Where Have the Comments Gone?

March 20th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Vintage Computing and Gaming LogoI just noticed recently that the volume of reader comments on this blog has gone way down in the past year or so.

Does anybody have any theories about why that is? (Ironically, you'll have to comment to tell me.)

It's unfortunate, because reader feedback is the currency that makes this site run. I like hearing from readers; it encourages me to keep updating this blog, as I have been doing since 2005 — almost 8 years now.

Traffic seems to be just about as strong as it has ever been. Is there some change in modern reader behavior that is discouraging people from commenting on this old style blog? Are people are moving away from RSS feed readers? Do I need a Twitter feed that tweets every new post onto there? Do people just hate filling out forms with email addresses, etc. every time they comment?

Maybe I'm just not posting stuff that people are interested in commenting on. Perhaps it's time to retire the 'ole beast. If I only get 2 responses to this, I think I will.



49 Responses to “Where Have the Comments Gone?”

  1. Eagles409 Says:

    I love your blog, I have it set to come up in Google reader (which I am sadly transitioning to Feedly). I only comment on the articles and things that interest me or that I have experience with, some do, some don't. I hope the blog doesn't go away, it's one of my favorites and I look forward to new articles every Monday. I have noticed that you seem to get a lot more comments with broader topics (bulletin boards from the 80s) as opposed to talking about a single game or game series. That's just my 2 cents.

  2. Benj Edwards Says:

    Thanks for reading, Eagles409. I noticed that too, mostly with discussion topics on Retro Scans. Of course, people can always comment on a post outside the purview of the discussion topic theme, but few ever do. Perhaps the discussion topics on Retro Scans need to go?

  3. Advent Says:

    What he said ^^

    including being sad that Google Reader is dying

  4. Eagles409 Says:

    The retro scan pictures are nice, but the scans of old radio shack and other computer ads are some of my favorites. I'd love to see more of these.

  5. Cameron T. Says:

    I've never used RSS to read this blog–When I first discovered it I went through the whole archives. Since then I have followed you on Twitter and come here when you tweet that a new article has arrived. So yes, maybe I'm one of those new-fangled readers or something.

    I enjoy the retro scans but wish that the blog posts were more than just a scan–you could talk about the history of the item you're scanning a little more, perhaps. Why it's interesting/important/just plain weird. Does it have personal meaning to you, or did it just stand out to you when you were looking at old magazine covers? (Looking back through a few recent ones, I see that you have done this on some, but not all of them). The ones with personal stories are often the best.

  6. Eagles409 Says:

    When I mentioned retro scans, I meant retro gifs.

  7. Benj Edwards Says:

    The mention of old Radio Shack ads brings up an interesting point I've been thinking about for a while. I've wondered, as the world grows up around his blog, what this blog's continuing role should be — and how it can be most valuable to the community.

    For example, is VC&G most important and interesting as a gateway to 1970s and 80s computer and video game info (which is still relatively hard to come by on the Internet), or does its coverage continue to shift forward in time as new things become old? Does anybody want to see retro scans from the mid-late 1990s, etc? I do them every once and a while, but it's hard to gauge the response. How about coverage of the Internet and the early web?

    I guess I should fashion some sort of poll, but I'd love to hear from anyone on this topic or the others we've talked about above.

  8. Skywyze Says:

    Benj, I love your site and have downloaded all of your RAS mp3s as well. Retroscan of the week is awesome, but sometimes I get busy, so some twitter reminders would help with that kind of stuff. Also, more ULAF!!!! We all love ULAF!!! He needs to tweet more too.

  9. Multimedia Mike Says:

    For my part, I used to comment more. As time wears on, I feel less and less motivated to participate in online discussions. Sometimes, I'm about to comment but then stop and think, "no, I don't really care enough to post it." I don't know if you can extrapolate any trends from this one data point. :-)

  10. r0ni Says:

    Still visit all the time, don't leave comments because typing on iPhones/iPads is less than desirable most of the time or I'm just plain lazy. Maybe twitter or forum integration would get comments up?

  11. Benj Edwards Says:

    r0ni, I think you may have hit the nail on the head. The rise of smartphones and tablets probably has a lot to do with it. It would explain why the traffic has increased but comments have gone down. People still read, but they don't want the hassle of typing on an awkward touchscreen keyboard.

    What does everybody else think about that? I'd also like to hear about what devices people most commonly use to read VC&G.

  12. Retrocosm Says:

    Announcing new posts via Twitter definitely helps, however sometimes less is more.

    How often do you comment on other people's blogs Benj?

    Is your traffic down as well, or just your comments?

  13. Chad Says:

    Here it is. Still love the site.

