Don’t Drive Angry

There seems to be a fair amount of talk recently about comments on weblogs. It’s interesting to me, the love hate relationship so many have with them. It’s such a simple idea that it’s hard to believe it is generating so much heated discussion and defensive behavior. The way I see it, the use of comments engages readers to participate, not by running off to their own corners of the net and writing up replies in their own blog, but by taking a knife out and whittling in their own thoughts right there on the trunk of the tree. Must we hole ourselves up like islands? I fully support others writing on their own blog space but does a reaction always warrant that?

The comment space is a whiteboard where others are able to expand on ideas or opinions on whatever topic is at hand. This is an understatement, of course, because as everyone that has ever visited a site with the ability to comment knows, they are often abused. With the first painful stroke of the word “first!” comments became a questionable commodity. This is where the debate over the necessity of this ability usually begins. No one wants to invite people into their home just to have their guests scribble all over the walls and trash the place. This of course begs the question, just who is it you are hanging out with in the first place?

A readers response to an article is entirely dependent on the article itself and the feelings it evokes within the reader. Are you writing opinion articles, thick with facetious banter, talking shit about this or that, and heavy handedly suggesting the person reading believe what it is you are writing? Then you should expect emotional responses in line with the way you are writing.

Blogs that contain this kind of heavy opinionated content are often quite popular because we all have opinions and we all like to challenge our beliefs. We are also, whether we want to admit it or not, well aware that the phones we use, the apps we put on them, and the font we choose to type our secrets in don’t make us any better or worse than anyone else. If you have opinions on the world of technology that leave you with feelings of anger or discontent I suggest you ask yourself why. Technology is fun, it is there to make life easier and its nice to stay informed but don’t let the things you consume in turn, consume you.

It’s only human to want to be heard but it’s your choice how you decide to say your piece. This may seem random, but I recently saw some ancient episode of the TV sitcom, Scrubs, and within the episode there was a bit where the main character stated, “Anger like this has a way of being passed on to whoever’s closest” and this couldn’t be more true. We all know information on the net is a virus but it’s not always just information that is passed, it’s the emotion embedded within it. Of course I am not suggesting that every blogger with an opinion has an angry one. It is the way in which we present our opinions  that dictates what kind of audience we will draw.

That said, yes, I could see how many bloggers out there may not want comments available on their site. It’s not always appropriate and many don’t have the time or patience to handle comments left by followers. Many users simply thrive on online conflict because it gives them a chance to have a voice and with comment systems they don’t have to reply in obscurity within their own space, they can contribute directly at the source. In life outside of the net is it not often encouraged to speak your mind directly to someone rather than behind their back?

My point is this, there is not a lot of ground for debate here. There is no right or wrong unless you are speaking of a specific site. The only other sites that may need some constraints in place with commenting are those with an overly large, broad audience. It comes down to the trust you have in the audience you have built. It’s a sad truth of the internet that to have a concrete opinion that draws a lot of attention, people will come out of the woodwork to prove you wrong. No one want’s to read comments full of aimless attacks. This backlash against comments feels harsh and unwarranted. The inherent dissonance and pride associated with writing on a comment-less blog feels like a trend like any other.

Two sites come to mind that provide good examples to these ideas, neither currently support comments and most likely never will. Shawn Blanc of, and Ben Brooks of The Brooks Review. The two stay closely affiliated with one another yet have two very different approaches in reporting news in the tech world. Ben has an outspoken presence and seems to have strong opinions and is not afraid to rub people the wrong way to get a point across. Shawn writes in a way that is more down to earth and considerate of a broad audience. I could not imagine comments on The Brooks Review would be a good idea, he draws an audience more passionate and opinionated, others like himself, and would lead to needless arguments that simply wander in circles of stubborn opinion., however, I feel would not suffer from having comments around at all. He has an open, trusting relationship with his readers that became even more apparent when he went full time with his writing for the site and started up a more personal podcast that is available to paying subscribers. Two different approaches to a similar end, and while a fair amount of the audience is shared, the two bring out much different reactions among their followers.

