Moderate Doses

by Belle Waring on December 3, 2010

Some feel we should take a more active approach to managing comments. I think we do pretty well on the whole (although the Lord love you, you are a grumpy lot). Question of the day: is the unremitting, permanent badness of Matthew Yglesias’ comments the result of intentional sabotage, or can it be chalked up to his policy of utterly ignoring them at all times? I favor the former explanation, because he’s influential enough that I can imagine some testy Republican or two taking it on as a volunteer project to wreck it up constantly. There was never a time when they were good, either, even in the early days. He was assigned what I consider to be, in John Emerson’s formulation, an Al-bot; a rotating crew of people commenting as “Al” day and night there and at Kevin Drum’s and Ezra Klein’s with the result that every single thread was derailed. Final note: why has Digby never been promoted to the big leagues, despite her obvious rightness and acerbic wit? Sexism, or a lust for mindless contrarianism that she will never satisfy?

{ 200 comments }

1

Lemuel Pitkin 12.03.10 at 6:40 am

why has Digby never been promoted to the big leagues, despite her obvious rightness and acerbic wit?

No RSS feed?

I can’t be the only one who would read her if she had one, but since she doesn’t, don’t.

2

Kevin Drum 12.03.10 at 6:41 am

Yes, this is interesting. Actually, my comment section was OK back when I first started. It stayed fine until I got up to about 5-10,000 readers. Then it went to hell and never recovered.

Part of the reason is inattention, though I do patrol the comments a little bit. Not enough to really make a difference, though. Beyond that, though, there actually seems to be something about the combination of center-left technocraticism (is that a word?) and frequent partisan snark that draws out the worst in people. I’m not quite sure why. It’s almost as if the moderate part makes it worthwhile to comment in the first place but the partisan snark part provides a tacit license to be a dick.

And yes, there’s also the Al factor.

Other theories welcome, though of course I’d prefer ones that don’t depend too heavily on my own personal shortcomings….

3

Adam 12.03.10 at 7:09 am

Digby does have an RSS feed, it’s just not so easy to find (at least, Google Reader doesn’t seem to automatically detect it). Try http://feeds.feedburner.com/Hullabaloo .

Re trolling, Mark Thoma posted on a similar subject this week. I’ll repeat what I offered him previously: if any center-left bloggers want to let an unknown schmoe like me take a peek at their logs to see if we can find patterns among trolls, I’ve got lots of time on my hands.

4

andthenyoufall 12.03.10 at 7:13 am

When Yglesias’s blog was in its first two incarnations the comments were good, iirc. But I’ve found (I don’t know how to say this without sounding condescending, so I won’t try) that as blogs have gotten vastly larger audiences, the average commenter has gotten much stupider, so now (on almost every interesting blog) the comments are a rolling sea passionate arguments between morons. So they’re just not worth reading.

I still read the comments on CT because that’s less true. (And because the bloggers are much more involved in the discussion that is normal.) But by how much has CT’s traffic increased since 2004?

5

andthenyoufall 12.03.10 at 7:14 am

*sea of, *than is normal

6

zamfir 12.03.10 at 7:26 am

What’s the biggest blog that still has readable comments?

7

odaiwai 12.03.10 at 7:33 am

8

Lemuel Pitkin 12.03.10 at 7:40 am

Thanks for the digby RSS link. Added!

So what are some left of center blogs with good comments sections, anyway? I’ve pretty much stopped commenting on any except this one, plus the occasional econ site.

I really enjoy the discussions here and would happily take part in similar conversations elsewhere, but this place seems almost unique these days. Doesn’t it seem like there used to be a lot more sites with vital comments?

9

Belle Waring 12.03.10 at 7:43 am

Unfogged. Or Making Light. I also would push back on the idea that Yggles’ original blog had good comments. It had OK comments but from the start there were wreckers.

10

andthenyoufall 12.03.10 at 7:43 am

I don’t really know traffic statistics for blogs, so I couldn’t really say. (Instead I notice vastly more people posting, and assume that means the blog is getting more popular.) The award for “highest volume of comments that are still highly readable” might go to Unfogged, although I would guess that their regular commenters are their only regular readers.

11

Belle Waring 12.03.10 at 8:00 am

You should also watch the video, it’s funny. and SFW.

12

medrawt 12.03.10 at 8:18 am

The thing about the “Al” who commented at Yglesias’ blog is that he was a totally reasonable (and reasonably engaging) participant on the NBA posts. IIRC he was a New Jersey Nets fan. I don’t think at the time I was reading any other blogs with Als on them, so I don’t know if this was a consistent feature of the “Al” persona – whether it be basketball particularly, or just being a good-natured personality on some nonpolitical topic that was common on the relevant blog – or just that there really was one guy keeping up all the Al-volume on Yglesias’ various outposts who liked talking basketball with the other regulars.

13

Emma in Sydney 12.03.10 at 8:29 am

Biggest blog with readable comments is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s blog at the Atlantic and I think he spends hours gardening them. Certainly trolls are banned almost before you notice them. Making Light is also a wonderful and enormous commenting community, and I think Teresa N-H has written the first-and-last word on moderating and communities. As communities get larger though, you have to put more time in on reading and keeping up, and as a result I comment less often — if the thread already has 400 comments by the time I see it first, it’s hardly likely I can add to it.

14

David 12.03.10 at 8:46 am

“Final note: why has Digby never been promoted to the big leagues, despite her obvious rightness and acerbic wit? Sexism, or a lust for mindless contrarianism that she will never satisfy?”

How do you mean promoted? We don’t know if she’s been offered professional gigs and turned it down. She’s certainly been widely linked by other bloggers.

I don’t know why she didn’t get more readers. She never had a niche or a particular topic that she owned. Beyond that, maybe most people prefer bad writing to good writing?

15

dsquared 12.03.10 at 8:50 am

IMhighlyintemperateO, “Making Light” often demonstrates that there is more than one way for a comments section to be unreadable, and that trolls are not necessarily the worst thing that can befall you. I think there ought to be a rule regarding haiku competitions similar to the “mullet rule” which was the social norm in the Seattle subculture in the 1990s.

(the “mullet rule” was simple – if anyone with a mullet liked your band you had to kill yourself).

16

duck-billed placelot 12.03.10 at 9:24 am

My guess on digby is a combo of run-of-the-mill sexism (girls don’t know about politics!) and her unrelenting liberalism. Yglesias has long had silly forays into libertarianism, while Klein (the smart one) works very hard to seek out Reasonable Republican angles. Digby doesn’t pull her punches and never seems to fall into the one hand/other hand trap. Also, potentially, ageism. Oh, and she’s a fairly harsh critic of the media establishment itself. Apparently, I can think of lots of (terrible) reasons.

17

Myles SG 12.03.10 at 9:29 am

But I’ve found (I don’t know how to say this without sounding condescending, so I won’t try) that as blogs have gotten vastly larger audiences, the average commenter has gotten much stupider, so now (on almost every interesting blog) the comments are a rolling sea passionate arguments between morons.

The picture of the future is…morons arguing with each other, on blogs, FOREVER!

For the connoisseur, the idiots come in two chief varietals, neither of which are premier cru. The first is the Public Option-Dolchstoss-Korps, the second is the Ron Paul sans-culottes storming the…Eccles Building. The former is more unpleasant, and the latter more competent at approximating postmodernist performance art. Together they produce an exquisite varietal of fourth-rate Californian fruit-bombs, with notes of…..uhhh……..

18

ajay 12.03.10 at 9:39 am

I think there ought to be a rule regarding haiku competitions similar to the “mullet rule” which was the social norm in the Seattle subculture in the 1990s.

Making Light tends more towards sonnet competitions, IIRC.

19

MylesSG 12.03.10 at 9:41 am

Also, my last comment is currently in the digestive tracts of the moderating system. Is the system a, uh, cow? Because if it is then my comment is gonna be spending a lotta time in that stomach.

20

Emma in Sydney 12.03.10 at 9:47 am

Ajay is right, but the competitiors are generally self-nominating. Poetry is not compulsory. And there’s always a place for intemperate snark if it is clever enough, so I’m not sure why dsquared counts himself out.

21

chris y 12.03.10 at 10:16 am

Klein is on WaPo these days, so he probably picks up all sorts of semi-house-trained polecats who read that paper on line; Yglesias attracts links, because he’s become an institution. Very Serious People don’t in general throw their readers to Digby or CT, let alone Unfogged or Making Light.

Another thing which probably helps all but Digby among those discussed above is the sheer self-regarding intellectualism of the core commenters on those sites (obviously here, because it’s run by professional clever buggers, but also on the boutique blogs mentioned where that’s less true). The key dozen or so at each place create an atmosphere which isn’t likely to induce your bog standard troll to hang around after their first couple of drive-bys. The equivalent trick is probably managed chez Digby by the concentration of passionate intensity, which is certainly missing at Yglesias.

The worst comments in the world are usually on newspaper sites. Now why is that?

22

Belle Waring 12.03.10 at 10:18 am

I agree there was an original, actual Al who commented at MY’s and at Kevin Drums, but I think he got multiplied into various inferior Als, capably only of the most rudimentiary trolling. Yeah, I was wrong above; serious blog with large number of comments–the best is Ta-Nehisi Coates, totally.

23

Charles S 12.03.10 at 10:41 am

Obsidian Wings has nothing like the traffic of the big leagues, but has an excellent commenting community.

24

roger 12.03.10 at 10:42 am

Actually, I love the comments on newspaper sites. They are often much more informative than the articles themselves, which have still not changed their format [data, analysis from rolodex of experts, on the one hand on the other hand ism, and the conveyance that whatever may be the establishment point of view is historically necessary and without alternative] even in the face of 10 years of internet mockery. Plus, from the point of view of the ethnography of public opinion, they are invaluable. I would hope someone, somewhere, is storing them – after all, it used to be that historians would have to depend on police reports and randomly preserved wall slogans to judge, say, what public opinion was like in 1775 in Paris. And in fact even given the massive growth of media and education in the two centuries since, it is still not so easy to understand the reasoning of those in the ‘silent majority’ who, say, supported the Vietnam war in 1973. But there is a vast trove of public comment about the Iraq war that, I hope, will one day be used by some historian sophisticated enough to understand the gift he or she’s been given by the comments section of the WaPo in 2005.
Although, alas, I wonder if all that data is recoverable.

25

Another Roger 12.03.10 at 11:00 am

You just have to accept that the hoi polloi(or #15’s people with mullets) ruin everything they touch.

(They don’t mean to but they do…)

Take away their broadband and the golden age of usenet would be restored.

26

Alex 12.03.10 at 11:24 am

The really toxic comments threads are usually down to the combination of high traffic and loose moderation – once you start putting more energy into the system, the oscillations start to go non-linear and eventually bits of turbine blade hurtle across the shop floor.

I think you can do without moderation in a couple of cases – either if there’s a strong group identity or common aim, like Anonymous (although arguably the key detail is that their group identity is a community of trolls), or else if there’s enough of a core group of regulars who self-police. The first is scalable but failure prone, the second is robust but not scalable.

27

Ginger Yellow 12.03.10 at 11:41 am

Final note: why has Digby never been promoted to the big leagues, despite her obvious rightness and acerbic wit? Sexism, or a lust for mindless contrarianism that she will never satisfy?

Something I’ve long wondered, although I find her writing a bit less strong than I used to. There was a time when I was sending friends Hullabaloo links every day. Still a must read, though.

On a similar note, I’ve often wondered why Spencer Ackerman’s blogs are always comment wastelands, despite high quality posts and being best mates with and frequently linked by high trafficked bloggers.

28

dsquared 12.03.10 at 12:17 pm

on the same tack as #22, I would actually say that if you look at the Guardian comments these days with an open mind, and try to forget about how awful they got in the bad old days, they are now pretty good.

29

david 12.03.10 at 12:22 pm

Somewhere in the vastness of the Internet, it is happening even now. It was once a well-kept garden of intelligent discussion, where knowledgeable and interested folk came, attracted by the high quality of speech they saw ongoing. But into this garden comes a fool, and the level of discussion drops a little – or more than a little, if the fool is very prolific in their posting. (It is worse if the fool is just articulate enough that the former inhabitants of the garden feel obliged to respond, and correct misapprehensions – for then the fool dominates conversations.)

So the garden is tainted now, and it is less fun to play in; the old inhabitants, already invested there, will stay, but they are that much less likely to attract new blood. Or if there are new members, their quality also has gone down.

Then another fool joins, and the two fools begin talking to each other, and at that point some of the old members, those with the highest standards and the best opportunities elsewhere, leave…

- Yudkowsky, Less Wrong.

So suppose that it is possible to clean up trolls, but doing so takes up time and attention and is hence costly – then if, from the start, trolls are not immediately set upon with a banhammer, it may only get worse and worse, until it is so bad that there is nothing worth the effort to save, and therefore nothing is done regardless. So there may be two equilibria in the long run – a low-trolling one and a high-trolling one.

The influx of trolls is presumably related to prominence to laymen, too – a sort of Eternal September effect. If Yglesias got links from more prominent authors too early, that may have harmed his comments more than helped.

