The Death of Blog Comments?
posted by Daniel Solove
Over at Above the Law, a new comment policy has been implemented:
As the Above the Law community continues to grow, more people are posting absurd, inane, and arguably offensive comments. And more people are complaining about those comments — in the comments, as well by email and other means. . . .
[W]e’ll be changing our site design so that comments will default to “hidden.” If you want to see the comments, you must affirmatively opt-in, by clicking a button to reveal them (either the “show them anyway” button within the post, or the “comments” button / counter on the front page).
I think that this is a wise step, as many of the comments at Above the Law are quite crude, and they seem to have been getting worse over time.
At Balkinization, a more radical change has been implemented — comments have been turned off for many posts. Jack Balkin writes:
Since last week I have implemented a new policy on the blog. The default rule is that comments are turned off. Each author will decide individually whether to turn the comments on for his or her postings. . . .
[T]he comments sections are populated by regular trolls and many threads have turned into little more than name-calling. There is very rarely any serious analysis; mostly there is point scoring and vitriol. Many regular readers have written to say that they find the comments section a distraction and think the blog would be far better without it.
I’ve always believed that the comment sections of blog posts shouldn’t be wild west free speech zones. Ideally, the comments provide an interesting and thoughtful discussion, even where commenters strongly disagree with a post. Comments that are rude, off-topic, uncivil, and unnecessarily snarky or nasty don’t have much value in my opinion. It appears as though more and more bloggers are starting to get fed up with obnoxious comments. A few years ago, it seemed to me that the blogosphere had a much more permissive view toward comments than it does now.
Fortunately, the commenters here at Concurring Opinions are generally quite thoughtful and civil. I, for one, really hope this continues. I greatly enjoy many of the comments here, and I hope we don’t ever have to resort to limiting or hiding comments. It seems to me that different blog commenting cultures arise on different blogs. I bet that the readership for Balkinization and Concurring Opinions overlaps quite a bit, yet I have noticed that the comments at Balkinization are much as Jack describes them. Why have commenting cultures developed so differently at different blogs? I don’t really know the answer, and it would be interesting to figure out why commenting cultures develop in the ways that they do.