I just read a post on Julia Temlyn's blog about her removing the no-follow attribute on her blog comments, encouraging others to do the same. Personally, I think that's a really bad idea, and would encourage just the opposite. Here's my response, posted to her blog:
It's a nice thought in a general sense, but is missing a few points:
1. Having no follow on is automatic with most blog platforms for a reason: it cuts down on comment spam (despite what the post says, it does work to some degree). If you advertise your blog as allowing for link juice from comments, you'll get more worthless comments once people catch on. Comment spam is still relatively new compared to other forms, and with Google actively frowning upon paid links now for PR value, it gives people an even bigger reason to pursue it further.
(Additional thoughts: I don't know that I was clear enough about the paid links issue on Julia's blog, so I want to clarify. My point is that there's suddenly a really good reason for people to resort to additional blog spam for backlinks, especially if they find blogs offering the no-follow attribute turned off. If they can't buy links, they'll find places to get them for free. Also, in reference to an "expert" comment quoted in that post, there was a remark about how little comment spam we actually see. To assume that means it's not happening on the backend because of plugins and such is a faulty argument at best. If you have no traffic, perhaps you don't get much spam. But in my experience, my top three blogs get hit rather hard by it, and things like Akismet simply don't catch enough of it anymore, without me marking the first as spam. It gets beyond annoying, and I certainly wouldn't do anything to encourage more of that garbage, and more work just to be sure you don't have to see it when you read my posts. The fact of the matter is that comment spammers are getting much smarter, and spammed comments are looking a lot less like traditional spam in many cases. The more "link juice" you have to offer, the more likely your blog is on the popular side and getting hit harder with spam to begin with. Do you honestly feel like dealing with more of it??
2. The point of commenting should never be about getting that "link juice." It should be about interacting with other bloggers and building your network. Comments can also lead to a lot of direct traffic as-is, without the no-follow attribute turned off. I really don't see a need to encourage people to post comments just for the backlinks. If they're not commenting, something else is wrong, and you should try to fix it (maybe the posts aren't engaging enough, maybe you're not reaching the right people, etc.). Getting them to post for PR value is just ignoring the deeper problem.
3. As much as I can't stand a lot of what Google does, introducing the no-follow attribute was definitely not a bad thing in a general sense. Even if you want to look at it from the point of PR value and such, you're missing an important point: the more links you have on your page without no-follow turned on, the less value your page actually gives to each one. You essentially only have so much link juice to give. By giving it to every link, you just spread it thinner. The more comments, the thinner it gets. It also means if you've sold links on your site, those will get less value. If you have a blogroll, those will get less value, etc.
I hate to be a wet blanket, the feel good side of giving more value is really outweighed by the potential problems on this one. There are more downsides than benefits, in my opinion at least, and there are other ways to try to increase blog comments.
I'd like to hear what other writers and bloggers think about it after seeing both sides of the issue. So what do you think? Should you disable the no-follow attribute on your blog comments, or will you leave it alone?