30

LizardBreath 12.03.10 at 12:40 pm

On the Digby front, it’s always tricky attributing anything to sexism that’s not terribly clear, but it seemed to me that she got a lot more links and attention when she was anonymous and ungendered, and that her influence dropped like a rock when she came out as female. On the other hand, that coincided with the 2008 campaign, where she also took some unpopular positions on Hillary/Obama conflicts, so maybe that was it.

Another vote for Ta-Nehisi Coates as best comments on a blog that anyone actually reads. I would have said that we had the title at Unfogged a couple of years ago, but as anthenyoufall says, I believe we’ve dropped out of the “that anyone actually reads” category a while back.

31

John Holbo 12.03.10 at 12:41 pm

Yes, I figure if we could see a Google map view of where Yglesias commenters are coming from, a surprising number of them would turn out to originate at the bottom of Lake Mono. NASA should investigate.

32

Kal 12.03.10 at 1:09 pm

Lawyers, Guns, & Money has decent comments.

As does Lenin’s Tomb, now that the “Mike”/etc troll seems to finally have given up.

33

Ebenezer Scrooge 12.03.10 at 1:15 pm

Mark Kleiman’s site isn’t bad for comments.

34

Efroh 12.03.10 at 1:27 pm

Re Digby: my guess it’s because she doesn’t live in DC.

35

rm 12.03.10 at 1:32 pm

Digby, also, writes about politics yet has no connection to anything East Coast or Ivy League or otherwise approval-making for people who work in politics. I think having a readership in DC is part of what makes Klein, Yglesias, etc. relevant. Marshall too, though he has smartly grown beyond being just a blogger.

Also, calling racism racism is unpopular.

On Making Light, there are even villanelle and clerihew competitions.

The influence of Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s moderation policy can’t be overstated, but it sure does require a lot of work from the site owners.

The Unfogged crowd scares me sometimes. Be careful in there.

36

rm 12.03.10 at 1:33 pm

Oh, sorry, LizardBreath, I didn’t notice you standing there. Joke?

37

rm 12.03.10 at 1:34 pm

Also, Fred Clark’s Slacktivist is a great blog with a lively and usually worthwhile conversation in the comments.

38

ejh 12.03.10 at 1:41 pm

If I knew a site with good comments I’d be most reluctant to say so publicly. Why invite everybody else to come on over and ruin it?

39

AcademicLurker 12.03.10 at 1:43 pm

I gave up on Yglesias’ blog a while a go because the comments section is such a lost cause.

Like others I’m amazed at the consistently high quality of the comments at Ta-Nehisi Coates’s place. It must be a huge chore monitoring them.

Interestingly, it seems that a certain level of mild libertarian trolling is part of what keeps CT alive and well while many blogs that I discovered around the same time (~2005 or so) are now dead or on life support.

As for Digby, she consistently gets it right on major issues of the day. That alone is enough to guarantee that she’ll never be considered a Serious Person.

40

Adam Kotsko 12.03.10 at 1:49 pm

For some reason, I still check Atrios every day, even though all the posts are one-liners based on inside jokes from 2003. I can’t imagine how horrible his comments must be.

41

bob mcmanus 12.03.10 at 1:53 pm

Oh hell.

Pandagon is ok.

It is not necessarily always the blogger’s job to separate wheat from chaff. If I want wheat, I sometimes glean. I don’t know why Yglesias attracts disputatious types who hang out there and engage everyone. But most blog comment sections are like that.

Look, it’s a question of taste and communities isn’t it? If Calculated Risk consistently runs threads with 200-500 comments, that means a significant number of people are reading those threads. They are unlikely to be the same people or kind of people, or with the same purposes, as those who enjoy Unfogged or Crooked Timber. If you don’t like the long FDL or Making Light threads, that is your problem, not theirs.

Big Blogs? Scott Sumner, David Beckwith, Nick Rowe, Steve Randy Waldmann, and the rest of that community comment on each other’s posts. 10-20 comments of that quality is a lot. Would I really want 50 commenters of that quality running up 500 comment threads? Good god, that would be a CT Holbo thread.

Crikey, I’m a guy who reads the IMDB message boards, including the threads that start “Ozu is the worst director ever!” Michael Kerpan hangs out there, and is solid gold on Japanese cinema. I’ve learned more from him than from Bordwell or Richie.

Where is the Symposium? Where the Algonquin Table? I don’t care. There are a lot of very smart informed people on the Internets, if you look for them.

42

Sally 12.03.10 at 1:59 pm

Digby’s obsession with taser stories is annoying. She pretended neutrality in the Obama/Clinton primary but deleted comments by Obama critics. She gave space to Tristero who is a lot less interesting to read than Digby herself.

There was a conflict during the last primary between those who advocated adopting the tactics of the right and those who wanted the left to be above that kind of thing. Tristero advoacted the former and it poisoned the blog for those of us who wanted the left to be better than that. So did most Obama supporters, who applied those tactics to fellow liberals. As an upshot, Digby’s comment section was a place where anyone supporting Clinton was called a racist by other commenters while Digby pretended neutrality. Who is going to stick around and comment under those circumstances? Pumas were outright banned there, as they were on many blogs. You can tell who favors free comment by their treatment of hard-core Clinton supporters during the general election. I won’t read Kevin Drum for that reason.

43

Bruce Baugh 12.03.10 at 2:02 pm

Slacktivist is unique in my experience for having a pretty healthy, enjoyable commenter community with zero blogger input. They’ve really made a community ethos work.

44

bob mcmanus 12.03.10 at 2:02 pm

Somebody who has the time and energy to read 300 mediocre jokes at Unfogged possibly shouldn’t complain about having to skim past Morgan Werstler or bob mcmanus at Yglesias in order to find a good comment. It is a rare thread anywhere that doesn’t contain some.

45

bob mcmanus 12.03.10 at 2:08 pm

“They’ve really made a community ethos work.”

It is a community to your taste.

They are good I suppose, but I find the threads at Pandagon and Coates pretty boring.

46

Abi Sutherland 12.03.10 at 2:12 pm

Ajay is right; Making Light does sonnets (and villanelles, and ballad-meter works) rather than haiku. Much less of late, though; I must get back to it.

I’d also recommend Fred Clark’s Slacktivist for good left-of-center politics, a smart commentariat, and fall-off-the-chair-funny dissections of the Left Behind books.

47

Walt 12.03.10 at 2:51 pm

My impression is the same as LizardBreath’s — Digby was more influential when her gender was secret.

48

MPAVictoria 12.03.10 at 2:55 pm

I would say that John Scalzi’s blog Whatever has pretty good comments. Also I agree with one of the comments above that Lawyers, Guns and Money has great comments.

49

garymar 12.03.10 at 3:21 pm

I stopped reading Digby because she/he/it was always depressingly right. Reading the blog made me weep for the republic.

50

praisegod barebones 12.03.10 at 3:21 pm

(waves at abi sutherland)

For blogs that don’t have feeds, page 2 rss is quite useful. You can find it here.
http://page2rss.com/

(I’ve been using it for Note Dame Philosophical Reviews, at which I used to regularly swear for its lack of an RSS feed.)

I’m not wanting to give away trade secrets; but it’s my impression that the poetry at Making Light is not so much a failure of the moderating policy, but part of the moderating policy. Complaining about it is a bit like saying of Daily Kos circa 2005 that you didn’t like it because the recipes were so terrible…

51

Abi Sutherland 12.03.10 at 3:41 pm

@praisegod barebones:

(Hey there.)

…it’s my impression that the poetry at Making Light is not so much a failure of the moderating policy, but part of the moderating policy.

Close. Poetry is part of the conversation on Making Light (though there are plenty of people who skip it, just as there are plenty who skip the knitting, or the fandom, or the politics). And most of the moderation on Making Light is also conversation: talking about what is being said and how, asking people to not take a particular tack on a conversation because we think it’ll end badly, throwing new ideas or angles in when discussions are getting stale.

It is, as has been noted, an intensive and time-consuming way of doing things. And the site it produces isn’t for everyone. But I consider the comment threads to be as important a part of the blog as the front-page posts. The time I spend moderating them (if people don’t know: I’m one of the five mods on Making Light) is legitimate blogging time, just like time spent composing the text that starts them off.

52

onymous 12.03.10 at 3:45 pm

I don’t read Digby very often because I’m always already outraged and she makes me want to crank it up to eleven, and that’s not very sustainable.

53

Francis 12.03.10 at 3:58 pm

Balloon Juice does pretty well.

54

Gene O'Grady 12.03.10 at 4:00 pm

Given that Coates has been cited several times as a blogger with good comments, it may be worth noting that I once sent an e-mail to Coates and got back a couple of quite serious replies (although I still thought he was wrong, I certainly appreciated the consideration and the seriousness he showed). The fact that I can’t imagine that happening with Yglesias is probably significant in terms of the relative quality of comment threads.

On the other hand, I no longer look at Yglesias since his libertarian attacks on barbers in the name of economic efficiency (I would use a different word) rub my moral sensitivities the wrong way, particularly given his social background.

55

Lemuel Pitkin 12.03.10 at 4:07 pm

I still check Atrios every day, even though all the posts are one-liners based on inside jokes from 2003. I can’t imagine how horrible his comments must be.

I don’t think this is fair. Atrios is better than anyone in summing up key features of the political situation in just a sentence or two. Agreed about the comments, tho.

56

Anderson 12.03.10 at 4:14 pm

For some reason, I comment the most at the Volokh blog, which has several strong left/moderate commenters despite having almost no one posting who meets that description (David Post is hard to get a read on, but rarely posts anything). So however idiotic the posts can get, the threads often have a different complexion.

Of course I also like to argue with people ….

57

Substance McGravitas 12.03.10 at 4:36 pm

I don’t think this is fair. Atrios is better than anyone in summing up key features of the political situation in just a sentence or two.

I’m with Lemuel. Atrios is a must-read. Once in a while I’ll make a comment to drop off a link or something, but I don’t really read them.

58

shah8 12.03.10 at 4:47 pm

Yeah, Coates replies to his fan emails. I do tend to think that his comments are overmoderated. Sometimes it’s nice to have a car wreck, you know? Demolition Derby with all the anon people with funky handles let down their hair.

Digby, I think, has just gotten boring. The election wasn’t kind to my impression of her, and I think she has been doing too much boring Daria stuff and not enough *new*. I go through there to use her links, but few of her entries are ever truly must-read for me.

Thinking about it, my favorite comment section award probably goes to Charles Stross. Not quite as over-moderated as Coates, but Stross is more aggressive to idiots in the comments.

My list favorite comment sections, other than the unbelieveable wreck that was Yglesias a few months ago when Mixner did that one man DDOS attack, are probably feminist sites (other than Feministe and Pandagon and other level-headed feminist sites) and Calculated Risk/Naked Capitalism/Business-Economist-Market sites in general. For the former, it’s high school all over again and I don’t want to relive. Money sites, if they get big enough, will always attract men who has to feel confident that they know how BigBoi MONEY system works. Invariably, they are conservative, even if the bloggers are liberal–which tends to produce libertarian commentry as the commenters warp liberal sensibilities to a conservative mindset. Calculated Risk used to have an awesome comment section.

59

roac 12.03.10 at 4:49 pm

I’m not sure Yglesias hasn’t actually started weeding his comments, as many of the regular annoyances, such as Mixner/Wendell and Lonewacko, haven’t appeared in the last few weeks. (Al himself hasn’t been seen for months.)

While I agree in principle that Coates’s moderation is admirable, I have to admit that I sometimes feel bored by the resulting level of sweetness and light. Whereas the reaction to, say, Bob Roddis when he shows up on Yglesias (as he still does) is always entertaining.

60

Matt McIrvin 12.03.10 at 5:11 pm

“is the unremitting, permanent badness of Matthew Yglesias’ comments the result of intentional sabotage, or can it be chalked up to his policy of utterly ignoring them at all times?”

Why the “or”?

61

Matt McIrvin 12.03.10 at 5:13 pm

fwiw, I got called a concern troll on Coates’ blog once. I more or less deserved it.

Moderation is hard work, and he puts in the work.

62

Walt 12.03.10 at 5:24 pm

Mixner is now posting under his real name, Frank something.

63

Doctor Memory 12.03.10 at 5:34 pm

Ginger Yellow @ 25: my personal theory about the lack of comments on Ackerman’s blog is that Firedoglake’s commenting system is just monumentally annoying. Registration is required, it enforces dumb and arbitrary restrictions on usernames (no spaces!), and the cookie times out constantly, forcing you to log back in every time you might have felt like commenting. If he replaced it with disqus, I suspect he’d get a lot more chatter — and it’s entirely possible that ‘a lot more chatter’ is the last thing he wants.

64

rm 12.03.10 at 5:39 pm

I can’t believe, given where we are, that no one has mentioned the Once and Future Professor of Dangerology. He always had good comments.

65

Another Academic Lurker 12.03.10 at 5:42 pm

I have a lot of problem with calling someone a troll just for expressing a divergent opinion. This idea that noncongruent opinions must be moderated out or discussion will be disrupted seems to lead to a chorus of people who are mainly reinforcing each other’s views. While that may be enjoyable for those commenting, it doesn’t further other goals. I was struck by the analysis a few years back that showed that conservatives read only conservative authors and liberals read only liberal authors and there is almost no cross-over. There is very little value to comments as an echo chamber, in my opinion.

