enough, and moving on into another topic that I would want to briefly touch base on, somewhat related, but perhaps worth of a separate blog post on its own to dig in further on it, a few of you commented, when I mentioned this issue through Twitter, and other social networking tools, that I should perhaps outsource the commenting system rather into Disqus or even Google Plus and move on forward with things.
That certainly was a very interesting suggestion that I have been contemplating as well for a good while, even before this spam comment attack and all along I haven’t been convinced it would be the best option out there. In fact, it raises a number of different questions and concerns with yours truly in terms of where you host your (long term) content. Allow me to explain it perhaps with a metaphor I have been working my way through over the course of time, that I originally crafted for discerning the differences of publishing content in your blog versus elsewhere, i.e. other social networking tools.
Imagine your blog is your home. That special space that you keep coming back to over and over again, because, you know, it’s your own online space on the Social Web. The place where you belong, where your thoughts are entertained in ways you couldn’t possibly even imagine by sharing them freely and openly with others, so that, over time, conversations develop, open knowledge sharing goes back and forth and trust builds up naturally, as folks have got an opportunity to visit your home, feel comfortable, learn about you and what you are passionate about and develop a relationship over the course of time through multiple interactions and overall good old participation in the back and forth dialogue.
Now, imagine you decide to go to someone else’s home and live there permanently. Like LinkedIn (with its recently open-to-everyone publishing platform), Medium (Blogging for the 9%), Tumblr, Google Plus, Blogger, WordPress.com, amongst several other options. How would you feel if, at one point, you are no longer welcome at their homes, or, even worse, how would you feel if those homes just disappear overnight without an opportunity for you to leave the party on time (with your content) to event share it elsewhere with others? I guess you know where I am heading, right?
John Battelle described it beautifully in a recent LinkedIn article under the rather suggestive and thought provoking heading of “LinkedIn Is Now a Publishing Platform. Awesome. But First, Get Your Own Site”, where he confirms with this brilliant quote why I am myself not ready just yet to outsource my home for someone else’s:
“From now on I’m going on record as a passionate advocate of posting to your own site first, then posting to LinkedIn (or any other place, such as Medium).
Why? Well, it comes down to owning your own domain. Building out a professional profile on LinkedIn certainly makes sense, and bolstering that cv with intelligent pieces of writing is also a great idea. But if you’re going to take the time to create content, you should also take the time to create a home for that content that is yours and yours alone. WordPress makes it drop dead easy to start a site. Take my advice, and go do it. Given the trendlines of digital publishing, where more and more large platforms are profiting from, and controlling, the works of individuals, I can’t stress enough: Put your taproot in the independent web.“
And that’s essentially what I will be doing from here onwards. Focus plenty more on building a beautiful home that everyone else out there on the (Social) Web can enjoy, if they so wish to drop by and pay a visit, and where I can help facilitate the space without hijacking the conversation just for the sake of thriving on attention. I don’t need it. At least, I don’t think I need it. What I do need though, for sure, is for the conversation to take place, openly, publicly, and available to others, because that’s how we, you and me, can keep up with our ongoing, constant learning paths.
For now, though, and while we wait for the spam comment attack to fade away, I guess this blog is under construction, currently being refurbished, if you wish, just like any home out there would do every so often, while we wait to turn on the comments once again. And bring back the conversation to life.
I just can’t wait for that to happen!
[Thanks ever so much everyone for the continued patience while enduring this painful experience and for all of the wonderful support offered thus far. It’s greatly appreciated. As always]
Written by Luis Suarez
Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business, and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua, Google Plus or LinkedIn.