No Comment

As you probably noticed, I’m playing about with the comments on my blog: disabling them for most new articles, unless I really, really want to hear what other people have to say. This sounds like a total dick move. “You’re suppressing debate!” Probably. I don’t really see it that way. The thing that kind of swung the no-comments move for me was something Merlin Mann said during his presentation with John Gruber at SXSW, when he recalled what John Gruber’s response when he asked him why he doesn’t enable comments on daringfireball.net:

… you were like ‘I wanna own every single pixel on my site, from the top left to the lower right. And if I have somebody come in — even if it’s somebody incredibly smart; even if it’s whoever; even if it’s SeoulBrother comes in and has something to say, like somebody really smart and really funny, like, it’s not my site any more.’.

Then Derek Powazek gave his own particular reasons for not enabling comments on his blog

I turned off comments in the last redesign of powazek.com because I needed a place online that was just for me. With comments on, when I sat down to write, I’d preemptively hear the comments I’d inevitably get. It made writing a chore, and eventually I stopped writing altogether. Turning comments off was like taking a weight off my shoulders. It freed me to write again.

This is what sold me. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but my blog output has gone up since disabling comments, exactly because I don’t feel like I have to think about every word I write. I can write bullshit like that thing about Before Sunset - stuff that I would have previously held back because I’d have visions of a random drive-by commenter calling me out on it, making me feel bad.

Update: I was having second thoughts about the no-comments thing. Over the past few days, people have been very pointedly asking me why I’ve disabled comments - who the fuck did I think I was, comparing myself to John Gruber? - so I was thinking maybe I should just turn them back on. That is, until I enabled the Daring Fireball with Comments extension for Safari yesterday. This is from a random article (click for the larger version):

See? It completely changes the mood of the site. This is exactly what I don’t want, so I think my comments will be staying off for the time being.

Paradox of Choice

In his most recent article, John Gruber once again discusses the difference in philosophy between the iPhone and Android. He talks about how Apple doesn’t include features without a compelling reason for them to exist. By way of example, he talks about the front-facing camera on the iPhone 4. Although Android devices have had this feature for a while, Android doesn’t provide a standard, non-trivial way to use it.

He quotes David Pogue’s experiences trying to get video-calling to work. Pogue says

To make video calling work, you have to install an app yourself: either Fring or Qik. But we never did get Fring to work, and Qik requires people you call to press a Talk button when they want to speak. The whole thing is confusing and, to use the technical term, iffy.

Ignoring the ‘iffy’ implementation, something that made me sigh was the “multiple apps” aspect. Essentially, Android users must choose between Fring and Qik for their video chats. Fring and Qik are also incompatible with each other, so if you’re using an Android phone and you want to video-call another Android user, you must first agree on which of these two appsAssuming there are, in fact, only two to choose from you are going to use. It’s not simply a matter of picking up your phone and video-calling the other person. You must first phone or text with them and say “Hey, let’s Fring!“if you’re okay with enverbening a proper noun before actually firing up the app (and hoping it actually works). Can you imagine if voice-calls worked the same way, that you both needed to be running the same app to make normal phone calls to one another?

This reminded me of a recent article by Cory Doctorow in which he summarised his experiences with the latest version of Ubuntu. He talks about how he needed to edit some sound.

When I need to do something new – edit audio, say – I go to the software center and look at what apps exist for that purpose, select some highly rated ones, download them, try them, keep the one I like (all the software is free, so this is easy).

While Cory lists this as a positive, this is precisely why I stopped using Linux on the desktop. Rather than focusing on making one particular app for a particular function and making it great, it seems as if every developer in the Linux/Open Source community has their own idea about how best to reinvent the wheel. And so, rather than having a standard piece of software for audio editing that comes as standard on each installation – as OSX gives us Garageband – it’s left up to the user to find out which one suits them best. Ubuntu currently gives 66 results for ‘apt-cache search audio edit’, each one a software package that scratches a different itch. And while there’s a certain pleasure in taking the time to install and evaluate each one of these 66 pieces of softwareWhich makes me think of JWZ’s terrifically curmudgeonly line, “Linux is only free if your time has no value”, I would say that few of us have that luxury, and we’d rather just edit the audio and be done. After all, the editing is the important thing, not the software you use.

I would much rather a well-curated walled garden instead, thankyouverymuch.