In my personal experience here on 50ft, having comments enabled has taught me a lot about the people that follow along with the site. I am not in it for affirmation or coddling my ego, any writer that accumulates a moderate audience gets enough of that in other ways. It gives me a direct link to gauge the reaction of a post or image which in turn, allows me to further develop myself as a writer and photographer while building a healthy audience. Sure, there is Twitter and other social networks that also provide me with this feedback but these are disconnected from the source and offer a different kind of response. I also love the sense of community comments here have built. They help readers feel part of what is going on rather than the usual disconnect that breeds an unfortunate sense of entitlement in so many. I’m not a newspaper, professor, or preacher.I am here to talk with you, not at you.

While often I find a blanket statements of simple praise, I also discover a number of small stories and opinions that agree or differ with what I have written in a space not for full length articles or tiny, restricting tweets, but one for that gut reaction or memory brought forth after reading or seeing something. I actually encourage readers to browse though comments as well as articles because of this. I enjoy being challenged and even if I do have a fragile conscious at times, I take anyones point of view at face value. The amazing thing is that the replies I find are often fairly constructive additions to the overall narrative of what I was discussing. Even if only one percent of readers pay any attention to what others have scribbled there on the wall it is still there for those who choose to read on and have a place to discover what others may think about the subject. If you’re not interested, simply don’t scroll down.

Maybe I am lucky, but I honestly feel that it has a lot to do with the mutual respect I try to encourage with the people that follow along here. I realize that a lot of what I do is simply sharing photographs and musings on life, photography and the occasional article such as this but still. Out of the 32,000 some odd visitors that currently graze here each month I feel fiftyfootshadows makes for a humble exception to the mentality that comments are for axe wielding crazies trying to hack their way through the forest rather than stop and admire the grace and power of opinion the net gives us.

It’s really not as complex and dramatic as many are making it out to be because it really does simply come down to what works best for different voices online and does not warrant any drama. Who knows, one day I may change my mind here on 50ft. I did shut off all comments and even the dates on entries over on my not updated enough side project, You Disappear because they felt in the way with that project. If I feel they get in the way of the bigger picture here then I wont hesitate to pull the plug but until then, lets keep things civilized, shall we?


  1. Matt - January 5, 2012 at 9:36 pm


    No, but really, I agree with what you have to say. Another thing to consider is that Shawn and Ben like to say they prefer a person wishing to comment go write a post on his own site and link to it. However, as common as blogs and personal sites may be these days, they aren’t for everyone and a given person who may have a valid comment very likely does not have a nicely set up or well-read blog like Shawn/Ben do to go and reply. That sentiment always rubbed me as a bit smug; not intentionally so, but as if they were saying the only good way to discourse with them is to have the time to manage and maintain a site like they do.

    They also like to suggest Twitter, but we all know the limitations of a discussion there.

    So, I think you make a good point – it should be on a per-site basis as there is no correct answer and it very much depends on the writer/audience. Thanks for keeping your comments on and the beautiful work coming!

  2. Neil - January 5, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    The worst thing I read recently was on this photography blog where someone had posted pictures he’d taken with his Leica M9, some complete idiot posts in the comments that all of the pictures bar 1 or maybe 2 weren’t worthy of a Leica and they should not be posted. As if the guy didn’t deserve to own the camera or something because he wasn’t Cartier-Bresson, that really angered me and I had to reply to it as I took exception to it. Most of the time though I tend not to say anything or get involved, people get far too obsessed with being right and having the last word nowadays and it’s really quite dull.

    I respect people who take the time to deliver content for the web and long may it continue.

  3. Jorge Quinteros - January 6, 2012 at 1:24 am

    So one of the benefits of having comments on a site is that users don’t necessarily have to have a site of their own in order to connect with you.

    After not having comments on my site for almost 3 years, I can’t say that miss them because I agree with wholeheartedly with what Matt Gemmell follow-up on what he’s noticed ever since he disabled them on his site, which is: “I receive far more thoughtful, considered email responses (and more article-related email in general).”

    Your site must be only one that I actually read through the comments intently as much as the actual article. Like you said, there’s no right or wrong on what one chooses. I’m all in support for a healthy discussion to generated around a topic one’s written about but I’m even more for receiving personal emails from people.

