Last week, The Oatmeal (also known as Matthew Inman) released a new comic, “Some thoughts and musings about making things for the web.” It is, in a word, tremendous. It’ll speak to everyone who creates stuff for the web, especially stuff that has been consumed by a reasonably sized audience.

There are a lot of great observations in it, about the ups and downs of being in this position. You should give the full thing a read. I loved it, shared it with my brother and we laughed like crazy as he read through it. But, toward the end of the comic, there is a section about comments and how some content creators enable comments on everything that they do.

We need to add comments to EVERY page on our website to create community because … community!,” says one character.

Inman then describes the benefits that comments can bring, such as good feelings and constructive criticism, before turning to the downsides. This includes feeling bad about your work and being distracted. He calls this “destructive feedback.” Beyond being “poisonous” for the content creator, he also explains how it can have a negative impact for the reader, as well.

It is important, Inman says, for content creators to remind themselves that “sometimes it’s OKAY for your work to be a rhetorical performance.” He’s quick to say that there are many good comments and when he wants to read them, he prefers to do it on third party platforms like Facebook, reddit, Twitter and Tumblr.

“Trust me,” he says. “There’s no shortage of community on the internet.

This is a wonderful point. In November of 2010, I used Lanyrd as an example of the fact that you don’t need comments to have community. Two years later, they have still resisted the temptation to add comments. They have added a messaging system, but it is more of a one on one sort of thing. In that post, I made my case based on the following points:

  • The Lanyrd team understands what their purpose is and executes against that purpose.
  • Allowing comments does not aide that purpose: people can comment elsewhere.
  • Not having to manage commenting facilities allows them to focus on what matters.
  • You build strong community by doing something good.

I believe that Inman embodies these ideals, just like Lanyrd. Community doesn’t require comments. You don’t have to host the community to have community.