October 17, 2007

"I don't want to host a party in which a small vitriolic minority consistently tries to ruin the event for everyone else."

Harvard econprof Greg Mankiw turns off the comments function on his blog and explains why: "To put it simply, this blog is a hobby.... The comments section has been, for me, a source of both fun and frustration.... I just don't have the time to police comments and enforce good behavior...."

Glenn Reynolds comments:
"Let 'em get their own blogs."

Since I have comments and they don't, you'll have to talk about the controversy here. Unless you want to do it Glenn's way and write on your own blog.

I take it some people like the feeling of a back-and-forth dialogue and the sense you get that this is a place where you can go. Glenn's idea is that the whole internet is that place, but I think a comments section works in a different way. Is it really true that somebody is always ruining it? Is the community so fragile? I know a lot of good commentators have left in a huff... or wandered off silently. Sometimes they come back, and there's always a chance for someone new (and nice) to crawl out of the woodwork — like, recently, "blogging cockroach."

A good commenter isn't just a would-be blogger. He's not just mooching off someone else's hard-won traffic. A commenter may find inventive ways to play off the material in the post. Or, like a cockroach, the commenter may thrive in the background and want only the occasional crumb of attention.

And a blogger who thinks it's worth it to host a comments section — as I do — gets creative stimulation knowing a discussion will flow from the post. I love starting something.

Here are some extra questions to show how much I care:

1. Who are the commenters here that you enjoy? Would you like them better if they set up shop on an individual blog or is there some way that they operate well specifically as commenters?

2. Who would you most like to see expand into blog writing?

3. Why do you comment instead of writing over on your own blog? You could link to these posts and write about the subjects raised here. Why don't you?

4. If I closed down the comments, would you shift into blogging? Would you miss the place that is the comments, or would this blog seem much the same?

***

And let me say — I've said it before — for me, blogging is not a "hobby."

IN THE COMMENTS: Revenant answers question #3:
I tried blogging and it seemed weird. Comments sections feel like a conversation. Blogging feels like shouting in a large, empty room... which of course it pretty much is, until you get some readers. Plus, there's the pressure of having to come up with something to write about every day.

97 comments:

Pete Who? said...

1. I've read a few insightful comments here, but never after the first ten or so in each comment thread. And there isn't any one commenter that strikes me as particularly enjoyable.

2. I would definitely like to see the trolls spend their time elsewhere. This includes the sycophants as well as the hit men.

3. I don't blog much. I'm responding to this comment because you asked direct questions that interest me. A bit.

4. I already blog (some). I would not miss the comments here at all.

B said...

1. Palladian, John Stodder, Simon, the Drill Sgt, Pogo, hdhouse, downtownlad, Hoosier Daddy, Blake, Roger, and Gedaliya.

2.Palladian, Pogo

3.I don't always express myself so good.

4.Already do: 1 of my own, and administrate 2. Just don't want to mix those up with the joy of mixing it up here.
Please, Please don't stop the comments here. . . sorry, I'll be okay . . .

SteveR said...

1. I can enjoy many people who comment here, and it varies with the subject matter. There are a lot of smart people and clever ones, which is the best part.

2. I spend too much time here and a few other places, already.

3. See 2 and I'm not that good a writer.

4. I would miss the give and take, and chance to be smart aleck but it would not motivate me to go into blogging. Commnets, with notable negatives, are a good element of this blog.

Marishi-ten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B said...

Whither the former Althouse comment regulars:
--Elizabeth?
--Sippican Cottage?
--knoxgirl?
--Johnny Nucleo?
Hello?

Christopher said...

I enjoy commenting and blogging, and one would hope the two could exist peacefully.

On my blog I'm called everything from a "dumba**" and full of bs (don't feel like doing *) from Democrats. I’ve been told to hang up my rainbow flag (do red, white, and blue count as a rainbow?) and that my heart is cease pool and Jesus would spit on me if he saw me on the streets from Republicans.

The perils and joys of being a liberal Republican.

Ben said...

Commenting on posting comments:

More often than not they are off topic and/or personal attacks and/or long-winded self-promoting glops of "I'm smart, here's why"-ness. But then you get something like this:
Nobel Recall Letter

On topic and fairly clever. My 2 cents...

LawGiver said...

