How Useful are Comments?

There is an active dialog and changing tide regarding posting of comments after blog entries or online articles.  Recently, many sites are removing the longstanding tradition of having a comments section following a post.

I think the Executive Editor of Reuters put it best in speaking of other mediums, such as twitter and facebook or wiki-type sites that provide a better forum for comments on important topics, “Those communities offer vibrant conversation and, importantly, are self-policed by participants to keep on the fringes those who would abuse the privilege of commenting,” said Dan Colarusso.

My blog, this blog, is about the customer experience and how to improve it.  My post on this topic is a bit tangential to my blog's core purpose but it is relevant because of the "soapboxing" that I see so frequently in comment sections.

Comments are beneficial in identifying factual inaccuracies, in adding another consideration to decision criteria for a topic, or for predicting unforeseen consequences to a change.  Most other comments are just noise or thinly veiled marketing plugs.  Mr. Colarusso is correct that some sites have the culture and procedure to handle self-policing very well, Wikipedia comes to mind for me.

This evolution of handling comments could stifle free expression and innovation to some degree, that would be a natural fear at least, but I think free expression and innovation will simply move to a more efficient platform for dialogue, while trolls and excessive self-promoters will be dealt a considerable blow.
I'd finish with "what do you think?" but this really isn't the place for that ;-).