Various Thoughts on Online Comments

Because I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot recently, but it’s not resolved itself into a coherent narrative. So to hell with the narrative, let me just toss out some thoughts I’ve been having on the subject, in no particular order.

1. Comments and comment threads have been problematic roughly as long as the ability to comment online has existed; the phrase “Oh God don’t read the comments” didn’t just come out of nowhere. That said, from an anecdotal point of view things seem to be a bit worse these days; the trolls and assholes, who were previously free agents, appear to have organized themselves and picked targets.

Someone with more time on their hands than I have (or who has a need for a thesis project) can examine the root causes for this, but if I were going to guess, I would suspect that sites like Reddit (which not are not only link aggregators but allow development of very specialized communities) have made it easier for trolls and assholes to congregate and co-ordinate.

This isn’t meant to be a blind slap at Reddit and sites of its kind — the same format also makes it easy for people who aren’t assholes to congregate and co-ordinate, often to very good effect. There’s good with the bad. The fact of Reddit and other sites like it is value-neutral. But as a practical matter, I suspect the fact of Reddit-like sites makes it easier for aggregate troll action.

(We could have an entirely different discussion about how Reddit embodies the Walmart-ization of online communities — migrating communities which used to exist disconnectively online under a single roof — and what that’s meant for the dynamics of online discourse, but it’s a big topic and I don’t want to get distracted. Nevertheless, put a pin in that concept. It’s worth thinking about.)

2. Comments can be a way to build community and increase stickiness for a site, but I think that only works to a degree. If your comments are unmoderated and toxic (or moderated poorly and toxic because of it), people will avoid your site because it makes them feel unclean to drag their eyeballs over that sort of crap; people will avoid commenting there to avoid associating with creeps. It’s a variation of Gresham’s Law, as it applies to sites and commenting.

I also suspect at this point many sites need comments less than they did before, because there are so many other ways for people to air their opinions, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit being the best examples of this. If you want your comments seen by people you care about — and most people do — then you’re going to comment where you know your community already is. This migration of personal observation to social media doubly leaves the comment threads of many individual sites the realm of toxic commenters who either want to troll or want to attach their soapbox to a high-status site without regard to making actual conversation in the comments.

If a site has comments only as a means to an end — i.e., making the site “sticky” so that eyeballs pass over ads — then whose eyeballs they are may not matter to the site. Creeps are creeps, but their eyeballs count for CPM as well as anyone else’s. But inasmuch as I believe horrible comment sections have a high potential to drive out readers/viewers, I do wonder if in the long run these comment sections are penny wise and pound foolish.

3. With the above said, you know what I think would happen to the traffic of, say, the New York Times or CNN sites if comments were generally disabled? Not a damn thing. People don’t go to news sites for community, they go there to read the news. The people who do comment there, I suspect, don’t feel like they belong to a “CNN community,” they’re just the people that the British press call the “green ink brigade” — cranks who want a platform.

From a logistical point of view, to the extent that any news site is obliged to have moderators for the comment sections, it would probably be cheaper and easier to make this new era green pixel brigade submit their letters to the editor the way they did in the old days, and then have some poor bastard pick the ones worth airing on the site, rather than making several poor bastards crawl through the already-published comments of a bunch of cranks to make sure they’re not egregiously racist, sexist, homophobic or whatever. Basically, recreating a letters page for a new era, for news sites, wouldn’t make the news sites worse, and might even make them better.

4. Barring that, sites with commenters might considering doing what I see Boing Boing doing now, which I think is actually very smart, at least in terms of readability: putting the comments into their own special place (Boing Boing goes old school and calls theirs a BBS), a click away from the originating entries.

This is smart because, one, it means that if all you’re there for is the article, that’s all you have to see; two, conversely, it deprives the cranks and trolls their immediate goal of using Boing Boing’s high traffic for shock value. As a result, both Boing Boing’s main site and the comment threads have a much better chance of not being smeared with crap (and, Boing Boing has another place to put in advertising if they want, which it does not appear they do to date).

5. In a general sense, though, I think it’s well past time for sites (and personal blogs) to seriously think about whether they need to have comment threads at all. What is the benefit? What is the expense? Blogs have comments because other blogs have comments, and the blog software allows comments to happen, and I suspect everyone just defaults to having comments on.

Comments can be a good and useful thing, but if the end result of having them open is that the person running the blog is drained and enervated by them (and by having to deal with them), then that person maybe should not have comments on. If the end result of having comments on a blog is that the site is over run with trolls and assholes, some of whom are systematically attempting to silence the blog’s owner, then that site maybe should not have comments on. If having comments makes a desired audience avoid a site or blog because they don’t want to have to deal with trolls and assholes, that site maybe should not have comments on.

6. With regards to a personal blog, before anything else, it is a place for the blog’s proprietor(s) to speak their mind. It does not automatically follow, blogging software defaults aside, that anyone else should have that same privilege in that space. Everyone is free to speak their own mind online — in their own online space. When they are in your space, you have the right to say whether you want them to speak, or indeed to have anyone else speak.

Bear in mind there are a lot of people out there who like to claim censorship or whatever if they can’t comment exactly how they want on a personal or privately-owned site. But you can ignore them because they are either ignorant on how free speech works, or they are intentionally pretending not to know how it works in order to pressure you to allow them to bother you in your own space.

Either way, screw ‘em. You don’t have to give them a platform. Tobias Buckell stopped doing that. Ask him how it’s worked out for him.

7. Here on my own site I am giving some thought to how I manage comments, primarily for troll/asshole mitigation. I already actively monitor and moderate my site, of course, but there are only so many hours of the day and I have other things I need to do (like generate pay copy). So I’m thinking of ways to keep things manageable while still keeping comments and handling all my other responsibilities.

One thing I’ve begun doing is really rather simple: With contentious threads that will sprout trolls if left untended, I now turn off comments when I go to sleep. This means when I wake up in the morning I don’t have to deal with a bunch of troll spoor, or responses by non-troll commenters to said troll spoor. This has been a surprisingly useful tool, since in some cases it was clear to me some of these obnoxious commenters were timing their commenting so it would go up when I wasn’t around. The flip side is that it temporarily locks out non-trollish commenters, but I suspect some of them who really want to talk about the piece in the comment thread will check in later, i.e., they are reasonable people and reasonable people react reasonably.

Another thing I think I’m going to start doing more of is put a timer on threads with contentious subjects. For example, with my “Feminist” post of the other day, I decided to turn off the comments after two days. The reasons for this: One, most comments for any entry here tend to come in the first couple of days; two, after the few 400 comments or so threads here tend to repeat itself and/or devolve into a few people arguing past each other; three, because these days I find my tolerance for monitoring a contentious thread at the expense of other work I have running out at the two-day mark, and, brothers and sisters, that is a sign.

I don’t see that I will ever pull general commenting from Whatever. There is an actual community here, which I cherish, and I like the fact this is one of the places online where actual conversation happens in the comment threads. But again I am mindful of the cost, in time and opportunity, that it requires from me to keep commenting open and functioning. It’s something I keep checking back on.

155 thoughts on “Various Thoughts on Online Comments

  1. Sturgeon’s law, man. 90% of everything is crap.

    There are still places where keeping it funny and relevant at the same time still happens. Fark is a good example of this, as is your little blog thingy here. This is the only blog I follow, I came because I’m a fan of your writing. I stayed because I’m a fan of your politics.

    So keep being a 10 percenter, John. It will be OK.

  2. I have been considering writing a letter to Bezos suggesting he do what you suggest (treat comments as letters to the editor and only publish select ones) with the online version of the Post now that he owns it. It does seem that the larger the site’s readership, the less value there is in an open comments section.

  3. Well I for one generally like commenting here, so I’m glad you plan to keep it.

    Long comment threads (over 150 comments, speaking strictly for myself) loose value. People don’t want to read all of those comments, for one thing.

    From at least some points of view, modern technology has been enabling trolls and cranks since Gutenberg fired up his printing press. (I don’t think the Pope was terribly thrilled to read Martin Luther’s stuff.) Humans are a communal species, and trolls are human too, so they will go find or make a community. That’s why old-school trolls had a regular seat at the bar – they needed a community.

  4. I wonder whether or not comments on news sites (or anywhere else for that matter) are necessary with how blog entries, news stories, etc., can be so easily shared across social media, as well. Not having comments enabled on a blog post or news story doesn’t prevent people from talking about it, it just prevents them from talking about it *directly on the story’s page or the website in general*. That isn’t censorship, it’s just moving the location of the discussion elsewhere – no one’s obligated to host a community space for discussion of their work on their blog, website, whatever.

    Given the amount of work that I put in as a volunteer moderating a couple of online communities, I can’t imagine the kind of work & time that can go in to keeping a space safe & comfortable on contentious topics as much as you do, John. The times I’ve had to mod threads and they’ve gotten… not so good, have been stressful and it ends up taking a long-term toll if one isn’t careful. I think the idea of turning off comments for the night is a great one – I wish there was a tool to do the same for Facebook groups, or even specific threads in a group.

  5. John, the more of your stuff I read, the more impressed I am with you. Keep writing, brother! I need more books!!!!

  6. I do not like it when cyber-friends snipe at each other. We CAN agree to disagree. We do not have to destroy each other. To that extent, and because it helps prevent people from going bonkers (well, with maybe a few exceptions for people who strive for bonker-liciousness), I applaud you for finding a way to cool down the rhetoric a few decibels. I am the rare soul who can enjoy both sides of an argument without taking sides. The din caused by the “Agree I am right, stupid!” crowd, makes it difficult to hear all sides clearly but I think your solution will help.

  7. Incidentally, if anyone wants to know what I think about Huffington Post’s plan to only let “real names” comment on the site: I think that will be easy to spoof, one, and it relies on the assumption that trolls and assholes prefer to be anonymous, two. So I don’t suspect it will make much of a difference. But I’m willing to be proven wrong.

  8. Delurking for a moment to share a couple thoughts.

    1. I read Whatever almost exclusively via email. I love it. If I really, really, really feel like I have something to add, I just click through to the comments link and here I am.

    and here I am.

    2. Back in the olden days, I used to spend quite a bit of time sending letters to the editor; mostly because I wanted to see letters of greater sagacity. It must have worked as I had a pretty high percentage of those letters published and received some very nice compliments back from editors and writers at the paper. They have unfortunately gone in another direction where more people have less space with the end result that pith is considered more important than the thought being expressed.

    At the time, I had some minor aspirations towards writing opinion pieces professionally. It didn’t work out due to a lack of effort on my part. I switched to blogging over a decade ago and enjoyed my minute corner of the web.

    At some point, we reached a critical mass of opinion writers so that I rarely find that I have something unique to offer to my 3.2 regular readers.

    3. Finally, the payoff for engaging someone with a divergent perspective diminishes logarithmically. A decade ago, I had very productive discussions about a wide range of topics. Sometimes I learned a few things. Sometimes other folks did. But the preponderance of “thou shalt agree with me or else” simply wasn’t there.

    All of the above really being nothing more than a long form “me, too” about the frustration caused by ideological trolls.

    Regards,
    Dann

  9. Well, I for one like anonymous comments. Most trolls (such as Kenneth DeMeyer of Buffalo, New York, a former Wikipedia troll and homophobe supreme) are stupid enough to leave enough of themselves in their names that they are easy to trace. Intelligent people, like me, can take advantage of anonymity to troll trolls. There is a certain amount of vindictive fun in spamming RSHD dot feces with progressive comments.

  10. Back in the Internet Dark Ages, I thought comments were awesome. Hey, look at all these people, sharing their thoughts and stories! How cool is that?

    I don’t remember when I soured on comments. Probably when YouTube exploded and made it so any asshat could drop a turd in the thread and walk away. No matter how many times you downrate, the thing’s still there, stinking up the place. And don’t get me started on the LA Times or any other newspaper. Oy.

    I like reading comments here and Metafilter and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s site because they are so heavily moderated *and* there’s a standard of what’s acceptable. Those may make them echo-chamberey, but, damn, at least they’re readable and more interesting than not.

  11. I think that your site is popular enough to do what Boing Boing does… give comments a “BBS” area for publishing.

    Because everything you posted in #4 is gold for today’s Internet.

  12. Another benefit to Boing Boing of moving the comments is that it makes each page more static and easier to cache – The content of the page isn’t changing with each comment, so you can hand off the same cached content to each user thus speeding up your responsiveness and improving your visitor’s experience.

  13. Ta-Nehisi Coates over at The Atlantic has hands down the best moderation I’ve seen (Sorry John, he’s got minions, and they’re strict) anywhere. He’s a far heavier hand with the banhammer than John is.

    And you know what? The quality of the comments and the level of education there is super-high. The reason is, it’s a safe space for people to talk about contentious topics without assholes butting in and spewing derails or nonsense everywhere. But you have to *actually* be respectful of the environment. For example, citing BS about black-on-black violence in a thread about civil rights gets you banned. . Mansplaining MRA BS on a thread about rape gets you banned. A leftist who’s knee-jerk response to troll bait by creates a cascading flame war gets banned. Off topic comments get deleted. No second chance.

    And because of this, you get people with doctorates in history, pro journalists, college professors and so on all talking to each other and learning from each other. It’s what almost any comments section COULD be.

  14. sigh. The internet could have been a tool for a farmers in Iowa and Madagascar to exchange irrigation techiques. Instead it is simply a place for people to play Farmville.

    BTW: the notify me of new posts via email doesn’t seem to work.

  15. One Facebook friend just asked me:

    Why do people (not all, but many) act fanatically to one belief or the other??? I mean, even if fanaticism might be beneficial to us to some extent, it should not be such a mind-disabling thing, disabling you to check your own actions for its rights and wrongs. Why does someone who is fanatic feels good in that fanaticism and is totally UNAWARE that he is being such a fanatic – blind towards the better and more reasonable things in front of them???