1. Trooper, Simon, Palladian, Revenant, and AlphaLiberal (because I like to know what the enemy is thinking.) Generally, I like the group dynamics that operate in your comments section. I like it the way it is.
2. No one.
3. I don’t have the ability or the time.
4. I would miss your blog. Your fiskings are a work of art and I enjoy the comments they command.

Mark Daniels said...

It's hard to pick a few commenters that I enjoy here because there really are so many good ones.

Historically, I've enjoyed reader_iam; Pastor Jeff; and Sippican.

Sometimes, Ann, I comment on your posts, using your blog as sort of a writing prompt, and will occasionally riff off my comments to create a post over on my own blog.

Mark Daniels

Marishi-ten said...

Forgot to mention:

Ricpic's quick but perfect verse is a favorite of mine, too.

Luckyoldson said...

I'd love to see the traffic report on the blog that do not allow comments.

Windbag said...

Is someone always ruining the conversation? I think that there are some who are predictable in their positions and postings, which is a distraction.

Is the community so fragile? Some are, some aren't. Your ability to ignore the ad hominem attacks is probably wrapped up in your self-confidence and desire to be liked/disliked by others.

Extra-credit questions:

1. Trooper wins hands down with the relevant pop culture reference to any and all situations. His style only works as a commenter, and he strikes me as a much better drinking buddy than blogger.

2. Nobody at present. I haven't been around long enough to capture all the dynamics at work here. I'm sure I could identify a few after interacting for six months or so.

3. Time, time, time. Precious commodity and most posts are on stolen or borrowed time. I blog, but very sporadically and I don't aggressively point anyone in its direction. Seems tacky to advertise your blog on someone else's.

4. Commenters make some blogs. Instapundit gets away without them, Charles Johnson could stand on his own, but they make his site so much more fun. I wouldn't step up my blogging endeavors if commenters were abolished.

Aaron said...

It's funny and I was just talking about comments today with someone and I decided not to read the comment sections any more since they are usually uber partisan or really don't bring anything new to the table.

Zeb Quinn said...

A couple of things strike me about bloggers who eschew comments. One is that I suspect that in most cases they've got bigtime ego issues going on with them. So much so that they are simply unable to brook any comments that contradict them or that upstages them. Second, it isn't really "blogging" per se. It's a static web site containing someone's writings.

Eli Blake said...

1. Simon, RuthAnne, Sippin Cottage, Madison Man, Alpha Liberal, Drill Sgt. Occasionally Palladian-- reading Palladian is like digging for diamonds. You have to go through a lot of plain ordinary dirt before you find the nugget.

And dang it, I do miss Victoria.

A good commenter is one who can make you think, not necessarily one you agree with.

The only commenter I really dislike reading is the anti-semite that hangs around here.

2. Many of your commenters have their own blogs already. Follow their profiles. In fact, your list of links is pretty outdated, it includes people whose blogs were deleted years ago.

3. I write on my own blog and comment on other people's blogs. I don't believe that having my own ideas or being prompted to write in response to what others have written are contradictory ideas.

4. I hope you do not close down the comments. What you have here is something I've discovered is fleetingly rare in the blogosphere-- a blog in which people from different sides of the political spectrum can come and debate, rather than just sit there and exchange insults. Sometimes people get a little testy but they know you'll ban them too, so for the most part they don't. But this stands in sharp contrast to the many blogs which seem to only host or allow one point of view (and scrub the reverse) or otherwise discourage open discussion. As a leftist, I've visited rightie sites and often found less intelligent discussion than insults (in fact, I was once accused in all seriousness of practicing witchcraft on one such site.) I'm sure that righties have probably had similar experiences if they've ventured onto the left side of the blogsphere. Because I believe that one of the biggest problems America faces is the ideological segregation of the country into two groups of people who mostly don't communicate with each other, sites like this one are both welcome and necessary.

donohue2 said...

I used to comment here a lot, but something about this blog turns (what I assume are) ordinary people loopy, or drives disturbingly loopy people towards the blog. After a while, that just became tiresome, and I was one of those who just wandered off, although I do pop up from time to time. Losing Sippican Cottage and Victoria kinda did it for me, too.

Trey Tomeny said...

I love blogs where the blogger participates in the comments like you sometimes do. I can't imagine having the time to build readership at my own blog by posting frequently and networking with other bloggers.

