Since I began blogging again on Workbench, I've been kept company primarily by comment spammers. Every morning I weed them out. Some are bots, but others have a human who writes a few sentences in clumsy English that are incorporated into the spam. I figure they must do hundreds of these an hour.
Some of these spammers are targeting my eulogy for my dad. This one came in from Pakistan:
This is good to know that you deliver eulogy to your dad and give him credit with name. Mostly sons not do this for their parents but we care about them and always talk with peace http://example.com/ also provide you the good lessons on parents and child relation and you learn from here a lot.
I removed the link. It's a site selling term papers.>
On my blog, I just gave up on comments altogether (post with rationale for why here). Unlike 15 years ago, people these days have lots of places they can go if they want to gripe about the things I write. The utility of keeping up yet another one seemed pretty marginal, especially given the ever-increasing percentage of comments that were just blatant spam.
It's been just under two years since I turned comments off and I can't say I've ever had a reason to regret the decision.
A while back I turned off comments to posts older than a week, which was like turning them off completely since I posted so infrequently.
I turned them back on because I missed the occasional times when a web searcher found an old post and said something interesting. I got some of the best comments when somebody saw Hernan and Candelaria Zapp, the couple driving across the world in their 1928 Graham Paige Model 610. I had seen their car puttering through my town in 2011.
I can understand why blogs are dropping comments, as you and Manton Reese have done, but it makes me curious about one thing: Where do you get the feedback that lets you know you're not just talking to yourself?
Where do you get the feedback that lets you know you're not just talking to yourself?
A good question! :-D
Partly the answer is that I wasn't getting a lot of that kind of feedback much through comments lately anyway, so dropping them wasn't too painful. Comments today (on my blog, anyway) were much lower quality than they were 10 years ago. Much less interesting engagement of the kind you describe, much more spam and drive-by "saw this post on Reddit, you suck lol" junk. This kind of broke my heart, since one of the joys of the early blogosphere was the connections you made with people around the world through comments, but I sighed and filed it as one more item in the This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things folder.
The other part of the answer is that I can cobble together a sense of how my stuff is engaging people by collating data from other sources -- site analytics (I use Piwik, which lets you get good Google Analytics-style data while still respecting your users' privacy), Facebook and Twitter searches, discussion threads in places like Hacker News and Reddit, etc. It's not great, but it's better than nothing.
One thing I've been following with interest lately is Mastodon, the new-ish open source social network. I've been using it to engage with readers on an ad-hoc basis on a few posts, and it's worked surprisingly well. Mastodon is built on top of a bunch of standards that came out of the blog world -- things like Atom, PubSubHubBub, and Salmon -- which has had me wondering if there are ways it could be integrated with blog software and CMSes to provide a discussion system with all the engagement pluses of social media but without everything being locked up in a separate silo owned by somebody else. No epiphanies yet, but so far it's a fun line of inquiry.
Yuck on the spam. As a Blogger refugee, I think I've got everything together to move to Wordpress, but I just can't give a damn anymore. I have my in-exile blog that I throw a rant up every know and then. And then there's Facebook. There's also a mailing list that I rant in.
I miss how it used to be possible to go to Technorati and see blogs that responded to something you posted. When that was around and commenters were more frequent, blogging was like a distributed, independent social network with a great signal-to-noise ratio.
Maybe bloggers can take back some territory from Facebook and Twitter.
seriously, I may sound like a dinosaur but don't people email you? One actual email is worth a million random comments because it's directed to you personally, it's not a "hey lookit me!" tacked to the bottom of your page.
It's extremely rare to get an email in response to a blog post, aside from the times I've specifically asked for something in email.