Comments at Informed Comment
Readers have occasionally asked for a comment feature at this web site.
I of course love the idea, but did not move in that direction for a number of reasons. At first, of course, blogger.com software did not allow it. Then when they did, there was no moderating function and there has been a big problem with spam closing down sites. Moreover, I have a low tolerance for hate mail and bigotry, which you get a certain amount of at any public comment site, and would not have wanted to host it. I have had very bad experiences in the past with un-moderated email discussion lists, and over time revised my initial enthusiasm for them. They allow a small number of cranks to hold everyone else hostage, and the lists are constantly roiled by bad feeling in a completely unnecessary way.
But most of these problems seem to have been resolved by blogger. I believe that there are effective safeguards in their new system against spambots. And they allow the messages to be moderated, as I understand it.
New problems are created by this experiment with comments. Since I do want the comment section to be moderated, it means a time investment for me. I travel a lot or am in committee meetings or classes, and so a fair amount of time could go by before a comment was put up sometimes, no doubt to the annoyance of the commenter. And, of course, rejecting comments inevitably provokes howls about censorship which can be published elsewhere in cyberspace, creating “noise” in the background of the site that may not be productive.
As with any publication by an editor (which is what moderated comments amount to), the editor is all-powerful, and may accept or reject arbitrarily. If I smell trolling, or if I just think a comment sheds no light on anything but the author’s prejudices, I will reject.
On the other hand, I often get very good comments from informed readers and have long wished that their insights could be easily shared. Indeed, some expert readers have given me mini-seminars that have gotten me up to speed on an area about which I knew less, and I am extremely grateful to them. So I am going to try this as an experiment and see what happens.
PS- I’m so grateful for the outpouring of support that has greeted this new feature, and want to thank everyone who has written.
I’m hoping that the comments sections will mainly be used for substantive comment (say a para or two with new info or insight) or inquiries. Alas, I couldn’t hope to keep up with a series of one or two-sentence messages that mainly have a social function, and apologize to anyone whose message did not get through.