    P.S. The word “fanaticism” is defined by World English Dictionary as: “wildly excessive or irrational devotion, dedication, or enthusiasm”

    So in light of that definition, why does fanaticism exists in human beings despite the fact that rationalism and open-mindedness are more important to an individual as well as in case of overall human survival???

    MY answer:
    I presume that it has a Darwinian advantage. It means that followers of an idea, as well as a genome, will compete for power, sex, money, territory, and prestige.

    But, beyond that, another Facebook friend just commented:

    Jonathan, I think a lot of these people posting secretly love pseudo-science and other garbage, but want to seem deep and pretend they understand physics by posting. You show them!

    My reply:
    I agree. I am not a Conspiracy Theorist, but it does at time seem that there is an army of crackpots intentionally posting “pseudo-science and other garbage” on Physics Groups of Facebook, in order to confuse and disrupt conversation between actual scientists, and patient question answering by scientist to students. Why? To make Science Education even more difficult? To give the illusion of status to know-nothings in combination with their delusion that they know any science at all? In one of my Facebook-serialized novellas “Harry Jesus” I fictionalize a war more than a century long between “Crackpots” and “Wingnuts” — prompted by the coincidence that both words first appeared in print in the same year. In this work of fiction (I am an award-winning science fiction writer as well as a much-published Scientist and Mathematicain” I also gave an exceedingly unlike explanation for the civil war in Syria.

  16. Interesting thoughts. Another thought, given point two (specifically that external social media is a potential replacement for localized comments)…

    Should someone starting a new blog start with comments on or off?

  17. Before we had “blogs” with open-ended commenting, we would have forums which were attached to a site, but not necessarily to single post. This is where the community would build up and not “infect” the content of the site. Back in these “good old days” of online communities, we were pretty much self-policing. Trolls and other a-holes were shunned by the actual contributing members and eventually went away to their own dark and dirty corner of the interwebs. In the modern era of online interaction, where not only any and every idiot *can* spout off as much as they want, they now feel entitled to do so and therefor *do* with even greater vehemence and frequency. It is a sad truth of the current state of online affairs.

    The internet has succeeded in creating a generation of online a-holes, where civil discourse no longer exists (cable “news” channels don’t help, either). Now that people can say anything they want pretty much as soon as it pops into their heads and they know people will be there to see instantly how witty they are, the gloves are completely off. We as a society no longer know how to exercise restraint and tact in our communication. I don’t know how to begin to fix this. As far as I know, we still teach kids about “manners” in school, but it doesn’t seem to extend into online behavior. Adults that theoretically should know better are just as bad.

    So I guess I would advocate for a move from article comments back to a forum style of interaction, though I suspect that it would still require attentive moderation to keep things civil. Personally, I only come here for the articles, and not the comments. I’m only adding this as part of the rational discussion and don’t have the fortitude to run my own blog to share it.

    Here’s to shared platforms! You can have the soapbox back now.

  18. Comments are at best second class content on a site. Which means writing comments is at best a second class activity. We are mostly better off speaking in our own spaces, with links back to original posts.

  19. I blame the increasing disconnect from the ISP myself. Once upon a time if you got a troll, you could easily find their ISP and report them and often the ISP bounced them, or at least the ISP contacted their customer, who was often Mummy or Daddy to the troll, and threatened to bounce them. Its a lot harder to do that these days. Or if you were lucky the ISP was a workplace or a University Library then the trolls were very careful not to step over the line there, because a report to them was a career ending thing. It is a lot harder to do that now I think.

    There has also been a cultural shift since a certain event 12 years ago, in which it has been positively encouraged by various PTB to shout down anyone who disagrees with you. That has not helped one little bit.

  20. John,
    Are there certain members of the community here whom you would trust to moderate or wield the MLC? I believe that you have had someone take charge in instances where you are away for an extended period of time but how about on a daily basis? Or does that create more problems then it solves?

  21. I love this because recently an internet personality I usually like said that the fact that Anita Sarkeesain did not allow comments “cut [him] to his core.”
    Really? It cuts you to your core that she isn’t allowing hundreds of people to smear her page, making it NSFW because you perceive that she isn’t hearing/allowing constructive criticism? Meanwhile, he said this in a facebook post where he was offering criticism for all of his followers to read. There are a million avenues on the web for people to make their opinions heard. Free speech is a right but just because it isn’t published on the same page as the original author’s work does not mean that you have been silenced.

  22. When I redesigned my blog earlier this year I did not include comments in the new design. The conversations related to what I was blogging about had already migrated to Facebook mostly. I’m not necessarily happy about that as now Facebook essentially owns what used to be mine – the record of those conversations. But there doesn’t seem to be anything I can really do about that, and it isn’t worth worrying about.

  23. As noted above, comments used to be integral to the online experience particularly as they relate to blogs. On news sites they’ve been at best valueless. I spent many years on slashdot and reddit and digg and etc and the signal to noise ratio has gotten significantly worse in the past five years. Now I ignore comments on 90% of the sites I frequent because I know that what few interesting/informative/funny/etc comments will be very very hard to find amongst all the garbage. This site being one of the obvious exceptions. There are trolls but they are vastly outnumbered by the quality comments, the inverse of most sites.

  24. Well, I was going to talk about Ta-Nehisi’s place, but others already have. Heavy, strict, moderation is vital. As is the willingness of regulars to post “dnf, flag and move on”, and then flag and move on, when seeing a troll.

    The Washington Post has very light moderation, but has the “ignore user” button, which is great. If only it also hid every reply to that user it would be awesome. But the deficiencies of the WaPo’s commenting system are legion.

    My dream commenting system has threading, doesn’t page, has like/dislike type buttons, and has a hide troll button that also hides threads the troll spawns. The slashdot system is pretty good. Add “hide user” to it an it would be perfect.

  25. Well, since you brought up the topic, I have been thinking about my own need to comment in various places. Obviously, there are the blogs and feeds where I have friends and that’s just conversation. We expect to meet each other there (my friends and I) and … well converse. Duh.

    But often, when I read posts by people I don’t know, but agree with I wonder about my need to say “Yay! You!” With so many other people saying the same thing what’s the point. Do you or Wil Wheaton or The Bloggess need another stranger rooting for you? Or is it my need to be associated with your right-on-ness? I rarely receive a reply – nor do I expect to, I’m not a friend to the famous blogger/writer/actor/whatever, after all. So what’s the pay-off for me. Why do I have this need to communicate my approval to a stranger. I mean, yeah, I’d like to be friends with a number of bloggers I read, but I’m smart enough to know that’s not going to happen, so why? Why am I writing this comment?

    I can only assume I have the need to see my approval of “stuff I agree with” go out into the world. Look, I’m saying, I’m good too. Here I am proving to the world I’m a good person because I’m agreeing with people I think are good too. While I may be showing myself to be a yes-woman and an idiot (Why don’t I go write my own socially responsible and relevant blog posts?), at least I’m not a troll. I sometimes beg to differ, but mostly I just go on my merry way when I don’t agree with another blogger’s hate or intolerance. So maybe I’m not just not a troll, but also spineless.

    Oh hell. I think this means I need to get over my need for approval from the world of the internet and only comment when I have something of substance to say. Rats.

  26. As someone who probably isn’t as internet savvy as most, I am still shocked by the awful comments that people leave. Then my son explained to me about trolls. Wow. Anyway, you might want to follow Amazon’s example. If someone leaves a comment on someone’s review of a product, people can vote as to whether that comment adds to the discussion or not. After a set amount of people vote “not”, the comment is hidden. Btw, love, love your books.

  27. I’m glad you aren’t planning, as of now, to turn off comments here. I don’t always comment, but I do read and some of the discussions have been pretty awesome/useful.

  28. I think the only thing I disagree about comments not being necessary because of FB, Twitter, etc is that without a good plugin to bring that conversation back into the site, it ends up being invisible. Despite the great percentage of jerks online, I still usually delve into the comments to see what others are saying about the article. Sometimes they really help illuminate the article. Other times their disagreements help me think critically about the piece. I’m not sure if it’s human nature or the way my mind is, but I tend to accept the point of view of a well written piece and sometimes a dissenting comment can snap me out of it and I can see some of the logical fallacies.

    Over at my blog I love comments – sure most of it is from a small circle of dedicated readers (of whom most of those are people I know in real life), but sometimes they help me see where I was too committed to my point of view to see all the angles. Also, sometimes they provide a woman’s view of a topic or a view from a different race, etc. Finally, I like comments because they let me know that people are actually reading.

    I ended up closing comments older than 2 years because I never had any non-spam comments on posts that were that old and tons of spam on those. Turning it off has really reduced the amount of spam I get.

    One question, Scalzi, what is it about your WP setup that doesn’t let me subscribe to the comments of this post? I only have the option to subscribe to posts.

  29. So, did you happen to see the Onion Article pertaining to CNN and Miley Cyrus? Kind of covers a lot of your points.

  30. @Kate George: I wouldn’t feel too bad about it. I think it’s just the human condition – it’s why we have the 90% trivial conversations we have all day long. “Hey I like show A, do you like show A?” “Yes? Well, let’s talk about the ways in which we like show A”

    It’s pointless, but it makes us feel closer to others. Humans are tribal by nature and we want to belong to as many tribes as possible. (Remember college and signing up for all the clubs the first day?) I’m already in tribes based on nationality, work, race, ethnicity, and residence, but that’s not enough. I want to be in the Sci Fi Tribe, the Nerdcore Tribe, the Music Lovers tribe, etc And by commenting in a “yes I agree” way, I think you’re just saying, “Yes, Scalzi we are in the same tribe. I’ll never be your friend, but at least we’re in this tribe together and that makes us connected.”

  31. I worked for many more years than I care to consider as a community administrator, the poor sap whose only job was to police forums that soon began to be a mixture of forums and comment threads. I even had my own mallet!

    I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience. As communities in the real world differ, so too do websites. The community I worked on had two primary groups of followers, those in the preteen to college age bracket, and people in their thirties. The difference was a interesting one to observe; the younger group required extremely careful monitoring in a forum or BBS type setting; the older group was far more likely to be virulently disruptive in a comment thread.

    I don’t know if those observations would pan out to much of anything, especially with so much time having passed – those teenagers are in their thirties now, themselves, and that’s a significant amount of time to mature (or not), and sometimes feels like the passing of an entire age when looking at the Internet. I often find myself thinking of those experiences and differences when someone mentions not reading the comments, though, and I wonder. Maybe it will help whoever ends up looking at comment threads for their thesis.

  32. You know, I have a neglected personal blog that extended family begs me to update more often as a way to keep in touch. Part of my reluctance to write about my personal life there is a nearly subconscious desire to avoid commentary. I’m content with the daily choices I make, but I seldom feel like defending them to others.

    It never once occurred to me to just turn the damned comment box off and post away. My mind is kind of blown.

  33. I agree. I like forums when they’re moderated, I understand leaving blog comments open as listening for answering shouts and looking for community in the darkness; I think Tumblr has really boiled down that urge to agree, but not necessarily offer comment, to an elegant form… though one that I don’t use.
    Huffpo’s new scheme is a joke. Internet anonymity is -not- pseudonymity: look at Facebook. Every minute of every day, there are hundreds, if not thousands of people who have attached their faces, their places of work, and their real names to any variety of truly vile opinions and statements. They don’t care. Their friends probably agree with them. They’re out of reach of physical retaliation, and there’s no percentage in it for their service providers to take them to task over their actions like there might have been when the Internet was the domain of a few thousand users at any given campus or city, and not hundreds of thousands or millions now.
    And yeah, the trolls are organizing. They’ve been doing it for years, but the advent of virtually un-moderated forums like Reddit’s vast array of ‘subreddits’, and 4chan’s /b/ board, combined with the brief success of the Anonymous ‘movement’ have galvanized them. They’re just as capable of using social media as anyone else, and their destructive mandate is a lot easier to accomplish than any constructive one.

  34. I think you’re right about Huffpo, Scalzi.

    The thing with basing commenting on wallet names is that there are some people whose identities insulate them from the consequences of their behavior, and other people whose identities increase the risk that bad behavior will come their way. People need look no further than their nearest middle school to figure out that real names do little to change the social dynamics of cruelty.

    There are, of course, people who hide behind anonymity or pseudonymity while behaving badly. But many of us who aren’t playing on life’s lowest difficulty setting realized a long time ago that wallet name policies don’t make us safer. Rather, they increase our risk of harassment and abuse from people whose wallet names confer them privileges that ours do not.

  35. Count me as a lurker who very rarely comments, but who would sorely miss the comment section if it weren’t here. I really like reading a variety of people’s responses and thoughts on a given topic.

    However, I am looking for comment sections that are small enough that I can read completely. I think it’s an OCD thing where I find it difficult to stop reading something once I start (though I doubt most people have that affliction, lucky them). I’m also looking for comments that have some content besides “You rock!” and at the same time don’t degenerate into a slime pit of trolling and flaming.

    This site hits the sweet spot for me and I would hate to see the comments gone. I’d probably still pop by to see what was here once in a while, but it wouldn’t be one of my primary sites to check multiple times a day without them.

  36. The first online flamewar I witnessed was on a dialup BBS back in 1983, so yes, much of this behavior is hardly new. I think it was somewhat mitigated by the fact that these BBSes were inherently local, so you might at least in theory run into the other guy at the grocery store. Not that this always stopped people.

  37. Apologies, in retrospect, apart from the CPM comment I was pretty off topic. I just fixated on the whole CPM thing and went from there.

  38. Can someone please build a filter for my browser that automatically screens comment sections and hides any with 2+ typos/exclamation marks?

  39. It might be a good idea to let some of your fellow authors manage comments. You get a lot of traffic here and this could get some of the lesser known authors some useful publicity. You can probably get a good idea for people you trust. You have had guest bloggers in the past. It sounds like your burning a lot of time here.