Digby is not always right (read Bob Somerby at Daily Howler for examples). She is frequently annoying in her views on tasers (where she has no understanding of the problems of law enforcement). She lost credibility during the Obama/Clinton wars because she propagated the same campaign talking points as everyone else and gave free rein to Tristero who was ruthless in attacking Clinton supporters in the comments. You cannot stifle opinion that way and drive out opposing views and maintain that your comment community has value as a place to discuss ideas, in my opinion. It undoubtedly feels good to be there because of the reinforcement of consensual views, but is that why we are all here — to have our opinions reinforced?

66

LFC 12.03.10 at 5:42 pm

I don’t read most of the blogs (e.g. Making Light, Unfogged, Coates, Yglesias, Digby, Pandagon, Obsidian Wings) that have been referred to in this thread (which I’ve read/skimmed pretty quickly). My introduction to the blogosphere was reading Duck of Minerva, which I still read, albeit not as closely as I used to. The number of bloggers there has expanded and the comments, although not numerous, tend to be serious, as blog comments go. (I do have a minor gripe or two with the Duck but I won’t go into that here, since no one cares.)

The comments at American Power used to be good for an occasional laugh/groan, but ever since the proprietor, Donald Douglas, activated comment moderation, the number of comments there has gone down quite sharply. Kind of a shame, in a way.

Stephen Walt’s blog at FP sometimes has o.k. comments, except when the subject turns to Israel. I left a comment there myself the other day.

67

Salient 12.03.10 at 5:44 pm

I’m not sure Yglesias hasn’t actually started weeding his comments, as many of the regular annoyances, such as Mixner/Wendell and Lonewacko, haven’t appeared in the last few weeks.

Think Progress implemented Disqus which, for a while, let a sufficiently dedicated coterie of commenters to “flag” a poster into automated annihilation. It no longer seems to work. [Morgan claims to have haxx0r3d the Disqus system or something.] Given that it’s possible to minimize comments and their replies as you scroll down by clicking a button, it’s not too much hassle, though MW and DW sometimes clog up a thread. Threaded minimizeable comments are a form of implicit moderation, because individuals disinterested in a given conversation or back-and-forth can minimize the entire subthread in one click and skip over it.

Agreed about the comments, tho.

Really? Atrios’ comments section is almost exclusively the chat-room chit-chat of one big happy close social community, talking about dinner and how the kids are doing. It’s not like his one-liners leave much to be discussed or analyzed, and, uhh, the folks there don’t bite. It’s one of the more positive and energizing and comfortable online communities for progressive-minded folks precisely because it’s treated as a social hub, not as comment-on-the-posts.

68

Doctor Memory 12.03.10 at 5:48 pm

Of course, no discussion of blog comment quality is complete with a reference to John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory:

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/3/19/

…which I think really is a lot of it.

But Yglesias is a particular case: he has not only never displayed any interest in policing his comments threads, but he occasionally plays footsie with some of the more outright stupid and reprehensible characters there, notably St*v* S**l*r and Megan McArdle. The consequences of that are utterly predictable: the shitheels feel welcome and thus stay. There may or may not be a Greater Al Conspiracy, but it’s not necessary to believe in it to explain the toxic swamp that Matt presides over.

69

mpowell 12.03.10 at 5:51 pm

This is a great post. I still peruse MY’s comment section because there are some good ones in there. Plus you can pretty easily skip all the Worstler posts and responses with the hierarchy system. But I don’t post there anymore because the system is just too annoying to use. It seems to me that just a few trolls contribute 90% of the material, though, so I think that the problem could probably be dealt with as long as you don’t have a professional level commitment from your trolls. Which would be an important difference between Yglesias and CT if Yglesias actually cared.

70

roac 12.03.10 at 5:59 pm

Mixner is now posting under his real name, Frank something.

Now I’m confused. I thought it was generally accepted that Mixner was this guy.

Reverting to the Yglesias comment system generally, I am fascinated by the way some commenters elicit something very much like an immune reaction. Just as specially conditioned cells gang up on an antigen, any Roddis post is followed within 10 minutes by cries of “GOOOOOLD!” Or my particular favorite, “Everyone says : Shut the fuck up, Lonewacko.”

71

Matt McIrvin 12.03.10 at 6:00 pm

Actually, the one complaint I have about Coates is that he frequently gives two or three of his fellow Atlantic bloggers way more respect than they deserve. But that’s understandable given the situation.

72

Uncle Kvetch 12.03.10 at 6:02 pm

I haven’t read MY’s blog in awhile, but the last time I did with any regularity there was a frequent commenter named “Hector” who was actually enormously entertaining. And like a good half of MY’s commenters, he seemed to despise Matt on a deeply personal level that I just don’t see as much on other troll-infested blogs. That’s always been the real distinguishing feature about that comments section, to my mind…not just the quantity and persistence of the trolls, but the visceral loathing for the host.

Best commenter community? Roy Edroso’s crew at Alicublog, without question. Bitter, snarky, and funny as hell, much like the host himself.

73

Hortense 12.03.10 at 6:06 pm

My impression is there is a point at which a liberal blog becomes influential and Koch-bots are dispatched. The result is either the blog author spends time in troll control or the commentary is derailed.

LB, I read the blog of clarity all the time, and think there are a lot of lurkers who appreciate your wit and that of the commentariat.

As for other places: the blog run by Krugthulu (along with, I’m guessing, his éminence grise, Dr. Wells – how else can he be so peripatetic?) has some good stuff, and there’s not a lot of back and forth, i.e., fools arguing with each other. There is a resident troll – Sean/Sam from Florida – but the responses can be sorted into those recommended by other readers, so the most cogent comments rise to the top. Then you can just skip right past Sean/Sam Fred/Doug or whatever the Koch-bot is calling himself.

74

Substance McGravitas 12.03.10 at 6:08 pm

I don’t read Matt Yglesias, but those smart enough to use Firefox and Greasemonkey – and I guess Chrome now – can use this to kill annoying comments:

http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/41712

75

andthenyoufall 12.03.10 at 6:12 pm

I’m surprised that people are so enamored of TNC’s comment section. TNC himself is astonishing but I don’t find the comments enlightening. (A long comment thread on Hobbes a while back pops to mind.) Tender loving care can prevent a huge mob of commenters from calling each other obscene names, but it can’t magically whip up clear, convincing, inspired comments.

I’m also a little surprised that people love Digby so. I didn’t realize until now that she was female, so sexism can’t explain my reaction. My reaction to her has always been the same as my reaction towards Atrios… her writing isn’t particularly gripping or informative, and there’s something choppy and breathless about the style. (Atrios is a guy, right?) But a new theory has occurred to me: when the name of a blog and the blogger’s pseudonym are two different, uninformative words (Digby/Hullabaloo, Atrios/Eschaton), I forget why I opened a page and I’m more confused than I would be. Or maybe it’s the non-white backgrounds.

19: “The worst comments in the world are generally at newspaper sites.” If we go with my theory, it’s because they have the largest and most representative readership.

23: No one said anything about taking away anyone’s internet connection. I’m sure the people who get into huge “You’re a cocksucker!” “No, you are!” fights on Matt Y.’s blog have a ton of fun with it. That doesn’t give me an obligation to read their drivel.

76

joel hanes 12.03.10 at 6:58 pm

I think that one of the reasons that Yglesias’s comments have long been such a wasteland is that the commenting software started to break nearly three years ago, and got worse and worse, until only one in three attempted postings succeeded. Commenters regularly proppsed computer sympathetic magic, lucky sequences of steps, by which the chance of success was said to be increased. It’s only recently been fixed.

I enjoy the comments at Balkinization and Delong’s “Grasping Reality [with the current appendages]”

Jon Talton’s “Rogue Columnist” holds a serious and interesting commentariat.

Confirming chris y’s observation above, Will Bunch’s “Attytood” is on a newspaper site, and his comment section is a pool of cess.

77

nick s 12.03.10 at 7:00 pm

Ezra Klein’s commenters seem consistently awful now that he’s bedded in at the WaPo, because they’re 80% frothing wingnuts who despise him and want him fired. Matt Y’s mostly disengaged from his comments, apart from when picks the weakest criticisms of his posts (or the “trust fund scumbag” snarkers) to dive in and respond.

I suspect Digby wasn’t willing to sacrifice her privacy for the trappings of blogdom; now she just sacrifices her sanity by continuing to watch cable news.

78

MPAVictoria 12.03.10 at 7:03 pm

I want to take this opportunity to name the site with the worst comments on the internet,
Shakesville.
It has to have the most over moderated, boot-licking community of posters around. Click on any post and the first 20 comments are all about how right and perceptive the blogger who posted the story is. It is just the worst.

79

medrawt 12.03.10 at 7:15 pm

Uncle Kvetch -

Yeah, that’s the somewhat bewildering thing to me; Al just sort of trolled in a trollish way, and was often genial about it, but there’s been a shift to where a significant number of the commenters just HATE Matt. I think the tenor shifted when “Petey” morphed from a regular commenter into a troll during the democratic primary; it seemed like something in his brain just cracked open when Edwards was squeezed out of the race. That’s more or less the moment that he started the “trustfund scumbag” meme, and was the first commenter who I remember thinking was spending most of his time just insulting Yglesias. Of course, there were the two guys who I intentionally never learned to keep straight who are on opposite militant wings of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and will in the same comment thread accuse Yglesias of, respectively, advocating the destruction of Israel and advocating the eradication of the Palestinian people.

Compared to all that, Hector was a brilliant and idiosyncratic breath of fresh air. At the end of the day, it’s sort of charming to get into a fight with someone who thinks Michel Foucault poses a substantive threat to the survival of Western Civilization.

80

AcademicLurker 12.03.10 at 7:17 pm

now she just sacrifices her sanity by continuing to watch cable news.

That always strikes me when I read Digby: how any human being can consume that much right wing media without becoming suicidal is beyond me. She must have an industrial strength supply of antidepressants (or else a backyard shooting range and lots of ammunition).

81

Uncle Kvetch 12.03.10 at 7:19 pm

At the end of the day, it’s sort of charming to get into a fight with someone who thinks Michel Foucault poses a substantive threat to the survival of Western Civilization.

Exactly. And he kept calling MY a “hipster” as if it were the most stinging epithet he could deploy.

82

Anderson 12.03.10 at 7:25 pm

will in the same comment thread accuse Yglesias of, respectively, advocating the destruction of Israel and advocating the eradication of the Palestinian people

Could be the same person under 2 names. Sorta like a genocidal David Broder.

83

Norwegian Guy 12.03.10 at 7:55 pm

Yglesias might have a bad comment section, but it’s really no worse than his own posts. His failure rate is so high, that you need the comments to get it straight. Though you’ll obviously need to wade through the trolling as well. And the reason he get much criticism in the comments – could it be that he deserves it? It’s certainly not only wingnuts that dislike much of his writing.

And while the comments on newspapers are probably always worse than on blogs, I’m actually surprised and impressed by the quality of comments found on many American and British papers. The comments on Norwegian newspaper articles are probably 90% far right wingers, and you don’t have to look long to find a decent dose of racism, even on moderated sites.

So more sensible people tend to ignore the comments. Which also means that they continue being populated almost solely by wingnuts. And the few that are trying to argue against them, are usually not especially well-articulated and good at it.

84

Donald Johnson 12.03.10 at 8:26 pm

I thought Digby was in the big leagues as a liberal blogger. It took me a minute (and some reading through the thread above) to realize you meant she didn’t have a gig in the MSM. No disrespect necessarily intended towards all those who do (though certainly some meant for some of them), but that’s probably to her credit.

85

Emma in Sydney 12.03.10 at 8:30 pm

Totally agree about Shakesville — it’s like a cult in there. Although, if I ever feel uncomfortable about being such a TNC fan, I go and refresh myself by seeing what real fans look like at Shakesville. I love Alicublog and LGM comments too, and read them for the giggles.

The comments on Paul Krugman’s blog are pretty horrifying, being as bad as any newspaper despite the effort and time that Krugman puts into moderating. Can the NYT have that many bitterly right wing and stupid readers? Or does Krugman attract them?

86

Michael Bérubé 12.03.10 at 8:44 pm

Thanks, rm @ 64 — I always did like my comment section, largely because of the commenters in it. But then it got so popular that no one went there anymore. Srsly, comment-tending is a full-time job, and once a blog readership gets to a certain size (that would be a size mine never got to, Moloch be praised), there’s no way to do it and blog too.

Does anybody remember the Cobb Awards? The pic of Mr. Cobb they used for the “Worst Community” award is really kind of fetching. Also, that was the thread that gave us the immortal nomination of DKos comments for Worst Community on the grounds that they’re “like a big bowl of Angry Flakes that never runs out.”

That said, LGM and Edroso’s and this place. That’s about it for me these days.

