Recently, Terry McGlynn closed the comments at Small Pond Science:
I’m shutting down new comments on the site, and instead, encouraging discussion to take place on twitter.
We’ve been seeing some of the same trends that led Terry to take this step, but we’ve no plans to close our comments. I don’t think there are any rights or wrongs here, just different responses to the same trends. So if you want to read a short navel-gazing post about how I think about blog vs. Twitter comments, read on. It’s probably mostly of interest to other bloggers.
I agree with Terry that the scientific conversation–including the conversation about blogs–is moving onto Twitter, though at different rates for different blogs. It’s only in the last few weeks that we’ve noticed a sudden jump in people discussing our posts on Twitter. Some of those people used to comment here instead of, or in addition to, tweeting about our posts.
But most of the substantive conversation about our posts still takes place in our comment threads. Our comment threads are less active than they used to be, but the activity level is only dropping slowly so far. We enjoy the comment threads and learn a tremendous amount from them. Twitter conversations about our posts can be valuable too. But as a broad and not-exceptionless generalization, Twitter conversations about our posts tend to be less substantive and nuanced than our comment threads. I think that’s just the nature of the platforms. Twitter is great for many purposes, but it’s not designed for substantive, nuanced conversations (though the move to 280 characters hopefully will help a bit, as will the ability to compose tweet threads before tweeting them). So even if the trend is towards conversations on Twitter, we’d rather keep our comment threads open as long as some readers want to make use of them.
In part, that’s just a matter of personal preference. Meghan is the only one of us who is on Twitter, like Terry is. Ok, I use the @dynamicecology robo-account to tweet occasionally, but mostly just to make jokes. I’ve experimented with substantive conversations on Twitter, and it hasn’t worked for me. I just find it really hard to have a good, misunderstanding-free conversation
on Twitter, especially about anything people disagree about. Brian feels the same. Different strokes for different folks, of course.
Except that it’s not quite that easy, because online conversation is a collective action problem. As Terry correctly notes, there’s a strong incentive to use the same conversational platform as others. So if current trends continue, at some point in future it’s possible that our comment threads will just die out. At which point we’ll be sad.
p.s. Terry also says that he’s moving SPS discussions to Twitter because he doesn’t want to have to moderate bad comments, doesn’t want bad comments preserved in perpetuity, and doesn’t want to share his platform with just anyone who wants to leave a comment. Which puzzles me, because I’d have thought Twitter would make all those things worse, or at least not make them any better. I’d have commented on Terry’s post to ask him to elaborate, but I can’t do that anymore. 🙂