One of the best things about reading blogs is being able to answer back. Not that you want to answer back every time, but it's good to know that you can. If someone writes something on their blog that you feel the urge to respond to, then respond. Open up the comments box (or click onto the comments space on the page) and type away. Sometimes the comments are the best bit of a blog, a place where entertaining debate and conversation can flourish. Comments are rare and precious things, always earned, never to be taken for granted. Oh yes, the ability to interact is one of the things that makes reading blogs worthwhile.
So it's a bit annoying to come across a blog where you can't answer back. Sometimes it's the decision of the blogger themselves not to allow comments, in which case fair enough. But more often than not it's the decision of the blogging platform instead. You want to leave a comment? Bad luck you can't, because you're not a member. It's members only round here. We're a community we are, so you can only leave a comment if you're one of us. So either sign up and join us, or bugger off and leave us alone. It's not exactly friendly and inclusive, is it?
I discovered a new gated blogging community yesterday. They're called Vox, and they're a new-ish part of the Six Apart stable. I discovered them via a seriously large promotional plug in yesterday's Metro (all over most of page 21) in which the newspaper announced the launch of their own Metro UK Vox blog. Ooh how exciting. There's only one post on Metro UK at the moment, which is a heartfelt plea to the paper's readers to sign up and join the Metrospective community. Only 4 people have bothered so far but hey, it's early days yet. And look, you can only leave a comment on the Metro blog if you're a Vox member.
Want to post a comment? Sign in or Join Vox to post a comment
Not much chance of me, or you, or anybody from the outside world ever commenting on anything, then. Other blogging communities can be just as restrictive. Want to leave a comment on a Yahoo! 360° blog? Sorry, members only. Want to leave a comment on a MySpace blog? Sorry, only if you've signed in. Want to leave a comment on a LiveJournal page? Sorry, LJ-ers only. [And will the bastards at LiveJournal allow me to sign up for an account? Will they hell. Their ridiculously overprotective software has somehow decided that my IP address is home to a pre-teenage child, and I can therefore only open an account if "my parents" give their consent via an ID check using a credit card or photocopied birth certificate. Fat chance, corporate suckers... so that's my usage of the LJ service permanently barred. Sigh.]
So, every interesting Vox, MySpace, Y!360° or LiveJournal post that I read must remain forever uncommented. These big blogging platforms are stifling debate by restricting interaction only to those already on the inside. Great if you're writing a blog you want only your five best mates or your Auntie Jane to read, but bloody useless for anyone with higher aspirations. If you want the wider world to stumble upon what you've written and maybe acknowledge its innate creative brilliance then you don't need protective social networking, you need open comments. Like what most of the rest of us have. I love that fact that anybody can leave me a comment, even an anonymous comment, on the spur of the moment without having to register a carefully verified online identity.
So I'm sorry Metro, but I suspect that your chance of creating a vibrant Vox-powered network of urbane opinionated commuters is virtually zero. And if you disagree perhaps you'd like to leave me a comment here and tell me so, because I can't leave you one.