Conor’s latest post is something of a paradox…

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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161 Responses

  1. Avatar Glyph says:

    Heh. I tried to slip one on Conor’s post while they were still open, but wasn’t quick enough.

    So here’s the thing: I get where he’s coming from. I have severely curtailed (or maybe a better word, is I have carefully tailored) my own comment participation, for some of the same reasons: it is incredibly time-consuming to use comments to their best, fullest capacity (that is: carefully read a single comment, carefully consider its content, then carefully respond; then rinse and repeat for all future response iterations and conversation comers).

    And I do experience a fair amount of psychological stress when communications go sideways (as they inevitably do some portion of the time, even when everyone is acting with the best of intentions), not to mention that certain threads and topics make some people I otherwise like and respect act like complete jerks.

    And at some point I asked myself if getting upset, and watching people act like complete jerks (and I have no doubt people have observed the same of me) was what I wanted out of my free time; or if I got enough of that IRL. At some future point I may wade back in, but it’ll have to be when I have way more free time than I do right now.

    IOW, the problem is not “comment sections” – the problem is people, discussing hot-button topics. There’s a reason you generally avoid talking politics or religion at holiday dinners – or the corner bar – but for some reason we expect comment sections to be different? The only thing that makes them worse is our jackassery gets immortalized in pixels, instead of hopefully forgiven/forgotten by the next holiday meal (or round).Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

      To clarify – I ultimately still see comments sections as a net positive, for reasons others will doubtless outline elsewhere below. I would not want comments to go away; on many sites, they are the best part. But I do get Conor’s frustration with them; I guess I’d say it is, as always, up to individual commenters how to utilize comments, to best get what they want from them.

      Be the change you want to see in the comments.Report

    • Avatar kenB in reply to Glyph says:

      Besides what’s been mentioned, I can think of a few other negatives:

      * Discussions in the comments section move fast — if you take the time to think through a question and write up a cogent response, most people will have moved on to another topic by the time you manage to post it. So extensive thought is really not rewarded — the people who have ready-made answers for every topic will get more attention and tend to dominate the conversations.

      * The practical lifespan of a comment is much shorter than that of a blog post, so it doesn’t justify putting a lot of effort for that reason as well.

      * Front-pagers are selected, but comments are open to all comers (at most sites, anyway) — even leaving aside the nastiness, the sophistication level of the discussion will tend to head down to the least common denominator, especially because unsophisticated commenters may not be aware of their lack of sophistication.

      That said, I don’t think the comments section at this site should be done away with — there’s plenty of value here too, and many of the blog posts are designed to elicit conversation. It’s just a matter of coming into it with the appropriate expectations.Report

      • Avatar kenB in reply to kenB says:

        Oops, was meant to be a standalone comment. More evidence that commenters suck.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to kenB says:

        Discussions in the comments section move fast — if you take the time to think through a question and write up a cogent response, most people will have moved on to another topic by the time you manage to post it. So extensive thought is really not rewarded — the people who have ready-made answers for every topic will get more attention and tend to dominate the conversations.

        This is my greatest frustration with comments. We all have jobs & lives & sometimes you have to let the discussion go for hours or days at a time.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to kenB says:

        Discussions in the comments section move fast — if you take the time to think through a question and write up a cogent response, most people will have moved on to another topic by the time you manage to post it.

        A portion of this problem is the typical ways that comment sections are organized. The worst of the lot are, IMO, the newspapers: hundreds or thousands of comments in a flat organization, sorted by submission time in one direction or the other. At the other end of the spectrum is probably Slashdot, with deep nesting, comment hiding, and its entire comment rating scheme (moderation, meta-moderation, etc). No one seems to have come up with a model for sorting things out so that it’s possible to easily have a slower discussion within the flood of fast comments. Granted, it’s not easy to have the ability to make some particular thread a first-class object for a subgroup of users. That is, there are times when I don’t want to monitor the site, I don’t want to skim the entire comment thread, I want to keep track of a very particular subset of the comments.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to kenB says:

        Discussions in the comments section move fast — if you take the time to think through a question and write up a cogent response, most people will have moved on to another topic by the time you manage to post it

        This is my greatest frustration with comments. We all have jobs & lives & sometimes you have to let the discussion go for hours or days at a time.

        (cough, cough) mumble mumble submit a guest post mumble (cough, cough)Report

  2. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Anything worth saying is worth defending.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Yeah, that’s how I feel about it too. The writer of an OP doesn’t need to defend their claims against all criticisms (since some of them will lack enough substance to attribute to the commenter an understanding of the initial argument or view) but intellectual honesty requires that you defend it against legitimate challenges or disagreements, where what constitutes legitimate is determined by the writer’s subjective considerations or (sometimes) a preponderance of evidence.Report

  3. Avatar Chris says:

    This paper, which was published this week, seems relevant:

    ABSTRACT
    How does controversy affect conversation? Five studies using both field and laboratory data address this question. Contrary to popular belief, controversial things are not necessarily more likely to be discussed. Controversy increases likelihood of discussion at low levels, but beyond a moderate level of controversy, additional controversy actually decreases likelihood of discussion. The controversy-conversation relationship is driven by two countervailing processes. Controversy increases interest (which increases likelihood of discussion) but simultaneously increases discomfort (which decreases likelihood of discussion). Contextual factors such as anonymity and whether people are talking to friends or strangers moderate the controversy-conversation relationship by impacting these component processes. Our framework sheds light on how, when, and why controversy affects whether or not things are discussed.

    Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to Chris says:

      Before I read the paper…

      Controversy increases interest (which increases likelihood of discussion) but simultaneously increases discomfort (which decreases likelihood of discussion).

      … these to factors seem to feed very different behavioral profiles.

      That is, on the muddled middle o’ people, this is a net null effect. On the margins, it provides a huge incentive for people who are vested in an issue and who are inured to discomfort, and it provides a disincentive for people who are interested in complex issues but aren’t vested particularly in a strong position, and who are highly susceptible to discomfort.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Patrick says:

        Hey Pat, sorry, I just saw this.

        I assume that future research based on this study will look at things like the affect of individual differences on these factors. It seems like an interesting first pass, though.Report

  4. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Look, if Conor wants to be a fascist, I say let him be a fascist. Stopping him from being a fascist would be pretty socialist of us. And it would make us just like the left/right/center (whichever you prefer).

    Also, Nazis.Report

  5. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    I understand all of Conor’s points.

    Against those points needs to be weighed the purpose of one’s participation on a blog. If it is to spark conversation, discussion, or even just reflection on an argument/ideas, then disallowing discussion seems to undermine that. The post seems to then stand as a lecture, pontification, a one-way communication against which the reader cannot push back, or for which s/he cannot ask for clarification or expansion.The post becomes the authoritative voice talking at the reader, instead of with the reader.

    I understand Conor’s concerns, but I think the gains he seeks are outweighed by the costs. Unless, that is, one’s goal is to pontificate without push back, to avoid the stress of having one’s arguments challenged. Then disallowing comments is the best means to achieve the goal.