  14. TNLongFellow Says:

    Well I have recently found your site (evidenced by me commenting on older posts) and enjoy it. I check it regularly and do tend to comment on the things that interest me or that I have personal experience with. I do like reading of things I may have missed out on or simply had no idea about.

    However for me I really like the scans and articles you post about old computers. I have really enjoyed going back and looking at your slide shows you have done on the way computers have evolved and changed in price. Keep up the good work.

    And remember, comments are not always the thing. Site traffic is important too. People will take the time to say something about a post they feel passionate about, even if only to say they had one of those!

  15. Dementropy Says:

    Benj,

    Believe it or not, this is one of the sites I visit as part of my "after work, unwind from the day" routine - and has been since about 2006/7. Some things move me to comment on the page. More often, they cause discussion among my friends (other fellows who remember computing and games dating back to the late-70s/early-80s (and I encourage them to visit the site directly and leave comments).

    Would a public G+ and full social media integration improve site interaction? Not really. Many classic computing and gaming buffs I know already visit your site (and they don't really care one lick about social media). Would adding a Twitter plug-in to automatically post your latest headlines help attract some people who are new to the hobby/nostalgia? Possibly.

    I definitely agree with TNLongfellow (above) that comments are not always the thing when compared to site traffic. Many times I enjoy your articles and share them with friends and fellow hobbyists - and many of your in-depth articles (and interviews) really cover the topic more completely than I could add. (These are compliments.)

    Do I think you should ultimately change anything? No! However, sometimes we all need breaks from even our biggest passions. And sometimes other projects keep us from paying the attention we want to our hobbies. In short, if you find yourself updating this site because you feel you have to, rather than because you want to (sometimes even the most fun things can seem like obligations after a while), then take a break. Explore other ventures. Or do something for yourself that so far removed from this that it might give you a renewed perspective.

    I can almost assure you that no matter what you choose to do, your die hard fans and readers will look for your words wherever they show up in the future.

  16. Benj Edwards Says:

    Thanks for the kind and thoughtful comments, guys. (And I'm glad you like my music, Skywyze. I'll also tell Ulaf he has a fan.)

    I'm not tired of updating the site (re: Dementropy's thoughtful post), but I have always gauged reader interest in my posts by the number and quality of the comments each one received. So as the numbers of comments have gone down over time (seriously, go to the front page sidebar and look through the archives of 2,3,4 years ago), I've become concerned that I'm not posting the right stuff or that it's not interesting to readers.

    Traffic is fine, but then again this site gets a lot of traffic from one-time visits to old posts courtesy of Google Image Search or something similar. Readership of new Retro Scans is not that great, but they tend to grow over time as people discover them. I also can't complain about traffic because I rarely write features for this site directly. I'm happy with traffic. I just like to see comments.

    Based on everyone's feedback (and I'd still like to hear more) and some thought, I think that mobile reading has a lot to do with the comment drop, as I mentioned in a comment above. I could add a Like button to posts (not Facebook-related though — blecch) so people could just tap a button on their tablets to show they liked something. That might help give a better feedback mechanism for me.

    I think I'll also investigate an automatic Twitter posting plugin for the @vintagecomputing account, which for now has sat largely unused for about 4 years. (I tweet on @benjedwards a lot, for those who might be wondering).

    I am also thinking about doing a site redesign to reflect changes in reading habits, screen sizes, and other stuff whenever I get some spare time. The column size is looking mighty narrow and font size is awfully small these days on widescreen displays, and in an upcoming age of Retina-like displays (if that becomes popular), I will definitely have to change. But I'd like to keep a mobile version of the site for easy reading on the go. Maybe even a vintage version for old machines.

    Anyway, keep up the comments. They've been very helpful so far.

  17. idisjunction Says:

    I've never used an RSS reader; I find new articles by checking the site at least once a day. I don't mind the post comment form, and since the validation word never changes it's not hard to select it from autocomplete (it it did, I probably would find it annoying).

    I find all your posts interesting, but being relatively young (24 years old), I have trouble thinking of something to say on articles about computers or games that came out when I was still in diapers. I usually comment on stuff from around 1995 or later, since before that my experience was limited to smashing keys on an XT clone.

  18. Daniel Says:

    Add more articles about Commodore Computers (PETs, VIC-20s, Commodore 64s), more articles about old operating systems (CP/M, Xenix, AppleDOS, OS/2, Windows 3.1, etc…), more articles about classic videogames (Gridrunner, Wolfenstein 3D, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man), even old hardware (old printers, old hard drives ads, etc…)

    I really enjoy your site though. I usually check it at least once a day. Other sites I check out daily are osnews.com, liliputing.com, freedos.org and gizmag.com

  19. j Says:

    Maybe you should just switch to facebook comments:

    https://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/comments/

    Most online social life is there nowadays, not scattered all over the web.

