Comment sections are a ripoff. If you want to go to the trouble of writing something worth reading, it doesn’t seem like a good deal to post it as a comment. It might be gratifying in the short run, but I believe that it’s a bad long-term investment.
I believe that, in the future, one’s online “identity” – the sum of one’s electronic presence – will have increasing economic value. If that presence is comprised of original, high-quality content, first-class work, and valuable assets, then you will profit by it; if not, then not.
This has two implications:
- You should not post content that you might find embarrassing at any point in the future. Standards on this will probably change somewhat, given the enormous volume of embarrassing stuff posted on the Internet everyday, but it stands to reason that, should you one day hope to hold a position of responsibility, those photos aren’t going to help. You know the ones.
- You should post impressive content, and make sure that it’s associated with you. Since it’s work to create good content, it’s foolish to fall down on the second part of this imperative, and post it where it will never be traced back to you.
I don’t like the facts that, when you post a comment on someone else’s site:
- That comment is only loosely associated with your on-line “identity”; someone googling for you isn’t likely to find that comment
- That comment is unlikely to lead readers who like it to read other stuff that you’ve written
- You have little-to-no control over the future availability of that comment
These points lead me to conclude that posting good content on someone else’s site is largely a waste of time. (Posting bad content, of course, is at best pointless, and at worst actually destructive.)
Of course, writing a comment on someone else’s site does offer some advantages over writing for your own (or, I suppose, people wouldn’t do it):
- You don’t have to think of something to write about; the topic and terms of discussion are largely laid out for you
- You can present your writing to a much larger readership (assuming that you’re commenting on someone else’s Big Popular Site, and you run only a small one) and Attention Is Fun
I don’t think those advantages are compelling in the long run.
A Vague Suggestion
It would be just super to see a social news site on which the comments were actual posts from other sites. Maybe something could be done with
IFRAMEs? Such a site would give the commenters the benefits of writing for their own sites, combined with those of writing comments for a larger, more popular site.
It’s entirely possible that something like this already exists. A Disqus profile seems related, although not exactly what I’m thinking of.