87

MPAVictoria 12.03.10 at 8:49 pm

Emma in Sydney:
TNC?
Thanks
Mitch

88

zamfir 12.03.10 at 8:56 pm

Another vote here in favour of MY’s comment section, for the sometimes complete wackiness of it. His commenters actually react to each other, not always according to the laws of conversation, but more like chemicals or so.

89

mds 12.03.10 at 9:16 pm

Best commenter community? Roy Edroso’s crew at Alicublog, without question. Bitter, snarky, and funny as hell, much like the host himself.

I second this, for reasons that may be obvious to Kvetch.

At the end of the day, it’s sort of charming to get into a fight with someone who thinks Michel Foucault poses a substantive threat to the survival of Western Civilization.

Not to mention someone who, if he’s for real, is an extremely traditionalist Christian who nevertheless isn’t a kneejerk right-winger on economic issues. Which is pretty rare in the USian blogosystem. I’d certainly take him over Warstler any day, even with the tirades about sexual decadence and hipsters.

90

Norwegian Guy 12.03.10 at 9:44 pm

Not to mention someone who, if he’s for real, is an extremely traditionalist Christian who nevertheless isn’t a kneejerk right-winger on economic issues. Which is pretty rare in the USian blogosystem.

Though it might not be that rare outside the US. Perhaps he’s just a Christian Democrat?

91

Doctor Memory 12.03.10 at 10:03 pm

norwegian guy @84: uh, no, Hector’s a little more of a unique snowflake than that. His ethos, as far as I could ever make it out, was a weird combination of Christian millenarianism, Pol Pot-style agrarian supremacism, Russian self-pity and quasi-environmental crackpot doomsaying. Basically, after peak oil, the meek shall inherit the earth, not because they’re blessed, but because only hardy Russian peasants have the capacity for stoic suffering necessary to survive the econolypse. (The meek, of course, to be firmly guided by a church authority: I could never quite tell if he intended for it to be Rome or one of the Orthodox hierarchies, not that it matters much.)

92

Uncle Kvetch 12.03.10 at 10:05 pm

Not to mention someone who, if he’s for real, is an extremely traditionalist Christian who nevertheless isn’t a kneejerk right-winger on economic issues. Which is pretty rare in the USian blogosystem. I’d certainly take him over Warstler any day, even with the tirades about sexual decadence and hipsters.

And for all his horror of sexual decadence, he actually had no problem with same-sex marriage. He figured that marriage as currently constituted in the decadent West was so far removed from its “natural” (read: procreative) purpose that there was no compelling reason to deny it to same-sex couples. That’s downright refreshing when you’ve gone round and round with any number of US conservatives who rail against SSM, but then hem and haw when you ask why they’re not putting an equal amount of energy into, say, shutting down drive-through marriage chapels in Nevada, or pushing to outlaw divorce.

93

Watson Ladd 12.03.10 at 10:26 pm

Why did slashdot-style moderation never make it out onto the wordpress world? I’ve seen insightful (if limited) comments on politics there.

94

roac 12.03.10 at 10:29 pm

Hector is, or claims to be, an Anglican South Asian of Tamil descent.

He has recently started posting as “Hector St.Clare” (I assume it’s the same person). Truly a unique snowflake, as Doctor Memory put it. Which is why I am with those who find him cute rather than menacing. The terror aroused by the usual right-wing bot is the terror aroused by a zombie or an Orc: You know that if you see one there are hundreds just over the brow of the hill.

95

pogonisby 12.03.10 at 10:40 pm

I think Atrios is the funniest blogger out there, apart perhaps from The Medium Lobster at Fafblog.

Yglesias on his commenters.

96

IM 12.03.10 at 10:45 pm

Comments at Yglesias: I would say Hector is some sort of Christian Socialist in the Chesterton mold. He actually mellowed quite a bit over the years and the other regulars – if there are regulars . now accept him as a slightly eccentric fellow.

And I still think about half of the comment section is quite readable.

97

politicalfootball 12.03.10 at 10:58 pm

My impression is the same as LizardBreath’s—Digby was more influential when her gender was secret.

Digby was always underrated as a blogger. I don’t see any falloff in her influence. Greenwald – himself a deservedly influential blogger – links her not-infrequently. What A-list blogger periodically linked her in the old days? (That’s a non-rhetorical question. I can’t remember.)

98

Substance McGravitas 12.03.10 at 11:05 pm

What A-list blogger periodically linked her in the old days?

Atrios, with the standard line “What Digby said.”

99

Emma in Sydney 12.04.10 at 12:42 am

@ MPAVictoria: TNC is Ta-Nehisi Coates. You can find him at the Atlantic.

100

Ben Alpers 12.04.10 at 1:27 am

Back in the day, both The Poorman and SadlyNo had brilliant commentariats. The former has never entirely returned to the glory of its early rage-based snark days (funny that arguably the single funniest post and comment thread evah was a response to John Cole when he was still a wingnut). SadlyNo was particularly noteworthy because the trolls somehow added to the mix. Now the threads are just too long for me to read.

I’m surprised Billmon hasn’t been mentioned. He was, by his own account, driven from blogging out of a sense that his comment threads were getting out of control. He was also one of the smartest, most interesting and distinctive voices in the blogosphere.

Finally, no discussion of comment threads is complete without mentioning Althouse’s place. You need to have a pretty strong stomache to appreciate it, but it’s a truly fascinating mix of craziness, existing in a symbiotic and codependent relationship with the Lesser Perfesser herself.

101

Lemuel Pitkin 12.04.10 at 1:33 am

Back in the day, both The Poorman and SadlyNo had brilliant commentariats.

Yeah, the Poorman was the bestest. Unfortunately, Northrup posts there now like twice a year, and the guys who keep his seat warm — well, they’re no The Editors.

102

spyder 12.04.10 at 1:58 am

We in the Northwest have the daily chance to read Horsesass.org blog posts. Once you have waded through the hellish nightmare of trolls, unrestrained by regulation, you become immune from all trolls in the other blog commentary. It is a dose of troll vaccination.

103

Castorp 12.04.10 at 2:14 am

I occasionally comment on Matt’s blog, and, unfortunately, it tends to be to criticize him—unless it is to let the Gold Bugs have it. The problem is that I’ve read him so long I’m in the habit of doing so. I still think he has interesting insights into politics, but his glib liberaltarian posts on economics drive me crazy, and when this conscious liberaltarian turn of his first started in earnest (hating on Hacker’s book, hoping to export Wal Mart to Europe, deliberately talking about manufacturing exports without mentioning jobs) I joined a group of commenters who, I think, actually made some good critiques—which he characteristically annoyed. Since he added Disqus and banned Paulie Carbone and others seemed to have drifted away, I’ve kind of lost interest in commenting, though I couldn’t help at least making my displeasure known today, for example: http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/2010/12/jobs-and-trade/

Can anyone here defend that? I certainly think it explains some of the non-rightwing vitriol.

104

Castorp 12.04.10 at 2:15 am

characteristically annoyed=characteristically ignored

105

Anthony 12.04.10 at 2:22 am

“I’m not sure Yglesias hasn’t actually started weeding his comments, as many of the regular annoyances, such as Mixner/Wendell and Lonewacko, haven’t appeared in the last few weeks. (Al himself hasn’t been seen for months.)”

Lonewacko is there all the time; he’s been on a few posts today. He calls himself 24AheadDotCom and posts a weird disclaimer after each post about how everyone hates him.

Someone was saying that Mixner is Frank Youell. I think Mixner is Wendell Cox, and Frank Youell is a new, weird, racist.

Hector is not a Christian Democrat. His ideal society is one that forces hipsters to be yam farmers, and Bolivian public whippings give him orgasms. He’s not smart, and he’s really not interesting.

106

PTS 12.04.10 at 2:22 am

I’d recommend two:

I fourth Lawyers, Guns, and Money.

And I recommend Feministe, provided you walk softly.

107

GrueBleen 12.04.10 at 2:57 am

My profound thanks to Belle and all the above commenters for a most enlightening post. You see, I was once upon a time, a very regular participant in the Fidonet echo LTUAE (yes, folks, Fidonet – one of the most amazing achievements of all times by the human ‘communitarian spirit’).

Any’ow, LTUAE (Life, The Universe And Everything for the Adams benighted) was an Aussie-only Fidonet echo (way too strong-worded for you delicate souls, though Prof Quiggin might remember it through his brother’s participation). I sorta miss LTUAE (aka Latooie or L2ae) and now, thanks to this post, I know I can get a near fix from Yglesias.

But just for the Making Light fans, here’s an example of the depths to which LTUAE could sink. You won’t get all the references, but never mind the content, fell the rhythm and rhyme ! Otherwise, Belle, by all means just kill this intrusion.

LTUAE ————————————————————————
Date: 09-25-93 13:53

Subj: ………….
Stat: Rcvd
——————————————————————————
Hi Graeme. Sheer bandwidth may yet bring us undone. :)

So> Ho ho ho. Let’s try again…. Presto! – the versed thread.

GR> Oh To Be In La2e, Now That Moanicka’s Here
GR> ___________________________________________

GR> When I was young, I do confess,
GR> I, of my life, did make great mess.
GR> But now that I am old and grey,
GR> I want for everyone to live that way.

So> The wine of youth runs dry ere long,
So> sad sediments remaining.
So> Impertinence, that youthful song,
So> replaced by dull complaining.

GR> The fire of youth was burning high
GR> The glint of passion was in my eye;
GR> I, frail vessel, scarce contained
GR> The wonderment of things explained.

The newly sage of middle age
cast off the chafing fetter
of wonderment, their view is bent
to faster, smarter, better.

GR> So I did to latooie come,
GR> Of all perversity, I found me some;
GR> Full of evil, and all that’s wrong,
GR> So here I stayed, to sing my song.

So> Let’s groan and moan and point the bone,
So> then dump it in Latooie.
So> Enduring strife. The pulse of life
So> descends unto ennui.

GR> Strong heart, and spirit bold,
GR> Heeded all that I was told;
GR> Until at last, all passion spent,
GR> I wondered how to pay the rent.

To get the loot we prostitute
our principles and talent.
We work and strive just to survive
a living, found repellent.

GR> I sing my song, I sing it well,
GR> And all you sophists can go to hell;
GR> Save for two, who walk in beauty,
GR> Gorgeous Gerry, and his Me-bie cutie.

So> The slurs and lies will polarise
So> a like on like attraction.
So> The slagger, like Mick Jagger,
So> just can’t get no satisfaction.

GR> So they went, the days of yore,
GR> And quoth the Grimmer, Nevermore!
GR> The time has come to be forgetting
GR> Juvenile ways and childish fretting.

There’s better ways to spend our days.
The pleasures of creation
can oft be found Latooie bound.
The psyche’s recreation.

So> And yet I swear there’s talent there
So> beneath the disillusion.
So> Come, light the flame or play the game….

So> …..(Forgive my wry intrusion).

GR> Wouldst slyly tweak the dragon’s tail
GR> Just to test your suit of mail?
GR> Pardon me sir, this fey allusion,
GR> Your motive power is cold confusion?

Breathe fire and smoke, but still invoke
the Master’s teaching power.
The Victim burns, The Pupil learns,
The Fool alone should cower.

GR> For you have scarcely yet begun
GR> Your glorious hour in life’s warm sun.
GR> And though, no doubt, your mojo’s workin’
GR> You’re several pottles short the firkin.

Such fiery breath. Like solar death.
I’m Icarus in waiting?
It’s far too late to coruscate.
Verse on with the debating.

The Muse awaits our rhyming fates.
The winner, “Top gun poet”
Let Elk decide! (and, on the side,
What say a jug of Moet?)

108

Andrew 12.04.10 at 3:13 am

Can I ask why more financially inclined progressives aren’t adding their thoughts to Mike Konczal’s Rortybomb?

Mike is smart, insightful and all over the intersection between government, big banking and consumer finance. He’s a genuine star, but his posts often get two or fewer responses.

109

idlemind 12.04.10 at 3:27 am

I read Digby religiously for years. I stopped after she brought on co-bloggers but just recently started reading again. She’s on target as much as she ever was (depressingly so), but I have to say that her comment section is much worse than it used to be. I’m happy she’s getting a fair amount of linkage again; perhaps she’ll attract more thoughtful commenters now. The last few times I peeked it was worse than Yglesias’s. I don’t get the sense that it is moderated at all.

I find Atrios’s comment section nearly content-free. It’s voluminous, but it’s mostly banter among the regulars. Obsidian Wings has been good (though I’ve been reading it a lot less since Hilzoy left); it has a pretty strict mutual-respect policy that has worked well. The late Steve Gilliard had one of the better comment sections, in part because he interacted with it nearly continuously and did not treat trolls at all kindly.

I’d have to go with other commenters and put Ta-Nehisi Coates’s blog at the top for readable and thoughtful comments, and I think that it is his personal and frequent interaction with it that makes it so. In fact, I think this is almost a truism: comment quality reflects the careful tending of their host. I can’t think of any other factor as significant.

110

parsimon 12.04.10 at 3:40 am

It’s been remarked before that cross-linking, and courteous exchange of blog-roll listing, once drove a lot more blog traffic than it now does. I can think of a handful of blogs I read regularly now whose blogrolls are entirely outdated, and there’s not nearly as much linking as once occurred.