  4. john - January 6, 2012 at 3:39 am

    Jorge, I also read that article, among many others recently, and it was an interesting point to bring up. I’m not sure how much comments really effect incoming mails and see his uptick in nice email as a fairly obvious response and its great that it worked for him. Those willing to take the time to write a mail are often going to have more constructive things to say.

    Again though, I have to say that I get a lot of email as it is, more than I have time to answer as often or thoughtfully as I would like. There is plenty of room for both to exist because they are for different needs. Of course, this leaves us back at my main point, to each his own.

  5. john - January 6, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Another thought I had that didn’t make into the write up… Tumblr is a bit of an exception in this space because it allows for “like/love” or a reblog which, in turn, allows you the chance to share your opinion both in line with the original article (assuming a list of “notes” is activated on the pages design) as well as in the commenters own personal space in one fell swoop. Not as tidy or personal and often feels sloppy but it’s an interesting take on the idea none the less.

  6. Mike - January 8, 2012 at 6:15 am

    I think your site suits comments, John. It feels like a conversation among friends, and as it is not setting out to be controversial, doesn’t attract those ‘axe-wielding maniacs’. I think we all benefit from the discourse here.

    The difference with a site like Ben Brooks’s is that he is (IMHO) cultivating an abrasive online personality. Controversy generates page views, right?

    Anyway, I rarely comment, but I do enjoy dipping into the conversation occasionally. I think having comments on your site helps foster a sense of community.

  7. Rasto - January 9, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    a little bit off-topic … what about making that headline picture a wallpaper? it would look awesome (;

    btw, thanks for all pictures

  8. John Carey on sane thinking about commenting online « Greg Mathes - May 13, 2012 at 8:43 am

    […] […]

Leave A Reply

To whom it may concern,



• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
• Share with friends.
• Send me a quick mail if you are interested in using an image for commercial or personal use other than wallpaper.


• Post desktops elsewhere online.
• Share links directly to images.
• Pass them around in mass.
• Make prints.
• Use images for web banners or graphics. (send a quick email to ask, I’m pretty easy going about this with permission.)
• Use them in commercial work.

If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J


By downloading any content from you agree to the following terms:

All of the images contained within this website,, are property of, John Carey unless otherwise posted. The images are distributed as freeware but they are available for personal use only on your personal computer, tablet, or smartphone as your wallpaper image. Any use of these images for any purpose other than this is a violation of these terms and anyone found using said images will be asked to either compensate the creator for doing so or be asked to stop using them immediately.

I ask that you refrain from using any images found on to create physically printed material of any kind. This includes posters, photographic prints, fliers, etc. Under no circumstances may you make a physical reproduction without written permission.

These rules also apply for any artwork or imagery submitted and shown within this site which was created by an artist aside from myself. Any images submitted and shared as wallpapers are the property of the artist who created them and in the same manner as my images, you are asked to receive permission before using them in any way aside from their intended use. Any use of these images outside of for your own personal use as a desktop wallpaper image is prohibited without permission from the author of the image. Commercial licensing is available upon request. Please write with any inquiries.

When sharing images via your personal blogs I kindly ask that you link back directly to either the post the image was taken from or the base of the website at and give a credit to Do not re-post full resolution desktop images anywhere without permission. If you would like to use an image for your blog background or something of the sort simply write to ask first. Support the artwork you admire! Also, it is greatly appreciated if you do NOT link directly to the zip files. This is more or less the same as re-posting them as it circumvents the tiny bit of support I ask of you which is to simply link back to the original post for others to enjoy the site.

It’s not fair to artists if you do not credit their work and link back to the original content creator. It is theft plain and simple and blogs that attempt to somehow be mysterious by not giving credit to the creators are simply hurting the artistic community as a whole. If you love it so much then please, support it! The artistic community on the Internet is based on trust. Without trust then what do we have? are you going to be one of the responsible users out there or will you be among the bottom feeders, stealing content and passing it off as your own to make a quick buck in ad sales.

Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

John Carey (curator, owner)