Message Boards Forever Wounded Me

Back when I first started doing webcomics I thought that one of the essential things you needed was a message board for your site. So, after a couple of years, I implemented one into the site!

It was the single worst mistake of my career.

You can imagine why. The boards were quickly taken over by trolls and negative postings. Moderation privileges were out of my control because they were hosted by Keenspot, the webcomic collective I had spent years as a member of. Most of the feedback I was receiving about the comic, every day, was a chorus of “this sucks” and “this used to be a good comic” and many other things that made me begin to doubt if I was any good at this.

It was the worst during the span of months I lived in Texas, between 2006-2007. I was far away from everyone I knew and loved. My girlfriend at the time, whom I’d moved to Texas to be with, was having doubts about our relationship and was generally unsupportive of my choice to make webcomics (despite the fact that I was paying our rent). I was alone. My long-term relationship was on the rocks. And every single morning I’d wake up to message board posts that read, “Your comic sucks.”

Deleting that message board and never implementing another one was among the best choices I could make. Since I’ve stopped caring what message boards are saying about me, my spirit has been lighter, my work has felt better, and the fact that I’m still going after all this time without an official forum (and have successfully Kickstarted several books in that time) proves to me that I made the right choice. Sure, an online community may be a boon, but I have neither the energy nor the desire to moderate strangers on the internet.

Randall Munroe, the author of XKCD, summed it up the best when we were on a panel together many years ago. “When you enable a forum or comments on your comic, you’re allowing co-authors onto your site.” That statement floored me at the time, and I still think about it today.

Your comic, your site, is your presentation of yourself out into the wider world, and letting anyone but you dictate how you that is presented is, in my opinion, a grave mistake. If folks want to talk about you somewhere else, that’s their business and their freedom to do so. But your site, your comic, is not a group project. It is your statement, and no one else’s.