This goes toward why I don’t tend to read Rortybomb more often than every few months; it’s not very high up on the radar. Though I don’t follow econoblogs closely in the first place.

As for high-quality comment sections, as has been remarked, the involvement of blog proprietors (front-page posters) in comment threads is fairly key, and in the absence of that, a strong community which self-polices can work, but the latter requires a commentariat that feels free to call other commenters out not particularly on content but on form.

111

HP 12.04.10 at 3:55 am

I never followed Drum and Klein over to their MSM digs because they were both so “serious” and “measured” about the invasion of Iraq (i.e., WRONG, WRONG, WRONG), that I never felt obliged to follow their MSM careers.

The real question is, why do I enjoy ersatz, satirical pop music so much, when I can’t stand the real thing?

112

Marc 12.04.10 at 4:08 am

I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the problem that Digby shares with Greenwald:

Both of them are living, breathing examples of why editors are important. They can be absolutely brilliant, but will frequently say in 10,000 words what could be done in 100. I also think that she’s suffered somewhat from not having an identified niche (as Greeenwald clearly does) where she has particular expertise.

I’ll agree that I like her material much better than her comments, which have nothing to recommend them over Yglesias.

Atrios has been doing nothing but sustained whining for a long time now, which is too bad; his haiku-like approach used to be a clever way to cut through the clutter. Now he spends most of his few words on a handful of hobbyhorses, and you know what he’s going to say before you read them. He strikes me as someone in desperate need of a sabbatical for that reason alone. The comments there are closer to a chat room among friends than a discussion about the topic at hand.

113

Substance McGravitas 12.04.10 at 4:17 am

The real question is, why do I enjoy ersatz, satirical pop music so much, when I can’t stand the real thing?

You can imagine they’re much smarter than what they’re doingand you can laugh in knowing comfort rather than with bitter cruelty. Right? RIGHT?

114

Henry 12.04.10 at 4:28 am

Way late: but the poetry at _Making Light_ can be good for occasional poetry, and was sometimes far more than just good occasional poetry when John M. Ford was alive. “This sonnet in the iambic”:http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/003789.html#29472, in response to an implied invitation for something “yoking the trivial to the tragic, relating the twin inevitabilities of death and database error by means of a rhetorical figure involving worms” is a small gem.

The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days
Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.
The universe winds down. That’s how it’s made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you’ll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

And “this”:http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/006280.html#80072 (inspired by one of Kieran’s blogposts on Airmiles malapropisms) is doggerel, but very good and funny doggerel.

Much have I travell’d on the feet of gold,
And many tumbled walls and maidens seen,
Round many horny Africs have I been
Which bards like bosoms in their welkins hold,
Oft of a spare expanse had I been told
That fence-swung Homer looked on as demesne;
Yet never did I breathe its mountains clean
Till I heard Friedman speak out uncontrolled,
Then felt I like some Cousteau of the skies
When a new bubble undermines his ken,
Or sack-like Falstaff, when with precast eyes
He stared at echoes — and his fellow men
Harked back in multitudes like single spies
Silent, past their peak in Darien.

115

Emma in Sydney 12.04.10 at 4:33 am

Another sadly missed blogger is Jill Psmith, aka Twisty Faster, at I Blame the Patriarchy, currently on furlough. Some of her commenters are hilarious and brilliant, and the community ethos is very strong. Too strong for some, but I love it.

116

Emma in Sydney 12.04.10 at 4:36 am

Henry, I remember when Mike Ford posted that. There was an almost palpable net-silence for a few minutes, while people recollected themselves. One of those moments. A different one was the ‘We are aware of all internet traditions’ thread on LGM. Like one of those moments when the party goes silent.

117

GrueBleen 12.04.10 at 4:39 am

Henry @114

Delicious, both of them. Why, oh why, isn’t there more of this ?

“Regret, by definition, comes too late”

and: “Things past redress are now with me past care” [WS, Richard II]

118

Britta 12.04.10 at 4:57 am

I think that TNC’s comments stand out even more in comparison to other Atlantic blogs, whose comments are pretty much unreadable. I also generally find this site to generally and consistently have a high level of conversation in the comments, probably in part due to the subject matter of the posts.

There were several blogs which I used to enjoy reading but now no longer do, in part because of the posts but also the comments, such as pretty much all the mainstream feminist blogs, including towards its end Bitch Phd. I know part of it is that blog communities change over time and/or that I grew out of the targeted demographic (e.g. college-age feminists). Also, on at least a few of the blogs (someone already mentioned Shakesville) there was an increasing trend towards often hostile over-moderation and as a result the comments end up becoming not very interesting echo chambers.

119

Salient 12.04.10 at 5:31 am

The comments there are closer to a chat room among friends than a discussion about the topic at hand.

There’s a lot to be said for that kind of community, especially one so willing to accept and interact with new left-of-center folks. (Disclaimer: I was especially grateful for that in 2003-2005, when it was much harder to find online.)

Out of curiosity, what’s the current concern from “some” people regarding CT? Is it 1. trolls in the Morgan/Lonewacko sense, or 2. long tedious and sometimes increasingly hostile back-and-forths between presumably more-or-less well-meaning people,* or 3. annoyingly frequent regulars,* or 4. that CT is too much like a pub / social hub with lots of off-topic or tangential chatter,* or 5. that too many commenters are replying to comments instead of the original post, or 6. too. much. crazy., or… what?

For easy management of [2.], threaded minimizeable comments (with subthreads set to be minimized by default) could be a good solution. Only interested parties would click to expand the subthread. Troll clogging aside, this is actually doing wonders for Yglesias’ comments section (though one needs a scriptmonkey script to auto-minimize subthreads by default).

*(If so: insert apologetic puppy eyes here.)

120

Lemuel Pitkin 12.04.10 at 8:46 am

Out of curiosity, what’s the current concern from “some” people regarding CT?

Yeah, I wonder about this too. From my point of view, the comments here are just about ideal.

121

Lemuel Pitkin 12.04.10 at 8:49 am

(altho Salient’s hypotheses are good and I in particular am probably often guilty of his 2 in particular. So if I’m part of the problem then I’ll resolve to stop picking at the fellow commenters who, with respect to me, are scabs. Or bedbug bites, or something.)

122

andthenyoufall 12.04.10 at 10:34 am

@103: I’ve always liked Yglesias because he thinks and argues. He sometimes thinks out loud in support of positions that I disagree with, but more often than not I find his logic compelling. He has good judgment about substantive political issues, if not about spelling and grammar. —— On issues related to trade and occupational licensing, he has irritated progressives who have a very knee jerk reaction to certain empirical hypotheses. But let’s start with barbers. Who loses from being forced to get a certificate before cutting hair? Not college graduates, I guarantee you. Who gains the most (as a percentage of income) from being able to get a cheap haircut? Not college graduates, I guarantee you. So is it really progressive to insist on protecting the barber cartel? ————– So let’s move on to trade. Paul Krugman, famous reactionary, has been pointing out for two decades that the number of *jobs available* in the US has to do with monetary and fiscal policy, and nothing to do with trade policy; that is to say, while changing terms of trade may cause workers in one industry to gain jobs while they lose jobs in another, as a whole workers gain jobs when the Fed cuts rates, and lose them when it cuts. That is to say, unemployment is not a reason to oppose trade treaties. If these treaties have systematic distributive consequences, fine; but your argument is going to have to be stronger than “workers in protected industry X will lose their jobs”.

@119: -3- (but not you, Salient) and -2/5-. -3- has always been a problem at CT, and I don’t think it’s getting better or worse. I’m not opposed in general to conversations between commenters, but I do think sometimes these conversations lead by degrees into utter tangents that are irritating for the rest of us to wade through, and I think the “wading through tangential conversations” factor on CT has increased a lot in the last four years (which is largely why I’ve stopped reading the comments regularly).

123

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.04.10 at 11:40 am

@122 Paul Krugman, famous reactionary, has been pointing out for two decades that the number of jobs available in the US has to do with monetary and fiscal policy, and nothing to do with trade policy…

Right, new grocery-bagger positions open every day.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/28/opinion/28krugman.html
But I am arguing for an end to the finger-wagging, the accusation either of not understanding economics or of kowtowing to special interests that tends to be the editorial response to politicians who express skepticism about the benefits of free-trade agreements.

124

y81 12.04.10 at 1:18 pm

“the “wading through tangential conversations” factor on CT has increased a lot in the last four years”

O, I like that part: meandering conversation among educated people. It offers a combination of occasional analytic insights, random citations to interesting areas of knowledge, and amusing glimpses into the lives and viewpoints of people rather different from me. If I wanted serious and profound exploration of a single issue, I wouldn’t be reading blog comments in the first place.

125

Anthony 12.04.10 at 2:01 pm

It should also be noted that Don Williams has pretty much ruined Yglesias’s comments. At least theAmericanist is funny when he gets into a huff.

126

MPAVictoria 12.04.10 at 2:41 pm

Thank you Emma.

127

Castorp 12.04.10 at 2:54 pm

@122 “On issues related to trade and occupational licensing, he has irritated progressives who have a very knee jerk reaction to certain empirical hypotheses.”

Right, but that was never my problem. I read some of those threads and there some knee-jerk reactions as well as some reasonable critiques. He might have engaged with the latter. I’m actually fine with deregulating some of this stuff.

“That is to say, unemployment is not a reason to oppose trade treaties.”

But that is something of a straw man, no? Are people worried about unemployment or worried that unskilled workers or workers who have specialized manufacturing skills will get worse jobs? One might think a progressive—and Krugman is not guilty of this—might at least be concerned about the distributional consequences. That is what bothers me with his new tack; he is concerned with employment in general, which I agree is a worthy cause and his monetary policy posts have some real value to that conversation, but he pretty much given up thinking about inequality and the distributional consequences of free-market policies in many cases. (In the past he at least favored some sort of redistribution based on progressive taxation—a policy he hardly mentions anymore.)

Moreover, in learning about economics, he seems to have forgotten what he knew about power, which I think explains his tepid reaction to the Hacker book. Another related issue is his enthusiasm for increased immigration. Now, to be clear, I support higher levels of legal immigration but cracking down on employers for hiring illegal immigrants—and in any case I support humane treatment of everyone. But he really does support the libertarian fantasy of open borders, why? Because he is only looking at the narrow economic effects and not the societal or cultural effects, forgetting about the irrational and rational fears immigration elicits among the working and middle classes. In essence he supports a kind of cosmopolitan utilitarianism and has a real blind spot for the American middle class. I’m a social democrat so this really bothers me. We don’t have a world demos, so we can’t build a humane, somewhat equitable society at the world level. I therefore think an American progressive, while wanting to improve circumstances around the world, still needs to think about inequality and the standing of America’s working and middle class. He was never the best at doing this, but he has given up this strand of thinking almost completely and it is this element of his turn toward libertarianism that annoys me—and other commenters. But as I said earlier, I have pretty much given up making this point on his blog because he has almost no interaction with his commenters and because, yes, there are some really annoying trolls that have stakes out the comment section.

128

Adam Kotsko 12.04.10 at 3:09 pm

“the latter requires a commentariat that feels free to call other commenters out not particularly on content but on form.”

It’s insane to think that any major liberal blog has been lacking in commenters willing to call others out on “form.” Liberals’ civility fixation is what allows conservatives to troll them so effectively.

129

Walt 12.04.10 at 3:39 pm

The problem with Yglesias on things like licensing is that he sounds like someone who’s just read a book on Econ 101, and is now condescending to share the incredibly profound insights he’s picked up in there. Whether or not barbers should be licensed is not any way an important progressive issue. It’s a pure utilitarian calculation: there’s arguments for (quality control), and arguments against (oligopoly), and you would have to actually know something about the barbering industry to know which is more important. It’s not a question that philosopher-kings can answer, and the condescendingly explain to us in terms of first principles.

130

Castorp 12.04.10 at 3:46 pm

“The problem with Yglesias on things like licensing is that he sounds like someone who’s just read a book on Econ 101″

That is a good point. It’s also the problem with a lot of his other commentary lately. I wish he’d read some political economy or even some Econ 401.

131

Chuchundra 12.04.10 at 3:50 pm

I like the TNC comments, but he gets so many comments that it’s hard to keep up and I rarely chime in because I feel like my thoughts will just get lost in the traffic. Disqus is nice, but it breaks down a bit if you have to load more than a couple pages worth of comments.

In my opinion, any type of threaded comment section is difficult to follow if there’s any kind of traffic unless there’s some way to keep track of which comments are new since your last visit. I used to really like the idea of threaded comments, but I think that a flat comment section probably works better for most applications.

It’s hard to know what to say about the Shakesville comment section. Yes it’s overmoderated, but that doesn’t go halfway far enough. Apart from the ridiculous language policing, there’s pretty much zero tolerance for any kind of dissent from party line.

132

Satan Mayo 12.04.10 at 4:03 pm

I find Atrios’s comment section nearly content-free. It’s voluminous, but it’s mostly banter among the regulars.

