comments, forums, and counters, oh my!

I've received a number of chastising emails asking why I don't have a forum, or comments, or even a basic counter on this blog. I've actually been thinking about these for a while and I want to put my thinking down in words (especially so that if there's a flaw, someone can point it out to me).

Comments - these are cool. They let readers just leave short notes attached to specific posts. They can be places of intense discussion (like on Demosthenes' site), fan support (like on Wil Wheaton's blog), or even places where scary extremists hang out (like at LGF, a site I refuse to visit or link to. Find it yourself). I had attached comments to the DeanBlog but then Haloscan came under a DOS attack (I'm not linking to Haloscan either, because I don't want to add to their problems). I needed to remove them and they haven't yet been able to come back up. So I kind of view comments sections as somewhat unreliable, and they do tend to slow the site down somewhat as well. My view so far has been that oif someone wants to comment on something, they can just as easily email me. But I do recognize that comments are superior to email because they also serve as a public record and there already is a kind of culture attached to them of public discussion which adds an extra dimension to any topic.

Discussion forum - probably the most common means of interaction on the web between people. But setting up your own forum is a responsibility that I am not keen on adopting. Steven Den Beste had to take his forum down because it was becoming too much of a drag, and his was relatively tame. Wil Wheaton's forum is pepperred with legal notices and rules and policies plastered over every sub-section, mainly a victim of its own success. I did add an EZBoard forum on the DeanBlog, so let's see where that leads us, but right now it's pretty quiet in there. As I said, it's not something I want to have to spend too much time mothering. And anyway, I already have forums I like to hang out in, like Floor42 and the Detling Forum (again, deliberately not linking them, for various other reasons :) and don't want to get myself spread too thin. By way of television analog, I like hanging out in Cheers, I don't want to have to run my own bar on the side. That would mean less time in Cheers.

Counters. I'm torn on these. I added one to the DeanBlog (no need to link it for the third time :) because I think it will be usefull to see how much interest his candidacy is generating (we had a visitor from the Senate come by... interesting...). And I added one to Shi'a Pundit because it's so low-profile. But UNMEDIA is where I do most of my bloggage and I am honestly worried about the effect on my output if I know who and how many are reading. Right now, when I post here, I am writing for myself. I want something to show my daughter when she's older, something to read in my old age, something to cull for a book someday (yeah, right!). It's an expression of my personal style and my personal interests. It's not aimed at any audience, I am not trying to influence anyone, but I do want to stimulate debate and be challenged on the issues and opinions I hold. The public nature of the blog serves these needs. If I add a counter, I might compulsively check referres and count weekly visitors (I already am somewhat guilty of this due to the novelty on the DeanBlog). I might subtly change my writing - it's obvious to any long-time reader of Instapundit that his views became more aggressively "neocon" after his readership started to rise, which fueled more readership, etc .. a positive feedback loop. I don't want to be biased by popularity. I'm that geeky kid in high school who values his identity, even as he secretly envies the popularity of the clicque-hordes whose groupthink he publicly disdains. Its a complicated mix of emotions and I don't want to go there.

But, all of this could be just silliness. So, I added a free poll (see at left). If you think I shoudl add a comment section, a forum, or a counter, or agree with my random thoughts and think none of these are right for UNMEDIA, please vote at left. I don't promise to be bound by the results but I will be grateful for the aggregate opinions thus expressed :) You can even leave comments for me regarding why you voted - make your vote and you will see the form.

I somehow fully expect there to be zero votes after a month, proving I have no readers whatsoever, making all this talk of forums and comments and counters rather egotistical :)

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