  20. Lawrence Says:

    Nooooo, don't close the blog down!

    I almost never comment on anything anywhere - for me it's all about the reading.

    I think the trouble is that people have become so used to the one-click articles on sites like Kotaku and Gizmodo, one-click image sites like Imgur, and a gradual shift to mobile devices for internet use (commenting via touch screen on a phone is never fun).

    Our attention spans are also not what they used to be, and we've become inherently lazy. Just yesterday, my sister had a laptop open in front of her, and rather than typing in a web address and signing in, decided to pick up her tablet and open the app on there that was ready to go.

    I do agree that perhaps you should post on Twitter and perhaps even a dedicated Facebook page as that's where everyone seems to be these days. I work for a tech firm and only the diehard rss fans still use it.

    I think the gist is - your blog is amazing and gets the traffic; people still do want to read it. Re actually commenting - perhaps it won't pick up. But another alternative, whether it's feasible or not I don't know, is that you could integrate Facebook/Twitter/G+ sign in for comments instead of filling in details every time. Like I say, everyone is super lazy these days - an inherent downside to technology and the internet.

  21. Matt Says:

    I check for updates a couple times a week. A other pointed out, it IS usually from a phone, but I still try and comment. I love your material and forward it to a lot of my friends. Thanks a lot for providing it.

  22. Jim Says:

    I have been following your site on my RSS reader for years, and love everything that you contribute to it. Unfortunately, I am on the younger side and do not personally have any memories of a lot of the machines and scans you post here, but I do enjoy seeing them and reading about them. Their history is important to our culture and I find the history of computing very interesting.

    Thank you again for everything you do for this site and the others where you contribute!

  23. DNA Says:

    Been following VC&G via Bamboo Feed Reader for years. Still enjoy it greatly and only comment every once in a while.

    Please don't change the layout of the site. If you're going to no matter what then please (at least) try to retain the same or similar look & feel. A website's theme is part of its character. The familiarity of it is sort of like comfort food…or visiting an old friend. I'm not a fan of change for change's sake.

    The broad spectrum of content is one of the things that makes this blog fun. Even as someone probably the same age as you I still discover things I've never known about before, or gain a different perspective on something. As a few of the younger people noted there is value and novelty in 'discovery of the past' and expanding the historical consciousness of those who perhaps didn't grow up with these games and OS environments.

    Feel the same way you do about comments. They are great fun when the discussion is more lively, and [often] just as enjoyable to read as the main articles. So, to everyone else, "Don't be shy about joining in the conversation guys."

    Please don't shift over to Facebook comments.

  24. Eagles409 Says:

    @Benj, I would love to see some more stuff from the 90′s, we are getting to the point that SNES and Genesis are quite old. That doesn't mean I want the 70′s and 80′s articles and pictures and ads to end, but maybe add in some stuff from the 90′s as well. Keep up the great work and thanks!

  25. Geoff V. Says:

    Benj,
    I appreciate your expression about commenting being the personal fuel you use to keep this site going. I had also noticed the slowing of active commenting, while at the same time commenting less myself. Part of my absence is due to mobile viewing, but partly also due to lack of other community engagement.

    I would recommend looking back at some of your old posts that got broad comment engagement. Maybe add simple realtime polls every so often.

    Bringing back Ulaf couldn't hurt either!

    Love the site and truly appreciate all the passion that clearly drives you.

  26. dfbills Says:

    Love your site and articles. Please don't shut it down.

  27. chris harback Says:

    I read all your posts and really love the blog, since I have a real nostalgia for computer equipment from the past. I just don't comment hardly at all. I guess maybe I should change that, huh?

  28. chris Says:

    I vist your blog regulary but I don't leave comments because I'm very lazy.
    I like the pictures of old hardware especially from magaines.

  29. mos6502geek Says:

    You are my favorite blogger. I have been reading your blog for about 4 years. I think this is my first comment on your blog. (I'm not that much of a commenter.)

  30. t3hfr3ak Says:

    I have always been here, grown up and working all the time.

    I will admit I have neglected the site for a while, however, still the only blog I read.

  31. R Singers Says:

    This is one of the few sites that I don't resent opening in full rather than reading in an rss reader, and it may be one of the few sites that Feedly's prettier tile based approach is a boon.

    I also read the comments and I think it is one of the few sites lacking in stupid comments.

    I've even considered finding a floppy drive and seeing what still exists from the NZ BBS scene in the box of floppies in my garage.

  32. Stunt Zombie Says:

    This is one of the few computer blogs I'm able to read and comprehend. Please don't go away.