    Is it possible for the comments section to have forums or something? So it can be organized into threads for different categories. I don’t know if this tool can support that. A very long list of comments isn’t really practical to follow. Could make it easier for you or anyone else who manages comments in the future. I have no idea what the level of effort it would be to do this. I get that you have a lot of real work to do that earns you a living. You could possibly leverage Reddit or some other site for a forum based comment system. If you did that its probably best to have people you trust manage them.

    As a reader its hard to keep track of responses even if I find some of them interesting. Some of your commenters have far more interesting things to say than others. In a straight list its hard to keep track of them.

    Note I work with databases for a living… so by nature I lean towards organizing things into pieces of data which is what forums with threads are. So my view of this is somewhat tainted.

  40. I was likewise going to recommend Ta-Nehisi Coates’ set-up to your attention, but have been scooped not once, but twice! I will note that he has mentioned in the past findings similar to yours, to wit that after ~2 days and ~200 posts, the value of the commentary drops off rapidly.

  41. Guess, et al:

    In fact, if I know I am going to be away and don’t have time to manage comments, I often ask my friend Kate Baker to manage it for me. She’s excellent at it.

    For a while I had a Whatever-related forum called Whateveresque, where the community of people here could chat, etc without me around, but I quickly learned that it takes a lot of time to have a forum up and running well. I didn’t have that time and I closed it down. One day if I have enough time and money, I might resurrect it and pay someone to run it.

  42. The switching off of comments while you’re sleeping is very sensible. I sometimes come across the time difference between your blog an the UK, but I just come back later: I doubt anything I have to add is that vital.

  43. My solution on my personal blog is to just moderate the comments — they won’t appear live until I approve them, and if they’re spam or off-topic or offensive, I don’t approve them.

  44. I must admit, most of the time I do not read the comments on this site, or any other site I visit. Partly it is trolls, I just do not want to bother giving them another reader. The other aspect is the sheer volume, I do not have time to read all of the comments. I read this site because I like John as a writer and read his books, also John is interesting, particularly his creative reactions to obnoxious trolls…

    Keep up the good work John.

  45. @john: Might be good to see if anyone is interested in handling this regularly. Sounds like managing comments is a real hassle. It could help lesser known authors get some publicity and save you time. If I was a new author and lesser known, I’d probably volunteer to help for free. If you get a few people, then each one doesn’t have to be all that active.

  46. I have a specific and simple comments policy on my blogs and communities – Be Nice, Show Respect, Add Value.

    Since I put this policy into effect, the comments I’m getting are better than ever. Sure, you *can* troll, but those words have no power and leave you looking like an ass. When no one reacts, the trolls go away, it’s not fun to rant to no one.

    To your point about news sites. The races after eyeballs may have already destroyed journalism in America. It’s probably too late. But we can at least ask professional sites to police their streets. I’m keeping my sidewalk clear, they should do their part.

  47. I prefer sites with comments. Your own site gives options to use Facebook, WordPress, twitter login. Kinja/gawker does something similar. I think there is less trolling when you are tied to an identity, rather than anonymous.

    In terms of moderation, except in cases of pure assholishness, I think it is better to correct than outright ban, or at the very least, have a comments rule guide easily available. I’d rather see people educated about proper commenting than just excluded.

  48. Thanks for this Scalzi – this is really useful for me to hear right now! One of the comics on my blog went viral last week, and keeping up with/moderating the comments there has been exhausting. The best solution might just be to turn them off.

  49. Scalzi, I disagree that, in this age of Bookface and Twotter and Twumbler and all those other social media sites, comments threads are no longer a community. In fact I feel it’s the perfect community for a specific area, which social media by its very nature cannot be – on Facebook I’m arguing politics one minute, reassuring Tammy’s fans that yes she is busily writing EXILE/going to be at the National Book Festival next month/will be flying to Australia next Spring the next, and laughing at pictures of kittens going flop over a case of beer the next.

    When I come here, I come here to discuss your views on fandom and feminism in SF/Fantasy, or read about how your latest book’s going – in the same way I belong to The ONION’s AV Club site to discuss STAR TREK or ::facepalm!:: CASTLE, or The Gentlemen’s Guide to Cult Movies or Paleo-Cinema to discuss old cult movies, or Huffington Post or Salon to discuss politics. I like the sense of community here and in those other places that I don’t feel in the broader, more freeform social media platforms.

    I know it’s a lot of work for you to keep the Right Wing Trollbois out – but I would really hate to see this go away…..

  50. “1. That said, from an anecdotal point of view things seem to be a bit worse these days; the trolls and assholes, who were previously free agents, appear to have organized themselves and picked targets.”

    I don’t really agree. Based on my (at least as long as your) experience on the internet, it hasn’t changed much at all. alt.syntax.tactical did their best to light usenet on fire before the world wide web existed, and were fairly proficient at it. What’s different is that the especially malicious, organized trolls have only recently noticed you (and other places you pay attention to).

    “2. . . If your comments are unmoderated and toxic (or moderated poorly and toxic because of it), people will avoid your site because it makes them feel unclean to drag their eyeballs over that sort of crap; ”

    This will be at least partially offsent by the people it attracts, who agree with the toxicity, which generally will agree (broadly, at least) with the leanings of whoever runs the site. It does build community, but sometimes, it builds a very nasty, malicious community. Trolls need love, too, I guess.

    For an example of this phenomenon, take a look at the rpg.net forums, where the way to be promoted to moderator is to be a better troll than everybody else. I have seen people get banned for refusing to say things that would get them banned. And it gets more traffic than probably the next ten or fifteen most popular gaming forums (including, from what I understand, the official D&D ones). Combined.

    “4. . . putting the comments into their own special place”

    A viable and practical option. the other popular option is the Slashdot method of letting users “vote” on comments, and set their own threashold for what comments they see. If the generally community thinks you’re a wingnut, most of their readers won’t ever see your comments. (Of course, this, too, can lead to nasty, malicious communities, but they’re more consistent at least, and they’re generally very obviously what they are.)

    “5. In a general sense, though, I think it’s well past time for sites (and personal blogs) to seriously think about whether they need to have comment threads at all. ”

    That’s always the question, before comments were even thought of. Generally speaking, the answer is probably “no.” But without some kind of two-way interaction, any sense of community (good or bad) is impossible. At that point, it’s one guy pontificating to the wind, with no idea what anyone things of it. Mind you, that’s not inherently good or bad; some want exactly that.

    There aren ‘t any magic bullets. If you allow the public to participate, they will participate. Some will be louder than others, and some of those louder ones will be trolls and assholes. The cost of getting rid of them is losing some (or all) of those who aren’t. Whether that’s a price you’re willing to pay is up to you, and only you.

    Moderation is a tricky, and often futile game. The moment you can’t do it all yourself, the moment you have someone else involved in moderators, the more sophisticated trolls will begin gaming the moderators against each other, and the site owner. I have never once, ever see a site with multiple moderators that did not eventually degenerate in to moderators taking sides to protect their favorites. This is not a negative comment on the moderators. It is human nature, and it *always* happens, without the mods having any idea they’re doing so. I’ve seen this in a gaming forum set up specifically for people who wouldn’t put up with this kind of stuff on rpg.net, and it’s still the same thing.

    The moment that you find one person being offended to be in any way unequal to everyone else being offended, you’ve taken sides. And that’s OK. It’s your web site, after all, and the only side that matters is yours.

  51. In the spirit of John’s post, a comment with a few points and no real narrative…

    Forums… Forums seem to work best when there’s a unifying topic or interest area around which the community is built. Could be hiking, feminism, beer, travel in S America, etc but most forums attract people who interested in a topic. Blogs like this aren’t organized that way – we’re here because we want to see, read and perhaps comment on what John is saying.

    Real names… help. They don’t cure 100% of the troll infestation but they do help, especially when the names are validated ala Facebook comments. While there are exceptions, I’m less and less inclined to accept pseudonymity as an unqualified good. However, there ARE exceptions and it would be good if a comment system could allow pseudonyms in some cases while enforcing real names in most.

    Coates as an example of a good comment section. Well, yeah, but look at the moderation needed. in general, the best comment sections I’ve seen are ones like this where the blog owner is active in the comment threads not just as a banhammer but also by making comments themselves. I think that attracts people who genuinely want to interact with the blog owner but it also lets people know that they’re being watched. In some ways it’s the difference between letting your teen have a party at your house when you’re home and when you’re out of town. The former might still be fun, but they all know that the parents are around and so act more responsibly.

    Comments on news sites… should just be turned off. I’ve never seen any comment thread that adds value on a news story. I suspect that much of the reason for this is that the reporters never participate in the comment threads, so you get the unsupervised teen phenomenon.

    Commenting elsewhere… can work, but as a couple people have pointed out that means the discussion gets fragmented and distributed across so many points that it’s not really a discussion anymore, but a set of posts. That can work, but it’s not a comment thread.

  52. The overnight lockouts are a good idea. I have occasionally regretted jumping into a contentious issue late at night; I have never regretted not jumping into the comment fray.

  53. I understand your point about the temptation to end comments but I hope you don’t do it. I find the community here the most intelligent of any comment section I have seen on the internet. The conversations here are fantastic, it would be a shame if they were taken away.

  54. I think maybe that train already left the station. I won’t waste my time considering the thoughts of somebody I can’t engage with — if there’s no way to respond, if you’re just bloviating into the air, I’m not interested. I suspect a lot of people feel this way by now.

    The really strong, long-lasting, web sites seem to me to be the ones with good strong communities of mostly-sane commenters.

    (Okay, you’re probably right about the real news organizations, and the really top commentators — I recognize that I’m unlikely to get to engage Ta-Nehisi Coates in discussion directly. Those I can respond to in my own blog, with some assurance that other people will know what I’m talking about, or at least how to find it if they care.)

  55. NEWS groups. Way back then, there were trolls, but it seemed like we used an entirely different set of words. At that time, the Internet was primarily colleges and research, so the language was more intellectual. The insult wars in which we engaged were on par with anything a classic fiction writer might create. Now, though, the trolls have devolved into using tweet-retorts…140 characters with no real thought but to disagree or insult. If one is to properly troll, do it right. Make the person have to pull out a dictionary to figure out what you’ve written.

  56. I don’t think “real name” policies will work, but that’s not my primary objection to them. My primary objection to them is that they will harm innocents. Some people dismiss the risk of harm, but I put it to you that it is absolutely logically inconsistent to simultaneously think that it will do any good, and that it will not harm innocents.

    Why is it alleged that “real names” will be good? Because people should “be considering the consequences”. Which is to say: People who Post Bad Things should be afraid of being somehow harmed, in a way that has to do not with immediate responses, but with some other thing that affects them personally since their real name is visible. But if we accept the premise that people face a risk of personal harm if other people don’t like how they behave… Well. That means that good people, doing good things, will also face that harm, because the trolls are opposed to that, too.

    A lot of people say stuff like “don’t do bad things and people won’t be mean to you”. That’s nonsense; it’s the specific kind of nonsense called the “just world fallacy”. And it is totally, completely, untrue.

    Go around on the Internet being visibly female and having a “real name” which is visibly male, and there is a non-zero chance that someone will try to come kill you, because the population of people who think transwomen are a horrible threat to society is large enough to worry about. Go around just admitting that maybe sometimes women get treated badly, and you will eventually attract haters. Haters who might express their hate significantly differently if they knew how to take it to meat space instead of being limited to angry posts.

    Many people have no immediate need to be shy about who they are or what they’re saying, but some do, and a policy which endangers those people is a bad policy. Real name policies harm the good folks a lot more than they slow down the bad folks. (Look at the reasoning skills of the trolls. Do you seriously think that they are going to think about “consequences” much? Most of them never got that far.)

    As to the rest: The most crucial aspect of the comment moderation thing is that people base their behavior on what behavior they see to be tolerated. Comments get and stay toxic because the people posting toxic comments “get away with it”. Keep it clean in the first place, and you get fewer toxic comments to delete.

  57. I enjoy the comments sections here, but more and more I find myself just scrolling through them and looking for John’s responses. That’s a strong indicator that, were the comments sections to disappear on Whatever, I’d still be coming to the site.

  58. Real names aren’t a magic bullet, but giving more credence to established identities helps quite a lot. I did find a “real names” policy on the Fidonet SF echo was quite useful, back when I was moderating (late 1980s and early 1990s) that (without the actual ability to remove posts; distributed system and all that), but I defined “real” as what people call you in real life, and relied to a large extent on people being vaguely honest. Worked okay I thought.

    I’ve been participating in text-based remote discussions with fairly open groups of people since the mid 1970s. Science fiction fandom had these things called “APAs”, and the one I was in had around 50 members who each sent in their multi-page submission for each issue (around every three weeks), which were then collated and mailed back out. Minneapa ran for 400 issues before finally shutting down this century. Early ARPAnet mailing lists had flame wars. Usenet certainly did (that was the most open discussion system I’ve ever worked with). Some people, enough to matter, really do seem to lose sight of the humanity of the people on the other end of their discussions.

  59. @seebs – I’ve seen real name polices work well in other forums so they CAN work to reduce toxicity. However, as I think about it, those forums weren’t political in nature, they were focused on topics that didn’t attract trolls of the kind we’re thinking about here. I don’t think they’re a cure-all though and might not be the right solution either for John specifically or for discussions of gender issues and some other topics.

    I do think that at some point the threats etc need to be criminalized and action needs to be taken against the people making threats. I’m sure there are many issues with that from defining the behavior that’s over the line to resources required for enforcement, but threats of death, rape, etc can’t be let go just because they’re words on a screen.

    That’s one reason I don’t respect Reddit – they are vociferously anti-doxing, even when the person whose identity being revealed is making threats that in the physical world would be actionable as crimes. I get the principle, but they take it too far and are too protective of trolls and other toxic posters for me to excuse it.