There are some outstanding regular commenters at some blogs I read though I can't think of any here.

I also like blog comments as a place to leave links to sites like replacegoogle.com, a site for my idea for the future of the Internet.

Christy said...

I confess that the give and take of comments are frequently my favorite part of your blog. I even like the commments of the designated anti-Semite. I always look forward to the usual suspects, and the tiresomely repetitive are easy to skip. I miss Sippican and catch him over on his own blog, but somehow he no longer seems a part of the conversation.

Simon said...

I like the coffeehouse atmosphere here, I like the quirky eclecticism of the themes, and as Eli says, I think you're collected a nice mixture of right, left and center here. And, you know (it's hardly a secret), there are a couple of other reasons. ;)

I'd certainly miss it if comments were turned off here, but there are steps short of that which would still involve slightly less free a rein, and I'm duty-bound to point out that there are commenters who've left -- and others who have declined to become commenters -- because of the tone of some of your critics who post here, and some commenters who are simply outright abusive, towards you and anyone else who doesn't kowtow to the liberal conventional wisdom (without exception, it seems, the enfants terrible of the Althouse blog comments section are on the left).

I've previously established the precedent that I don't name favorites for fear of accidentally leaving someone else, but I'd second Eli's observation that Victoria is missed. I think Beth should have a blog and have told her so... Notwithstanding that I anticipate disagreeing with most of it. ;)

Mindsteps said...

No one commenter stands out for me, although I sometimes take perverse pleasure in the bizarre interplay between Ms. Althouse and the commenters (i.e. the vortex...flushing toilet....whatever).

Blogging, it seems to me, must be like gardening (I don't do either). To do both well requires time, skill, desire, knowledge, and some intangibles. I haven't been able to sustain a cactus for any period of time, let alone a garden or a blog.

Luckyoldson said...

Eli Blake,
Who's the anti-semite you refer to?

Ann Althouse said...

I have a friend who has a beautiful garden. It looks wild and natural, but she spends an hour a day weeding. She thinks that's nothing.

Trooper York said...

Hey why did you put a picture of Grace Kelly in your profile.

Joseph Hovsep said...

I am a commenter who left in a huff and then came back, albeit less enthusiastically. I don't comment all that much elsewhere and I don't have a good understanding of why I feel drawn to Althouse, other than that its just got a unique quirky/serious combo going on that I like. I have tended to invest in a comments discussion more personally than other people and therefore havenot infrequently found myself feeling disappointed or frustrated or hurt, so I have backed away from the whole phenomenon lately.

1. I enjoy commenters who respond thoughtfully and in good faith to the post and other comments. Wit is appreciated too, but I like the mix of hyperserious with blowhards and quick wits. So, I like a lot of the people who contribute to that mix for different reasons. I don't like commenters who dehumanize and assume bad faith in their opponents.

2. I don't particularly care to see anyone expand into writing an independent blog.

3. I think blogging and commenting are totally different. I experimented with blogging for a bit but its just not for me, too time-intensive, not enough instant feedback/gratification.

4. I would miss the comments here. Despite my mixed feelings about the endeavor, I keep coming back.

Ben H. said...

I love starting something.

No you don't. You love starting something *if* it leads to more attention for you and/or if involves a lot of fawning over you. But you hate it if you get criticized.

Appropriate label for A-House on comments: lameness.

Simon said...

LOS - I assume Eli and Christy are referring to Cedarford.

Susan said...

I have been reading and occasionally commenting on this blog for a couple years. I have often gone to the blogs of my favorite commenters only to find that their best writing is done here and not there. There's something about this blog that brings out the best and wittiest comments from those I enjoy the most.

Ann Althouse said...

Trooper York: I didn't think that was a good picture, but someone told me it was, so I put it up.

Windbag said...

You love starting something *if* it leads to more attention for you and/or if involves a lot of fawning over you. But you hate it if you get criticized.

Sounds a lot like sex.

vnjagvet said...

I would still read Ann's blog even without the comments; but then it would not be among the ones that I follow throughout the day.

I like the variety of views represented by the commenters.

I do not like the few who come in here with ad hom arguments and gratuitous insults to the hostess (usually made without humor or purpose other than to insult).

I don't have the time to comment I used to have, and seldom blog anymore for the same reason, being now down to one post a month, on a group blog.