  33. Benj Edwards Says:

    I thought of something else. A few years ago, I used to be a lot more active in the comments on this blog myself, but I have not been as much recently (this may have something to do with my own mobile usage). Do you think that affects people's willingness to comment? Do you like it when an author of a piece interacts with the audience?

    By the way, I'd like to add my continuing thanks for all your kind comments. I'm really glad people like the blog. If you don't say it in comments, I honestly don't know it.

  34. Dementropy Says:

    Yes (Re: Author Interaction). I'm very likely to share an article (G+, direct linking in conversations, what have you) to get a discussion going among people in my immediate spheres, but I'm more likely to comment on an article if an author is willing to engage the responses. Don't get me wrong - I've seen some really great interactions on this blog generated among readers who are very knowledgeable in their own rights - but seeing you jump in gives me more insight as to why you write what you do, you're opinions, and (most importantly) that you're paying attention to what your readers have to say (this comment is proof of that).

    That doesn't mean you have you respond to every little comment, or even at all but I think reader engagement goes both ways. Readers will comment when posed a question, or if the subject matter really interests them/sparks memories/brings up questions. If the author responds to comments in kind (again, it doesn't have to be every single one, or even at all - because you have a comment section doesn't mean you should spend your downtime refreshing the page constantly), I (as a reader) am more likely to comment on posts in the future (or just type excessively, as I do whenever I comment on stuff).

  35. idisjunction Says:

    I like it when authors respond to comments and feedback, but honestly I can think of only two other people of any notability who've directly interacted with me on the internet. I don't generally expect anyone with a website with a fanbase higher than 20 to interact with me, and it's not a required criteria for me to comment.

  36. Ant Says:

    I come here once a week (CATurdays). ;)

  37. Erik H Says:

    Facebook has replaced RSS. Google Reader is/was my primary method of getting updates from your site, but that is being shut down soon.

    Suggestion: a facebook page that includes links to your posts. I assume this is you (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vintage-Computing-and-Gaming/124564917592338?fref=ts), but there haven't been any updates since 2010.

  38. John Says:

    I love your blog and read it often. I just don't comment. Don't punish us "non-commenters" by taking away this wonderful blog!

  39. Paul Says:

    I enjoy your blog. I love the pics of old computer ads, games and such. I don't comment on a lot because I only had experience with the Amiga 500 before going PC. But I do like to read.

  40. V Says:

    I love this blog, but I only comment when I feel I have something to add. IMO, a few good comments > a lot of stupid comments.

  41. Alexander Says:

    Benj, every Monday I make a habit of visiting this blog and checking out what cool thing you posted each week. It's seriously one of my favorite old computer geek-out sites.

    However, I'm not exactly your regular visitor, on account of I'm out of the usual age bracket of people who would remember this stuff from the 80′s since I was born in '90. Ultimately, I look at everything posted, and I will comment if it applies to me or I have interest in it.

    Thanks for taking the time for us!

  42. technotreegrass Says:

    I LOVE the blog but I don't comment a lot because I don't have any real experience with old computers. I played games on an Apple ][ at school until 1996 when everything was replaced with Gateway PCs. I enjoy the history and the info for all these old computer models, but since I don't have any experience with them, I don't really comment. I'll try to contribute more in the future.

  43. Space Harrier Says:

    I never comment on this website and I never will

  44. Chris Says:

    This blog is my goto after every lunch since 2009, I visit it to get a feel of the past nostalgias and I love it.

    I interact only when something hit my fancy, otherwise, i'm a 99% lurker.

    I love your stuff.

  45. Benj Edwards Says:

    Too late, Space Harrier. Looks like you already did!

    Thanks for the continued positive feedback, guys. I'm feeding off your energy already — perhaps I'll be posting more often from now on.

  46. Josh Renaud Says:

    I always try to comment here when you post something that hits close to home (Atari, BBSing, etc).

    But I noticed the comment fall-off here and wondered if it was related to the Google Reader fall-off.

    I have several small-time blogs, and like you, I value reader comments highly. I consider them part of my websites' content. I'd personally be reluctant to hand off commenting to Twitter or Disqus or anybody.

    But it looks like you've jump-started a revival with this post! I bet more frequent posts will help sustain it.

  47. Ant Says:

    Benj, please don't stop. We still love this place. :)

  48. Christopher Says:

    This is one of the best sites on the Internet! I hope it sticks around for a long time. If it ever becomes too much for you to do personally, I hope you hand it off to someone else to keep up the great work. :)

  49. Barry Says:

    Only recently stumbled on your site so cannot comment as to why people are not commenting. I would like to say, please keep it up, this is an excellent site .

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