  60. of course what is defined as troll or asshole varies. Many times if someone disagrees with the original blogger and does not express it in a way that the blogger deems proper (subjective and opinionated in and of itself) then they are labeled a troll or asshole. Likewise if the troll or asshole is a rebel in the eyes of the regulars of the site then the label is made.

    Reddit and other sites are great in that the assholes and trolls on each side of a issue can engage in a bum fight that can be very entertaining to read. And sometimes if one takes the time to actually listen to the troll/asshole you might actually learn something and not live in a box.

  61. DDB: Coates is actually pretty approachable. You might be surprised.

    He and the culture he encourages on his site are the sauce that makes the comments section good. He’s got a few trusted volunteers, no tolerance for trolls, an interest in his comments section asa place to get educated comments, and that’s it. The rest of The Atlantic is a sewer.

  62. I hear ya, John. Having run a blog or two over the years, it can be a hassle to deal with monitoring/moderating comments. One possibility that fits in with the old newspaper model is only allowing comments after approval. I’ve tried it and while it’s time consuming, it’s not as much as you might think. A troll shows itself pdq in a comment, as does spam. Maybe toss in a filter for added ease of blowing past the dregs?

    The other thing you mentioned, about the value of comments, that drew attention. I was a regular reader of a soccer blog with a rather funny Brit journalist and his opinions of Spanish futbol. There was a small but persistent group of followers who regularly commented on his blogs. It was a fun place to read and participate, and then the comments were turned off. I stopped reading it after that.

    The blog wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. It was the act of participating that made it worth reading-and then commenting in reply. There was a fair amount of ribbing but nothing objectionable or rude. We all kept ourselves in trim, as it were. But, as soon as the comments were turned off, so was I.

    The mind is a bipolar construct, and that means, so is the universe. Thus, there is good(me) and bad(you-figuratively speaking) in everything – including blogs, the internet, and apple pie(with cheese).

  63. I’m one of those weirdos who really enjoys comment threads. I even sometimes partake in the guilty pleasure of reading ones that are dominated by trolls and their denouncers. Sometimes I genuinely want know what the cranks think, not because I believe there is any potential that we will ever agree on the point they are attempting to make (or any point) but because it’s, sometimes, the only way to understand the taxonomy of a collective delusion. While I respect that disruptive comments can be vexing for a comment-thread discussion, I don’t believe that making racist/sexist/homophobic, biased, or otherwise annoying comments disappear from the thread will reduce their frequency, or convince adherents to trollish behavior to be less trollish. I think that the resignation to the idea that trolls will be trolls is reductive. Engagement with trolls is certainly not the best way to confront this issue, because responding to a provocation has predictable results. However, I don’t believe that ignoring trolls (either by having individual users filter other users out of their feed, or by having moderators mallet individual users/comments) is necessarily any better.

    I think there’s a way to build online communities using democratic principles, without giving control over the comment thread to a mob of trolls. Moderators should have the ability to vet users and authorize them to vote for certain actions on individual comments (lets call these vetted and authorized users Citizens). This would empower Citizens to vote for several different actions on individual comments that would determine how those comments are read/responded to. So a Citizen coming across a post, could flag it as trollish, or flag it as notable. Any post marked trollish would be preserved, and the user would be able to comment in their own sub-comments, but the user would be frozen from posting further comments in the thread (unless they later received a greater plurality of notable votes, or troll votes were rescinded), and the post would be pushed to the bottom of the comment thread. In addition the vote for troll would be recorded on the comment (like scarlet letter, or a Like on Facebook), and sub comments would be hidden. Any reader interested in seeing what trolls think, or what people think about trolls, could page to the end of the comment thread, and look through the sub comments on individual troll posts. Any post marked notable would rise to the top of the comment thread and its sub-comments would be shown. (Maybe a third voting designation may be in order too: the “get-a-room” option, where two commenters who, while not being trollish, are dominating a thread with their bickering in a way that’s disruptive.)

    When issues arose where the Citizens were divided over a contentious comment, or a controversial user, things would be worked out democratically (via voting and discussion of the merits or lack-therof in the hidden sub-comments below a flagged post). Moreover, this system would address trolls in a way that doesn’t give them power over the conversation, but does preserve their comments for discussion and also shame, ridicule, and punishment by the community.

    Using this system moderators could better identify which commenters should be banned, and which commenters could be promoted to Citizen. You needn’t read through every thread looking for trolls, they’re already identified, and you can make the executive decision whether to ban them or grant them pardon. Notice that the trolls are taking over, and need more help identifying bad apples? Look through the notable posts, and deputize some more Citizens.

    This system would also protect against the kind of epistemic closure that can come from community policed or moderated threads. Folks who may have been unfairly labeled trolls, merely for expressing an unpopular opinion, would be allowed to make their argument with anyone willing to engage them in their own hidden sub-comments. Some people who may have been labeled trolls in certain discussion threads, could also redeem themselves by adding valuable comments to other discussion threads. Moderators would be able to pull up users complete commenting history, and make better determinations about the shape of their community.

    It also puts the power in the hands of commenters to determine which part of the conversation they want to be engaged with. Some people may want to engage others in substantive discussions, but they may also want to go Troll hunting, and they should be able to do both without disrupting the substantive discussion.

  64. “2. . . If your comments are unmoderated and toxic (or moderated poorly and toxic because of it), people will avoid your site because it makes them feel unclean to drag their eyeballs over that sort of crap; ”

    I would like to offer up this opinion: This is a good thing. It is a market based solution that works well. I am not a fan at all of heavy moderation. I understand the need for it on occasion, but as policy, all it does is drive people away just as much as no moderation at all does.

    Moderation in moderation is the best way to appeal to a broad range of folks and encourage broad discourse.

  65. The other thing that BoingBoing is doing – and it may be related to the separation of the comments from the articles – is using a new forum software called Discourse (possibly alpha-grade, in fact; at least beta anyway), developed (in part) by Jeff Atwood, who is half of the team that created the coding information community Stack Exchange.

    His goal is to make forum software (of which commenting could arguably be said to be a subset) smart enough to make commenting on forums (and comment threads) fun and useful again (or at all, if it never was to start with).

    Might be worth looking into for here, once it’s (more) available.

  66. Real names sometimes works. I think it’s really more of a pain-killer than a cure, making the problem seem less important.

    I think of posting on the web (and the internet, and Fido-net, and bit-net, and …) without comments as writing a message, duplicating it, gluing them into a pad, nailing the pad to a tree in a public place, and walking away. There’s no Reply-To: functionality.

    With comments, you’re standing on your soapbox, handing out your message, and engaging in discussion with the audience. Conversation. There were trolls screaming at the message pad on the tree, but people didn’t notice. A good speaker and crowd, the screaming troll appears, doesn’t get fed, and (usually) goes away (sometimes after being painted bright pink and dragged up on stage for everyone to laugh at.)

    There’s no real conversation at “big media” comment threads; there’s cheering, hissing, booing, and sometimes, rarely, information left out of the story that changes your perspective. Not very often, though, and usually not voted up very high.

    Most people won’t or can’t think. One of the great things about this community is that there are many who appear to think. I don’t always agree with them, but they are usually interestingly different. Sometimes I discover I was wrong.

  67. One thing many seem to forget is that “real names” enforcement is that it isn’t [reasonably] enforceable. With little effort, I can create a second facebook profile tied to an alternate email address and troll away. Or do the same for whatever system you put in place to determine “real name”. In fact, making people think they are seeing “real names” can add to the problem. For example, I could create a new FB profile with the name, photo, information of someone else making it look quite legitimate at a glance (or more).

    Even given verification, if someone is going to be a jerk, they are going to be a jerk.

  68. I often write comments. I only occasionally post them. Having the opportunity to write my ideas helps me clarify what I truely think and believe, even if I choose not to share. I appreciate the time and energy you put into moderating comments.

  69. That said, from an anecdotal point of view things seem to be a bit worse these days; the trolls and assholes, who were previously free agents, appear to have organized themselves and picked targets.

    Well, I’ve seen that exact thing, but you may want to consider that in many cases the topic itself produces a sort of spontaneous alignment that only looks like actual coordination. The arguments, pro and con, are so obvious and they tap into pre-existing tensions, so discussion on them follows predictable groupings.

  70. Another way to look at timing and comments: Allow comments to be entered for moderation, but only post them after you’ve finished your for-pay writing for the day. You’d get a bit of that “letter to the editor” feel and you’d cut down on trollishness by stopping it at the source.

  71. I personally hate the new BoingBoing comment format – it’s disjointed and doesn’t lead to a good user experience.

    I run a large website and get comments daily, they all have to be screened. I get some real nuts who try to peddle their crazyness. In the end I just have to hit delete.

    My local newspaper recently got rid of comments all together and that’s a good example of the user experience improving. The local paper attracted the nuttiest of the nuts and it was awful reading the comments (nutty by open racism, tea partiers, etc). So, that’s a situation where I’m glad they’re gone.

    I’ve thought about getting rid of them on my site, but in general they add to the site – not detract. So, they’ll stay for now.

  72. It’s also worth considering the phase change that was Eternal September – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September . Perhaps a commenting community might be affected by a process of deliberate induction and vetting.

    I recall schemes from the Usenet that required commentators to show they’d read a FAQ before they were validated for commenting.

  73. Following on from Seebs’ point: a significant potential problem with real names policies is that they effectively exclude from the conversation those people who have reasonable reasons for not using their Real Name. This may include, but is not limited, to people who: fear being stalked or tracked down by someone specific; are female and feel that rape and death threats aren’t a fun things to get; work in a field in which being easily traceable could be risky (some branches of the police, some branches of mental health provision, some branches of social work, etc.); could lose their jobs, or not get new ones, if found to be posting things that don’t align with their employers’ values; want to talk about things that would get them ostracised by family/community (being gay, being trans, holding/rejecting religious beliefs); are just plain squeamish about the idea of friends and acquaintances being able to piece together all sorts of different aspects of their lives; don’t fall into any of the previous categories but share a unique surname with family member who does.

    I fall into at least one of the above categories. I don’t imagine that the world would be much different if I withdrew from commenting because forced to use my real life name, but I think something could get lost if all of us did.

  74. My comment-section utopia would look something like LJ: threaded (so folks can easily skip over entire convos that don’t interest them), with the ability for the site owner to easily ban, freeze and delete. Add in customizable filters–profanity, abusive language, key phrases often used by trolls and derailers–and comments sections could become what they should be: a place for further, deeper dialogue on issues raised by the post in question, not just a free-for-all shoutbox.

    Unfortunately, the kind of hands-on moderation necessary for high-traffic sites is a full-time job, and many simply don’t want to bother with it. Some also have a misguided devotion to free speech, and think they owe it to the public to provide them with a gatekeeper-free space to spew whatever horrible thing comes to mind, no matter how unproductive it is. It’s relatively easy to avoid comments sections in the latter case, but in the former, I think the site owners would be better served by simply deleting those sections entirely. As with most things, if you can’t maintain it, don’t have it.

  75. I’ve written a couple of posts like yours, the oldest being from 2009 (“Commenting on Comments”) and newer ones tending to be about advice (“Comment When You Have Something to Say“). I think the real problem is with incentive structures: thought-out, coherent replies often take time and energy to compose. Anyone with any habit of writing thought-out, coherent replies is better off getting a blog, and posting those entries there—which is what I’ve done in the first sentence of this comment.

    Not everyone has that habit, however, and people will write very occasional, well-thought out comments, but for the most part comments tend to devolve to the rapid and incoherent. Yet I keep comments on my own blog because the rare gem is much more important than the day-to-day coal, and, in some posts comments have a lot of information that I wouldn’t be able to gather on my own. For example, I wrote an essay about why it’s smarter to be a nurse or physicians assistant than a doctor, and that has dozens of helpful responses. I won’t link to it here because I don’t want your spam detector to go nuts.

    Despite those positive threads, however, the incentive structure of comments still tilts the field towards dumb shit.

  76. Holy Cow! You read 400 postings over 2 days per thread? I’d say that’s above and beyond. I’d chop it off after 40 hours (8 of which would be night, and the comments would be off) or n-hundred comments, whichever came first. For me, I’d say n=2, but I’m anti-social.

    Regards,
    Jack Tingle

  77. Sage words, Mr. Scalzi. I’d read this blog every day even if it didn’t have comments, but that’s me.

    But admit it, you’re just tired of all the lawn commentary, aren’t you? ;-)

  78. I’ve been on this-here Intarweeb thingy since 1986 and have moderated comments at both mild and superfreaking contentious popular sites, and agree with John. Trolls are getting worse and more organized.

    No ISP to cut them off. Wallet names don’t help, because they don’t give a shit because GWARGH Cable News and some of them are proud of being awful.

    – Boing Boing is pretty good, although I’m still not sold on their new system.
    – Scalzi is far too kind, and should get someone tougher and/or not him.
    – Coates is the man and everyone ought to have his policies.

    Back on the USENET (alt.wesley.die.die.die, sorry Wil!), we had the ability to PLUNK trolls and everyone who responded to that thread away. Was it Control-K?

    I’ve been on other platforms where you can have ever-enlarging circles of people to post to (friends, family, people you work with, people you geek with), plus you can completely block people from seeing what you post, or you can avoid seeing them. Doesn’t keep down the responses to a troll, though — for that you need a Mallet or whatever Ta-Nehisi uses. BANNING WORKS.

    And yes, news providers should just turn off their damn comments. The trolls probably aren’t bothering with the ads, but the paper/channel is paying for a lot of trolly bandwidth.

    But I would like to thank John b/c I can’t go to Worldcon this week (GWARGH) so am selling a membership to someone I contacted right there through Whatever comments. It’s saving us both money.

  79. One distinction that is probably driving many to comment on their own media like facebook and twitter is that, in order to make people accountable for their comments, sites are requiring commentors to create an account and log in. Another account, another unique password, another username that may be difficult to remember… no.

