The Two Day Comment Window Thing
Posted on November 15, 2016 Posted by John Scalzi 53 Comments
This is a Whatever housekeeping note, so if you’re not interested in that, feel free to skip.
When I got into the tough portions of writing The Collapsing Empire, I trimmed down the number of days that comments were open on posts from ten days (itself a markdown from fourteen days, itself a markdown from “open forever”), down to two. It’s been a month since I finished the book, and the comment window is still two days, so people are asking if that’s going to be a permanent thing now.
It is until further notice. For three reasons:
One, spam comments, which were endemic and horrifying back when I was leaving comments open indefinitely, are almost a non-issue now.
Two, without going into obnoxious detail about it, I’m a lot busier than I used to be, which is mostly to my benefit, but which also means I don’t have as much time as I used to to babysit comments, and Whatever, even after all this time, is still a one-man show. Two days per thread is basically what I can afford at the moment.
Three, honestly, in my experience about 98% of everything that’s actually interesting about comment threads happens in the first two days, and after that, what mostly happens is one of three things: A couple of people yelling at each other because they don’t know enough to disengage, people who are repeating things said upthread because they didn’t bother to read what anyone else said (I call this a “thread reset”), and trolls who are wandering by to “debate” after one of their gormless leaders points them in this direction. I can live without all three of those, so: Two days it is.
Will the comment window ever lengthen again? I don’t know. Maybe if I get less busy and/or learn how to manage my time better and/or ever hire an assistant. But otherwise, a two-day window is working for me. I’m keeping it.
I just want to state for the record that I am going to have an *unspeakably brilliant* comment to make on this topic in roughly 49 hours.
I’m not sure what I think about this. I guess I’ll muddle it over and post my decision in three or four days. ;-)
Sounds like a sensible policy (but you can hear the ‘but’ coming, right?). The only instances I’ve regretted it being in place have been when you’ve resurrected an old post by re-linking to it, either on Whatever or on Twitter. Would it be possible to re-open comments again on those posts for a shorter period, such as 24 hours?
No one will read your unspeakably brilliance if you post it four days after the original post even if comments are open indefinitely.
I’m just happy that you have comments enabled period.
At least you still get comments. All the conversation about my blog posts happen on Facebook. The blog comments are a wasteland.
Well, I was going to say I need a couple days to think about this, but then noticed a couple of folks already said that, so it would be a wasted reset, so instead . . .
I was going to say I need a couple days to think about his, but then noticed, oh wait. Sorry.
I’ll need a couple days to think . . . um, oops.
I might need a cou —— Man, I am so bad at this!
It is all about the trial & error, John, I must admire your initial effort. Its takes time, to accumulate an audience. Thus far, your posts are at least getting hits, me for one! And good luck maintaining the site in a world where everything is about to get more interesting.
Seems reasonable, although sometimes it does take me a while to research and formulate a reply, so I do worry that I might have a brilliant insight and still get cut off right in the mi
Not to be pedantic, but I believe the trolls “wander” over, not wonder.
I understand perfectly, and MY exception is that I wanted to update you because I pointed some FB debaters to your “Cinemax” analogy and wanted to share that but I was too late. That post helped a couple of them clarify their thinking and one person actually said that he “got it.” (He was in the “we didn’t *want* racism” camp.) So, “good job!” but several days later.
My new goal is to leave the last comment in this thread.
Please hire an assistant. It would be fascinating to read THIER blog about working for The Scalzi.
Honestly, I don’t see how you keep up with the sheer number of comments you get even in two days on some of your posts. While there are times I miss some of your posts until after the limit, I usually find that someone has addressed what I was going to say. Usually.
Keep busy Mr.Scalzi, your fan base would hate to deride you for you. slow, slow SLOW pace of filling their needs. :-)
Usually someone else makes the same comment I want to make, only better phrased and pithier. So I comment very infrequently. I don’t think an extra eight days would help me.
“Whatever, even after all this time, is still a one-man show. ”
I’m surprised you don’t have a slew of paid and unpaid minions doing your bidding
Not that I have any say in the matter, but I am for this. 2 days are more than enough to hash out any issue, and beyond that it typically turns into a hot mess, as you point out. If there is more to say, people can create their own website and run it however they want.
I know that if I post the 434th comment in a thread that’s been going on for weeks or even months, no one’s going to read it — or even see it. So yeah, a cutoff is necessary, whether it’s two days or a week.
I read your blog when the comments were open longer, and I read it now. I prefer the two day limit!
I think the shorter period works and it has noticably reduced some of the wandering off topic. The only caveat is that sometimes you’ve blogged on a Friday and I’ve been to busy parenting/fixing up house etc to get round to reading your blog (barely having time to breathe with an energetic 8 month old) before the two days is up when I’ve read it and had some awesome comment to make, but alas, it’s too late! Never mind!
The problem for me is when you turn off comments at night. I am on the west coast and can’t usually post at work. But, by the time I get home comments are off for the night. I do understand that you don’t want to spend your mornings cleaning up garbage though.
Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
If Jonathan Coulton warrants a Scarface, I would think you should warrant an appropriately disfigured assistant as well! it would also provide you more time for writing (this is a win-win! Except, um, you would need to pay someone’s salary. Hrm.) I would suggest a team of diligent fan-moderators, but then of course you would need to devote time to making sure the power of The Mallet doesn’t corrupt them.
If you need an admin-guy (er, person) for the web site, let me know I take care of John D Brown’s (author) and Jerry Pournelle’s sites.