    I intend no suggestion or implication that this is in fact Conor’s goal. I take his reasons at face value and believe them. I just believe the reasons are insufficient to justify closing down comments if the author is in fact interested in stimulating discussion of certain issues/arguments/ideas, because in the context of that goal disallowing comments produces more cost than benefit, and that the only way one gets to a positive cost/benefit balance is if one’s goal is to pontificate without being challenged. If that’s not Conor’s goal, I think he’s miscalculated.

    And there’s no doubt that if many other authors followed Conor’s lead, the League (or whatever we are to call it now) would be more radically changed in its character than by any–any–prior element of its evolution to date. I wouldn’t call on the principals to demand Conor open his posts up to comment, but they would certainly be justified in having a discussion about whether it’s in keeping with their vision for the League, and/or how many “no comment” authors they could carry without the place changing in ways they don’t want. That’s a purely internal affair, of course (although unless and until they cut off all commenting there’s nothing to stop us outsiders from chiming in with our unsolicited and perhaps unwanted opinions!).

    I do think there is justification for monitoring comments more rigorously than the League does. Not that the League necessarily “ought” to do so; just that the League could monitor more rigorously than it does (if the principals were inclined to bear the cost of doing so), and be justified by the purpose of encouraging reasoned debate. At some point, of course, more rigorous monitoring shades over into censorship and suppression of contrary opinion, but the League could go quite a ways before they approached that line, I think.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      Against my better wisdom, I’m going to chime in here…

      “the League (or whatever we are to call it now)”

      Ordinary Times! Tell all your friends!

      “I wouldn’t call on the principals to demand Conor open his posts up to comment”

      That’s not going to happen, and fwiw I would oppose it if it were brought up in discussions. Part of the reason the League works is that we try to bring on quality writers and then allow them to follow whatever idea or muse suits their fancy. So long as they don’t embarrass the site, we’re pretty open to them soaring or crashing as they do so. I wouldn’t tell Connor how to run his comments section any more than I would tell Russell to stop writing about being homosexual, or Tim to not write social conservative arguments.

      “I do think there is justification for monitoring comments more rigorously than the League does. Not that the League necessarily “ought” to do so; just that the League could monitor more rigorously than it does (if the principals were inclined to bear the cost of doing so), and be justified by the purpose of encouraging reasoned debate. “

      Four things:

      1. The phrase “if the principals were inclined to bear the cost of doing so” carries a lot of weight in reality. I can’t tell you how many things I would rather do during the day than listen to arguments between two commenters about who is being the real troll so that I could make some kind of official decision on the matter. I speak for myself here, but I’m pretty sure the other eds feel exactly the same way.

      2. As one of the guys who gets regular emails from commenters complaining about other commenters, let me assure you that the lines everyone draws as to what are good reasoned arguments and what are trolling are all over the map. We could spend the next year adjusting and readjusting those lines as they pertain to site policy, and the level of overall satisfaction about who is allowed to say what they say, who is asked to rephrase, and who is asked to leave would be pretty much exactly where it is right now.

      3. It’s true that a lot of people come here for reasonable debate, but it’s also true that those people are in a very small minority. I still love our comments section, despite Conor’s arguments. For me our commentariate and its willingness to debate one another (usually) in good faith truly helps define this site’s soul, as well as the community. But the vast, vast majority of our readers come hear to read our writers and never comment at all.

      In fact, you’ve probably noticed that we have more posts that aren’t set up to be arguments these days as ones that do. JB, Pat, Glyph, Mike S., and Sam are three regular contributors off the top of my head that are favorites round here but almost never put up a post that looks to have a political argument.

      And while the debating-issue posts do get the most comments, they don’t actually get the most readers. If you look at all of our most popular posts, they’re mostly things that have nothing to do with politics or arguments. In fact, I can already tell you what post will be read more than any other in the upcoming month of October: Sam’s post about making chili.

      4. As Erik oft reminds, “don’t feed the trolls” is really good advice that no one takes to heart. In fact, just watch the next time you see a commenter that most people consider a troll makes a comment. You’ll see that comment followed the longest threads in that post as the very people who complain about that troll engage him or her endlessly. So I say now to everyone here what I always say in these posts: If you think someone isn’t worth engaging, then don’t.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        The phrase “if the principals were inclined to bear the cost of doing so” carries a lot of weight in reality.

        I almost added a footnote to that effect. If by any chance I seemed to imply the cost wasn’t high, then I wasn’t sufficiently clear.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I should probably have said, but that was all more a reply to everyone than it was a reply to you, James. I just used your post to riff on.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I will confess that I tend to consider comments first and foremost when assessing the success of one of my pots. I never considered looking at page views… probably because I came to this site as a commenter at which time I was not privy to such data. That is probably a very skewed way of looking at things.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I like Ordinary Times.
        It abbreviates nicely: OT.
        (offtopic in other words)Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Kim – I had never noticed that before, but now that you point it out I agree with you.

        I don’t think Off Topic ever came up as a suggestion during the rename, but it would be a pretty perfect name for this place.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        It also stands for Overtime, which also fits.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Orange troll (ate)

        Organic turnip (and made)

        Outrageous trumpet (sounds that were not)

        Overly tempting.

        Ordinary Times.

        Comment art included.Report

      • Avatar Dick Cheney in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        “the League (or whatever we are to call it now)”

        Ordinary Times! Tell all your friends!

        My years in Southern California incline me to call it “the OT.”Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        JB, Pat, Glyph, Mike S., and Sam are three regular contributors off the top of my head that are favorites round here but almost never put up a post that looks to have a political argument.

        Speaking just for myself, in my case it’s typical that I find the entrenched positions on most hot-button issues to be… ah… well… let’s say “requiring an awful lot of framework acceptance.”

        Witness the gun symposium, there were a lot of great posts and some pretty good discussions (all things considered, I’m quite pleased with how that turned out), and I disagreed with pretty much everybody to some extent. There have been other collected posts where in the same week I’ve had somebody on the Right accuse me of being a (relatively clueless) statist while on the same topic, one post over, I’ve got someone on the Left accusing me of being at best an apologist.

        I mean, I’d write more political posts if all you dumbasses would just realize that I’m right all the time…Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I wouldn’t tell Connor how to run his comments section any more than I would tell Russell to stop writing about being homosexual, or Tim to not write social conservative arguments.

        Good analogy, except for one crucial difference: Conor doesn’t have a comments section.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      Conor’s a bit weak on his Zarathustra.

      I want to have goblins about me, for I am courageous. The courage which scares away ghosts, creates for itself goblins—it wants to laugh.

      Everyone ought to be responsible for cleaning up their own comments section. But promoting this meta about no-comments — to the front page? Take it down. It’s just stinking up the joint, far worse than any stupid comment.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Eh, I think he’s got a point.

        And it’s certainly always the case that anybody who wants to reply to any one of the posters here – even Conor with the closed comments – can submit a guest post. So it’s not like you can’t still have a conversation if you don’t want one.

        You just can’t have a threaded conversation like this one.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

        My opinion is my own. Whether it’s a valid point is largely irrelevant. In my opinion, tolerating Meta on the front page is the surest sign of a blog’s growing irrelevance.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

        But posts are a lot longer than comments.
        Unless you’re fine with “off-the-cuff” style comments.

