April 8, 2005

Judge Posner on blog comments.

Here's an article in the Chicago Tribune about the Becker-Posner Blog. (Via Memeorandum.) Judge Posner has a lot to say about blogging -- as you would expect -- and he's especially big on comments:
I think this is very important, with Business Week or any other magazine, of course, you get letters to the editor. But with the blog, what would be a letter to the editor is a comment that a reader of the blog can just post. It's much easier than writing a letter, it doesn't have to be formal, you don't need a stamp or anything. It's really simple.

Then it's very easy for us to read the comments. And we can respond to them. Again, we don't have space or time limitations, we can respond whenever we have a set of interesting comments, then the commenters, they can go back and forth with each other, so the blog stimulates a kind of interchange that isn't really feasible in the print medium....

What's good about it is that through the comments and through other blogs, as we know from the CBS fiasco, there's extremely rapid communication and correction. So the blogger doesn't have his fact-checking staff, but if you make a mistake, within minutes a bunch of people have descended on you....

What have you thought of what people have posted to the comment areas of the blog?

They have a high-average quality -- I found it also when I did Lessig's blog. The comments are really interesting, they add a lot to it.

It makes for a more participatory relationship. If you read a newspaper, it's a passive experience. You don't have much of a sense of being part of the enterprise. [On a blog] you have regular commenters; they clearly feel they are contributing to this enterprise. I worry a little about people spending too much time sitting in front of the computer doing this stuff.

I had the comments on for a while about a year ago, and I turned them off because I found myself doing so much writing over on the comments pages and because a few people were being abusive. I wanted to concentrate my writing on the front page. These days, I spend a lot of time reading and responding to email, which is really a displaced comments page and an even less "front page" kind of writing for me. I'm impressed by Judge Posner's very pro-comment attitude. So in honor of Judge Posner, I'm turning my comments back on.

Let's see how it goes. I hope some of my regular emailers will switch to comments. I'm going to resist responding too much on the comments pages and maybe save up my response and put it on the front page in an update, which I think will be more efficient (and certainly more public) than responding to email (which I've been doing a lot of). I expect commenters to keep a civil tone, and I think most will, because the email I get is extremely thoughtful, well-written, and not abusive. I'll just delete abusive comments without making a fuss about it. So go ahead and comment.

17 comments:

joated said...

I think the good judge has hit the nail on the head. Comments are very informal and often add to the topic under discussion. It is unfortunate that this informality can be seen by some as an invitation to be flaming idiots (as in trolls), but it is a price to be paid for openness. How many letters to the editor must be culled to get the one or two on a topic that the editor likes?

In civil discourse there may be disagreement but there should be civility.

Thank you for opening your comments section.

David said...

I disagree. I have enjoyed the no-comments format. Yours is the only blog I read regularly without comments, and I think it really works for your style.

I generally think comments are good for blogs; they allow conversation and criticism and correction. Frequently, I have found that when bloggers don't have comments, they are trying to hide something.

That is not the case here. When emails are sent, you review them and, if relevant, they are posted with updates. That's very professional, and makes for an enjoyable read.

Comparing comments to Letters to the Editor is incongruous. If the magazine printed all the letters, okay. But the editor of the magazine, like you, pick and choose what is relevant, and what will advance the work. It appears you do it without agenda as well, which is why I read.

Gerry said...

"I hope some of my regular emailers will switch to comments"

I can take a hint :p

I am glad you decided to turn comments on. It does add to the work involved in a blog, but when one does manage to cultivate a good core of commenters, it really adds to a site. I have a few bomb-throwers on mine, but for the most part even the most partisan left or partisan right of commenters I have does so in a respectful manner and adds information to the discussions, rather than dumbing them down. Long winded way of saying-- when comments are done right (for an example of them done wrong, see Drum) they are great.

Bill Millan said...

I hope it works for you. Trolls just love to leave nasty notes.

I have noticed that when people want to attack a blogger, they go through the comments section and pull quotes from there that make you look bad. They just say they are "quoting from your blog."

Dave Schuler said...

Noted. Thank you, Ann.

Stephen said...

I'm glad you're giving comments another try, Ann. Hopefully it will be a successful experiment. It should benefit all of us to be able to read, if we choose, some of the stuff people generally send in via e-mail.

Of course, I find I only read the comments on a very limited number of posts that I find extremely interesting, or if I want to post a comment, I owe it to read throgh the existing ones so that I don't make a repeat comment. Hey, there' another potential comments-on benefit: hopefully you'll get less sent at you due to everyone saying the same thing.

I think it's a good idea to not spend too much time responding in the comments. Treat it like you did with e-mail: if there's particularly good ones that everyone should read and you want to respond to, post them to the main blog, either as a new post, or as an update to the post. That those of us that track you via a feedreader will notice the responses.

j3sdad said...

Regardless of comments or not, your blog is one I enjoy very much (even, occasionally, the American Idol items, although I have yet to watch the show).

If my cable modem were down, I believe I could go for a couple of days -really, that long- without reading several of the blogs on my "must read" list. But yours (and well, Wonkette) I cannot pass a day without checking in.

j3sdad said...
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Virtual_litigata' said...

Posner concludes that comments are good. Komesar would say his analysis is single institutional.

The 'e-mail institution' you have been using facilitates the interactive component of blogging that Posner likes.

The 'comment institution' also promotes interaction, but produces externalities that caused you to turn them off in the first place.

Comparative institutional analysis might lead to a conclusion that your e-mail approach is less prone to bias.

EddieP said...

I hope your experiment with comments is successful. Although it will probably take you a little more time to manage, the results should be positive for all.

You should be aggressive in deleting comments that aren't keeping with the decorum of your fantastic blog. Trolls should be banned as they appear.

Ed Poinsett

nina said...

I don't know... From the point of view of the reader -- it adds reading time and it's not always time well spent. In terms of efficiencies, it was easier to have you post interesting updates. Also, I find it difficult to scroll down on this and other comment-activated blogs and try to remember how many comments have been there previously and if there may be new additions. When you posted updates with people's responses I could immediately tell if it was a fresh idea. I know this helps you, but I'll go with the last sentence of the quote you gave us: I, too, worry that we are spending a lot of time on blog-reading. Comments add to that time (even as I recognize that it is my cholice to read them).

Sami said...

There are some blogs where I enjoy reading the comments as much as the original posts (or more). You can really get some insight into what others think and you don't have to rely on the original author posting only the emails that he/she thinks are important (the Becker-Posner blog is one blog that has a lot of really smart readers comments - and I really like how they always have a post to respond to readers comments). However, there are some blogs in which trying to read the readers comments is just a waste of time and sometime rather frustrating. That being said, I am glad that you are giving the comments another try and hope that it works out well for your blog.

Nigel Kearney said...

I think Posner is right. It's important not just that feedback is possible, but that everyone can see that negative feedback hasn't been censored.

Obviously abusive posts can be removed but nobody will think any less of you if you're busy and just ignore any abusive comments.

Trackbacks are good too because they allow us to find followups or criticisms on other blogs.

BJR said...

I don't know why bloggers respond to e-mail. Seems like a huge waste of time. If it's worth writing a response to, why not just make a blog post out of it.

Steve_Jobs said...

Big mistake if you have many lurkers like me. ;)

jwt

Dean said...

You work all weekend and look what you miss ...

I think I tend to comment more than I blog and I've hestitated to send many emails. I feel I won't be as hesitant to comment.

But thanks for giving us a peak into your thinking each day.

NewsMan said...
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