The value to me of comments on a personal (as opposed to political) blog as this one is, is the unique community of commenters it attracts. As noted above, this forum is like a coffee house group that shows up throughout each day and with many different perspectives.

A blog that attracts interesting commenters increases its influence exponentially.

Mr. B. said...

Odd...

I was actually going to complain about York, because he normally annoys me.

But his compliment about the Grace Kelly pic echoes my sentiments exactly.

Don't change anything. It is great. Comments are generally very interesting. You don't seem to interfere much which is fine.

Ciao,

Bonzo

By the way, did you know that there are three Law School Dean jobs open in Minnesota?

Bloggers (good ones) seem to be a hot commodity in the Law School Biz...

Simon said...

Ann, re the picture, it's terrific, although the more subdued pic that John took that went up for a while was nice too. But happy is always better than pensive. :)

Jou-jou said...

I really like Pogo and Ruth Anne. I really miss Victoria.

Jou-jou said...

Oh, I like Simon and Mark Daniels, too, and, really, everyone who posts in good will.

Precious said...

I think Maxine is the best. There would be no Althouse Blog without Maxine.

Suzette Tompkins said...

Oh, I get a big kick out of everything Maxine says. I live for her comments!

Revenant said...

Who are the commenters here that you enjoy?

In no particular order, Simon, Trooper York, Balfegor, The Drill Sgt, and Peter Palladas.

Who would you most like to see expand into blog writing?

Most of those folks already have blogs.

Why do you comment instead of writing over on your own blog?

I tried blogging and it seemed weird. Comments sections feel like a conversation. Blogging feels like shouting in a large, empty room... which of course it pretty much is, until you get some readers. Plus, there's the pressure of having to come up with something to write about every day.

If I closed down the comments, would you shift into blogging?

Probably not.

Mortimer Brezny said...

He's not just mooching off someone else's hard-won traffic.

Speak for yourself, I am a moocher.

john said...

".. and everyone who posts in good will." Very nice.

1. The most interesting posters are Trooper York, Pogo, HDHouse, Simon, Blog.cock. (scattershot), Maxine (even), and sometime Alphaliberal (on the occasions he gets off the "keep-em-on-the-plantation" party line).

2. No one, except Sippican, and he has. Like someone said earlier, you seem to be at your best in the comments.

3. I comment to scold, to practice, and to finally partake at the table. I've been looking in at the feast for too long.

4. If you closed the comments I would probably hang out on the Volokh and Tyler Cohen pages. I used to go to Instapundit but his blog is like reading USA Today at the hotel. Short, spiffy, no substance. When I would send comments to Glenn, I would usually get a 2-3 word reply, often with "Heh". So don't stop the comments. It is excercise for most and therapy for some.

5. The questions you should have asked: "What do I need to do to get Sippican back? Should I drive up the coast this weekend and suprise him at his shop? He's almost local, just like the florist who's being sued."

Regards,

Suzette Tompkins said...

1. Quixxo, Reality Check, Maxine

2. Quixxo, Reality Check, and Maxine

3. a) Because you all need me.
b) Because Althouse's posts aren't compelling enough, nor imaginative enough.

4. Bloggers that shut down comments do so because they are afraid of posts that show 'zero' comments. Better to disconnect commenting altogether than show a bunch of zeros.

Fondly,
Maxine

john said...

How about adding spell check to the comment box?

Internet Ronin said...

Given the general purpose of Mankiw's blog, I can understand his decision to eliminate comments. (As it increased in popularity, he became something of a lightening rod for non-economists with political axes to grind.) I read your blog for quite some time without dipping into the comments (and when they weren't allowed). I don't feel like I missed that much by doing so. The difference between your blog and almost all the others with a critical mass of regular commenters is that you do participate in the ensuing discussion, don't engage in selective editing or personal retribution. That's why the comment section remains interesting. (That said, the the conversation pretty consistently deteriorates beyond a "point of no return" as the 100th comment approaches.)

As to your questions:

1) My opinions haven't changed since the last time we were asked.

2) hdhouse springs to mind as the most likely suspect to write a successful blog on his own.