But the blog itself is also content-free. What should the regulars be doing?

Yglesias has put up a post in response to this one. This explanation for his lack of participation seems valid, and applies to a lot of other bloggers who are prominent enough that people post the same comment on post after post for the sake of axe-grinding:

The primary interpreative technique that takes place in the section is “let’s willfully misread what Matt’s saying so as to make it something I strongly disagree with.” It’s not very fun.

133

JP 12.04.10 at 4:10 pm

I find the most rewarding comment threads to be the ones on Brian Leiter’s blog. The posts are open for comments only when one can reasonably expect people to have something useful to say about the topic, people posting under their own name are given preference, and the trolls and dullards never get to see the light of day (the elimination of the latter being particularly important and neglected even on many blogs with heavy moderation, like Shakesville or Feministe, with intellectually baleful consequences). I fancy other people’s ideas of what constitutes a productive discussion may well be less exacting, but I find that at most blogs that are worth reading in the first place, even if the comments have something of substance to add, the good bits are buried in so much pablum that I rarely have the time and patience to get to them.

134

Lemuel Pitkin 12.04.10 at 4:25 pm

The problem with Yglesias on things like licensing is that he sounds like someone who’s just read a book on Econ 101, and is now condescending to share the incredibly profound insights he’s picked up in there. Whether or not barbers should be licensed is not any way an important progressive issue. It’s a pure utilitarian calculation: there’s arguments for (quality control), and arguments against (oligopoly), and you would have to actually know something about the barbering industry to know which is more important.

You’re right that he’s silly on professional licensing in particular (tho I suspect he’s picked some of this up from Dean Baker) but I think you’ve got the diagnosis wrong. Seems to me he’s imported this view from urban land-use questions, where he actually does know something, and where the progressive case against (some) regulation is a lot stronger, and is an important issue.

135

Scott Lemieux 12.04.10 at 4:25 pm

Roy Edroso’s crew at Alicublog, without question. Bitter, snarky, and funny as hell, much like the host himself. This.

Thanks to everyone who has mentioned our comments, which (at much less volume than in the old Halocan days) have both attracted a gratifying number of smart people and remained pretty troll-free, although we’ve never reached a tipping point in terms of readership. (We also haven’t had a real conservative legal/anti-abortion regular since the great Niels Jackson, who was sort of a primodrial Hector.)

136

pierluigi 12.04.10 at 4:41 pm

Digby not in the “big leagues”? Not sure what that means exactly, but I perceive her stature to be actually higher among “potential activists” on the left (I am admittedly making up this category as I write). Do you think her brand would be bigger if she wrote on the WaPo? Her stuff mostly lacks academic affectations and scrubbers, for which I love it (Atrios the same). Actually, I am somewhat concerned about TPM these days: what’s with the redirects from their other sides? I can scan the TPM election central just as well without TPM pointing me to them. So retweet at most, and be done with them.

137

herm 12.04.10 at 5:06 pm

If you want a nice garden, you have to spend a lot of time weeding it. Not difficult to understand.

138

Thomas James 12.04.10 at 5:27 pm

My favorite comment section was certainly Unfogged back in the late days of Ogged– the comments then were consistently more worthwhile than the (often strong) original posts.

Re: Digby, I think it’s strange to classify her with Klein, Yglesias, and Drum, because her work is much more cultural/political criticism than wonkish analysis. I would not expect it to draw the same type of interest or sort of commenters as the other three. Like those other three, I think she’s extremely sharp, but her work strikes me as intended to preach to the converted rather than to convince those on the fence (and to be clear, I think this is the normal mode for most political blogs, left and right– they’re about reaffirming belief– and that’s not necessarily a bad thing).

I think the much more apt comparison to Klein/Drum/Yglesias, if you’re looking for a semi-anonymous woman, would be Hilzoy, who is by far my all-time favorite blogger. She wrote in very much the same manner and towards very similar ends as those three, although I would argue more intelligently. She certainly never blew up like them, but that may also be that she was blogging in addition to another major job.

139

Adam 12.04.10 at 5:41 pm

The problem with Yglesias on things like licensing is that he sounds like someone who’s just read a book on Econ 101, and is now condescending to share the incredibly profound insights he’s picked up in there.

I think this is wrong in important ways. We don’t and never will live in a technocracy, and all political decisions reflect some sort of balance between pragmatic consideration and ideology. Matt is a progressive who is trying to elevate the visibility and relevance of economic principles to progressive ideals, and I think this is an incredibly valuable thing to do. It’s fine to snark about Econ 101, but what I wouldn’t give for more voters and legislators — liberal and conservative — to actually understand introductory economics.

Back to the topic at hand. I think a key determinant of the comment quality is the level of specialization of the blog. Blogs with good comments tend to be at least somewhat specialized. Yglesias and Drum are very much generalists. TNC, by contrast, although also writing on social issues from a liberal perspective, has a very defined focus.

There are also personality issues at work. Matt is generally unapologetic about his viewpoint, regardless of the target of the critique, and that’s bound to stir up a certain element. I happen to really enjoy that quality of Matt’s writing, but I also am broadly sympathetic to his arguments. If you happen to disagree with him, I imagine his tone is about as soothing as a dentist’s drill.

140

Alex 12.04.10 at 5:44 pm

Calculated Risk used to have an awesome comment section.

This is exhibit A for the “scalability problem” thesis. Back in 2007 the comments were awesome, even though it was haloscan. As the traffic spiked in 2007-2008, it got more and more trolly and more and more crappy. Another example is Andrew Exum’s blog, which really was as good as people say back in 2006-2007, but whose comments had degenerated well before he moved it to CNAS’s website. There is something ironic about a counter-insurgency specialist’s blog turning into a failed state.

It is possible to pull it round, though; I happened to drop into the European version of The Oil Drum not so long ago and I was amazed by the improvement from its heyday in 2005, when it was really tiresome.

141

bianca steele 12.04.10 at 6:06 pm

Castorp @ 127
Good points on Krugman. In his defense, as an academic, his job is to do one thing well, not to do everything. There’s a division of labor and all that. (Yes, this sounds like something Stanley Fish would say, but AFAICT Fish is channeling the liberal and left-liberal professoriate on that point.) Maybe NYT readers aren’t well served by arguments so one-sided, but the moral may be just that MSM gigs are corrupting (I could put the same idea in a less cynical way but you get the idea–anyway, surely we need more than one kind of writer).

But in the end, he is an economist. Is it really implausible that he might believe that, if there is a niche he points to as being unfilled, the market will provide and fill it?

142

bianca steele 12.04.10 at 6:08 pm

As for Yglesias, whom I hardly read anymore (and when I do, I ask myself why I’m not reading other people on the CAP site), it occurs to me that one thing he does not have is a segment of commenters who participate in the activity of moderation, which often raises the civility level quite a bit.

143

VV 12.04.10 at 6:31 pm

I think you’re misunderstanding Castorp, he didn’t really accuse Krugman of overusing economics :) — it’s all Yglesias in #127

144

bianca steele 12.04.10 at 6:40 pm

Right, and the other thing Yglesias never had is people saying “the problem with you is that you can’t read.”

145

Castorp 12.04.10 at 7:12 pm

Interesting points in @138 bianca, but VV is correct, I intended my critque to be of Yglesias. I only mentioned Krugman becasue the post I was responding to did.

146

bianca steele 12.04.10 at 7:20 pm

Ah, I see my mistake. You really think Yglesias has had time in his short life to have already forgotten as much about power as you say he does? Well, if you say so.

147

andthenyoufall 12.04.10 at 7:45 pm

@ 127 ; if you reread the post you linked to, Castorp, I think you’ll see that the point was to distinguish between (i) the effects of trade pacts on employment and (ii) their effect on standard of living. I didn’t see the Yggler offering a specific opinion that a specific trade pact would have good consequence on the incomes of American workers; rather, he said that he should object to these pacts only if they have welfare impacts, not because steelworkers will lose their jobs or something. —— But I don’t think you misunderstood that: you specifically said in your original comment that what irritated you was that he didn’t talk about jobs. Worrying about people losing jobs is the same as worrying about unemployment; worrying about people getting worse jobs is the same as worrying about about welfare.

Now, if Y’s embrace of immigration is glib liberaltarianism and Ec 101-speak, then I guess I’m a glib liberaltarian too. Is it so hard to understand that letting someone move from an impoverished country to the United States makes someone vastly better off? Is it so hard to remember that in 1910 our great grandparents were largely immigrants, and that “middle-class American culture” was far more “threatened” in 1910 than in 2010? What Y. adds to the basic, sensible case for vastly more immigration is various reminders that immigration would solve lots of other problems, too. If very serious people claim that these other problems (urban blight, Social Security) are urgent crises, then they ought to get on the immigration bandwagon, since there are solutions to their “crises” that are also morally compelling.

148

Castorp 12.04.10 at 7:48 pm

“You really think Yglesias has had time in his short life to have already forgotten as much about power as you say he does?”

When he is talking about politics he doesn’t seem to forget it. When he talks about economics it’s as though he can’t or won’t access that part of his brain.

149

Castorp 12.04.10 at 7:59 pm

“Now, if Y’s embrace of immigration is glib liberaltarianism and Ec 101-speak, then I guess I’m a glib liberaltarian too. “

I’m actually divided on the immigration argument and his and your stance is not per se glib liberaltarianism, but he never addresses the problems it does pose to a progressive. (The simplified problem being that it can hurt the cohesion necessary to build a proper welfare state. See Putnam for example on what I am talking about.) This is a pretty consistent tic of his. For example he had great fun pointing out that manufacturing exports as a share of GDP have been relatively steady for a while now and that just shows those people worrying about manufacturing are a bunch of people who can’t read statistics. Haha. This of course ignored the fact that most of those hand wringers were worried about manufacturing jobs. If he had addressed that question and explained what he thought was wrong with it, I wouldn’t have agreed, but I wouldn’t have been as irritated or likely to post a biting response.

150

andthenyoufall 12.04.10 at 8:04 pm

@123: Again, if you go back and read that MY post, I think you’ll see that he takes the position that PK has harped on for years: we should think seriously about the welfare effects of trade, but it’s not about jobs.

@129: Does every issue have to be important and progressive? I think the intellectual position he’s trying to stake out actually is hugely progressive, though. Once you accept the general principle “barriers to entry in different professional fields should be lower than they are,” you can challenge the stranglehold of the ADA, the AMA and the ABA over dental, medical, and legal services. When you raid unlicensed barbers, that hurts poor people a little; when you artificially constrict the supply of doctors, that hurts poor people a lot. ——– It’s also important to remember that in addition to oligopoly and quality, there’s a worry about rent incidence. The ability to gain a spot in one of these oligopolies is not randomly distributed throughout the population.

151

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.04.10 at 8:11 pm

Is it so hard to understand that letting someone move from an impoverished country to the United States makes someone vastly better off?

Let me guess: is the second someone the guy whose strawberries the first someone is picking 12 hrs/day for $3/hr?

152

Comment Writer 12.04.10 at 8:54 pm

The reality is the Financial Times has been consistently better on the Financial Crisis – not just in reporting, but in insightfulness and political posisition – then Yglesias or Klein.

153

Mrs Tilton 12.04.10 at 9:01 pm

An irregular verb for andthenyoufall @147:

I aim, however imperfectly, to impose minimum standards of training and competence;
you artificially constrict the supply of doctors;
he/she/it extracts oligopoly rents.

Sure anybody willing to have a go should be allowed to attempt heart transplants in their garage, anybody who can scrawl an illegible signature should be permitted to prescribe anything they’ve ever heard of, anybody who wants to call himself an ophthalmologist should be able to board-certify himself by the bootstraps. Why, it’s progressive and libertarian! I smell greatness! And nobody will benefit more than the poor.

154

Henry 12.04.10 at 9:06 pm

MylesSG – before you go haring off to behave like “a bit of a tool”:http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/2010/12/comments-2/#disqus_thread shouting about censorship in the comments sections of other blogs again, it’s worth pointing out that at no point did Belle Waring censor you. We have a comments system that sometimes puts comments into moderation automatically for reasons best known to itself (a somewhat too sensitive spam protection system). This is (as far as I know) never the result of an active choice made by any poster at CT, unless you have been previously identified as a persistent troll or spammer by someone. But it means that your comment will then be withheld from publication until one of us has a chance to go through the moderation queue, to pluck out the real comments from the multitudes of spam and publish them. This may take time, depending. I try to do it once a day, but sometimes am not able to do it. Other CTers do it as well, in no very organized or regular way (we are not paid for it). If you _are_ censored in the future, you can be _quite sure_ that you will know about it. Your comment will be deleted completely, or marked as spam. If you are in moderation, you are in moderation. You can, if you are stuck there for a long while through accident of circumstance, ask one of us by email to liberate your comment from the queue. But if you want to insult us elsewhere in retaliation against perceived grievances, I’ll ask that at the least you try to do it with a modicum of cleverness and wit. Otherwise, this kind of behavior, if repeated over time _will_ get you banned on grounds of basic rudeness/misunderstanding of the rules of hospitality under which we work etc (we tend to be slightly more forgiving of those who can at least be funny about it).