  80. When I was younger (by many a kilo) my girlfriend and now wife got me to put on a slinky little number rich in colours. Oranges as stand-ins in the mammary department, and she’ll to this day berate me for having nicer legs then she did. So, dresswearing part sorted.

    One of my absolute favourite stand-up comedians/humourists is Bill Bailey. Brit with serious wit. Not sure if image linking works here, so I won’t try, but if you put “Bill Bailey feminist” into Google image search you’ll see what I mean.

    Thinking of ordering that T-shirt :-)

    Best regards,
    Lars

  81. I drool value…this is what happens when I swipe too fast, i drool with my fingertips… I deeply value this community. Love the posts. Love the comments. Love the idea of The Mallet. I sometimes feel i should be paying to post here, for the same reasons that i ask a host what i can bring to the party. Only my best words will do. Thank you all for being here, and thank you, Mr. Scalzi, for being willing to work like this.

  82. Unfortunately it also means we all have to develop really thick skins. I know a writer, who decided not to publish her next book, because of the nasty feedback she got. And I mean really nasty – the sort of stuff that has in past resulted in people being charged with uttering threats.

    She decided not to fight it. And that’s really too bad, because she was a damned good writer.

    Wayne

  83. I generally don’t comment because by the time I’m reading a thread someone else has already said what I might want to say. But I did notice the overnight and permanent shut-down of recent threads, and thought it was a good thing for you to do — not least because I was getting the impression that there were deliberate troll runs timed for when you couldn’t be sitting on the thread. I like reading the conversation here, and these two actions strike me as making it a lot less likely that you’ll burn out on moderating and have to close down commenting altogether.

  84. I like the fact that your comment threads are not, err, threaded. I think the linear format means that it’s easier to find the new posts, as they aren’t hidden among sub-branches of old ones, and it encourages people to read, or at least skim, the whole set of conversations, so they don’t get balkanized. I do wish that you had comment numbers, however, as it makes it easier to refer back to someone.

    As to Goober’s point that (s)he’s never seen a site with multiple moderators work, (s)he might want to take a look at Making Light. Multiple mods, and no playing off one against the other.

  85. I noticed a couple mentions about slashdot which uses thencommunity to monitor itself. Users are given 5 moderation points to use to vote comments up or down with descriptions, such as -1 Troll or +1 Insightful. The beauty of the system, the genius I think, is that they also add a level of meta moderaton so you have users checking the work of other users for fairness.

    All in all, with that large of a populace utilizing the comments it is a commendable system.

    I am wondering John, if you have ever thought of sharing the Mallet, or at least perhaps a gavel, with some trusted commenters to help with your comments here?

  86. This is one of the three sites I read with any regularity that I go out of my way to read the comments — because the moderation and community that has been built is one that I really enjoy, and I like to hear what other people have to say and hear their experiences/perceptions/etc.

    That it is only 3 out of however many sites is really, really sad. There are more that are readable (but not worth my time separating the wheat from the chaff), there are plenty that I know I will gag if I even look at the first comment so don’t even bother with the site, and one I’ve started really enjoying after their comments were nuked and the article writers started to write towards the readers, not just to rile up people in the comments. I actually wrote in thanking the last site for that, when they mentioned they were looking for a way to re-enable comments, and they wrote back saying they’d noticed the same quality increase of articles and they actually had MORE traffic as a result, as it was no longer a cesspool of the net. That was two years ago and they still haven’t re-enabled comments.

    You create the community you get, be it through heavy moderation or letting the assholes run rampant. Real names don’t do a thing, look at how many people are happy to attach their Facebook names to racist, sexist garbage that shows up on any employer’s google search. We’ve dropped resumes after seeing stuff like that, but quite frankly, until studies are done and that information is shoved in peoples’ faces, nobody is going to put two and two together and realize being an asshole on the internet with your real name might cause you problems later in life. Or might not even think they’re being one — plenty of people genuinely believe the racist, sexist, etc-crap they throw out there and couldn’t imagine the world not agreeing with them. Real names just make targets stand out in red paint because their name screams “possibly not a white male”.

  87. For a very long I didn’t have comments on my site and I wanted them. I know a lot of cartoonists and serial writers who don’t allow comments because of the potential spam and jerk factor, but I like readers being able to dash off a comment (or point out a typo. Or multiple typos. Ahem. Nevermind! Moving on!) on impulse, and so far I’ve been fortunate not to attract the flaming a-holes. But I’ve been part of larger communities that did simply because they were larger (therefore more attractive targets).

    I really don’t like ceding the community aspects of my site (what little there is) to twitter or plus or facebook or tumblr or the rest because then it becomes twitter’s community, sometimes briefly involving my site. And also I like when people point out the typos, because then I fix them.

  88. One trick I’ve seen, back in the days of Digg and its drive-by, low value comments, is having the site behave differently depending on who the referrer was. If visitors come from Reddit, or another community where you’d expect problematic behaviour to come from, for that session comments are disabled.

    Referral blocking doesn’t stop anyone sufficiently motivated, but that’s not the point: the point is to cut down on drive-by comments, and the assumption is that drive-by comments from specific sources are more trouble than they’re worth.

  89. Thank you for all your work moderating. I’m very glad you’re keeping comments up, this community is something special. I’m all in favor of anything you need to do to keep from getting burnt out.

    I know the community here has influenced me. I only read the comments sporadically, but when I do I’m often grateful I did, more’s the wonder. I identified with Annalee’s recent comment on the Feminist post at http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/08/26/to-the-dudebro-who-thinks-hes-insulting-me-by-calling-me-a-feminist/#comment-498672, particularly, “There are, of course, women who have homework to do on sexism. We don’t walk into the world understanding the ways that society mistreats us, and we’re as poisoned as everyone else by cultural notions that we deserve that treatment.” Links from commenters on Whatever made that homework much, much, easier. And then from there, understanding feminism better has also helped me at least a little bit to understand minorities better. Even the almost-trolls have helped — occasionally I’ll read something that doesn’t seem *quite* right, but I can’t put my finger on it, or I think maybe they’re right after all — and then someone older and wiser than I tears their argument to shreds, and I learn more than I would have otherwise. Though I’m glad you Mallet the worst of them, of course. (And it’s easy to see how I could get more and more exasperated with them the older I get, as they do tend to repeat themselves.)

    None of that would happen if everyone just commented on Twitter and Facebook. This is a great place to listen to people from different backgrounds than my own, and the discussion is very different than what I’d get if I blogged my comments on your posts, instead. And my comments would often be different, outside of that dialogue. *Of course*, because *dialogue*. @Jake Seliger, this is where I disagree: keeping your own blog and writing coherent replies? Not mutually exclusive.

    Of course, it isn’t worth it on a lot of blogs, because a lot of them don’t have the kind of dialogue you do here. Even when they’re troll-free zones, many of them just don’t have particularly insightful comments. And that’s okay — I follow Patricia C. Wrede’s blog, for example, because her writing advice is so consistently wonderful; I don’t need to get amazing advice from her commenters, too. @David Dyer-Bennet, and others who’ve mentioned you don’t read sites with no comment threads because the authors are just “bloviating into the air,” you’re really confusing me — do you never read books, then? There are too many excellent blogs to follow for me to take the time to read the comments on all of them, I’m not going to waste my time on a blog of such a low quality that it’s no good without comments, or it feels like “bloviating.” Much as I enjoy the comments here, I’d still read it without them.

    Back to @Scalzi, I was irked last night that because I took the time to read all the comments I didn’t get a chance to comment before it closed, but that’s my fault and the repetitive commenters’ fault (IT RAINS ON THE LAWN! Get over it!), not yours. I have to remember to check out your current posts and read quickly when I’m interested in the comments, even if I’m behind on all my other blogs. Which is kind of true whether you close comments or not, closing them just makes it more explicit. I mean, not much point in commenting days later, if you want anyone to read it. (Though it doesn’t help that the notifications on individual posts doesn’t seem to work.)

    Oh, and I used to think I’d like threaded comments here, as several other people have said, but your “cross-pollination” method of one comment stream has won me over. You can always use the search feature to refresh your memory about a particular discussion thread, if needed. Repetitive comments are annoying, but threaded comments wouldn’t fix that, as far as I can tell based on the rest of the internet.

    @Sarah M., you’re not the only one with that particular affliction. Unfortunately. :)

    Sorry, didn’t mean to go on for so long. I’ve officially used the word “comment” and all its variations enough to last me a good while, I think… done now.

  90. Today, comments were inadvertently turned off on one of my favorite websites, Andrew Collins Telly Addict, and I tweeted him about it. It turns out that as much as I love his videos, I also love what I learn from the comments people leave about his weekly video. Although I don’t tend to read all of Whatever’s comments, I also find them valuable at times, especially when you ask for opinions on books or other topics. The one time I was accused of being a TROLL was when I left a comment on a YouTube video. I thought the video was nonsensical, but everyone else who watched it LOVED it. We’re Nerdfighters, they said. You can’t say that. You’re a troll. So i said, well, no, actually, I’m not a troll; I just have a dissenting opinion. I considered *myself* a nerdfighter up until this incident, but I don’t see how a dissenting opinion is a bad thing–I wasn’t trying to incite anger. Sorry about that. Goodbye nerdfighters. I realized that I wasn’t a member of that group like I thought I was–I didn’t belong there, and so I’ve never gone back. I don’t feel as though I’m a member of a community here; I feel that only slightly at Andrew’s site because I’m the USian looking in; but the place where I thought I was a member–well, I wasn’t. Twitter is better for me, but even there I frequently say things that others find annoying, and occasionally they accuse me of trying to incite others to anger. But, you know, it’s my Twitter feed, they’re my tweets, and if you find my tweets inciteful, you can stop following me. I’m glad you have comments because they give your posts more meaning, and as long as they’re not onerous to handle, I hope they can still appear here.

  91. Just want to say that there are a few regulars here who have added quite a bit to my worldview. I would be much poorer if I couldn’t read what they had to post.

  92. People need spaces to say stupid things where people will argue with them. It’s an important way we grow. I think comment sections help provide these spaces.

    That said, there are enough of these spaces already. I don’t think sites should feel obliged to provide comments sections if they can’t provide appropriate moderation.

    John, I must admit that I’m actually a little troubled by your practice of shutting down while you sleep. I think we might miss out on some insightful commentary from the antipodes that way. Do you think you could find a way to get someone to wield the MLC for you at night?

  93. I haven’t noticed any Antipodeans having great difficulty with posting here — some of my favorite Whateverians are from the down under and a bit sideways parts.

  94. I haven’t noticed any Antipodeans having great difficulty with posting here — some of my favorite Whateverians are from the down under and a bit sideways parts.

    Nice qualification there – if you’re in the US, the “down under” for you is actually the Indian ocean.

    http://www.freemaptools.com/tunnel-to-other-side-of-the-earth.htm

    (Worse, the opposite side of the earth for me, as I sit in this cold and miserable NZ winter, is Spain, near Madrid. The Wellington climate doesn’t resemble Madrid WHATsoever. Why couldn’t Europe have gotten the fault-lines and we have gotten the Gulf Stream?)

  95. Most places on the Internet I observe the “Don’t read the comments!” rule. But there are one or two sites where I actively look forward to reading the comments. Whatever is one of those places. The reason I enjoy reading comments on those particular sites is because frequently the comments expand on the original posting in interesting ways that make me rethink or offer viewpoints I hadn’t considered. That is valuable to me.

    It is worth noting though, that those places which have the most intellectually stimulating and vibrant comments are also heavily and relentlessly moderated. And so while I absolutely appreciate the space that Whatever provides, I recognise the hard work and effort required to make it the space it is. And because of that, I feel I have no right to expect that it continue. If it does continue I will be very happy to keep reading but if it doesn’t I wouldn’t feel resentful about it.

  96. I’m very glad of the comments section here.

    Reading through it today gave me lots of thoughts, opinions and reported experiences about comments, comments section plus their care and feeding. Plus links to more articles for reading later.

    Without that I’d only have John’s thoughts, opinions and experiences. While I respect that, this collection of so much more gives me wider and deeper information to read and think about.

    If I read work from people I disagree with, I want to know why they think that. They may know something I don’t and my world will change.

    They may also be batshit crazy but that’s a chance I take. I don’t want to live in a narrowcast world that only agrees with me.

    Whomp the trolls somehow but please keep this rich comment section. I think your site, and my Internet, would be much less without it.

    And the folk who choose not to read sites that have no comments. I assume you don’t write off all the published books of mankind. How is that different? That’s not a put down – I genuinely see no real difference and you apparently do. What point about them do you see that I am missing?

  97. I cannot imagine the mindset of someone who believes anyone on the Internet is obligated to allow comments on anything he or she may create there. A connection to the Net does not entitle you to declare yourself Grand Poo-bah of other people and place them under your orders, much less insist that they turn themselves into your kindergarten teachers and moderate your behavior in their space. Talk about actual hubris; there it is.

    Dealing with comments, especially on a popular blog with thousands of readers, is a very time consuming job. I’m grateful Scalzi allows discussions here on hard topics, but if he ever decided to stop, that he was prideful and refusing criticism are not the items that would come to my mind. Scalzi doesn’t work for me; I am not in charge of his life. It’s just an interesting blog, and it can be interesting sometimes to have conversations here. But really, there are millions of blogs, websites, forums, etc. Why would you care if one site doesn’t get into debate but instead is just articles? You have all the rest of the Net to shout in.

  98. Comments are a conversation.
    If I don’t allow comments, my mistakes don’t get corrected, and I don’t get additional info from my readers.
    Maybe my readers are atypical, but I’ve only had two professional trolls pollute the site. A few who disagree, but that just gives me a chance to elucidate and explain. And sometimes retract when I’m wrong.

  99. That’s why I think comments on News sites are essential.

    How many times have you seen a “news” article that’s either propaganda or a veiled opinion piece? Which isn’t so bad, unless it’s a) in a usually credible source and b) filled with factual inaccuracies.