3) It's easier to write here. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there .... My own blog became a way to work out my feelings about my mom's long hospitalization and my dad's unexpected death after she came home. After that, it was hard to go back to its original intent. Since then, it has been mostly a place-holder for things that amuse or interest me. Easier than adding more bookmarks. For one reason or another, I have reposted comments I made here, but posting my comments there about something you are talking about here and linking back to here is something of an exercise in futility if I am responding to you or a commenter and anticipating a reply.

4) No, I wouldn't be likely to blog any more than I do now, a pastime best described as inconsisent. I'd probably miss the comments at first but on the whole it wouldn't matter all that much.

reader_iam said...

I hope he will forgive me if I'm wrong, and excuse me for at last failing to resist this comment, but Sip stopped commenting here because, perhaps simplistically speaking in my part, he didn't want one of his kids some day Googling and find his "name" linked to certain types of posting (not in terms of position or politics, but rather language, venom, intolerance & etc.)

Elizabeth is also "Beth," of course. You'd have to ask her directly, though I'd bet I could nail it pretty closely. And yes--she'd be close, if not at, the top of my list of commenters who should blog, should that endeavor dovetail with other aspects of her life, goals, personality & etc.

I (very possibly mistakenly) had thought that knoxgirl morphed into knoxwhirled. Whether wrong or right, however, now that I think about it, the latter hasn't been around so much either in more recent months. So--never mind.

No clue about Johnny Nucleo, in general, though I would have sworn that he's put in an appearance very recently indeed. Swearin', however, ain't reality, so take that with a huge chunk of rock salt.

As for Victoria ... though I have zero info as to where she is now and what she's doing ... I suspect she's managing just fine. Her commenting/lack of has, at least as I see it, correlated to a degree with her blogging as Victoria. Who knows what she's doing, where and in what way? I know I'd surely like to know.

But wishin' ain't gettin', and that's a-OK with me.

(P.S. Thanks, Mark. Very nice, and especially under the circumstances.)

Joan said...

I'm in the "miss SippicanCottage very much" camp.

I enjoy the comments of many people around here, and have for years. I've also used the presence of trolls here to teach myself how to skip over comments that I don't need to read. See, even trolls can have a positive function! I used to be one of those compulsively-reads-everything people, and now I'm not.

I have my own blog but that's not for politics or religion, that's for me to keep track of my crazy life, and occasionally veer off into television or literary criticism.

I'd miss the comments here if they went away. This is a great place to learn something or just be silly -- sometimes on the same day.

B said...

I forgot Revenant and Mark Daniels on my first answer to #1. Sorry.

reader_iam: Thanks for the update!

Luckyoldson said...

reader_iam said..."...Sip stopped commenting here because, perhaps simplistically speaking in my part, he didn't want one of his kids some day Googling and find his "name" linked to certain types of posting (not in terms of position or politics, but rather language, venom, intolerance & etc.)"

Good Lord...then I guess it's a good thing he doesn't write novels.

Trooper York said...

I would like to thank the professor for the opportunity to comment. I see life as a variation on a theme, much like the composition of a song. You need all the pieces, the chorus, the bridge, etc. to make sweet soul music. The only thing that seems deadly to me is pomposity and pretension and you know who you are you cowboy hat wearing douche. The two fellow commenters that I enjoy the most are Titus and Lucky. I think both of them are much nicer than they come off on this board and are better people than we know from our contact with them. Also, Doyle is a great set up man, sort of the Armando Benitez of the comments section. He just lays it over the plate to let you hit it out of the park. Thanks to one and all that make it fun to comment.

PatCA said...

I enjoy the commenters that others have mentioned. I was part of the early crowd, so I miss them, and I dislike the course bickering and "Jane, you ignorant slut" type comments from...well, you know who you are. As for their blogging, who knows...maybe their style would be so different from their comment style that I wouldn't like it. And, I like the convenience of reading them all in one place--here--on any given subject!

My blog habits have changed in the past 3 years, haven't yours? I remember racing to the computer every morning in those days after 9/11 and then the Iraq invasion, to see if the world was still there. Now we're in the last lap in all of it, and I do check in but not with the same urgency as before.

I did blog, but blogging about film when the world was on fire was not fun (or relevant to anything), and it interfered with thinking about and doing my other writing. Like Revenant implied, it was like a job. Not for me.

So after over 3 years, congrats for a fine blog, Ann. You make it look easy.

Maxine Weiss said...