155

dilbert dogbert 12.04.10 at 9:52 pm

Try looking at the comments section at Calculated Risk, Hoocouldanode. It has an ignore function that allows the reader to select who to read. It also has a function to restore commenters.
I like it.

156

Barry 12.04.10 at 9:59 pm

An ‘ignore’ function is really, really useful, and it’s amazing that blog software generally doesn’t have it. I was participating in Salon blogs way back in the late 90’s, and that worked wonders.

157

Substance McGravitas 12.04.10 at 10:14 pm

Userscripts.org has a bunch of things that’ll probably work here to filter comments, though you might have to ignore comment numbering.

http://userscripts.org/scripts/search?page=2&q=wordpress&x=0&y=0

158

Greg 12.04.10 at 10:16 pm

> The problem with Yglesias … is that he sounds like someone who’s just read a book on Econ 101”

Put differently, he’s a butterfly, flitting from ephemeral topic to ephemeral topic, unrolling his proboscis in exactly the same way each time, and profoundly deaf.

Unfogged? Hermetic. Fun to watch until the novelty wears off — about seven posts, which is admittedly more than most.

CT is consistently occasionally thought-provoking. Thank you for that.

159

Pinko Punko 12.04.10 at 10:30 pm

I think M.Y. comments are a mess because he ignores them even when he’s demonstrably wrong, and he’s wrong a lot, and he posts as if his emanations are for consumption not discussion. He will engage other bloggers but not his own commenters, as they are beneath him. If he posted corrections or opposing views from his comments he would immediately have better comments. He comes across as a giant cobag.

Kevid Drum is a little different- again it is because he doesn’t interact. He just today posted that we have to empathize better with popular responses to terrorism, acknowledging for the first time in my memory that he might be a little empathy minus on some issues, yet he’s been hearing that criticism non-stop of his own posts in comments for years. He is casually dismissive of TSA pushback because it isn’t his issue. He is dismissive of other issues people claim are important for reasons that understandable even if not in agreement, and constantly plays the “why do people worry about this when there is this OTHER really important thing that I WORRY about that is more IMPORTANT” argument.

Again, the comments get bad because there is no engagement, and the posts read like years of comments are never even read.

Shorter Pinko Punko: argument from outlier blog commenter is bunk, a reading of the average Yglesias or Drum comment (over years of comments) suggests that each of those bloggers is at bet tin-eared (Kevin) or more likely (Yglesias) a self-absorbed evolving ne0-gliberal chundermuffin.

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andthenyoufall 12.04.10 at 10:35 pm

@148: Henri, I believe the minimum wage for agricultural work is 7/hr. Are workers being paid illegal wages? Hmmm, I wonder why they don’t just go to the police. Think think think. ——- If you really can’t imagine a life worse than living on 84 dollars a day, you must be extraordinarily privileged.

@149: I agree with the sentiment! But this is why people should read the series of posts MY does on this subject. Do we want to hand scalpels to morons and tell them to get cutting? No, of course not. Is it really necessary to have 16 years of education and training to perform a transplant? Well, they certainly don’t do it that way in other countries. Is it necessary to have 11 years of education and training to prescribe someone an antibiotic? Do you need 8 years of education to scrape plaque off someone’s teeth? Do you need 7 years of education to draw up a basic divorce contract? ——– I think the answer to all of these questions is “no”. For each cartel, we can both make it somewhat easier to get into the cartel, but also unbundle the services the cartel offers and figure out which ones absolutely need to be performed by the cartel, and which ones can be made accessible to people lower down on the socioeconomic totem pole. ——– I’m not hostile to your concern. I often wish that many, many more professions required strict training and were closely policed by professional bodies so that I could completely place my trust in their competence and honesty. I think such a system would have benefits. But I suspect those benefits would mainly accrue to people like me; it’s not a progressive longing.

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Mrs Tilton 12.04.10 at 11:10 pm

atyf @156,

Do you need 7 years of education to draw up a basic divorce contract?

Divorce contract?

I don’t know. Far from my field, and I’ve never been divorced. Quite possibly such things exist, though one had thought that was one of the things the courts hadn’t yet outsourced.

Anyway. Do you need seven years’ education [FN1] to do many things that lawyers do? No. To do some of those things, though, seven isn’t remotely near enough. I despair, on a nearly daily basis, of many of my colleagues, many of whom have been practising a decade or more.

Your brush is miles too broad. Look. There are things, for example, in the medical world that really don’t need to be done by a physician. They can be done just as well — indeed, are often done better — by, say, a nurse or a PA or a midwife or what have you. But these too are highly trained professionals performing tasks that one can’t just waltz in off the street and do. Maybe they don’t need quite so many years of training to qualify. But so what? The important thing is the training, not the weight of the stack of calendars you’d need to record it.

[FN1] By “7 years of education” I assume you mean the standard US model of four years’ undergraduate study of whatever followed by three years of law school. But in that case, why speak of seven years? If anything more than those three last years spent highlighting casebooks counts, then why not claim that one needs 19 years’ training to become a lawyer? (I believe that kindergarten is optional.) But once you admit that three years is the correct timeline, you also have to admit that American lawyers are thrown into the deep end in record time. If you include not just an academic law course but post-academic trainee period as well, I am not aware of any faster path than the American to qualification for practise (not least because US lawyers have no such traineeship).

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Chris 12.04.10 at 11:15 pm

Henri @148: I interpreted that sentence as claiming that the second someone IS the first someone. The immigrant himself is the one who becomes better off by the fact of having immigrated (or having been allowed to immigrate legally rather than illegally — often given the circumstances in the immigrant’s country of origin, immigrating illegally is *still* better for them than not immigrating at all, which of course is why we have illegal immigration at all).

Castorp 146: I’m actually divided on the immigration argument and his and your stance is not per se glib liberaltarianism, but he never addresses the problems it does pose to a progressive. (The simplified problem being that it can hurt the cohesion necessary to build a proper welfare state. See Putnam for example on what I am talking about.)

ISTM that if you accept that as a binding constraint, then it amounts to writing off one of the core values of liberalism (i.e. living with people who are different than ourselves and including them in our sense of community) as a fool’s errand. Perhaps Matt *Yglesias* has particularly strong reason to believe (or want to believe) that Real Americans and immigrant foreigners with their alien cultures aren’t necessarily inevitably at odds with each other. (I could disclose that I’m partly descended from immigrants myself, but really, in the US, who isn’t? Some of my ancestors antedate the Revolution and others arrived in the last century — and they got close enough to each other for me to exist, which kind of proves the point, doesn’t it?)

IOW, from a liberal stance, there’s no reason nativists and immigrants *have* to be mutually hostile; they’re just misguided (or the victims of deliberate divide-and-conquer tactics by the overclass). The “effect” of immigration on societal cohesion is gratuitous, not inevitable, and therefore not a good reason to oppose immigration.

andthenyoufall #147: I think the intellectual position he’s trying to stake out actually is hugely progressive, though. Once you accept the general principle “barriers to entry in different professional fields should be lower than they are,” you can challenge the stranglehold of the ADA, the AMA and the ABA over dental, medical, and legal services.

I’m suspicious of the general principle. Barbers don’t illustrate it well because of the very things that make the case for deregulating them so strong: bad haircuts are obvious to the consumer and don’t cause them major harm (so they can just go somewhere else next time and no big deal). Bad medicine is exactly the opposite on both counts. Patients may not know they’re being harmed by a quack until they die, or possibly not even then. The consequences of one instance of bad legal representation can be decades in prison — being able to choose a different lawyer for your next case is not much of a remedy. Someone more knowledgeable than me can probably describe in horrifying detail the consequences of what passes for dentistry in failed states (which, by definition, have no effective government regulation of any industry — and are not generally noted for having a thousand flowers of innovation bloom there as a result).

Regulation involving actual qualified professionals deciding what was safe and effective based on real-world data was what banished (most of) the snake oil salesmen, and without it we’d have them back faster than you can say “echinacea”. Even the forms of pseudo-medicine that are allowed to waste people’s time and money have lower status precisely because they’re not real medicine that you have to pass tests to be qualified to administer, making it more likely that for serious problems people will go to a real doctor (where they will probably receive effective care, because the AMA is actually reasonably good at its gatekeeping).

If the cost of that is, well, cost, then we should deal with that by society-wide action to distribute the costs to those capable of bearing them, not by sacrificing quality control for cheapness.

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bob mcmanus 12.04.10 at 11:59 pm

Yggles thread is up to 255 comments now. Can we get off licensing and libertarians and back to Belle Waring acting as discourse policewoman and protecting her privileged clique? I have seen this before. Somewhere. We should take this to a thousand.

Now, what Belle Waring is doing demonstrates the massive problem with the establishment blogosphere– you all circle the wagons for each other. She is protecting you because you are a part of the Club. It doesn’t matter what the content is. If you are part of the Club, other people in the Club will jump up and defend you. Belle Waring doesn’t care about the quality of your posts; she just cares that you have a big name on the (supposedly) left-of-center blogosphere, and so she must defend you against the leftist Huns who dare to want more from the state than the Earned Income Tax credit. This has everything to do with blogospheric celebrity, and a bit to do with the never-ending discourse policing that the establishmentarian liberals do to eliminate genuinely leftist voices.

…Freddie DeBoer at Yglesias

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Petey 12.05.10 at 12:15 am

“I think the tenor shifted when “Petey” morphed from a regular commenter into a troll during the democratic primary”

FWIW, it is my humble opinion that you have cause and effect reversed.

I got hostile to Yglesias in March 2008, which is when he started repeating variations on the theme that the only reason Democrats had vote for Hillary Clinton in the primaries was racism.

But if you look closely at the timeline, that was only a couple of months before Yglesias officially took the job at CAP. At that point, he either already had an agreement lined up with CAP, or was at least in talks. And once it because a CAP blog, the whole tenor of the posts and comments shifted dramatically.

Despite Belle’s opinion, for many years, Matt had among the best comment sections in the leftosphere back when he ran a reality-based progressive blog. Very high signal to noise ratio. Now that he’s gone to flack for the folks who run CAP and raise their money by obstructing progressives, he has a dysfunctional comment section. This makes perfect sense to me.

In a way, I think I was the canary in the coalmine back in spring 2009…

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parsimon 12.05.10 at 12:34 am

Adam at 128: It’s insane to think that any major liberal blog has been lacking in commenters willing to call others out on “form.” Liberals’ civility fixation is what allows conservatives to troll them so effectively.

I take your point in general. I was actually thinking at the time of a place like Balloon Juice, where commenters not infrequently work themselves into a frenzy of hyperbolic vitriol in two seconds flat. They may actually have some point or other in any given attack on another’s comment or perspective, but interesting and constructive conversations are more often lost than found. Not everyone agrees with me on this.

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Substance McGravitas 12.05.10 at 12:51 am

Almost every site mentioned in this post and thread is American. One of the reasons I read the comments here is that there are a bunch of folks from other places chiming in, presumably because the contributors are international as well and the subject matter less restricted by whatever American propriety or rebellion dictates.

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bob mcmanus 12.05.10 at 12:52 am

164:Now that he’s gone to flack for the folks who run CAP and raise their money by obstructing progressives, he has a dysfunctional comment section. This makes perfect sense to me.

AFAIC, “dysfunctional” is pretty much what is needed in the mainstream blogosphere. I mean, look at the politics and economics, and 8+ years of anything approaching civility has gotten us a Democratic President who…need I list the horrors? Billionaire tax cuts while cutting foodstamps in a recession is enough.

We need to primary Obama, if not impeach him, in order to save what’s left of the Democratic Party, if anything is left. Any blogger who supports DC and the establishment needs as much shrill Cthulhu trolling as it is possible to muster. Matt and Ezra flat out sold the country down the river for thirty pieces of silver. It was, horribly, entirely predictable.

And now Lady Waring sniffs, and wonders if we get “those kind of people” out of our newly gentrified neighborhood.

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yeliabmit 12.05.10 at 1:02 am

Just echoing what Substance McG wrote, immediately above. I am a regular reader of this blog precisely because th isn’t founded entirely on the premise that the only place worth discussing in the USA. It’s not easy to find blogs with the kind of breadth possessed by CT. And the comments are largely idiot-free.

169

Petey 12.05.10 at 1:05 am

“Matt and Ezra flat out sold the country down the river for thirty pieces of silver. It was, horribly, entirely predictable.”

Not entirely predictable. Spencer Ackerman did the exact reverse. And did it with quite a bit of panache.

Imagine if Spencer had done his freelance work for years, and then gone to work for Marty Peretz to flack Marty’s line. That’s what happened to Matt’s blog since he went to work as a CAP flack. Of course the comments on his blog are going to go to hell. There’s no way they can’t.

170

DavidG 12.05.10 at 1:15 am

My new favorite blog is nomoremister. Before I waste large chunks of time, are the comments there of any quality?

171

Moby Hick 12.05.10 at 1:35 am

We need to primary Obama, if not impeach him, in order to save what’s left of the Democratic Party, if anything is left.

Strangely enough, thing like that don’t count as mediocre jokes at unfogged, but 44 is still true.