    Sometimes the comments can result in a re-write, or even a withdrawal of such an article.

    Example : http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/22/how-will-chelsea-manning-be-treated-in-prison.html

    The edited article is still problematic: the contention that it’s not “really” rape even if “celibacy is not an option” is one I have issues with. Much as I’d have issues with an article in praise of Josef Mengele, if you get my drift. But at least most of the factual inaccuracies have been removed. I’ve seen worse on CNN, much worse in local papers.

    Providing a right to reasonable rebuttal that is not unduly delayed is, I think, essential. Moderation is needed, but a banhammer should be wielded as a scalpel against malignancy not a crude bludgeon.

    For example this comment, which goes against the tide of commentary and the original article to some extent. It tries to make a case, with examples, but one not popular. The reason I’m spending my precious time on it is so that we don’t have a premature consensus of groupthink, always a danger.

    Also “Someone is Wrong on the Internet!”

  100. Apropos of nothing, I’ve been reading Seanan McGuire’s Indexing (new chapters being released every two weeks, ala The Human Division), and I visibly flinched at your cavalier dismissal of “the narrative.” I’d’ve thought the author of Redshirts would be more cautious where narratives were concerned!

  101. I would be profoundly sad to see the comments section on Whatever go because people who are not straight white males can comment here without being dogpiled.

    There are not many places on the Web where we can do that.

    I am also profoundly aware that John pays the price for our freedom to do so by putting in vast amounts of work moderating the comments.

    So an overnight and two day limit on the sort of posts which attract the dogpilers looks like a Really Good Plan, please; I’m over the pond but there are still hours which fit, and I’m not the one doing the work…

  102. John, I agree with many of your points in your original post. There are two issues however.

    1) Visitors in non-USA time zones really get penalised where blog posts are concerned. I might well have something valid and insightful to say only to find my post is buried under an avalanche of other entries due to the 8 hour time difference.

    2) Boing Boing’s move to BBS style commenting format deters casual commenters who might also have valid and/or informative insights. It’s their loss. For a website with a heavy social justice bias (and that’s not a bad thing) they are restricting their conversation to a more stratified class of opinionators.

    To me it’s a case of chucking out the baby with the bathwater. YMMV.

  103. I appreciate your willingness to permit comments on your blog, Mr. Scalzi, because that is one of the reasons I enjoy coming here. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that this is the ONLY place where I read the comments – I avoid comments on news sites like the plague they are – because so many of your followers clearly work hard to try to live up to the fine example you set us.

    At the same time, I’m also very glad that you are developing a method of limiting the amount of time and attention some comment threads demand from you, because, hey, writing pay copy is your primary job, and we all want you to have the time and energy to continue to do that. I’m a volunteer moderator (one of about eighty or so) on a very large forum site, and I know intimately how much of a time-sink it can be to try to clean up a nasty flame-war there; it makes me cringe to think of you squandering that much of your time cleaning up your own blog each day.

    So, not that you really NEED my validation, here is one more vote in favor of setting a statute of limitations on comments for posts that generate a lot of emotion in your readers, and particularly for shutting us all down so you can get a good night’s sleep. Would that I could do the same on the forum I help to mod!

  104. For better or worse, the Internet allows scattered people to form communities. For me, in the late 1980s, it was better – I was writing a large piece of software that very few people were interested in using apart from me, and I found support from half a dozen people in Australia, Alaska, the UK and Germany (as I recall). I was on the West Coast of the US.

    They encouraged me, tested the software, suggested fixes, and generally kept me going through difficulties which would otherwise have stopped the project dead. There simply weren’t enough interested people near by for local support.

    Well, fine, but the reverse is also true – if there’s any support anywere, worldwide, for a really bad idea then a group can form around it; more easily in these days of blogs rather than email. Such groups tend self-reinforce, and act according to their own norms – witness Washington or Westminster and their generally awful behaviour, reinforced by the echo chambers of political blogs.

    That’s how groups form – dealing with them is another problem, and you’re right, in your case careful editing is probably the best answer. Good luck.

  105. I love arguing in comment sections on the internet. There is a lot of value in it, and it’s been my big disappointment at how fractured a lot of comment sections have become. There is a thing called “living in a bubble,” and the way many places are structured just encourages the bubble to grow. If you wall yourself off from everyone who disagrees with you, you won’t be prepared to make arguments that actually work and are convincing. I suspect that’s a big reason why so many “safe spaces” are abusive and unconvincing to newcomers.

  106. Sounds enitrely reasonable to me.

    BTW (And sorry for sidestepping the fact you’ve closed the comments) I just clicked back to your feminst post (missed it the first time) and wanted to say it was awesome. The perfect way to deal with it. Ridicule is often the best form of defence. I then clicked back to your thoughts on feminism and was astounded to read almost word for word my own views on the subject. How about that.

  107. I only found the blog this summer, and I have been delighted by the comment threads. Safe, intelligent, tolerant, open-minded and respectful discussions on the Internet– it’s an amazing place. I know it’s a ton of work, but it’s like a garden. All that grubbing around in the dirt produces some beautiful and very useful things. [This is NOT a veiled lawn-related comment. I don’t care what you do with your lawn. I have my own yard to worry about.]

  108. I like your comment section. I don’t often post, but it’s nice to have the option. Sometimes I actually have something useful to add.

    Closing comments after a certain amount of time or volume makes sense. Very few are going to read 400+ comments on some of the posts and will inevitably repeat what someone else has already said.

    Talking about comments, I’m reminded of a Yogi Berra quote – “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded”

    Once you have a sufficient audience, conversation and community is difficult.

  109. Since I’m not on Twitter:

    Fog squid, Mr. Scalzi? Why not a fog shark? Or, worse a FOG SNAIL!!!!!!!

    SNAILQUAKE XXVI: ATTACK OF THE FOG SNAILS!!!!!

  110. Okay, starting from basics:

    1) I do enjoy this site and the community here, and I like participating in it; but
    2) This is your online space, and you have the absolute prerogative to say what goes here.
    3) I don’t necessarily agree with all your moderating decisions (but see point 2). I certainly agree with the vast majority of them.

    I came to blog commenting via Usenet, as did a number of your other commenters, I suspect. The two media aren’t precisely the same, but there are a lot of things they have in common. For example, they both reward the literate and the grammatically knowledgeable – people who can format their thoughts accurately in a textual version (and spell all the words correctly) look “smarter” than people who have difficulty with these skills. They also reward the voluble and the dedicated – if you have time to spend on making multiple comments in quick succession, you can “win” an online argument on Usenet, or in a blog comments section. They therefore share a big weakness – one voluble spoiler with a lot of dedication, free time, or minions can easily make them unreadable in a very short amount of time.

    On Usenet, the version which was ubiquitous was the “usenet performance artist” – people who cross-posted cascades of text across unrelated groups, and took delight in the flame-wars which broke out as a result. On blogs, it seems to be the drive-by troll.

    To be honest, the day someone manages to re-implement the good old “killfile” from NNTP readers to work on blog comments, I’ll be a happy bunny. That way, I can ignore the nincompoops who raise my blood pressure (possibly indicating my disdain with a single “plonk”[1], if I feel the need) and get on with my life. In the meantime, I’ll stick with dropping 5c in the troll fund for every comment from one of ‘em I run across, and donate the money to charity at the end of the year. ($35 and counting so far this year).

    On the pseudonym thing: it’s pretty clear I have a dog in this fight (unless someone thinks perhaps Megpie71 is my wallet name; in which case I definitely want to meet the registrars for births, deaths and marriages in their location – they sound like cool people). I’m generally in favour of long-term name use – a name with a reputation attached. If you google “Megpie71″, you’ll find stuff of mine going back a number of years – certainly you’ll find my Livejournal, InsaneJournal and Dreamwidth accounts, not to mention my stuff on AO3, and a few other places. You’ll probably also find bits of my usenet history as well (I was using the Megpie71 ID during my last year or so on Usenet, before finding an NNTP feed got too inconvenient to bother with). It’s a name that’s been knocking around the internet for the better part of sixteen years (gods, that long already?) and it’s a name with a reputation and a history attached. Hopefully that reputation is a good one… but the point is, you can find me, you can google me, and you can learn a lot about me based on my pseudonym. If you google my wallet name… well, you’ll find some of my online stuff, but the first person who comes up for the version of my birth name I use most regularly isn’t me. It’s someone else in a different country.

    I suspect the more important thing than “real names” is “real reputation” – can I google you, and find out whether you’re spouting your particular variety of arseholery everywhere else on the internet? If I mention your name somewhere else, to someone else, will they say “oh, that $EXPLETIVE – ignore them!” or will they say “Oh yeah, they’re pretty cool; they have good stuff to say”. If I give them a link to your current comment, will their opinion of you alter?

    On moderation: I believe the leader of the Australian defence forces said it best earlier this year – “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept”. Or in other words, if you want to see good comments, you have to expect good comments, and make that expectation clear by moderating the poor ones out of the stream. Yes, this takes work.

    [1] For those who missed the era of NNTP, and therefore don’t understand what I’m getting at here: “plonk” is the noise of someone hitting the bottom of the killfile after being dropped in it. Being “plonked” on Usenet and similar such NNTP communities was an expression of social censure – an indication you’d annoyed someone seriously enough they were going to ignore what you wrote in future.

  111. I don’t always read all the comments here, but enough of them to make it worthwhile. This is one of only 2 blog-type sites where I ever read the comments at all. That is because of their high quality. I realize that this takes a great investment in your time.

    I was for a while a secondary moderator on a blog. The owner gave me a set of guidelines and I allowed or hammered comments as I saw fit. Questionable items were turned over to the owner, which only was necessary a few times. I am not saying this would always work for you, but since you have a few people you trust to do guest blogging, maybe some would be willing to spend time helping you out this way. It would keep you in control, and thus keep the high quality of comments your thousands of readers expect, but leave you more time to write books. (I am not suggesting myself as a secondary moderator. You don’t know me and thus should not trust me that far.)

  112. John, I’m de-lurking to say I come to this site because I enjoy *your* writing. I frequently enjoy the comments as well, but after the first 50 or so they become repetitive and nit-picky, so I start scrolling down to find the green boxes, then scrolling up again to read the comment the green box is referring to. The other day I obsessively read a large percentage of your Feminism post comments, and it took at least an hour. I came away wondering how on earth you managed to find the time to nursemaid them all. As far as I’m concerned, you can turn off your comments as soon as you feel you have the least better thing to do. But I do love the kittenings. More of those, please!

  113. I only recently(last six months) started reading here. I really enjoy reading the well reasoned and respectful comments – also the funny funny people banter. I would really miss the comments section. At the same time I know it has got to be a lot of work to moderate so well. So if you don’t have time that’s fair and I’d rather see comments shut down than allowed to drown in vitriol. I would already miss the comments and I just got here – but you have higher priority tasks for sure.

  114. Personally, I come here (occasionally) to read your posts and that’s it. If you shut off comments forever, it wouldn’t affect me in the least. That’s one datum.

  115. Thank you for allowing comments here. As another commenter noted, were it not for the additions to your original post, I would not have found several nifty things, like the Octavia Butler Scholarship Fund (still collecting the coin jar for contribution at the end of the year). Comments can be beneficial, and I appreciate your judicious use of the Mallet.

  116. Marcy writes,

    @David Dyer-Bennet, and others who’ve mentioned you don’t read sites with no comment threads because the authors are just “bloviating into the air,” you’re really confusing me — do you never read books, then?

    …and steals the words right out of my head. (Although my version would have been, “How sad, then, never to read books, nor anything written by authors now deceased, nor ground-breaking papers by scientists and philosophers, nor interviews with rock stars or social justice heroes or the Dalai Lama or others you can’t just call up to give a piece of your mind…” My version probably would have gone on and on in such manner and been much less pithy and succinct than yours.)

    Of course, it is one’s right to determine who gets one’s attention, and why, but to make that determination based solely on which authors are accessible for you to demand their attention on your rebuttal in return, and moreover on which authors let you make that rebuttal from their megaphone/stage/pulpit and in front of their audience, seems a little… arrogant? egotistical? self-absorbed? Something like that.

    I don’t always have the energy to follow a comment thread, even a good one. But the blogs I like, I like because the blogger says interesting, useful, and/or interesting things. If they curate a commenting community, that’s just icing on an already worthwhile cake.

    Adding my thanks to those already expressed for John’s hard work keeping this one of the more rewarding comment communities to follow and occasionally participate in.

  117. I value the community here, and appreciate the effort you put into maintaining it, guiding the conversation, etc. Quite aside from the Mallet, it’s a huge job. I hope you’ll continue it as much (or, he said with a wrench, as little) as your professional life and emotional health can tolerate.

    I, for one, gave up on Boing Boing entirely a few years ago, because they went from comment sections with valuable conversation, moderated by intelligent people, to almost-unmoderated troll chaos…then decided they didn’t want to have conversations anymore (perhaps because the troll chaos was nasty: well, DUH), and make it almost impossible to come back to a comment thread (by no longer linking recent comments on the main page, and other changes).

    Not sure I’ll bother looking at them now. I didn’t just lose interest in the site; I was really angry about it. Their site, their privilege to run it as they chose, with comments or without. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t be pissed that they left the comments on, but made them almost impossible to use. That struck me as dishonest and/or stupid.

    On anonymity: I’m pseudonomous but very consistent. Almost every ID I use begins with Xopher. I added the Halftongue when…well, when I lost the other half. I stand by everything I say under this ID. I use a different ID for certain different environments, but I never use two different IDs on one site, or in one community.

    Lurkertype: I’ve always been considered a bit sideways.

    Phoenician: silliness. “Down Under” is just a slang name for Oz, NZ, and environs. Lurkertype didn’t say “the opposite side of the world.”

    Btw, Hoboken, NJ, where I live (right near New York City) is at about the same latitude as Madrid. London, England is at about the same latitude as Labrador (where it’s very very cold). So I feel you about the Gulf Stream.

