Ms. Carroll is a researcher and freelance writer who writes on a myriad of topics with which she has curiosity, experience, or knowledge.
Many of us in the HubPages Community have posted questions in the forum and/or written articles concerning the inability of anyone to comment on articles (or even hit a "like" button for that matter. Many of our own articles had substantial comments that we have seen vanish like a magic act. The reason for this anomaly is unclear. Comments were there. Now they are gone and no longer allowed — purportedly the result of an incongruence in software.
As I write these words, I must realize that many of you will read my words and have absolutely no ability to comment, approve, agree, chime-in, or otherwise respectfully disagree with my words. You may or may not take the time to email me, and yet, the evidence lends itself to the importance of a comments section (despite those who might disagree).
What The Studies Show
The Journal of Consumer Psychology reported that "simply sharing information gives people confidence, making them feel more knowledgeable about the information shared." The downside: the Journal also reports that "sharing information . . . may cause people to believe they are as knowledgeable as their posts [and comments] make them appear." In other words, if we say it we must be true, right? Of course we all know that's not true and this only magnifies the importance of and need for comments.
A study conducted by the Customer Insight Group (CIG) for The New York Times reminds us that sharing is human nature. Sharing brings value and entertainment to others and 84% of people share because "it is a way to support causes or issues they care about." But what is sharing when one cannot receive? One participant noted "When I post controversial things, it makes me look engaged and provocative, and I want to be perceived that way. If I don’t get a response then I know I’ve missed my mark. - Ethnography participant, male."
Some of us Hubbers are career writers, some of us are cathartic writers, and some of us just enjoy sharing with a true Community of writers who have a diverse breadth of knowledge and information to share. In every case, we desire to to connect and feel connected or we would not invest the time in sharing our thoughts. As the CIG study pointed out, self-actualization, self-esteem, a sense of belonging, and safety are all integral parts of the writing/sharing process.
In an article entitled "Hubpages I Quit", a former Hubber explained his or her rationale for quitting. In this author's words, "Hubpages really need[s] to take the time to review their policies to provide writers with a better incentive to actually stay and continue feeding Hubpages with content." I couldn't agree more but will stop shy of quitting (more on that later).
To help us better understand the importance of comments, below are a few pros and cons of the common comment thread (although you may have additional suggestions in mind and cannot comment):
|Pros of a Comment Thread||Cons of a Comment Thread|
Writers enjoy a sense of community with other Hubbers which increases Followers, Following, and Article Traffic.
Critics can lack civility and respect when disagreeing on certain topics, a phenomena we've seen explode in social media in the last few years.
Writers gain a sense of how productive (or non-productive) their writing and topics are. Healthy, favorable comments inspire and promote self-esteem while negative feedback (which should be civil), can help redirect authors. NOTE: Most all online forums expect and set rules for respect among readers and viewers, though not all of them enforce those rules.
Unfortunately, hackers have found their way into every aspect of social engagement.
Comments make writers feel heard and inspires them to write more and improve what they do write.
Comments indicate the quality of HubPages authors and encourages others to read what's on the site.
HubPages' Position On The Issue
The HubPages Terms of Service include a section called "Feedback" which states that "you may voluntarily post, submit or otherwise communicate to us [HubPages] any questions, comments, suggestions, ideas, original or creative materials or other information about Arena or our Platform (collectively, “Feedback”)." However, the Terms of Service do not appear to give the HubPages author any entitlement to Feedback. Moreover, we are at the mercy of HubPages' owners and editors to remedy this issue because the Terms of Service clearly state, "We reserve the right to modify our Platform or to suspend or stop providing all or portions of our Platform at any time. You also have the right to stop using our Platform at any time. We are not responsible for any loss or harm related to your inability to access or use our Platform at any time."
Stated another way, Hubbers write to help HubPages succeed but we have no rights! Perhaps it will take the pull of HubPage's top-earners to reinstate comments. Or, perhaps to the dismay of those who miss and desire a comment thread, we will have to wait another two to four years for the comment section to return. Worse, comments may never return. From what I can glean, HubPages has made no attempt to offer a guarantee about a comments section returning, much less a timeline for the return of the functionality many of us signed-up for over a decade ago. In the meantime, there are things we can do:
Fan Mail Still Works
Until our beloved comments are reinstated, one of the most important things we can do is send our fellow Hubbers good old-fashioned fan mail. HubPage authors deserve the input of their fellow Hubbers. Writing something worth reading takes time, energy, and is sometimes emotionally challenging.
Fan Mail is better than E-mails because it provides a record of the comment which can be publicly viewed and understood. Fan Mail is also a way to encourage a reciprocal Follow.
Link to Another Hubber's Articles
One of the greatest compliments an author can give to another author in this writing community, is to reference and link to the article. You will note how easy it was for me to link to a former Hubber's article "Hubpages, I Quit." See also this link to my own article entitled, "What HubPages Has Done For Me (And Can Do For You.")
While linking to your own articles may seem self-serving, it is an excellent marketing tool because as all online writers know in the Information Age, traffic drives profit.
Use The Polls Feature To Elicit Input
In a fellow Hubber's article published on the affiliate site TurboFuture, Lorri G. noted several reasons why sites should bring back their comment sections. Among them:
- it encourages engagement;
- it gives the site more credibility;
- it gives the reader an opportunity to challenge or compliment the author; and
- it likely increases traffic.
She included a poll at the bottom of her article which indicates 93% of her readers prefer the ability to comment. That is an effective way to engage without a comment thread. There is no limit on the number of polls an author can use in a given article, but they should be congruent with the context and not inflammatory.
Lorri also addresses some of the reasons why sites like HubPages no longer have comment threads. Sadly, it boils down to misdeeds. I have just done Lorri G. a good deed by driving traffic to her article instead of lodging some complaint against her content or noting an omission. It is just as incumbent upon readers to be responsible commenters as it is for writers to be responsible authors. The world is sinking in a quagmire of misinformation at this point in history and it will be up to truth-seekers to restore balance, integrity, and civility. We cannot do that by provoking others, issuing empty complaints or veil threats. We miss our comments now, but it is entirely plausible that if we don't return to our civil senses, we might find ourselves missing shared content altogether.
Unfortunately, I have seen many good authors opt to leave HubPages, which of course, is their right. I have even been personally contacted by more than one author and encouraged to move elsewhere because other online hosts would pay more for my quality content, allow comments, and offer other perks that HubPages does not. Puzzling is the fact that some of these authors opt to stay onboard with HubPages while enjoying better opportunities; it does make one wonder why they stick around despite their criticisms — perhaps the lure of "Community" or perhaps it's just too much trouble to remove content and place it elsewhere.
All Decks on Hand
I don't think bailing out is always the best answer. If you're like me, I've invested considerable time and energy in the Hub Community and "Community" is what HubPages has chosen to call it as well. However, we are a Community who can no longer communicate. In the community respect, HubPages is different than other online writing sites which can be fairly mechanical.
I miss hearing from my supporters, my friends in the Community, and fans who inspire me to keep writing. I miss constructive criticism. I miss the only incentives offered by HubPages and upon which it was founded, Community.
The best thing for those of you who agree with me to do, is keep pressing HubPages leadership for a return to the comment thread. Until then, I SEE you and I READ you. I just can't show you how much your content means to me in a comment until the world returns to normal.