172

Moby Hick 12.05.10 at 1:43 am

“things like that”

173

andthenyoufall 12.05.10 at 2:04 am

@163: The FreddiedeBoer comments on that post are perfectly symptomatic of what’s wrong with MY’s comment section. His old blog is still up; go back, browse through some comments. The volume of stupid comments was simply lower back then.

@162: I will concede that you have better fashion sense than I do. But in some cases we know that a less-highly trained professional will do a fine job. For example, most of us already have our teeth cleaned by dental hygienists; but the powerful, prestigious dentists’ lobby wills that hygienists only work as serfs under the watchful eye of a dentist. Perhaps you are right, though; if those cretinous hygienists were allowed to get out from under the thumb of the wise, avuncular dentists, surely an epidemic of tooth rot would result. ——– And again, some of these changes (making it easier to be a doctor, for example) would only move the US to parity with the rest of the world. As you probably learned during the health care debate, despite the snake oil salesmen who run European hospitals, their health outcomes are better than ours.

@161: So because your colleagues are already too incompetent to practice law, we can’t lower the bar any further (so to speak!), because the new lawyers would be at least as incompetent? Well, if you’re a lawyer then you must be right. I apologize for challenging your profession’s benevolent cartel. ————– But I really must protest your indifference to the length of the education of a medical professional. More hours of education makes that education more costly both in tuition and in foregone work and leisure. Usually, the skills acquired with more hours of education are more valuable. Why are you pretending that everyone with a professional certificate is exactly the same? (I have no idea why you are quibbling over the length of a professional’s education. In all countries I know of, professionals have graduated from secondary school. It is post-secondary where things differ from country to country. Surely you know this.)

174

Myles SG 12.05.10 at 2:07 am

MylesSG – before you go haring off to behave like a bit of a tool shouting about censorship in the comments sections of other blogs again, it’s worth pointing out that at no point did Belle Waring censor you.

My apologies. With respect, I did hesitate about it, but felt like that if I had to bitch about Belle than I better disclose any possible personal incentives for doing so. Which is why I put it in parentheses and used “blocked” rather than “censored”. Still inaccurate, of course; should have clarified (my ex post facto editing function doesn’t work on Disqus).

175

Capt. Trollypants 12.05.10 at 2:21 am

What’s wrong, or what’s right?

176

LFC 12.05.10 at 5:47 am

Matt and Ezra flat out sold the country down the river for thirty pieces of silver.

This is a huge exaggeration of the influence wielded by these two bloggers. Most US voters have never heard of either Yglesias or Klein, let alone read them, and though Klein’s WashPost connection and occasional PBS appearance does give him a certain visibility in some circles, the same can be said, I’m quite sure, of much of the ‘establishment,’ ‘ruling elites,’ or whatever your preferred designation is. So one of them went to work for CAP and the other for Wash Post. BFD. The actual impact of this on US politics is quite small. And if you don’t believe me, look at the empirical research done by Henry Farrell and others on the number of people who actually read and follow political blogs, especially more than one particular favorite blog. Henry will correct me if I’m wrong, but IIRC this research shows that the proportion of the US electorate which reads political blogs is, relatively speaking, minuscule. So bob mcmanus’s statement about Matt and Ezra selling the country down the river is just a little bit overdone.

177

Michael Bérubé 12.05.10 at 5:51 am

Can we get off licensing and libertarians and back to Belle Waring acting as discourse policewoman and protecting her privileged clique? I have seen this before. Somewhere. We should take this to a thousand.

Is this part of the revolution? Cause I am so totally opposed to Belle Waring acting as discourse policewoman. Down with Belle Waring and her corporatist liberal discursive policewomaning of this very thread! To the thousand, comrades!

178

onymous 12.05.10 at 6:18 am

Really, bob? What if the discourse police put you in charge of their canine unit?

179

bjk 12.05.10 at 10:47 am

The true quality-killer in commenting is length. People like Warster or DxW drag down threads because the comments are so long and then 1/2 the thread is unreadable. Unfogged commenting still lives (altho that’s in dispute) because the comments are short.

180

fish 12.05.10 at 2:34 pm

3bulls has the best comment section on the net.

the golden age of usenet would be restored.

Beast laugh I had all day.

181

bob mcmanus 12.05.10 at 2:42 pm

Big Bill Haywood:”A liberal is the guy who leaves the room when a fight starts.”

182

CharleyCarp 12.05.10 at 5:51 pm

Belle, are you thinking of doing the Pauly Shore thing?

183

Keith M Ellis 12.05.10 at 6:56 pm

“The true quality-killer in commenting is length. People like Warster or DxW drag down threads because the comments are so long and then 1/2 the thread is unreadable. Unfogged commenting still lives (altho that’s in dispute) because the comments are short.”

As a long-winded commenter, I naturally will disagree with your assertion.

The length of the comment does not inherently affect quality, but I think there’s a correlation opposite to what you describe. The true enemy of comment threads is mindless, reflexive, combative hyperbole and insults. There’s no need for length to accomplish these things, shorter comments suffice, and people often compete with each other to produce the most pithy and effective insults. Longer comments, even when dull, and even when incoherent, are usually attempts to make an argument or otherwise offer something relevant and not merely troll or insult other people.

Additionally, it’s not difficult to scroll past long comments while, in contrast, it is difficult to avoid reading short comments. I’ve never understood why anyone finds long comments objectionable when there’s no obligation to read them and they’re so easily skipped.

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parsimon 12.05.10 at 7:40 pm

The true enemy of comment threads is mindless, reflexive, combative hyperbole and insults.

Hear, hear. Pace the remarks of those who dislike any insistence on civility, and suppose that it’s the same thing as running away from a fight. As someone somewhere else said recently, civility is not the same as agreement — though it can become kowtowing, it need not.

As for long comments: if you comment (or blog) long-form, break up the paragraphs. Simply introduce paragraphs. Make the first line of the next paragraph the next point, or let it reiterate the final point of the previous paragraph. Many of us know how to write, and should know this. In any case, online/blog writing occurs in the face of readers with shorter attention spans, who do skim and skip along. This isn’t news.

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bianca steele 12.05.10 at 8:07 pm

I’m not so bothered by long comments as much as by longwinded posters: both Greenwald and Marcotte would be more readable (or, more read by me) if they could edit down their posts a little. On the other hand, Bérubé could be longwinded too–and Yglesias’s posts sometimes err a little too much on the brief side.

186

bianca steele 12.05.10 at 8:15 pm

(though what do I know–2/3 of what site traffic I got was from people east of the Dnieper writing papers on Ray Bradbury even before my current pause)

187

Mrs Tilton 12.05.10 at 9:15 pm

atyf @173,

Why are you pretending that everyone with a professional certificate is exactly the same?

I’m not. I’m saying that your observations are neither very interesting, nor very insightful, not very intelligent.

188

Mrs Tilton 12.05.10 at 9:16 pm

Arse. 2nd “not” s/b “nor”.

189

andthenyoufall 12.06.10 at 1:11 am

Your command of parataxis, on the other hand, is a light unto the nations. I thank you for that, and I will repeat your mantra “surgeon, nurse, midwife? They’re all highly trained professionals” before bedtime every night until the United States no longer has socioeconomic stratification.

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Henry 12.06.10 at 2:24 am

bq. Can we get off licensing and libertarians and back to Belle Waring acting as discourse policewoman and protecting her privileged clique? I have seen this before. Somewhere. We should take this to a thousand.

The revolution will not be moderated!

191

CharleyCarp 12.06.10 at 2:55 am

173 — You know, it may be true that somebody might be just fine with a contract they get from the internet. Or that a nurse might well know the exact right medication for your condition. Then again, maybe they get it wrong, and maybe there’s a complication that they didn’t understand, and you didn’t know to tell them about. But, if things go wrong, they have insurance right?

I think law school is too long — and that two years (as the last two of undergrad) is probably sufficient. With a practical part. But I can see that it’s really important not to be putting people who are under 25 out there is a position to exercise judgment. Sure, some few are fine. Plenty more, though, shouldn’t have others’ fates in their hands.

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andthenyoufall 12.06.10 at 4:10 am

@191 – I now come with a warning label: everything I am about to say is very obvious and banal.

If young people are too irresponsible to do jobs where they have fiduciary responsibilities — and perhaps this is true — then of course we need to corral aspiring professionals in graduate programs and internships and so on until the little chicklings mature. But this corralling will scare away many potential professionals who don’t want to invest a decade of their life this way, and those scared away will disproportionately be those whose families can’t afford their quasi-unemployment. So *if* this maturity thesis is true, progressives can’t like the consequences. So, as with many other contentious claims that seem to demand regressive policies (e.g., “the minimum wage increases unemployment”), I want to make damn sure the claim is true. But anyway —- I don’t want to discuss my specific reasons for finding your maturity thesis dubious unless you’re actually interested in convincing me otherwise.

If you allow slightly less qualified people to become professionals, or slightly less qualified professionals to perform certain tasks, yes, you’re going to get more mistakes. But people are already suffering from lack of access to medical care, to the courts, and to other services provided by elites. If you insist that professional services must be deluxe, fine, but be aware of whose class interests you’re protecting.

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Robert 12.06.10 at 12:39 pm

I have observed a change in the character of comments right here on CT. It used to be that articles on economics would get 100s of comments arguing back and forth whether or not mainstream or neoclassical or econ 101 was correct. It seems to me that many that used to comment on that topic seem to abandoned commenting here, even as the topic became more salient in the wider world.

I find it hard to manage to respond to even the few comments I get.

194

Zamfir 12.06.10 at 1:44 pm

Andthenyoufall, what’s wrong with paying people during their apprenticeship years? By the time someone leaves law school or something similar, they can be useful enough to be paid a wage, even if the big money only rolls in some years later.

195

roac 12.06.10 at 3:19 pm

Law school is certainly too long, as every third-year law student knows. It was two years until sometime in the first quarter of the 20th century; the third year was added for the sole and explicit reason of impressing the public. Justice Cardozo was in school at Columbia when they switched. He refused to come back for the third year.

To go on stating the obvious, the law is so large a field that you can’t learn it in school; you learn how to look it up, and how to think about it, and how to talk and write about it in a way that will make other lawyers and judges take you seriously. What makes old lawyers worth more money than young lawyers is that they have learned how to read people and to infer what they really want, which is ofter not what they say they want. There seems to be no way to acquire this skill without putting in the time: Compare the relative frequency of child-prodigy musicians and mathematicians and chess player with the great rarity of child-prodigy novelists.

(IIRC MY’s father published a novel as a teenager. I never read it. I can say, however, that Jane Austen’s juvenilia are very funny.)

196

Marc 12.06.10 at 5:35 pm

Making Light had some excellent observations. Basically, you’re just waiting for one or a few vandals to trash things if you don’t moderate threads at some level. A single determined soul can destroy any online discussion, especially if they know which buttons to push to get people to turn on one another. An organized crew of only a few can reliably ensure that discussions never go anywhere. They can be simple vandals, going back to the usenet days, or they could be organized by party activists. A single person was cut-pasting things on Krugman’s blog from multiple accounts – until they tracked him down. Drum has republican apologists who post talking points within minutes of posts.

Yglesis has useless comment threads because they’re not moderated, and any non-moderated comment threads only survive until they’re noticed by the graffiti artists of the net.

197

DTM 12.06.10 at 7:16 pm

I was a regular for a long time, then basically quit commenting on Yglesias. I took a pause mostly because of the technology issues, but then found I didn’t really want to come back. I recall it being better at some point in the past (maybe I am fooling myself), but for me it had essentially become all error correction, all the time, and usually the same errors over and over again, and that gets boring. And I do think not just the lack of moderation but also the nature of Yglesias’s posts contribute to all that.

Incidentally, I was also a big fan of the comments at Volokh, right up until Orin Kerr banned me.

198

bjk 12.06.10 at 9:40 pm

Another thing about commenting – debates on analytic vs. continental or libertarians vs. xyz have been muted or disappeared because those arguments can only be held so many times. Ah, the internet was new once . . .

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LFC 12.06.10 at 9:43 pm

Btw, since there continue to be various mentions of particular blogs, I want to add one that I don’t think has been mentioned: R.P. Wolff’s blog, The Philosopher’s Stone, is worth an occasional quick look, I find, if you’re interested in his topics, which is not to say I necessarily agree with him or his commenters (or necessarily know enough about the question at hand to have an opinion). In a recent post he was critical, in passing, of G.A. Cohen’s Karl Marx’s Theory of History, and on seeing that I said to myself: Now that would raise some eyebrows (or hackles, or whatever) at CT. Apart from one or two people, however, there doesn’t seem to be much overlap between his readership and CT’s. Just an impression; could be wrong.

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andthenyoufall 12.07.10 at 12:41 am

@ 194; Zamfir, there’s nothing wrong with that. In practice if the apprenticeship is structured like, say, a medical residency, then the “apprentice” has all of the life-and-death responsibility she is supposedly too immature to handle, plus a low(er) salary and complete dependence on her guild; but if you are proposing shortening the training for some of these professionals and replacing those years with a paid apprenticeship of equal length, that would be a step in the right direction.

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