        … in which case, I may have a few to make, from time to time.Report

  6. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    My step-aunt makes $74/hr on the computer. She has been laid off for 8 months but last month her pay was $7131 just working on the computer for a few hours!Report

  7. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I’m of two minds on this.

    Positive: Some of the more in-depth and interesting conversations have been in the Internet comments sections of sites like this one for the past few years. I might not agree with James H and Roger but they can at least write full paragraphs and argue strongly for their positions and beliefs.

    Negative: There is a general tendency for the Internet comment sections at some places to be nothing about click-bait and trolling and snark.

    It seems to depend on the kind of readership a site has or wants to cultivate. You can find good comments here and on Lawyer, Guns, and Money, or The Atlantic and some other places. You generally find nothing but snark at the Gawker empire. Mother Jones is pretty good but they have some regular trolls especially Kevin Drum. Think Progress is a bit too much of a hive mind.
    I think it depends on how seriously people want to moderate their comments sections.Report

  8. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I generally dislike the “Someone or Something is Wrong on the Internet” symptom though and many sites do develop cultures where there is a very strong hidebound Orthodoxy about what is right and what is wrong. I think Ordinary Times comes more from a place of open inquiry and we have a fair balance of left, centrist, libertarian, and conservatives here.

    Memes annoy me because they tend to be all about “someone is wrong on the Internet”Report

  9. Avatar NewDealer says:

    That being said I think that Conor’s decision not to have a comments section on posts to this community go a bit against the culture and spirit of Ordinary Times. James Fallow at the Atlantic does not allow comments but I see the Atlantic as a traditional magazine on-line. The Atlantic cannot publish every letter to the editor. This site is more of a conversation or debating hall to me.

    Deeply personal posts about parenting are probably okay to leave comment free. Posts on policy and other issues less so. There are sites like narratively that are dedicated to essays without comments.Report

  10. Avatar j r says:

    I don’t want to argue anyone out of a desire to dispense with comments, but personally I have almost no desire to read any blog that doesn’t allow for commenting. What’s the point? On almost any topic there is likely someone writing more knowledgeably in a newspaper or magazine. I read blogs for the interactive element.

    I judge bloggers a lot by how, and if, they interact with their commenters. If the writer makes a factual or conceptual error and someone points it out in the comments, does the writer acknowledge it? If someone makes a really good counter-argument to the writer’s opinion, does the writer engage or dismiss it? These are all clues that tell me how serious to take this person and whether I should spend some of the limited time that I have reading what he or she is writing.

    As for snark, I tend to find that the level of snark found in the comments is directly related to the level of snark found on the blog.Report

  11. As somebody whose blog almost never gets any comments I think banning comments is kind of silly. I last got one comment on 15 September and the last one before that was 1 September so I average one every two weeks or one every 15 or so posts. Really, if somebody moves over the line from disagreement to a tone considered inappropriate by the poster then he can just temporarily or permanently ban the commentator. A better policy to prevent things from getting out of hand would be to just ban pseudonyms and require people to post under their real names. But, this is difficult to enforce. However, if you really want no comments the way to go is to write about things like Africa that are of no interest to 99.99999%+ people on the internet. If he did that he wouldn’t have to ban comments he would simply get none.Report

  12. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    Personally, I think that the League has one of the best comment sections on the web. Most places, I actively avoid the comments section, but here, it’s almost always worth reading and participating in. If others here agree (and it sounds like they do, judging from the tenor of the comments above), I would welcome some speculation as to why this is. What allows the Leagues comment section to attain what success it does, when other sites’ comments aren’t worth reading?Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Dan Miller says:

      I agree, also TNC’s blog.

      They share three things in common: moderation, a core of fans who engage and become friends, and a relatively well-educated audience. While dissenting opinions are welcomed, rudeness, personal attacks, etc. are discouraged. In both places, you don’t have to be an insider to participate, but you can become a ‘member of the club’ by repeated participation and working to live up to the community standards.

      Slate, salon, daily beast, NYT, WaPo, and on and on fail to have a) conversation, b) discouraging abusive tone, and c) post writer’s engaging with readers.Report

    • Avatar Cathy in reply to Dan Miller says:

      As someone who almost always reads and almost never comments, I agree with this.

      Actually, the reason I read OT is because of the comments. If every poster turned them off I would probably read much less frequently. The great (and sadly rare) thing about OT is that it has a (mostly) civil discourse between people of opposite, or at least divergent, views. That is not something I can get from most other sources, and it always makes me feel better to see points with which I disagree articulated by people who a) aren’t screaming at the other side, and b) have real facts on which to base their views. Makes me a bit more hopeful about things.

      I don’t comment myself generally because of the fast-moving nature of it; by the time I get to the post, read it, and then read the comments, whatever I had a mind to say has already been said, frequently better than I would have phrased it myself.Report

  13. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I’m going to argue that its not really a proper blog without a comments sections. Blogs are supposed to be an interactive experience. In a proper blog, you read the post and than discuss it. Like any conversation or debate, discussions are subject to hijacking or people not taking them seriously but that doesn’t mean its not worth having the conversation. A blog post without a comments section is basically nothing more than a magazine article or editorial and even then you had the option of writing to the editor.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I agree with this sentiment so far as it goes — a blog is incomplete without comments and the back-and-forth that they engender. A begged question is whether what we want is a blog or an online magazine, or something partway in between them. I don’t see extensive comments sections (at least not readily available) at The Dish or Slate or Quartz.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Before their reboot, Slate had an extensive comment section at the bottom of articles. The quality varied but massively popular sites, well massively popular by internet standards, tend to have lower quality comments than sites like Ordinary Times because we have a smaller but more dedicated and intelligent following.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Burt Likko says:

        The Dish publishes so many reader emails that it may as well have a comment section.Report

  14. Avatar Kazzy says:

    The only issue I see with Conor being the only one to do this is that it risks some issues with perception. Not that I ever really do participate in the comments sections on ESPN.com, I do find it irksome that two of their biggest writers (Simmons and Reilly) do not have a comments section. Especially since both are prone to making controversial and/or provocative comments. Allowing them to write unchallenged while no other writer on the site is so situated is problematic to me. I actually wrote to their ombudsman and got my letter published, though I don’t remember exactly what s/he said in response (I think it was some sort of middle road).

    So, intentional or not, Conor turning off the comments risks creating a perception that his comments are immune or protected from criticism or pushback while the rest of us are not.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

      That’s funny, I have almost the opposite reaction. When I go to my favorite blogs, I almost never read the comments sections. I can’t tell you anything about TNC’s commenters, except that he obviously values them and their feedback. Same with Josh Marshall, Alyssa, Andy Greenwald, Mallory Ortberg, or Marc Stein. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever read ANY comments from any of those people’s blogs.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        People want different things from comments sections. I read Balloon Juice everyday but almost never go into the comments unless its a food post. Comments at BJ are mostly echo chamber but they seem comfortable with that. That is their choice and given the number of comments and comment system it would be difficult to change. But every blog doesn’t have to be a conversation, that just happens to be a real strength here. It is fine for a blog to just be about the bloggers with the comments not really adding a lot of value. As mentioned in other places TNC’s comments are generally good and erudite. His place is one of the few where i’ve actually learned stuff in the comments section, but he polices the comments.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Horses for courses. Crooked Timber, must-read comment section.