  118. Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little, I don’t think I’ve ever been called pithy and succinct before, thanks! :) (“She’s terse. I can be terse. Once, in flight school, I was laconic.”) I like your version, though.

    Xopher, my parents tell me that when they lived in Maryland their neighbors would never believe them that Maryland is colder than Washington. (More specifically, Seattle and… Baltimore, I think.) Apparently couldn’t grasp that the respective ocean might influence the climate just a wee bit. I think this was in the ’60’s, so of course they couldn’t just google it, but… still.

  119. Phoenician: silliness. “Down Under” is just a slang name for Oz, NZ, and environs. Lurkertype didn’t say “the opposite side of the world.”

    Xopher, I’m still trying to cope with the stunning news that our climate SHOULD be like Madrid. If I have to suffer a Wellington winter, I’ll spread the misery by posting and making everyone else suffer too!

  120. megpie71 remembers kill files and PLONK! dances the middle-aged geek dance

    It’s often instructive for people to learn about ocean currents. The British wouldn’t have set so many colonies so far north if they knew about the Gulf Stream. And it’s always amusing when people from the east coast assume the water off California beaches is warm when the weather’s warm. Nope.

  121. I learned PLONK! after the days of kill files. Some of the systems I’ve used have an Ignore button.

    I wish more did. There’s usually one person on every site whose comments just annoy me and never enlighten or interest me, and a couple of others who are seldom interesting but when they are, other people comment on what they’ve said. It would be so nice to not be trollable by the same person more than once!

  122. In a general sense, though, I think it’s well past time for sites (and personal blogs) to seriously think about whether they need to have comment threads at all. What is the benefit?

    The benefit is one you mention yourself…that under favorable circumstances, comment threads can evolve into a community. People who under meatspace circumstances would likely never meet and would never get to speak face-to-face can communicate with each other. They can check out each other’s stories. They can play around with different modes of self-presentation. They can talk about the backgrounds they come out of, the experiences which formed them, and they can compare notes.

    This can be important, because it can get people who assume they’re alone in the world (and who may very well be, in many important respects, alone in the world) to recognize that there are others out there who have gone through some of the same stuff. They gain access to information which might not otherwise be offered to them. They can gain a kind of reinforcement to which they might otherwise not be exposed. They can read about the experiences other people might have had, compare those experiences to their own experiences, and decide that they and the people about whose experiences they’re reading can claim common cause. Then they may decide to take some action(s) aimed at making their lives less difficult — or, if not, at least some of that sensation of being a alien freak adrift in a sea of hostility may be, well, moderated.

    Of course, all this applies to the readers of a blog, not necessarily to its author, who may not benefit in the same way or to the same degree. (So, naturally, it’s up to the author of the blog to decide whether he/she wants to keep the comments going.) And of course it applies to trolls too — perhaps it applies to them more than it applies to anybody else. Why do you think they’re so fiercely protective of their own communities, and why do you think they take such keen aim at the communities of others? They want to be able to depend on the support of those who are like them and they don’t want to be ratted out, sussed out, criticized, or evaluated by those who are different. Understandably, since they realize, no-one better, how bothersome it is to be howled at.

    Sorry if this is ground which has already been covered.

  123. Forum communities are interesting things. There are several I webcomics follow which have lively yet very different communities.

    The first is basically a free for all, and very hostile at times, with an moderator (the artist) who takes no part in the community.

    Unlike that, the second two are both tightly moderated, but very different from each other as well. The second is rather robust and rude, yet generally welcoming, but with a very clearly drawn line that once crossed will get you banhammered.

    The third, again clearly drawn lines, and equally visible visible moderators but a rather more sedate and friendly atmosphere.

    And then there is the fourth, with an almost invisible moderator and basically only one rule – no porn. Yet a very similar relaxed, friendly community to the 3rd, but you would expect something like the first.

    On the subject of handles/user names/pseudonyms, I’ve recently started using WaytoomanyUIDs as my preferred handle, Andrew_C is rather common and often taken on online services. I recently noticed just how many user names on different services I’d collected over the years, thought it was totally ridiculous, and came up with a suitably ridiculous handle to suit the situation.

  124. My experience moderating a usenet newsgroup taught me one thing: if anyone ever asks you to moderate, say ‘no’.

    The problem is that, for the vast majority of people where the moderation process is routine, they blur into the background, but for the handful of folks that are total dickbags, those are the ones that stick in your mind, so the built-in selection bias drives you to think “all people are dickbags”, which is plainly not so. But I came to hate it.

    It’s toxic, and I say that as someone who believes firmly that trolling well is a lost art. The problem with “the failure mode of ‘clever’ is ‘asshole'” is that there’s a certain number of people that seem naturally disadvantaged in the ‘clever’ department. So while a clever troll might say “It’s a little known fact that Starfleet Captain James T. Kirk’s middle name was actually ‘Timmy’.”, someone with clever deficiency syndrome is currently calling one of his friends and saying “Hey, I saw this woman write something on the internet today, so I says ‘LOL UR FAT’. Isn’t that clever? Anyway, are you coming over for dinner tonight? We’re having Bud Light and lead paint chips…”

    Honestly: I can’t think about moderation without wanting to go outside and split firewood, or perhaps take down some invasive species of tree with my cavalry saber. And it’s way too late at night for that. My advice? Everything in moderation, except moderation, and that not at all.

  125. My experience moderating a usenet newsgroup taught me one thing: if anyone ever asks you to moderate, say ‘no’.

    Automoderation of some Usenet groups was useful. It simply blocked everyone not on an “approved” list, emailed a copy of the group’s FAQ to non-authorised posters, and automatically approved them if they followed simple instructions in the FAQ such as emailing a dummy account with the correct subject line. This immediately cut back on spam and cut down on one-shot wonders, such as those who wandered into soc groups with personal ads.

  126. I moderate my blog almost to the point of turning people off. I used to let people comment anonymously, but got tired of removing 30 to 35 spam comments a day. The only time I regret not letting people comment as Anon/with a name is when I have a post that pushes people’s buttons.

    Having said that, I originally started moderating when I had troll or two follow me over from the chat rooms and leave homophobic commets for everyone to see. I nipped that in the bud when the visitor counter I was using allowed me to get even by asking about where they lived and how things were in that particular town.

  127. I like the comments here because I actually learn things and get to see people point out things that I wouldn’t have come up with myself. In many other places I just ignore the comment threads as it’s smelly pile of troll spoor.

  128. OK, folks: SPOOR means TRACKS, not DROPPINGS.

    MobiusSamurai, sorry. You’re not the focus, just the last one. Lots of other people writing in ways that imply they misconstrue this word.

  129. Then what do you call it when you see the signs (clothes, accessories, empty beverages, gadgets) that let you know a particular person was there? I call that “spoor” even though it’s not footprints. Usually referring to husband-spoor.

    Online trolls do leave “scat”, I think. They are just shitty, after all.

    @Phoenician: yes, the auto-mod worked pretty well back in the old days. Even when we got to Eternal September, it helped.

    The Google+ has a Block button that’s Ignore to the max. Although, not being threaded, it doesn’t work as well as original PLONK — some people still respond.

    Upon further examination, I think the new Boing Boing comments suck. They don’t seem to have much traffic, so apparently others agree.

  130. Yeah, BB used to have its own login. Now you MUST associate your activity on BB with your activity somewhere else. Not that you can’t be traced anyway, but you’d think the EFF types who run BB would be more sensitive to these issues.

    Not going back, as things stand.

  131. Wayne Borean:

    Unfortunately it also means we all have to develop really thick skins. I know a writer, who decided not to publish her next book, because of the nasty feedback she got. And I mean really nasty – the sort of stuff that has in past resulted in people being charged with uttering threats.

    She decided not to fight it. And that’s really too bad, because she was a damned good writer.

    I’m sorry but you really don’t get to decide who “should” fight which battles, especially when they’re battles you yourself don’t have to fight.

    And, no, we shouldn’t all have to develop “thicker skins” against racism, sexism, and other bigotries.

  132. Woman Atheist: Maybe Wayne just meant it was too bad she didn’t publish again –that people had to be so nasty, this is was the unfortunate result? And it IS too bad that she didn’t have the heart to fight, if she really was a damned good writer. I don’t mean this as a slight to her, (I don’t even know who he was referring to) and I didn’t interpret that Wayne was trying to decide who should fight their own battles, only a shame that she chose not to fight the trolls and go ahead with publishing again. I guess I don’t understand why he should be scolded for his comment. If I am misinterpreting your comment as a scolding, I apologize.

    No, we shouldn’t ALL have to develop thicker skins against racism, sexism, and other bigotries. I would be ideal if everyone were kind and sensitive to everyone else around them. Personally, I do feel the need to be more thick skinned –to treat comments that offend me like water off a duck’s back. If I don’t continue to work on that ability, I fear I may end up in a fetal position, rocking back and forth in some corner, muttering incoherently. ;-)

  133. I’ve never understood why news sites have comment features. I mean, either a car wreck blocked the highway at rush hour this morning, or it didn’t. Either the President gave a speech and said XYZ, or he didn’t. There’s not really anything to discuss–at least, nothing that is on-topic or that will accomplish anything.

    I do understand having comments enabled for SOME features, and I think they could be used to great effect–generating actual conversations around opinion articles (moderated ofc), or contributing to the lighter community-driven stuff (e.g. “Tell us YOUR favorite restaurants in the metro area”).

    I think your point about social media is excellent; people can take to Twitter and Facebook to vent their opinions, and any resulting headache is then on them, as content-generators, and not on you, who is hosting a discussion space.

  134. Amanda B.: as far as I can tell, my local newspaper’s site has comments so readers can make racist jokes, explain why crime victims are to blame for being attacked/robbed/killed, brag about their guns, and express contempt for the poor. All vital social functions, apparently.

  135. Whatever and BoingBoing are the only two public sites on the web where I still read the comments – I’ve given up on the idea of finding value-added material elsewhere. Good on you, sir, for having policies that make comments readable.

  136. WOW!!! I been here all day, first I read your post then I read the huge amount of feed back thats come in throughout the day & I have been impressed by the empathy & the guts of everyone to put your lives up here for all to see. So now it is my turn…
    Being poor means having my kids ask where are we going to go if we don’t get a house mommy?
    Being poor means going to the church in your local community for help & having them never show back up to help because there was too much to do & they don’t approve of you not attending church.
    Being poor is living with 4 kids on $327.00 a month for over a year.(that $$$ is child support not welfare)
    Being poor is listining to the local D.A. lady you asked to help you collect child support
    ,tell you to go out & get a job & stop relying on the child support!!! All the while your the only parent being a parent.
    Being poor is living in a community of 810 people
    with 2 available jobs & half the girls in town are applying for the position your praying to get.
    Being poor is waking up to find a 30 notice tacked to your door & praying for the local job so you can have some money to look for a place to live with your 4 kids.
    Being poor is asking for help from your well to do sibling for the umteenth time & praying he really knows how hard you’ve tried not to call & ask for help.
    Being poor means living in a house for 3 years with no running water or electrcity because it’s all you can afford.
    Being poor means not having a car to go the 40 miles to the nearest town to try to find work.
    I could really go on & on but being poor also means trying not to dwell on the negitive so you can keep your head above water.
    I love you John for writing this today & I love you for never turning me away. Heather

    [Ed. note — For those of you who don’t know, this is my sister – J.Scalzi]

    ——————————-
    This is my first time posting here, but I’ve been reading your books and blog since the hardcover of Old’s Man War.

    Yes, there are some threads I have read all of the comments for. All 500+-ish. Eight years later, I still remember many of the comments. Sometimes the comments themselves can be just as profound as the original post.

    I just wanted to put one more voice out there – the community isn’t just what you see. There are people who are only readers – not commenters. Although you may never hear us say it, we appreciate a clean, well-moderated place too.

  137. Punishment for Rape:

    1) UAE- Instant Death
    Penalty, within 7 days
    hanging
    2) Iran- Instant Stoned
    to death/hanging within 24 hrs
    3) Afghanistan –
    Instant death by bullet into head within 4 days
    4) China – No Trial,
    Medically proved rape then Death Penalty
    5) Malaysia – Death
    Penalty
    6) Mangolia – Death as revenge by family
    7) Iraq – Death by stone till last breath
    8) Taliban – Limbs/
    Legs/ pvt parts all Cut
    Off,&then stoned&then
    shot
    9) Poland – Death
    thrown to Pigs
    10) INDIA -A Blind Law….no justice for a girl being harrassed by these bull shit men

    Compromise, Thinking,
    Trial, Bribe,
    Rich family Kid,
    Abuse & Embarrassment
    NO ACTION…
    Even d girl dies still no charge sheet
    filed…
    country gets in to protest, still the PM
    speaks in english dat too bullshit…

    look at all these
    countries and learn
    something now atleast in case of rape against child n rape wid brutality…

    isko itna share karo ke pura India isko padhe…
    This incident took place in Pune at 7:10 pm.
    A boy & a girl were stopped by the police on d road without Driving License.
    The boy was told 2 bring d license & d girl was asked 2cum 2 d police station.
    d girl was taken 2 an isolated place where she was raped.
    Most of us don’t know d LAW which clearly states that-
    btwn 6 pm-6 am,
    a woman has RIGHT 2 refuse 2 go 2 the police station EVEN IF THERE IS AN ARREST WARRANT.
    So its a humble request 2Plz 4ward dis 2 all d girls u know 2 make them aware, even 2 boys who care 4 their sister, friends.”I’ve DONE MY BEST NOW ITS UR TURN”

  138. Here’s an idea.
    Many sites have a ‘flag comment’ button at each comment. Why not make it so that if 3 (or 5, this may need tweaking) people have flagged a comment it disappears and enters your moderation box.
    That way the benevolent majority at your site will police out the most obnoxious comments and you have a much shorter list of comments to sift through.

