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Online Conversations & Website Engagement

Kev Quirk
Hi there! 👋 I’m Kev Quirk, a cyber security nerd, web design enthusiast and privacy advocate from the UK.
Originally published at kevq.uk on ・3 min read

I was reading a post on online conversations by Manu last night, and the whole thing resonated with me. So I wanted to jot down my thoughts about online conversations and why I think it’s broken.

I’ll keep saying it till the day I die, or until someone invents something better: private conversations via email. If you care about discussing something with someone, like genuinely care, try contacting them directly, in private, via email.

Manu Moreale

A couple of years ago, I removed all comments from this site. It’s a WordPress site, so enabling comments is trivial. However, I found that the vast majority of the comments I was getting were along the lines of this:

Fake comment

If it wasn’t my pal Some Internet Guy it was spam comments, usually about viagra, or sometimes trolls wishing me dead. Which is always nice. 😍

Luckily for me Akismet caught most of the spam, but I still had to wade through Some Internet Guy and his ilk’s useless comments on a daily basis.

I still wanted online conversations

Problem was, despite all the useless comments, I still wanted the engagement from genuine readers, as that’s the main reason I write content. So I replaced the comment form with a simple button that said Reply via email , which linked to my email address.

You can still find that button at the bottom of this (and every other) post on this site!

At first I wasn’t sure it would work. But a couple years on, I’m happy to report that it has. I’m sure I miss many useful comments, as a lot of people are less likely to send an email than write a comment. Mainly because there’s more involved in the latter, I think.

But that’s precisely why it has worked (I think). You see, this very small barrier of having to click a button, compose an email and send it just to me means many don’t bother. Those that do aren’t looking for traffic to their site, like Some Internet Guy. They’re genuinely interested in the subject of the post, and just want to discuss it further.

I’ve had email conversations last weeks, and some people who have emailed me have kinda become friends off the back of it. I don’t think that would have happened if I was still using comments.

I emailed Manu after reading his post, and we had a nice little conversation. He checked out my posts and we had a short chat about some stuff on this blog that he had thoughts on. It was a great connection, as are many of the engagements I have as a result of people emailing me.

And don’t get me started on how much time it has saved me by not having to wade through useless comments every. Single. Day.

Closing thoughts

I’m really happy I decided to remove comments from this site. If you have comments on your site, and you’re having similar problems to me (or if you’re using the horrendous Disqus) maybe consider doing the same?

I’m not saying it will definitely work for you, but it has for me, and it seems to have done the trick for Manu too.

Are you all in on comments on your site? Or do you have nothing at all? Please do let me know your thoughts using the — you guessed it — email button below. 😁

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