        In a sense, the blog is only as good as its comments. Why has Twitter taken off and The Verge so far ahead of everyone else in its categories? Why are all the sites rated high on Technorati all comment-oriented? The old blogopundit is irrelevant. If you can write, great. If you can write and defend yourself, greater. If you write and your commenters are as smart as you are, and you’ve actually learned something — so much the better.

        Nobody with any sense cuts his own hair or edits his own books. If blogs are to remain relevant, there must be some give-and-take. The name of Nietzche has been invoked, in vain I think. This is a man who believed the value of many men and books rests solely on their faculty for compelling all to speak out the most hidden and intimate things. Dropping some Heavy Meta is not a substitute for having something to say.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        First, Zarathustra is one of the most heavy meta’s ever written. Hell, the passage you quote earlier is basically saying as much (he’s up on his mountain, spewing aphorisms — the braveness is in the spewing). It is subtitled A book for all and none!

        The quote you just gave us continues,

        They are looseners of tongues and crowbars to open the most stubborn teeth. Many events and misdeeds which are apparently only sent as a curse to mankind possess this value and utility.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Events and misdeeds are the bread of life to a blog of any substance.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @tod-kelly

        I should make clear: I don’t really ever read ESPN’s comments sections. They’re just a smidge above YouTube. But sometimes I’ll read something by the aforementioned writers and think, “Damn, that is really ridiculous,” and go to make a comment, only to find that I can’t. I can do that for every other writer on the site (or at least every other article I read), but not them. It smacks of them being protected from criticism in a way that their colleagues are not. I can’t speak to what goes on behind the scenes to make that the case, only to how it is perceived by this particular reader.

        And, to be clear, I am not saying that Conor has either asked for or receives special protection or treatment. As I understand it, we are all free to turn comments on or off as we please. I’m speaking to the perception of an outsider.Report

  15. Avatar Chris says:

    The anonymity thing comes up constantly in reference to blogs. I remember very clearly having a long discussion about this at my blog, and at Pharyngula (before it became Richard Dawkins-lite) circa winter 2005, and that was probably the bazillionth such discussion on blogs by then.

    Plenty of the most despicable commenters I’ve seen on the internet used their real names. Most of the anonymous people on sites like this seem to do just fine. Anonymity is a red herring, and I don’t just say that because I’m anonymous*. The real problem is assholes, and you’re going to find them anywhere discussions that aren’t carefully moderated, or in which participation isn’t carefully controlled, are being held, because assholes are everywhere and they like to talk**.

    *Hell, it’s not that difficult to figure out who I am anyway (it was a poorly kept secret back when I was a D-list science blogger), I’m just not sure why anyone would care. Hell, if you asked me I’d probably tell you (a couple people here have, and I did).
    **Yeah, I’m one, I know.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

      I don’t use my real name only because I don’t want people in the professional world to be able to Google my real name and have all this stuff pop up. There are too many ways to get fucked by that and too few (if any) for it to benefit me. But I’ve given enough away that anyone who knows me in real life would immediately figure out who I am and anyone who is paying attention could probably poke around and find me.

      There aren’t many male preschool teachers who double as directors of diversity at independent schools in Orange County, NY. I’d actually venture to guess that I’m the only one.

      But, yea, I don’t want parents and/or colleagues to be able to find me.Report

  16. I just want to point out that if we were on this list, we would be #1. We’re in the 11th grade, baby! Atlantic is #1 and they’re in the 10th (NYT is #2 and they’re in the 9th, next is Fox who is in the 8th). As a test, I used our posts on Redskins, Weiners, GOP scams, and welfare.

    Of course, getting a higher grade level is actually supposed to be a bad thing, as it means that you’re talkin’ too complicated.Report

  17. Avatar Damon says:

    I like comment sections. Quite often comments provide an opportunity to provide more detailed info on a subject that the community/OP author does not have/know. A recent example was about guns a while back where assault gun, assault rifle, magazine, clip, etc. were all discussed. Commentators who have very technical knowledge or are subject matter experts can disseminate good info to a wide group of people quickly. (Additionally, as it pertains to Slate, I enjoyed reading comments calling out MY’s economic posts for the crap they usually are :))

    But I also understand that often the desire to write something is not the same as to defend a point or a desire to engage in a conversation. While I think it diminishes things a bit not having comments, it’s your post. Do with it as you will.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Damon says:

      And that’s really the crux of it. Different people write for different reasons, each as different as the authors themselves. If they can’t get out of the process what they’re looking for, they should go elsewhere. We’ve accreted as many good writers here as we have, in part because there is that sort of flexibility of form to meet purpose.Report

  18. So I haven’t had a chance to see what everyone else has had to say. But this is a subject that Conor and I go back and forth about a lot in good-natured disagreement.

    This is the only site where I comment. At all. I do so because I find them generally enjoyable and well worth reading. I think they are an indispensable part of our community. Hell, I write a weekly feature that relies entirely on commenter participation to be worthwhile. All this despite having written a number of posts back when Blinded Trials was a separate sub-blog that generated vociferous and often deranged comments. (I think the only thread crazier than my chronic Lyme post or Rose’s circumcision post was the “Rush” thread back at “The 49th.”) I was once compared to Josef Mengele, I never tire of mentioning.

    I think the reason OT has a readable comment section is precisely because we take the time on a regular basis to talk behind the scenes about how far we allow things to go and take seriously the task of curating. And I respectfully dissent from Conor about the value of having it.Report

  19. To truth tell, when Conor stopped allowing comments (at one point calling commenters “dicks” (albeit as an acronym that spelled out his distaste for some of the people here)), I stopped reading his posts until this most recent one. (Not that that was or should have been a big loss to him.) And I believe his decision never to allow comments jives very poorly with what The Ordinary has become and has to offer. (I’m aware of Tod’s pointing out that most readers never comment; I do wonder if we know whether the readers who don’t comment read and enjoy (or not) the comments. In fact, I’d say probably half of the posts and comments I read I don’t comment on.)

    At the same time, I’m glad Conor wrote the post to explain his reasons. It was well-written and thoughtful, and although I don’t agree with it, I have a better appreciation of where he’s coming from. (Much better than his “dicks” comment allowed.) In particular, I share his concern about himself–echoed in Glyph’s first comment above–that sometimes it’s easy to get too caught up in comments. At my own blog, for example, although I welcome comments, I am usually at least a little flustered when I actually get one (hint: my single-digit readership means I rarely get any comments) and feel I have to acknowledge or respond to it. That, along with my thin skin, means that I wouldn’t be too pleased to have to manage comments.

