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Why comments have been turned off on the FM website. It’s the same reason others have done so.

13 January 2013

Summary:  The FM website has turned off its comments.  Please send your comments place comment on our posts at the FM Facebook page.  Here we discuss why the change.

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Websites deal with comments in many ways.   Some do not have comments (eg, Instapundit, Lawfare, and James Fallows at the Atlantic).  Some are heavily moderated (eg, Brad DeLong’s, Skeptical Science, RealClimate — not allowing or editing dissent).

The FM website team lacks the resources to moderate comments — and I have little interest in doing it. Responding to comments took to much time and didn’t generate traffic.

So please use the contact form, or email to Editor at FabiusMaximus.com (note the spam-protected format). Those of general interest will be posted (anonymously on requested) in the weekly Mailbag posts.

Here are some voices that express how I feel about this issue.

(1) Why I don’t have comments“, Seth Godin

I think comments are terrific, and they are the key attraction for some blogs and some bloggers. Not for me, though. First, I feel compelled to clarify or to answer every objection or to point out every flaw in reasoning. Second, it takes way too much of my time to even think about them, never mind curate them.

… I’m already itching to rewrite my traffic post below. So, given a choice between a blog with comments or no blog at all, I think I’d have to choose the latter.  So, bloggers who like comments, blog on. Commenters, feel free. But not here. Sorry.

(2)  Everett Bogue writes at Far Beyond the Stars, speaking at “Should You Allow Comments on Your Blog? Find Out What Two Remarkably Popular Bloggers Think“, ThinkTraffic

As commenting grew on my blog, I found that I was spending increasingly large amounts of time moderating comments. … Where we put our intention with our attention. Our attention is our most valuable commodity, and with unlimited channels competing for it, we’re in a dire situation if we don’t put some emphasis into where our attention falls.

(3)  “Why We Don’t Have Comments” at The Dish, Andrew Sullivan’s subscription website, 31 January 2014

Check them out below this National Journal piece on the still dominant presence of white men in American public life.

(4)  Ann Althouse turns off comments. Here’s her explanation why. She has turned them off, then on, then off again.

Will I ever open it again? Perhaps this is the first day of the new era on this blog. You won’t be able to see the comments that would have been written, but you will see how it changes me. And that is the new experiment.

(5) Good Comment, Bad Comment: Fixing a Broken System“, Bob Cohn, Folio, 2 August 2013:

Either commit to aggressive moderation or reconsider commenting’s utility.

(6) Why Right Wing Blogs Don’t Allow Comments“, My Direct Democracy

Little Green Footballs, which is the only of the five most trafficked right-wing blogs that allows comments (Instapundit, Powerline, Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt do not allow comments) showed why yesterday. Via Tbogg and lowkell, here are just a smattering of what has been written at Little Green Footballs since yesterday: …

{quite a list; must be read to be believed}

The calls for genocide and apartheid are flowing freely. There is a reason why blogs like Instapundit and Powerline do not allow comments, and why Time magazine would give its “Blog of the Year” award to Powerline even though Free Republic actually “broke” the CBS story. There is a concerted effort on the part of the right to prevent this sort of overt racism and fascism on the right from being given any sunshine. These, however, are not isolated comments. They are numerous and they are appearing on the second most trafficked right-wing blog in the country, and by far the largest right-wing blog that allows comments.

It’s time for the sun to shine in.

(7) Why I shut down comments“, Dan Conover, Xark

Long-time readers of Xark will have noticed a number of changes over the years, but I’d say none have been more profound than my relatively recent decision to remove the option to comment on posts here. It’s an indication of how the world has changed … here’s why I did it.

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The driver of most comments; grunting across the water hole.

I was an early pro-comment partisan in the news business … I believed then, as I believe now, that the ability to comment and share across horizontal, informal networks is the killer app for the 21st century. Which sounds nice.

Unfortunately, newspaper and other traditional-media websites, for all their hand-wringing concerns about libel and civility circa 2005, are typically the worst offenders when it comes to building quality comment cultures. We’ve taught users bad habits and turned comment sections into troll ghettos.

The thing we’re slow to understand is just how rapidly the culture surrounding the Web is adapting to the tools we use for creating and connecting to content. Because in the end, the quality of your comments is really a reflection of your online community, not the snazziness of your comment control dashboard. I think Xark’s experiment in creating a community that wasn’t focused on one topic was great while it lasted, but the new model of that kind of general engagement is a well-cultivated list of friends and follows on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

What really changed between 2005 and 2009 was that regular people left blogging for social media platforms that far better suited their purposes. Blogs, once known for short blurbs and links that fit the emerging TLDNR attention span of modern readers, became the place where actual writers went to compose longer thoughts.

… as my kids say, you have to get with the now. And now this is the place where I come to write. You’re free to talk about it someplace else.So if you like that, great. If you don’t, so what? It’s a big internet.

(8)  WashingtonPost.com: Panel on Ethics & Interactivity, 25 January 2006

Glenn Reynolds (Prof of Law, U TN; writes at Instapundit, no comments allowed):

Some examples of good user communities are Slate’s “The Fray” (where I started) and Slashdot. Both, however, are moderated.

My own sense is that it’s very hard to preserve civility — or even a good ratio of interestingness to flaming — on sites that have high traffic without a fair degree moderation. There’s some sort of a threshold after which things tend to break down into USENET-style flamewars, which some people like, but which I’m tired of. I find the comments on Atrios, Kos, or for that matter Little Green Footballs, to be tiresome.

… More speech is good. But, of course, there’s no obligation for anyone to provide you with more speech on their site.

I love open comments, just as I love free beer, free pizza, and other giveaway goods. But I’m not entitled to them. And those who partake, I think, owe a certain degree of civility to their hosts.

… To take an economic perspective, one problem with comments is that — like email lists and chatboards — they allow one person to draw on the time of others. This can quickly devolve into a tragedy of the commons.

Jeff Jarvis (writes at BuzzMachine):

But, Glenn, isn’t it also true that your audience misses out on the wisdom your audience brings to you?  … But I would love to see you find some way to be more interactive. Nick Denton and Gawker Media made that — appropriate for them — into a velvet-rope club where you have to be invited in. … I wonder whether isn’t some way to increase your interactivity. But then the question is: Do you want to?

Glenn Reynolds:

I don’t know. My blog is a spare-time activity for me, and the sort of thing you describe would be another commitment of time. The Washington Post can have editors for their comments; I’d have to do it myself, or hire someone.

I am annoyed, though, by the sense of entitlement that some people bring to this discussion. The barriers to entry in blogging are very low. You want to get your ideas out? You can start a blog in 15 minutes. So why do you feel entitled — and that’s not too strong a word for what I hear sometimes — to put your comments on someone else’s site?

To add to this, I think that although people often act as if bloggers avoid comments with which they disagree, I think that the real danger to bloggers comes from the commenters with whom they agree. I’ve seen a number of bloggers pushed toward more extreme views by their comment section. It’s seductive, I imagine — all these people talking about *your* ideas — and it seems to exert a pull.

Atrios at Eschaton comments on the panel:

Nothing like convening a panel to discuss how to deal with internet comments which consists of someone who doesn’t allow them, someone who doesn’t get any because nobody gives a shit what he writes, and someone who deletes them and clearly exaggerates the reasons why.

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