Just FYI - pentermine is a spammer, rather than a commentator. I got the same one (exact text) on a random post about 10 minutes ago and just deleted it.
So, yeah, the spam is getting annoying...
At the same time, I think comments offer a quick opportunity - like this one - to touch base on an issue without having to post something via trackback. In fact, thinking this through might lead us to consider the differences between comments and trackbacks - what leads me, for instance, to comment on this rather than trackback? Laziness? The content? Time constraints?
Also, I think you're on to something about comments, value, and cultural capital. As /. and eBay have shown, such grading systems (explicit or implicit) can be valuable and meaningless, all in one fell swoop (didn't we all blog something about this recently?).
Hmm. Maybe I should have trackbacked this.
Ah, don't sweat the small stuff! I read (and return to) certain blogs because they enlarge my sensibilities, my grasp on various topics and perspectives. If a particular post interests me, I have a decent initial sense of *why* it interests me, and I may then skim the comments to see if that interest can be taken any further. But the trivial or inane or obviously vicious comments -- those don't contribute anything, and flit out of consciousness as fast as they come in.
Just my two cents... Keep up the good work!
Ah, yes. I had the same visceral reaction to the "phentermine" comment spam.
But overall, I've gotten so much more good than bad from the comments experience that it's been worth it.
One approach is to do what Mark Pilgrim does, and close discussion on posts after a week. Most of the comment spam comes on older entries, which have accumlated pagerank. I've been seriously considering that.
Thanks everyone, these are all good thoughts. The irony, of course is that phentermine's spam was posted to my "Snakes in the Garden" entry. In any case, I tend to agree with Liz: most days the good far outweighs the bad with commments. I do wonder, though, about the sustainability of it all, just as open email is essentially already a thing of the past. And I know I'd start to resent the blog if it demanded more and more of my time for upkeep (which is one reason I've resisted implementing a comment spam solution--it's just not how I want to be spending my time right now).
I am not using comments and I don't plan to start using it any time soon, so I'd say if it starts to feel more frustrating than good: turn them off. While I can see the value of them, I don't want the hazzle of maintaining and editing a blog where I need to check to see what others may have written into it. I treasure my peaceful little slot on the net.
In reading Liz's comment about time-limited commenting and Matt's musings about trackback features and remembering recent discussions triggered by entries on one blog but that found space for the exchange on another blog, I wonder if there is not a genre emerging in the blogsphere akin to the moderated chat session.
Divison of Labour:
Some nice foundation could fund some academic institutions to provide the human power to do the filtering of spam (apprenticeship in moderating). Combine the trackback feature with the comment posting capabilities and one gets a Commentaria. Apart from the spam control, I think that some very interesting rhetorical moves could be made since the comments would be _about_ a posting on a blog rather than _to_ a blog author.
How did William Gibson manage the traffic? As blogging moves away from being an "extra" and towards an essential part of academic work (at least in some quarters) the human resources need to be at play. Imagine trying to run large classes without teaching assistants. Extramuros communication just might bring back the role of the secretary.
I like comments. And I never get comment spam (knock on wood). Could this have something to do with not using MT?
But this really surprised me, Matthew:
"the worth of an entry is implicitly measured by how many comments it garners"
First of all, the posts that garner the most comments on my site are those that explicitly mention something personal about me (?!) or actively solicit advice. Since I use my weblog specifically to track research that makes its way into my dissertation, the content is often too heavy for light commentary.
I get *far* more email about my posts than I do comments - so it would be impossible for a reader to see which posts have inspired the most interest and have arguably emerged as the most valuable to readers.
Just a thought from someone who found a commenting script to work with Blogger, and who doesn't use trackback ;)
I suppose the question is _worth_ what to whom: I post research-related items too, and use the blog as a kind of personal database, so yes, entries of that sort are very valuable to me if not always to others. But I was trying to get at something different: comments (or more specifically, comment _counts_) provide a way--one way, not the only way, but I believe a common way--of mapping the terrain of a blog. The highs and lows of comment counts are the hills and valleys that a reader, at least a casual reader, uses to traverse the space of the blog. Put more prosaically, comments breed comments: once the comment count starts to creep up readers think--and not to say not rightly--that something's happening here, so they read a little more carefully and maybe comment themselves--no mystery here, it's just a feedback loop. But take, say, Torill's splendid blog as the contrast: the terrain is flatter there, by which I mean there's nothing but the substance of the posts themselves to guide the reader in negotiating that space.