Thanks. I’m unlikely to do that if only because I enjoy futzing with it. But I appreciate the offer.
As someone who reads before posting, I’m glad you have this rule. It wastes less of my time and causes less frustration.
What would happen if the trolls found a gormful leader?
Uh oh! Talk about a comment rip’t timely from the headlines . . .
That’s cool. Most comment pages aren’t usually looked at after the first day, in my experience.
If I don’t get too read a post the same day it’s posted (possibly even in the first few hours), I figure most people have moved on and my thoughts would be like beaming myself into outer space.
Less ‘Whatever’ and more novels can only be a good thing right?
Fine. Your site. Your rules.
To me comments are just comments. If I wished to expound on something more than just a comment’s worth I would do my own blog. Then I would just hope I had a reason to create rules like these.
I understand, and support your decision, FWIW, to keep your own life sane.
I do miss having longer conversations here, though not the stupid toxic-masculine pissing matches that used to happen with distressing regularity (none of which you took part in other than to say “take a break, guys”). I also recently came out of a two-day funk to discover I’d missed my opportunity to comment on something at all.
Which is not actually a huge problem, because other people said most of what I wanted to say. I just have to remember to look and see if comments are still open BEFORE reading through a thread writing responses in a text editor. Which is a small price to pay for making YOUR life easier. Happy Scalzis write more books!
The two day limit sounds okay for me. I sometimes get caught by the “bedtime now, comments closed” thing (I’m in GMT +8, about 8 hours out of synch with everyone), but if my pearls of wisdom are that blinkin’ important, I can always either come back the next morning, or post ’em in my own space.
It’s actually amazing that you can keep an informed & interesting comment section in your blog in this day and age. Keep doing whatever you think is necessary to keep it this way, and thank you!
I’ve often thought that you should hire an assistant, if only because of the sheer amount of time you must have been spending wielding The Mallet when the comments stayed open for 10 days or forever. You don’t seem to want to go that route, however, for reasons that are really nobody’s business but your own. Your blog, your rules, etc. Two days certainly seems a reasonable balance between our opportunity to comment and your sanity. Besides, there’s always Twitter or email.
I’m glad that you’re able to keep comments open for any amount of time without the work of moderating becoming untenable and/or overwhelming. This is a good forum for opinions.
On a different note, I’m gonna use the word “gormless” in a story sometime in the next forty eight hours, so thanks for that.
Like others, I am just very glad that your comments section exists. So many bloggers have closed theirs. And I don’t have a Facebook. So this is a primo web destination for me. I always enjoy your posts and the commentariat you have cultivated. Thank you for being here.
I preferred the weeklong comment window. Because it is always easy to prefer difficult things that someone ELSE is doing.
I think that is great reasoning all around. Over-extending yourself is the fast-track to doing a lot of things poorly.
I usually enjoy the comments here, unlike most sites, so whatever you have to do to keep this site from devolving into the same toxic wasteland as the rest of the internet is great with me. As if I had any say, anyway.
I just appreciate that you still do this at all.
FWIW, this WordPress plugin reduces the amount of time I spend dealing with spam to zero.
There are rare occasions where the time limit is inconvenient, but I think the two day policy is a net gain, in general and for Scalzi, which is the more important thing, as it’s his site and his free time.
As a reader/occasional commentator, I would prefer three days, especially as I am on GMT, but it’s your website :) .
I already use a spam filter which catches 99+% of stuff. It’s just when you have 10,000+ comment threads open (as I used to), that was a lot of targets of opportunity. Having only a few open at any one time is much easier to manage.
John, what about promoting a couple consistently solid commenters to Mod and letting them handle things?
Donald is not gormful. Nor is Mike Pence. Reince Priebus, maybe. The scary one is Steve Bannon.
John, have you considered having your daughter do some moderation work on the site, unless it would be disrupting her studies and/or worldview? Seems like a win/win, she should be fairly web-savy, unless you call it a chore, then she might say “But Dad, just because you’re some famous, Hugo-award winning science-fiction writer, you can’t tell me what to do, I’m my own person!” or something along those lines.
Shortening your comment window probably encourages more active engagement by readers; three days might be more flexible for those whose schedules don’t allow as frequent of visits to this blog.
Is it harder for you to write science fiction when you are troubled by the future? I know I have a beautiful stack of books I want to lose myself in but cannot seem to open.
Oddly enough, quite a few people do read all the way through the comments, so, provided you are in the two day limit, it’s never too late to put it down in writing.
One of the features I greatly enjoy is the random button; there’s some fascinating stuff, as well as very funny stuff, plus cat pictures. Even the dog gets a chance to star on occasions, so if you are ever laid low by a bug, or general meh, I recommend that.
For those of you making the point that sometimes you have something to add after the two day mark, nothing stops you from making your comments on your own blog, Facebook, or wherever, with a pointer back to here as the source.
I rarely commented when it was two weeks, the frequency hasn’t changed for me. Plus for most issues only a hundred comments are interesting to me.
Bottom line, your house, your rules.
Since I missed the window to comment on Veterans Day, allow me to thank you here for your direct support of veterans by offering ebooks of some of your novels while I was deployed. I really appreciated it.
I only have time to read blogs twice per week so I almost always miss commenting! My only issue with the smaller window is that I’m not able to say congratulations or other positive things, which are the only kind of comments I like to leave. But all your reasons make sense to me! I’m also an author, and my writing and family come first before moderating blog comments. :) I’ll subscribe to the blog via email. That may be better!