    So, I will probably decline to read his posts in the future. Speaking for myself, there’s something of the dynamic of being spoken “at,” which Aitch mentions, that rubs me the wrong way. However, and having read the piece in question, I at least realize he has what he sincerely believes are good reasons, and that he arrived at those reasons after careful deliberation.Report

  20. After having read Conor’s McSweeney piece, I find myself more disdainful of his decision to disallow comments. Yes, trolls and assholes abound, but thus is part of the price of free speech, and free speech is vital for democracy. Shutting down speech because some use it poorly is intrinsically an anti-democratic act. It demonstrates an unwillingness to accept the costs of public debate, and so seeks to do away with public debate. It allows the self-proclaimed expert to exercise his/her voice without having to bear the unpleasantness of other voices. It is the act, if not if the autocrat, at least of the technocrat. Conceptually, the trek from “Why should I have to put up with hearing from those people?” to “those people should have no voice,” to “those people should have no say” may not involve any very large steps.

    Consider the implicit message in Conor’s decision–“You should listen to me, but I shall not listen to you. I will speak to you, but I will not engage in conversation with you.” Certainly I don’t think he intends this, but is this not the technique of the authoritarian?

    Conor, of course, is perfectly within his rights to do this, and I would defend his right to do so. But the more I reflect upon it the more I find it disturbing, a choice I cannot admire. I encourage him to continue reflecting on his decision.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you think you’re Zarathustra, your sense of self-worth might have outpaced reality.Report

    • Long ago, I used to feel not allowing comments was bad. But really, a site belongs to its owners. Not allowing comments doesn’t prevent conversation. It shifts it to other sites and other places should it merit it.

      That said, if this site did not allow comments, I’m not sure I could be a contributor here. I can only improve my thinking when I am called out for my weaknesses, which means comments have to be enabled.Report

      • Your second paragraph encapsulates my own sentiments perfectly.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Maybe one issue here is that when a Big Thinker doesn’t allow comments, he or she may be assuming that the only people worth responding to are other Big Thinkers.

        And in one sense, it’s true. Why would the views of a little teeny tiny thinker matter in the slightest?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        “That said, if this site did not allow comments, I’m not sure I could be a contributor here. I can only improve my thinking when I am called out for my weaknesses, which means comments have to be enabled.”

        Not only do I agree with this, but I will also say that you so clearly “walk the walk” on this. I always find it impressive how truly engaged you are in your own comments section and how willing you are to reflect, revisit, and revise your thoughts and positions.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        That said, if this site did not allow comments, I’m not sure I could be a contributor here. I can only improve my thinking when I am called out for my weaknesses, which means comments have to be enabled.

        Vikram, it’s a real pleasure to engage you here. It feels like you seriously consider other opinions, that you’re willing to change your mind. Your posts always feel like a starting place, and through comments, a journey ensues. That’s rare gift, and a wonder.Report

      • It’s really not magical. The key is to just not put that much thought into your original post. 🙂

        I’m less than half kidding. My attitude towards much of what I write is “this seems like it might be true.” At best, it’s “This is probably true.”

        Another blogger who seems to do this (explicitly) is Scott Adams over at the Dilbert blog. He doesn’t seem to believe half the things he writes.

        The pseudonym is also necessary, I think. If I were using my own name, I’d only want to post things I was sure of, which would probably be boring.Report

    • Avatar David Patrick in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      It is authoritarian and that is why I call it the act of a coward.Report

  21. I have a love-hate relationship with comments.

    On the one hand, before I write any post I ask myself what the “fallout” is likely to look like. A lot of potential posts get spiked during this phase because I quite simply don’t want to deal with it. I don’t want to provide a platform for particularly points of view that I know are going to be incorporated in the response. It’s daunting to police and can honestly be quite stressful. In part because, like Conor, I am not good at letting things go.

    There is a reason that prior to Ordinary Times I cross-posted to the Front Page with decreasing regularity. Now that it’s all a big soup, there are things that aren’t making it over from Hit Coffee that would have before. Some of this can be chalked up to Quality Control (so you’re maybe lucky not to see it) but there have definitely been cases where I have written more well-crafted comments that were actually meant to go over here but ended up over there instead*.

    On the other hand, all of that springs from a refusal, on my part, to shut off comments on almost any post of substance. It’s really unthinkable. As someone that rose through the ranks of commenters, it feels wrong to pull up that particular ladder. And further, I want (at least some) conversation and run the risk of losing interest altogether without it.

    The number of big sites where I participate regularly in comments is presently limited to one: this one. It was two as recently as six months ago, and I hope for it to expand past one again (I am accepting endorsements). But I hope nothing here suggests a failure of OrdTimes’ readership and commentariat, which is the best on all the Internet. This is ultimately about me and my own limitations.

    * – Of course, that cuts both ways. Hit Coffee has a commentariat that, in addition to being much smaller, is just very different from this place. And there are places I won’t go over there that I will go over here. I wrote a post on George Zimmerman a long while back that I didn’t post on the League FP or at Hit Coffee for the same reason but in the opposite direction (the two respective readerships have, generally speaking, very opposing views on the issue.Report

    • The number of big sites where I participate regularly in comments is presently limited to one: this one.

      Same here. That said, my prior blog only got on it’s solid D-list footing when I participated in comment threads on other people’s blogs. Before that, it was as if I was blogging out into space.

      That said, it’s been so long that many of the people who I blogged with earlier have gone away.Report

    • I do think if I had to manage a large number of comments, I would do so very poorly and defensively. As I’ve said elsewhere, I have very skin thin, especially about some things, and I don’t know how well I’d deal with the type of hectoring comments and casual disagreements that I, as a commenter, frequently bring up.Report

    • On the one hand, before I write any post I ask myself what the “fallout” is likely to look like.

      Having written a handful of guest posts now, I find myself thinking much the same thing. I have forced myself to live by two rules about guest posts: (1) try to time things so that I know that I will have time to read them, think about them, and post a response; and (2) don’t look at the comments at all for the first few hours after the post goes up. I’ve don okay on (1); (2) is harder.Report

      • More than the usual number of typos there… well, I’m sitting out on the deck with the beat-up old laptop this afternoon, and the keyboard is a bit sticky due to the dirt that has accumulated over the years. A small price to pay — this afternoon is the kind where you say, “Now this is why I love living in Colorado.”Report

  22. Avatar dexter says:

    I can’t speak for the other lurkers, but the reason I spend so much time on this site is because of the comment section.
    There are few sites that have good front pagers that I don’t read the comments because they are merely echo chambers that explode if something other than their dogma appears. The comments here are more thought out and, for the most part, try to make a point without snark. Even the trolls here are better than most sites.Report

  23. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The posts are what brought me to the site, but the comments are what got me to go to Las Vegas and give hugs to people.

    I love the writers here and daydream about being as good a writer as they are… but, man, the comments are what make this place “home”.Report

  24. Avatar David Patrick says:

    Disabling comments is the act of a coward, nothing more or less.Report

  25. Avatar James K says:

    While I can understand why some people close their comments (moderation can be exhausting), I feel the comment section is indispensable to Ordinary Times. Without it we couldn’t have the community we’ve built up. I wouldn’t even be a contributor here if it wasn’t for the comments, since I would have never gained the attention that resulted in me being invited. I doubt I’m the only contributor who can say that.Report

  26. Re: Conor’s recent “further thought”:

    This,

    After all, if comments sections were just about providing feedback to the author, I’d get a lot more email. If comments sections were just about having a spontaneous discussion with the author, I’d get a lot more tweets sent my way.

    doesn’t necessarily follow from the premises. Emails are a less efficient way to provide feedback than comments are. And twitter “conversations” strike me as more like exchanges of one-liners and slogans than the more fully developed ideas and conversations that on-site commenting can lead to.

