So yesterday’s debacle got me to thinking…
Recap. I got into a debate over one aspect of someone’s comment on another site. The debate was going nowhere, so I gave my last word over there. I came here, to my personal blog, and wrote a post about whether or not discussion in comments have value, not realizing that WordPress was set to automatically send trackbacks to the other blog since I linked to it. Because the trackback appeared in the comments over there, the person I was debating with came here and continued the debate. In all honesty, this was warranted because I had mentioned some of his data on the other blog was flawed. We went back and forth, pointlessly, for a while, then I asked that we put an end to the debate. He posted again, continuing the debate. So I deleted the whole exchange, and edited the original post to remove references to his arguments.
Over on his blog, he continued the discussion I’d started, and made sport of the fact that I’d deleted the thread here.
So finally, my thoughts.
First of all, this is my personal bog. Not a news site. Not a place of journalism. It’s an extension of my home, in a way. A personal space that I invite friends and others into so that I can let them know where my head is at (only my friends care about that) or share things that I think are interesting (and the wider world might find some of this of use). It’s been around since 2002 and I’m rather protective of it. Usually everything is fine, but once in a while a stranger comes in and s/he and I don’t see eye to eye and there’s a tussle. A lamp gets broken, a glass of wine gets knocked over and stains the carpet. Stuff happens. When that person leaves, I clean up the mess. I see no reason why I should leave broken glass, spilled wine, or off-topic comments, laying around in my home. It’s just my way.
Second point. Some people enjoy debating. (And please note that the word “argument” is not in and of itself negative. One of the points Openedge1 seemed to grab onto is that I used ‘argument’ and he thought we were having a debate. The two words are synonyms. And the writer in me tires of writing debate over and over again.) Anyway, some people enjoy debating. I do not. If I post a dissenting opinion on something, it’s out of a feeling of social responsibility. I’ve seen something written that I disagree with and feel its worth voicing my opinion just so third parties can see that there are, in fact, dissenting opinions out there.
The debate lover will seize on this as an opportunity to engage in a lively and pleasurable debate (see what I mean about using only the word ‘debate’?). He will continue the debate…I guess indefinitely. I’ve never experienced a person like this leaving off. I think this type feels that if they have the last word, they ‘win’ the debate and so are determined to wear down their opponent? This is complete guess work; this mind-set is foreign to me. In the same way that I can’t understand people who enjoy cutting themselves, I can’t understand people who actually enjoy the practice of debating. Er, that’s a bad analogy because there’s nothing good about cutting yourself and there can be some good that comes from a debate; I’m just trying to convey that the idea of enjoying the process of a debate is very alien to me.
All of this comes back to the comments On/Off question. I hate the idea of turning them off just because they can be useful… people can add valuable information to the post. If I say “Here a great link for getting a good deal on car insurance.” someone can come along and post a comment that says “I used them once, they ripped me off.” That’s very valuable information and I hate to shut the door on that.
At the same time, I don’t want to spent hours in a given day debating something that in end isn’t exactly life threatening. Nor do I want opinions that I think are totally wrong left in my virtual home without some rebut from me. But if I’m up against a debate-lover, I’m going to have to spend way too much of my time going back and forth as the debate spirals farther and farther out of control, and in the end go to bed frustrated and feeling like I’ve wasted my day on a stupid pursuit with a person I now hold a lot of negative feelings towards (even though that person might be a very nice guy/girl).
And I know reaction that this post will get from any debate lovers out there, because I’ve encountered these people many times. Bringing up the topic will be seen as evidence that I have no right to have a blog, or will be seen as an opportunity to debate me on why all my reasoning is flawed.
But I still haven’t answered the question of whether or not to turn off comments. I do know that from now on my commenting on other blogs will be limited to adding demonstrable facts, or just showing appreciation to the person hosting the blog for sharing his or her thoughts and inviting me into a corner of their personal home.