On Blogging and Comments

I told myself I wouldn’t chime in on this subject, but it’s too tempting.

  • On blogging: Earlier this week, @cdixon started an interesting conversation about tech startup bloggers. Chris has one of the most widely read/cited blogs in tech. His feeling is that bloggers shouldn’t pile on and criticize startups because (1) startups are really, really hard (90% fail); and (2) the market is the ultimate critic. On top of this, he assigns more credibility to bloggers who have at least been founders or around small startups because they’ll have more experience and empathy when the highs are high and when the lows are lows.
  • On comments: Later that day, @parislemon started what has turned into an awesome attack on blog comments. MG obviously is a prolific tech blogger, and has suffered years of attacks in the comments section of TechCrunch, where he contributes — and where I contribute, as well. And, now that he contributes less frequently to TechCrunch and is using his Tumblr more (which has sharp content/opinion), he’s using his blog to share his points of view. However, he’s disabled comments on his blog, despite his large audience, asking those who do want to comment or get in touch with him to use traditional channels like e-mail or Twitter. Basically, he doesn’t want it in his backyard.

I thought I’d use this debate to briefly share my own point of views on these matters, given that I have been a contributor to TechCrunch now for over a year (and enjoy it!). I should underscore that there are no rules of tech startup blogging and that, ultimately, the reader decides for him/herself whom to read and trust.  So, for each blogger, the calculation is different. Here are mine:

  1. Anyone can blog about tech startups. Even people who haven’t built a company or worked at a startup can do this. Conversely, some folks who do have this experience may not have the analytical and communications skills to share their knowledge and perspective. In this medium, the written word is powerful and, if one can create and/or synthesize insights and explain context succinctly, there’s a good chance more and more people will read since good information is scarce and disparate. Excessive cheerleading or excessive criticism will simply erode one’s credibility.
  2. Comments are a mixed bag and depend who you are and who your audience is. Fred Wilson relies on them heavily, but he has one of the most engaged audiences out there and happens to be one the greatest single investors of the last five years, so demands strong attention (and manners). In a way, Dixon is on a similar trajectory with his blog and portfolio. Wilson and Dixon are able to receive interesting ideas, feedback, and possibly even information about a new company in the comments section of their blogs. For MG, because much of his audience discovered him via TechCrunch, and because MG shares his opinions strongly, the trolls who inhabit TechCrunch will simply follow him to his own blog (as they do to mine), and he simply wants his blog to reflect his own content and point of view, cleanly, rather than a smattering of random peoples’ opinions or spending the time to moderate a discussion with a filter.

For me, as a personal matter, I blog whenever I want to, either here or on TechCrunch. If it’s just here, I write quickly and say whatever is on my mind. If it’s TechCrunch, I’m obviously more careful. No matter where I post, I try to be respectful and always remind myself that startups are really, really hard. If something warrants criticism and I feel strongly about it, I’ll try to convey it as directly as possible. As for comments, I don’t really use them on my blog. I don’t care. On TechCrunch, I will try to answer any comment that seems reasonable or offered with sincerity — for any others, I will make sure they know I’ve read their comments.

About Semil Shah

Official contributor to @TechCrunch (since Jan 2011); from July 1, will begin EIR with @JavelinVP

One response to “On Blogging and Comments”

  1. Arundhati Sampath says :

    The types of comments and their tone depends on the level of moderation as well. My opinion is that Techcrunch does not moderate comments very well, so people are very rude, rather than being thoughtfully critical. On blogs where there is some level of ‘adult supervision’, and responsiveness and engagement from the blogger, the tone of the comments is much better. (Gigaom’s comments section is much more civil than Techcrunch’s).

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