    Conor suggests that he does respond to other blog posts that critique or address his ideas, and that’s well and good, as long as the given post is in a forum where he is likely to see it. I admit, if I were inclined to write a post discussing his ideas, it wouldn’t be too hard for me to email a link to him for him to address it, or as Patrick suggested above, write it as a guest post.

    I don’t think Conor is an elitist or a fascist, and I have never emailed him or others at OT for any reason (except once, to put up a guest post) and I don’t claim Conor has “put up some insurmountable wall to engaging with readers.” But I do think he has adopted a technique of engaging readers that puts him largely in control of the conversation. And I’ll have to admit, perhaps grudgingly, that’s not a bad thing, and none too different from the way I refuse to engage certain commenters or tend to back away from some discussions when they’re not going the way I’d like.

    Can I blame him? Well, maybe not. I’ve mentioned above how hard I would find managing comments. And he obviously has a right to set up his comments as he wishes and his fellow OT’ers allow. He and they are the ones putting in the hard labor of running the site, and I haven’t even donated a measly $5 to its upkeep. So my standing to complain isn’t too strong. And I do agree that onsite commenting functions in such a way as to prioritize commenter attention seeking, and maybe the energy I’m putting into wishing he reconsider is in some ways reminiscent of a virtual me jumping up and down saying, “hey, here I am, I have something important to say.”

    But at the same time, while prioritizing attention-seeking might be one of the functions of allowing onsite commentary, that is not the only function online commentary has, and to suggest (as was said in the linked-to twitter conversation) that “They’re commenting primarily to display themselves to others…not necessarily because they want to engage with you/ideas” is in a sense to indulge in a certain style of ad hominem, focusing on others’ motivations instead of what they say (which is, incidentally, what people who call him and “elitist” or “fascist” are also doing, so Conor’s not the only one who errs here).Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      The “It’s All About Conor” thing is kinda annoying.

      Comments are less about talking to the author than talking to each other.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

        I have to say, in a 100+ comment OTC post where no one seems to be saying, “that’s cool by me, I’ll just comment on other people’s posts,” I find this comment somewhat ironic.Report

      • I don’t quite get the irony here. (Not to be snarky, but I’m not sure I fully understand what’s ironic about it.)

        To Chris’s point, though, sometimes posts are occasions for sub-threads or discussions that are interesting in their own right and largely independent of the content of the OP. Maybe that’s actually an argument for Conor’s position, not necessarily for the attention-seeking part of the argument, but for his point that many comments don’t address the issues laid out in a post. And I suppose, if one likes tangents so much, one can try to do a guest post, the comments of which are free to meander into tangents. At the same time, though, such serendipity can’t always be planned for, and even (mostly) off-topic sub-threads are in an indirect way structured or kickstarted by the OP.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

        I dunno. I think I just find that the dismissal of Conor’s criticism of comment culture being “all about Conor” in an ongoing thread of commenters talking about Conor ad nauseum kind of ironic. Seriously, don’t you?

        Besides, it’s not like this is actually just a Connor issue. We’ve actually lost writers because of commenters/comment culture in the past, and we probably will lose more in the future.

        Look, I feel like I have enough commenting bonafides (came here as a commenter, am friends with so many commenters here now, obviously love hanging out in the comments section, etc.) that I hope I can get away with saying this without everyone freaking out:

        The decision to not read or engage with commenters? I don’t agree with Conor about that at all, obviously. But that being said, a whole hell of a lot of his criticisms in his post are pretty fishing dead on, even for this site, and I don’t see anyone discussing that.

        We (both the editorial team and all the writers) really do spend far more time that we should discussing how to run a site that meets our vision in great part because – sorry to say this – a lot of actual adults who come to this site and are incapable of acting like actual adults. If Conor allowed comments for his posts, every time he posted he’d have X number of people s**ting on him on a regular basis. That commenters see his decision to not have to deal with that as somehow undermining their rights (or whatever) kind of illustrates to what drives him crazy about comments sections.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

        “That commenters see his decision to not have to deal with that as somehow undermining their rights (or whatever) kind of illustrates to what drives him crazy about comments sections.”

        And I should probably add that the comment culture says that commenters crapping on Conor, Tim, Dennis, Elias, or whoever is just part of blogging and those guys should all just take it, but Conor’s crapping on commenters is somehow beyond the pale and should not stand.Report

      • Thanks for the clarification about the irony, Tod. I have a better sense of where you’re coming from. I just hadn’t understood what was being identified as ironic.

        And you’re right that this thread has become mostly a sounding board for why some commenters, myself included, would like Conor to reconsider his decision.* (And of course, some have been very uncivil, one person calling him a “coward.”) I think that focus is partly explained by some of us who from the beginning have been irritated by his decision but not having a venue (here) to express that irritation.

        Of course, such irritation in the grand scheme of things is one of those things that people like me ought to just accept, like proper adults should. It’s not exactly life or death, or even, as Conor points out in his further thought, an “insurmountable” bar against engagement, even if in my opinion it’s a bar that in practice discourages some potentially fruitful engagement. (And I would have kept shut about this, if the forum of this particular OTC post hadn’t been offered. I’m not one to send emails complaining about the site.)

        *However, I would argue, not exclusively a sounding board for that purpose. Some of us are addressing his actual arguments. Note Chris’s point in another comment above that disagreed with Conor’s point about the way anonymity functions, and my own claim that email exchanges and twitter feeds are less efficient than onsite commenting.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Tod, I see your point, but let’s lay out Conor’s arguments:

        1.) Conor doesn’t like the way commenting makes him feel, or specifically, the way it makes him behave — the “someone’s wrong on the internet” syndrome.
        2.) Conor thinks blog commenters are D.I.C.K.S.
        3.) The structure of blog comment section doesn’t facilitate discussion (this one is empirically false, as many, many threads on this blog have shown; I’ll address this more in a second).
        4.) He doesn’t need to allow comments, because you can talk to him elsewhere.

        The last one, which is the bulk of his argument in his latest post, is what prompted my “it’s all about Conor” comment, which wasn’t productive I admit. I saw it in the light of him styling himself as Zarathustra, a Jesus figure (the book, and the character, are meant to call to mind the New Testament), named after a prophet, who is clearly “above” man (he has to “go under” to even speak to us), in the post which began it all, which made his answer to the “stifling debate” seem particularly self-involved. “It’s not stifling debate if you can still talk to me about it elsewhere” is an odd response. It might be a good response to the “coward” comments in this thread, but that’s not how he framed it.