  139. The Meaning of Love:
    What is the meaning love? Love is what we experience in any moment that we are with someone without having or believing any judgments about that person (“good” or “bad”).
    What Is the Meaning of Love – The 3 Inherent Qualities of Love
    Love is complete acceptance: When we allow someone to be exactly as they are, without any belief that they aren’t good enough, without any belief that they would be “better” if they were different, this is love.
    Love is completely unconditional: Love has no conditions. When we truly love someone, we can’t stop loving them, regardless of what they do or say. If our love is dependent upon the other person acting and speaking how we want, then this love is completely conditional. We often confuse this to be love, but this is just positive thoughts about someone. This is just loving what a person says or does, not loving them. Positive thoughts or the thought “I love you” isn’t necessary to love. Sometimes it even gets in the way.
    Love is selfless: True love doesn’t want anything in return, because there is nothing it needs. We just love for the sake of love. When we love someone, we don’t look for them to fill our needs, love us back, and all those types of things. If that is what we are looking for, then we are just using the other person. What is the meaning of love? Love is completely selfless.
    What Prevents Us From Loving
    To understand what the meaning of love is, we really need to understand what prevents us from loving. When we believe our judgments about someone, we can feel anger, disappointment, or resentment, or we can just feel separate from that person. All of this blocks us or prevents us from loving the person we are with.
    When we are with someone, and believing our judgments, commentary, or labels about them, this puts up a wall or a barrier between us. We aren’t connecting with them, loving them, and truly being with them. We are just experiencing our thoughts about them. For example, we might experience our thoughts about how they aren’t appreciative enough, aren’t in good enough shape, aren’t a good enough father etc. But these thoughts just get in the way of love.
    What Is The Meaning of Love? Love Eliminates the Sense Of Separation or Loneliness
    When we believe our judgments about people, it can seem as if we are alone or separate from others. This creates this longing for connection and love. All it takes to have this connection we yearn for is to just be with people without judgment. In the absence of judgment, love is what remains.
    When we are not believing our judgments about someone, we are loving them, or in other words, we are being present with them (i.e. living in the moment with them). When we are present with someone, we automatically feel a closer connection to, and more intimacy with, the people around us. Our feeling of separateness from people disappears.
    You Always Wanted To Love… Not To Be Loved
    If you want to feel love, it is helpful to first understand what the meaning of love is. If someone else loves you, but you don’t care about that person, how much impact does that person’s love have on your level of happiness? You may have noticed, it has very little impact. If receiving love from someone else had the power to make us feel good, then anyone’s love would give us the same good feeling. But, clearly this isn’t how life works.
    The reason is because fulfillment doesn’t come from receiving love; the feeling of happiness and completion we have always wanted comes from loving others. When we love someone without wanting or expecting anything in return, we feel free, open, and wonderful.
    What Is The Meaning of Love? To Live In the Moment Is To Love
    Generally, we are seeking love from others to make us happy. When we are living in the moment, we are already happy because the thoughts that would normally make us unhappy aren’t there. Since we are naturally happy when we are living in the moment, there is nothing we need or want from others. We can stop looking for others to make us happy… whether that is looking to them to love us, or just fill our needs. If there is nothing we want from others, then we are just free to love.
    We don’t have to worry about whether other people will love us, leave us, or make us happy, because we are already happy. None of that matters when we are already content. We are free to purely love others, and we completely forget about the idea of seeking love.
    What Is The Meaning of Love? It Is Helpful To First Understand What Love Is Not
    Here are the 7 things we mistake to be love:
    1) Pursuing someone to love us revolves around finding someone to use
    Most of us go through life seeking someone to love us. But why are we seeking this? Why do we continuously look for a partner or someone to love us? Really, what we want more than anything else is to feel peaceful, happy, and whole. We just happen to believe (often unknowingly) that if we got someone to really and truly love us, that would make us feel happy and whole.
    Basically, we create a vision of the “perfect” future where we are loved and happy, and then we look for someone to fill the open position of the one who will love us. In other words, we are looking for someone who we can use to make us happy. If we are looking for someone who we can use to make us happy, then when we find someone to love us, we are setting ourselves up to be using them to make us happy. If we are using someone to make us happy, then we aren’t really loving them.
    2) If you are trying to change or improve your partner, in that moment, you are not loving them
    We might try to our partner’s habits, their physical appearance, the way they speak, or just try to make them happier. But why would we try to change them? Sometimes, we recognize that we are trying to change them to make ourselves happier… thinking something like “if he loved me, he would change for me”.
    We think that if someone loves us, they should change to make us happier. But that’s not love. What this really means is, “I want you to change so I can be happy”. But what we are missing here is that if we truly love someone for who they are, then we wouldn’t try to change them. If we weren’t using them to make us happy, then we wouldn’t be trying to change them just to make us happy.
    Sometimes, we may think that we are trying to change them for their own good. But, that’s a trick. Even if we think that we are trying to make them happier, we are actually just not accepting them for who they are in that moment.
    3) Positive thoughts is not love
    We often confuse positive thoughts about someone to be love. Having great thoughts about someone feels really nice and enjoyable. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But even if you think your partner is the most wonderful, nice, and beautiful person, that is not love. It is not love for 2 reasons.
    • When we have positive thoughts about someone, we meet our thoughts about them and don’t actually meet them. We don’t truly connect with them or experience them, because instead we experience our thoughts about them. (I know this is a little difficult to grasp as a concept – don’t worry if you don’t get it)
    • The pleasant feeling positive thoughts give you is dependent on the other person’s words, actions, and appearance matching your definitions of “perfect” or “great”. It is therefore only a matter of time before they do something to have negative thoughts about. We can’t think everything that they do and say is “great”, we will think other things they do and say are “bad” or “not good enough”. If we think their appearance is “great”, that will eventually change. This isn’t love because it is completely conditional and dependent upon how the other person acts, what they say, and how they look. Moments of enjoyment (what we think is love), will be mixed in with moments of disappointment, anger, and all that stuff.
    4) Excitement about the future isn’t based on love
    Many of us innocently mistake excitement to be love. This tends to happen most often in the beginning of relationships. This excitement is the feeling that most of us consider to be love. It is the feeling of being overwhelmed with joy, or maybe having butterflies. But these feelings are actually created by thoughts such as “I finally found someone who will make me happy”, “We are going to have such a wonderful life together”, “He loves me and I love him”, “I can stop looking for a partner and worrying about whether I will never find one”.
    Once again, this is a wonderful feeling. It’s very enjoyable. There’s absolutely nothing wrong or bad about it. But, it just can’t last. It is all created by positive thoughts about the future. Eventually, the positive thoughts of the future will go, and we begin judging what we have. Since it doesn’t last, and is dependent on thoughts, it is not love.
    5) If you require your partner to do things for you, in that moment, it’s not love
    Most of us have been taught that love means doing things for your partner, or in other words, sacrificing for your partner. Therefore, we generally look to our lover to fill our needs. When we look to our partner to fill our needs, we are using them.
    Sometimes “using” our partner in a relationship is just a normal and healthy part of being in a relationship. As part of a relationship, each person has tasks that they perform for the other person. You do some things for me and I do some things for you. That makes sense. But this part of a relationship just has nothing to do with love. This is just the business and practical side of a relationship.
    In addition, a lot of the times, we tend to think things like “If you loved me, you would … cook for me, clean the room, take the kids to school more, sacrifice for me, buy me more gifts, compliment me etc”. After all, our lover did fill the position of the one who is supposed to make us happy. But, when we try to get our partner to sacrifice and fill our needs just to make us happy, it often creates suffering.
    Sure, when we love someone, sometimes we want to sacrifice our time, energy, and money for them. Since we love them, we don’t view it as a sacrifice, but as a joy. However, when we try to force our partner to sacrifice for us, and do something they don’t want to, that is not love. If we loved them, we would not ask them to do something they don’t want to do. And of course, we don’t stop there, we often try to guilt them into doing things for us and make them feel bad about it when they don’t. In doing this, we are unknowingly disregarding how the other person feels. In that moment we are only concerned about we want.
    There’s no problem with that. It’s not a personal issue. It’s not like you are to blame for it. This is how we have all been trained so naturally that is how we are going to act in our relationships. But, when we are truly loving someone, it is selfless. We don’t need anything in return.
    6) Loving how someone seems to make us feel isn’t love
    When we are with someone, we may love how we feel when are around them. Sometimes, we feel so great because we are loving the other person… and there is just a connection that allows us to feel accepted, peaceful, or happy.
    Other times, we might love how we feel around someone because they complement us, we may love it because we have positive thoughts about them, we may love it because it distracts us from our negative thoughts, maybe they buy us stuff, maybe they agree with us, or maybe it is just a lot of fun. That’s nice.
    However, after we enjoy being with someone, we often decide “I love them”. That’s no problem. But if we love them simply because they seem to make us feel good, this isn’t really love because then we will hate them when they do something to seemingly make us feel bad. This isn’t love because it is completely conditional upon how we feel. It is basically “I love you when you make me feel good” or “I love you when you do what I want” but then “I hate you when you don’t make me feel good” or “I hate you when you don’t do what I want”.
    7) The fear of getting hurt isn’t part of love
    If you are afraid that you won’t get someone’s love (hurt) in return, or are worried that you will lose their love, then in that moment, you are not loving. These fears and worries are created by the concept that it would be “bad” if you don’t get the love that you want. In other words, in the moment that we feel fear or worry, we are unconsciously believe “it would be better if I received or kept their love”. This means “I would be happier if I received or kept their love”.
    If you want something from them (love), then you are not just purely loving. You want something in return. But love wants nothing. Love doesn’t care what it receives…. Because love itself is fulfilling in and of itself.
    In a moment that we feel fear, that is just thoughts about how we might not get what we want. This doesn’t meant that we don’t love the person. It just means that in that moment, we aren’t in touch with this love because we are believing thoughts that are creating our experience of the situation.
    These indications don’t mean anything about you or your love for your partner
    Those are the 7 things we mistake to be love… or 7 indications that we may not be loving in a specific moment. There’s no problem with any of it. None of it signifies that we are somehow “bad” or “worse” than others. This isn’t about creating an idea of a “perfect” relationship then comparing our relationship to that, and deciding our relationship isn’t “good enough”. This is how we’ve been trained to “love” and relate to people so of course this is how we are all going to live.
    The bottom line is that if we don’t truly love someone, then we don’t feel this love or the fulfillment that comes with it. This is how thoughts relate to love. But all of these thoughts actually prevent us from loving others. As most of us have already discovered, this type of “love” doesn’t fulfill us and often creates a lot of anxiety, anger, disappointment, and hurt. That being said, even though all of these thoughts may be there, your relationship may be filled with a tremendous amount of love beneath or behind all of these thoughts that create all of these emotions.
    What Is The Meaning of Love? Love Has No Limits
    We tend to think that the meaning of love is to love one person. But truly, what is the meaning of love? The beautiful thing about love is that we don’t have to limit our loving to just our romantic partner or our family. We can love everyone we encounter. When we are present, we have nothing to fear, so we don’t have to create any boundaries about who can receive our love. When we are with anyone without judging them in any way, we feel love for them. It doesn’t matter if this person is our spouse or our waiter in a restaurant.

  140. ” think about whether they need to have comment threads at all. What is the benefit?”

    Ask the **A.

    The larger political blog comment sections are largely controlled by the same small group of people be it left-wing or right-wing. I’m pretty sure a few well-known political sites were set up to spy on various political groups/organizations. I flat out caught one full-time commenter on a lefty site who was a liberal while doing the same thing as a conservative on a righty type site. Same name, avatar, etc. When I called the person out on one of the sites with screen shots, I had the Mods of the site and other daily posters protecting this person. Do a little bit a of digging and you begin to realize that it’s extremely coordinated with posts containing anything from the harmless to completely bashing the other side. Even deaths occur. Bottom line, do NOT trust any comment section dealing with news or politics.

    I’m 99% positive there’s a team of well-known artists that troll various sites under many different aliases to accomplish this. Sites from the art&music related to political. Same exact group. Over a decade in development. Hard to believe but true.

  141. Skype: An amazing service that helps millions of people to stay connected and businesses to have meetings all around the world – I use Skype since close to the beginning and was always in favor of this service, not only because it is free, but it is very useful in particular once the mobile application was available.

    So, here I was using it nearly on a daily base, having it setup for auto-recharge so I would not run out of money when I call overseas. And it happened. Due to whatever reasons, the auto-recharge did not go through for about a month. Skype then suspended my auto-recharge and once I straightened all out, I wanted to update the details and re-activate the service. I was sent to a generic page from Skype to complete, just so that I received another email from their customer service asking for more information back 10 years….. heck who remembers all these details? I don’t think there are many people that do. Anyways, I was not able and sent them an email, just to be referred to the the same procedure again and again. Customer service is simply not capable to assist their customers if they have identity issues. While I appreciate the carefulness of the way they handled this issue, being referred over and over again to the same information page and not having received any help at all seems to me utterly unprofessional.

    I am now so extremely frustrated about this service that I will no longer use Skype and have changed to viber… not as sophisticated as Skype yet, but it will be on the same level shortly…. maybe others have experienced the same with Skype…. sad story!! Thanks for listening.
    Cheers

  142. My names is Talia i am looking for a very special person to help me starting immediately with my 2 children, Like Nanny, Housekeeper, babysitter and Driver The children are Wonderful, fun and Adventurous. i am busy type, I work in a Bank as an accountant and work takes most of my time..and want a caring Figure to work with me for at least 3 years contract.
    The employee will have his or her own bedroom with TV set and internet Facilities, with a personal bathroom, and also a car to drive around If necessary needed for leisure time. and also the employee can travel for holidays… and am ready to pay 4,000USD – 5,000USD Monthly.
    Please contact me with your CV if you are interested: stephanietalia@bk.ru
    My no. is 0547241646

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