CCR Symposium: Paul Horwitz Responds

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15 Responses

  1. I’m generally a fan of comments, and have previously praised comments to my posts at CoOp. I didn’t plan this symposium and have opened comments to my posts, but I understand why some don’t want comments to their posts. While comments at CoOp have generally been good, recently we’re getting a lot of rather rude comments and commenters using comment threads to engage in their own dialogues, often laden with insults, etc.

    The comments to the symposium have been mixed — some have been great, but there are some commenters who have really been quite obnoxious and not very helpful. I don’t understand why people can’t express disagreement without lodging insults or spewing on in dozens of comments or calling others idiots or liars or fools. For that kind of discourse, I’ll tune in to cable TV news.

    Blog comments are great if people are willing to have a thoughtful conversation. Otherwise, comments aren’t worth much and are a nuisance, and I surely understand why some participants in the symposium believe that they’re not worth the cost. I still believe that they are worth the cost, but I must say that recently I’m starting to sour a bit on comments.

  2. Orin Kerr says:

    Dan,

    I agree that comments can get out of hand. Indeed, I did delete one left by a commenter that I saw as abusive. But the comment threads here seem to be short — between 1-10 comments, for the most part — and I don’t think the job of moderating them is overly difficult given the relatively low number of comments. Of course, perhaps it was feared that there would be many more comments that might spiral out of control; I don’t know.

  3. Bruce Boyden says:

    I think the decision not to open comments on some posts here is understandable and reasonable, even if it is not the choice I would make. I think this topic is more likely than the average topic to draw abusive comments like the one you yourself received Orin; and some posters may simply not want to even read such material, at the expense of losing the good ones.

    E.g. Bill Patry shut down his copyright blog because, in part, of the abusive comments he was received on his moderated blog. He never posted them, but they bothered him enough that (among other reasons) he decided to stop blogging. Blog posts are a bit of a gift from the author, and I wouldn’t question the terms on which the gift-giver decides to make the gift available.

  4. Being uninteresting is also a good way to prevent abusive comments. I’ve had great success with running a blog that’s simply too sporadic to attract many comments, let alone the critical mass needed for spam comments.

  5. Dave Fagundes says:

    I chose to make comments available for the selfish reason that I was interested to hear what people thought about my posts. I’m with Orin insofar as I don’t find them particularly onerous to moderate, and if they are random or unhelpful they can simply be ignored.

    Unrelated, thanks to Paul H., now I have learned that “symposiasts” is a more parsimonious way to refer to “symposium participants”.

  6. Ken Arromdee says:

    “I don’t understand why people can’t express disagreement without lodging insults or spewing on in dozens of comments or calling others idiots or liars or fools.”

    There’s a difference between calling someone a liar as an epithet, and calling them a liar because they’ve based their argument on a series of blatantly false statements that are hard to have been made innocently.

    Liars do exist, you know. They’re not mythical creatures.

  7. Ken Arromdee says:

    “I don’t understand why people can’t express disagreement without lodging insults or spewing on in dozens of comments or calling others idiots or liars or fools.”

    There’s a difference between calling someone a liar as an epithet, and calling them a liar because they’ve based their argument on a series of blatantly false statements that are hard to have been made innocently.

    Liars do exist, you know. They’re not mythical creatures.

  8. Interestingly, for all the critiques about the lack of open discourse in the symposium, by my count, only 6 posts disallowed comments and about 25 posts allowed comments.

  9. Orin Kerr says:

    Dan,

    You’re counting posts made *after* those critiques, right?

  10. Orin — No, quite a few posts were before, including ones by you and Froomkin and others.

  11. Orin Kerr says:

    Dan,

    I agree that there were a few open posts before the complaints were posted. I think the concern was more the initial tone of the symposium — in particular, the announcement in the beginning that by default comments would be closed — as well as a few controversial closed posts posted on the first day.

  12. Frank says:

    I’m going to guess, from the direction of Paul’s very interesting work on the First Amendment, that he strongly supports decisions like Hurley & Dale, which give associations the right to exclude based not on any external justification of their principles, but simply based on their own interpretation of their principles.

    Given those ideals, and Robert Post’s work on the nature of academic freedom (i.e., belonging to institutions and not individuals), why doesn’t the freedom to exclude/not have comments (that belongs to the institution of the symposium, as put together by me and other bloggers here) trump the right of others to participate/comment?

  13. I wouldn’t call it a matter of rights, so much as at least giving the impression of having minds made up and not wanting to be confused with facts. That cliche seems especially apropos in that the comments pointing out all the flaws and errors don’t seem to have done any good (sign, so what else is new?)

  14. Orin Kerr says:

    Frank,

    There are two distinct questions here: Arguments you have a right to make, and whether those arguments are persuasive. Mo one is questioning your First Amendment right to create a site that has whatever message under the sun you happen to want to tell. I believe Paul’s comment was simply about what kinds of messages he (and implicitly others) found persuasive.

  15. Jay Levitt says:

    Comments are broken because blogs are broken.

    We used to have an impressive infrastructure for people to communicate: forums. (I’m including USENET, web forums, and mailing lists here.) Someone could make an assertion, or ask a question, and everyone else would read it and respond. The responses were organized by topic threads, and the whole forum was divided into specific areas of interest. It was a pinnacle of discussion: You were joining the global conversation, already in progress.

    Unfortunately, they had the undesirable aspect of requiring one to read stuff other people wrote. And some of those people are stupid.

    So we invented the blogosphere. Now, anyone could write a blog post, and nobody else had to read it. Comments are primitive and optional; if you have a response to my missive, go start your own blog! Blogs are author-specific; we’ve changed the focus from the topic to the topic-starter.

    In the world of forums, we used to have people who’d start a thread but failed to participate. We never liked them. Now we call them “bloggers”, and they sell ads.

    So yes, the ability to comment is unevenly distributed. And without the self-organizing and self-moderating nature of forums, you’ll get nasty responses. But the concept of equal-footing conversations has repeatedly failed in the Internet marketplace; it seems we prefer a write-only medium. Pity.