        On the structure of comments sections: I think this blog, and others (Blaise brought up Crooked Timber) show show that his claim that the structure of comment sections inhibit discussion/debate to be empirically false. In fact, I think this is pretty near the ideal medium for discussion and debate, because it permits a quick back and forth, without limiting the length of comments, but encouraging short-to-medium sized responses so that individual discussion threads remain relatively limited in scope (a feature that is necessary for good discussions). It’s essentially a forum designed for little Socratic dialogues. Sure, there’s nothing to hold us to the topic, but that’s true of any medium that’s not closely moderated, and I think side and related topics make comment threads all the more interesting.

        The only limiting factor in comment sections, when it comes to discussions, is the people. And since it’s an open forum, you’re going to end up with a lot of people with different agendas, different motivations, different ideas about what is relevant to the topic of hand, or what is related, and in a forum like this that has built up a community of people, some of whom have developed longstanding relationships, for good or for bad.

        I take it Conor’s two real issues are this diversity of people and personalities, and his own personality. That’s fine with me. There are alternatives to closing comments, such as just not participating in the comments to your own thread (hell, if he wants, I’ll “moderate” the comments to his posts, not that I’d make a particularly good moderator… anyone whose name begins with the letter T is going to be blocked automatically!), but he wants more control than that, which I suppose I understand. At this point, though, I gotta say that if he feels so strongly about “going under” to talk to hoi polloi, but would rather speak down from his mountain, I can’t think of any reason why anyone here would want to engage him anyway. I know I don’t, and if it seems ironic that I’d say that and then comment in this post, keep in mind that since he doesn’t want to participate in comment sections, I’m assuming he isn’t even seeing this, so I’m not addressing him.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

        Pierre & Chris –

        Again, my thoughts on the comments section here is pretty much in line with both of yours. But I also recognize that I’m not Conor, and he’s not me. Part of that probably has to do with my age – internet people who use pseudonyms and don’t make an honest attempt to engage others just don’t show up on my radar, so I don’t really suffer from SIWOTI syndrome. (I may be the only writer here that finds single-post trolls one of my favorite parts of the comments section. Not so much with trolls that try to inject themselves into conversations, though.)

        Conor isn’t here to have Socratic dialogues; he’s here to write – period. Hell, you can say the exact same thing about Elias (though he clearly dips his toe into the conversation more than Conor). As I consider both of those guys two of the most gifted young writers on the intertubes these days, I’m happy to have them call OT one of their many homes for that writing. From my vantage point, we have, what, 33 writers here now? 34? Something like that? Whatever the exact number is, I’m just not finding arguments I see here that Conor’s decision to have one guy write just to write is somehow going to ruin the site very credible. (And if I’m being honest, I think trying to psychoanalyze someone based on a McSweeney’s humor piece is over-thinking things a wee bit.)

        At the end of the day, my advice to people that can’t stand to read Conor’s comment-blocked posts is the same as it was back in the TVD days: If they really bug you, don’t read them. Life’s too short – and there’s too much good writing on this site you can read in its place.

        However…

        That being said, this thread did bring something to my attention I hadn’t really noticed up till now:

        We used to have our music video posts act as our open threads. But for the past X number of months, people like Glyph and Sam have helped transform our music-vid posts into really amazing criticisms that seed great conversations about the music they’re writing about. And while that’s awesome and I don’t want to lose that, an unintended consequence of that gift has been that we don’t really have open threads these days. We need to start bringing open threads back, so that readers who want to discuss things the writers aren’t teeing up can do so. (Including topics that Conor brings up in his posts.)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Tod,

        Conor isn’t here to have Socratic dialogues; he’s here to write – period. Hell, you can say the exact same thing about Elias (though he clearly dips his toe into the conversation more than Conor).

        Then why spend as much time and space as he did arguing about how the comment sections aren’t good for discussion? It looks to me like he’s interested in it, he just doesn’t think he can find good discussions down here in the comment sections.

        I’m just not finding arguments I see here that Conor’s decision to have one guy write just to write is somehow going to ruin the site very credible

        Neither am I. I mean, the dude barely posts here anyway. He doesn’t affect the site’s credibility, in my eyes, either way. My two main points have been counters to his specific arguments, not about Conor as a person.

        I’ll refrain from psychoanalyzing him anywhere but in my head from this point on. Though I admit I hope in his next humorous piece he styles himself a Raskolnikov (without the murderous tendencies, of course). It’s a literary shoe that might fit better.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Chris says:

        I think trying to psychoanalyze someone based on a McSweeney’s humor piece is over-thinking things a wee bit.)
        Heh, but at least you have a ready forum for telling us so, and don’t have to hunt around for that supposed other venue for telling us what you think. 😉

        Conor isn’t here to have Socratic dialogues; he’s here to write – period.
        But really, he’s not just here to write–he’s here to be read, which mrans he’s here to communicate to people. But he wants to keep the communication one-sided, unidirectional (unless we are clever enough to find the alternative venue for communicating with him.) I find myself fully in agreement with Chris, about the “going under” point.

        , I’m just not finding arguments I see here that Conor’s decision to have one guy write just to write is somehow going to ruin the site very credible.
        Maybe I missed the crucial comments, but is anyone really arguing this? The coments seem to me to be interpretations–fair or not–of Conor’s credibility, not of the site’s.

        At the end of the day, my advice to people that can’t stand to read Conor’s comment-blocked posts is … If they really bug you, don’t read them
        Again, maybe I missed the critical posts, but isn’t this just what those folks were saying they were going to do? And why doesn’t this advice apply also to Conor’s problem with comment threads?

        To be clear, I don’t dispute his right to do this, or the League’s right to prefer to keep him and allow him to do it. Nor do I think his doing so will have significant effect on the League’s culture…only if several major writers did so would that be an issue. I’m just intrigued by the justifications, which I find misguided.

        (And I’ll confess to being a bit confused. You created this post so people could comment on Conor’s decision, and now you seem a bit critical of the fact that people are…commenting on Conor’s decision?)Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

        Conor doesn’t come here to write. He comes here to double post and blogwhore his McSweeney’s thing, which I’m not sure the folks at McSweeney’s realise was written in deadly earnest.Report

      • I’m just not finding arguments I see here that Conor’s decision to have one guy write just to write is somehow going to ruin the site very credible.

        I’m with aitch, here. One person’s decision not to allow comments, especially if that one person does not write a lot of posts to begin with, is not going to affect a site of 33-ish contributors. However, if, say, 1/5 of the writers did so, especially if they were frequent posters, that would at least change the character of the site, whether for the good or for the bad is open for discussion, although you know where I stand.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Chris says:

        he’s not just here to write–he’s here to be read, which mrans he’s here to communicate to people. But he wants to keep the communication one-sided, unidirectional

        I would revise that to “he wants to keep the communication one-sided, unidirectional with everyone except those who care so much about what they have to say to uncover how to e-mail him.”

        But even if he wants to hear nothing from anyone, how bad is that? Is it only that it would be better if he enabled comments? Or do you think that if he is going to disable comments, then it’d be better if he didn’t post at all? Those two positions are really different from one another.

        Part of me thinks the main reason Connor gets flak for this is that he’s posting to a site where all the other posts allow comments and only his do not. There are all sorts of popular blogs out there without comments, and they do not get critiqued because the possibility of their being comments was never raised in the first place.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        There are all sorts of popular blogs out there without comments, and they do not get critiqued because the possibility of their being comments was never raised in the first place.

        This isn’t quite true. Many of the big blogs that don’t allow comments, including Andrew Sullivan, got a lot of flak for it when they first went commentless years ago. I remember often heated discussions on the topic, much less friendly than this one at times, in the mid-Aughts.

        Now the readers of those blogs have accepted the commentlessness, or moved on. But you’re right, Conor’s getting heat because he’s doing it on a site with a pretty active comment culture.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Chris says:

        Is it only that it would be better if he enabled comments? Or do you think that if he is going to disable comments, then it’d be better if he didn’t post at all? Those two positions are really different from one another.

        I wouldn’t wholly discount the second, but I’m only saying the first

        there are all sorts of popular blogs out there without comments, and they do not get critiqued because the possibility of their being comments was never raised in the first place.

        Or because there’s no combox in which to critique them? 😉

        Really, a lot of people here are just saying they’re not interested in only being talked at. Maybe most lurkers, who make up a majority of readers, don’t care, but we’ve even had a couple of those delurk to note their interest in the comment threads. I think the number one thing that’s really being said here is that the preferences of many readers do not match Conor’s preferences, so his choice is likely to result in fewer readers. If he’s cool with that, that’s his choice. This is all just feedback on his choice; information he may choose to regard or disregard.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

        Conor is like King Log in the fable by Aesop. He’s made quite a terrific splash upon arrival. He really doesn’t have all that much to say. If we, the chattering frogs, have grown a bit weary of his alternating periods of magisterial silence and Bearded Prophet Time utterances, when he deigns to come down from atop Mount Sinai or whatever Romantic Mountain he shares with Nietzsche and Elijah — he really shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction he’s getting.Report

      • Avatar RTod in reply to Chris says:

        “And I’ll confess to being a bit confused. You created this post so people could comment on Conor’s decision, and now you seem a bit critical of the fact that people are…commenting on Conor’s decision?”

        That’s a fair point point. Mind you, I had kind of assumed that people would be wanting to spend more time spring boarding off the issues in Conor’s post, such as why commenting cultures are so much different from fleshbot cultures, the power of anonymity, etc., and less time talking about the degree to which they are better human beings than Conor.

        In retrospect, I am unsure exactly why I had assumed this.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Chris says:

        “Part of me thinks the main reason Connor gets flak for this is that he’s posting to a site where all the other posts allow comments and only his do not.”

        I think that’s mostly true. However, there’s also a certain contempt about commenters that is suggested in some of what he’s said in the past. Not so much his first post here about why he doesn’t allow comments, but other posts he’s written. So on some level, I think it boils down to our hurt feelings. And I should get over it, because it’s not that big a deal. But I think it’s a factor.

        Still, I do think if most authors at this site didn’t allow comments, and hadn’t done so for a long time, there’d be much less pushback.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Chris says:

        Tod,

        Those are definitely issues worth discussing. The game is probably too long gone for that to happen now, but I do think why some comments cultures work differently from others, or from “fleshbot” cultures is an interesting thing to discuss.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Tod, to be fair, “commenters suck ass” is not a good tactic for getting commenters to address your arguments.

        And I say this as someone who’s addressed two of his major arguments.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Chris says:

        Well, I’m no longer worried because Conor says Twitter’s 140 character limit is more conducive to good discussion than blog comboxes where people can develop respobses at length. Who could possibly dispute that?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Twitter is for reasoned, well-thought-out debate, and Vines of your exes twerking.Report

  27. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Having considered this from all angles, I’ve concluded that Conor’s opinions about comments are entirely correct.Report

  28. Avatar Patrick says:

    Jesus Christ, man, the number and multitude of ways you can communicate on the Internet are so damn big I can’t even count them all.

    You can write a post on any blog on the Internet, link to Conor’s piece, and you’ll get a pingback. There’s still a conversation going on. You can submit a guest post, something that has been more integral to the site’s posting culture than even the commenting culture.

    Basically, it’s really hard for me to read this as anything other than pretty content-light kvetching about a process, as opposed to a principle.

    I say this as probably the biggest cheerleader of the comments section here on the blog. The whole reason I’m *here* is because of the comments section on the blog. I think Conor is cutting out one of the bigger “cool things” about the blog… but the person who’s bearing the cost for that in this case is Conor, not anybody who frequents the combox.

    It’s like we’re standing on the one pier in a huge lake where there’s a No Fishing sign and ya’ll bitchin’ about the fact that there’s a No Fishing sign there when there are 2100 other “Go ahead and Fish” piers within 2 seconds walking distance, and a free boat launch with free boats right there and there’s even a guy walking around giving away free poles and tackle and bait and begging you to here, take this pier, it’s free, it’s yours, you can fish here!

    Christ!

    @tod-kelly said:

    I had kind of assumed that people would be wanting to spend more time spring boarding off the issues in Conor’s post, such as why commenting cultures are so much different from fleshbot cultures, the power of anonymity, etc., and less time talking about the degree to which they are better human beings than Conor.

    In retrospect, I am unsure exactly why I had assumed this.

    Man, even here, people will find a way to argue about every damn thing that can possibly be split into a pro- and con- dichotomy.Report

  29. Avatar ktward says:

    As a way more frequent reader than commenter here at The League — wait, not The League anymore — I feel personally sympathetic with Conor’s overarching message.

    To be engaged on a blog, especially a blog with the uniquely fine commentariat that OT has built, requires an enormous amount of serious attention, time- and energy-wise. I totally get where Conor is coming from.

    That said, the pushback against Conor’s OP seems, to me, some manifestation of the head-butting pains between Old Media and New Media. I mean, Old Media was an informed printed editorial, and arguments toward said editorial were in the form of letters to the editor printed a week or even a month later. New Media expects immediate accommodation to said “letters”. In 140 characters or less, if possible.

    Meantime, some of us, still, have lives — or intentional lifestyles — that simply do not mesh well with every immediacy that New Media demands. For whatever reasons.

    As for myself …

    I read here all the time. Have for a very long time. When I happen across some magic mix of opportunity+incentive+time that makes me feel like I have a worthwhile comment to throw into the thread, I often do. Not because I necessarily have the time to engage in dialogue, but because I feel like I have a worthwhile idea or perspective or query that might contribute, constructively, to the overall dialogue.* I totally love the witty, off-the-cuff sub-threads that have often left me in stitches, but it’s the aggregation of thread comments that seems to me the most informative and enlightening. Not necessarily any specific dialogue. Which, as I’ve seen, can digress to a point of hurt feelings and new user names. And, perhaps, more trolls.

    Prior to this thread, it never even occurred to me that there was perhaps some secret League rule that said I must be engaged with the thread 24/7 if I wanted to comment and be taken seriously. F**k me, I guess.

    *Okay okay. Some folks brought out the snark in me. Couple of commenters come immediately to mind. In the main, not something I was proud of. Then again, sometimes snark is not only the appropriate response, but the most thought-provoking response. Which explains why I so like Schilling. Just saying.Report

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