Oooops.

Mark said...

I hardly ever comment. I don't type that fast. I don't have the time. And I usually can't really contribute anything interesting or clever. (I have noticed that the last point seems not to be an impediment to many posters.)

However, on the topics that interest me, I have found the comments to be helpful in thinking through issues. Also, this particular blog (and this is a credit to you Ann) has a pretty civil tone and very bright group of people. Ones own writing, I would think, would be sharpened by the immediate feedback.

To me, having a comments section make a more helpful and more honest.

my $0.02.

mca

rcocean said...

1. I like most of the same people others have mentioned but I'll add "Maxine" and her alter egos and Cedarford. Sometimes over the line, but rarely boring. As someone said, you'll never go far enough unless you sometimes go too far.

2. Can't tell from comments. Most commentators are best in small doses, like Robin Williams.

Internet Ronin said...

Ah, Suzette [cough][cough]... I mean Maxine ... [cough][cough], how's the weather in Brazil?

John Kindley said...

I got my start in the wonderful world of blogs by reading and later commenting on this extraordinarily competent and interesting blog. I did keep reading when comments were turned off but the commentariat here, with Ann's frequent participation, really doubles the interest. I think it was Revenant, with whom I have since had some testy exchanges (from my perspective all in good fun), that got me seriously thinking and reading about libertarianism. Ann's little war with Reason Magazine made me aware of their Hit & Run blog, where I've since become a frequent visitor and occasional commenter. And somewhere in there I became aware of Volokh Conspiracy, though that erudite blog isn't nearly as fun as this one or Reason's.

So this particular blog has already taught me a lot and opened me up to new things.

The great thing about commenting on this blog, which Ann has created and made thrive with her time and talent and for which we owe her a debt of gratitude, is that if you take the time to post something thoughtful it's likely to actually be read by a lot of thoughtful and smart people with diverse perspectives, and you just might get a thoughtful response. As Revenant suggested above, launching out with your own blog likely means spending a lot of time on something nobody reads. I wonder how it was for Ann in those early months (or was it weeks), before she rose to the top tier of the blogosphere?

On that note, let me hereby shamelessly plug my own new two-week old blog, Left Libertarian Quaker, here on Blogger. Once I get all the ranting apologetics off my chest with the first posts, I'm gonna have to settle down to one short post a day or one long one a week. I don't know how Ann keeps up the pace she does. That's talent.

Kev said...

My two pennies (and late to the party as always):

1) I don't know that my list of favorite commenters has changed much since the last time this subject came up, though I do get a laugh out of Trooper York's pop-culture references, so I'd add him to the list. (And put me in the "I miss Sippican and Victoria" camp as well.)

2) I know that a lot of the commenters do have blogs, even though I'm not always able to devote the time to reading them. As it is, my Vortex Time is often limited due to scant computer breaks during the workday. (Yes, some people take breaks from the computer during the workday, while I use my breaks to get on it instead.)

3) I've used posts here as a springboard for my own blogging in the past (and will undoubtedly do more in the future).

4) This blog would be very different without the comments, and I'd definitely miss them. I don't know, however, that the extra time created by such a void would translate into more blogging at my own site; I might end up writing more music or something instead.

Pogo said...

The non-templated criticisms of various arguments, and there are many, are terribly valuable. I am often bettered in those discussions, but made better by them.

And I mean no false modesty, but intend rather a principled mediocrity in saying that quite often I feel like Antonio Salieri here, waiting to hear the prayer of forgiveness for my writings better left in the circular file, "Mediocrities of the world, I absolve you.". That is, I accept the fact that I lack the creativity of an artist, hence cannot produce a worthy blog. That is, I wish I could write.

Yet even the coffee houses and art galleries must contend with the abusive drunks that wander in and steal all the cheese and chips, or their patrons must suffer through the grating rant of the self-important loudmouth going on and on and on until he starts foaming at the mouth and falling over backwards.

Sorry. I mean to say I am grateful for this place and the familiar names showing their hearts here. Its absence would leave a hole.

So, you know, thanks and stuff.

howzerdo said...

1. Who are the commenters here that you enjoy? Would you like them better if they set up shop on an individual blog or is there some way that they operate well specifically as commenters?

This question reminds me of senior superlatives in my high school yearbook (yuck). I enjoy most comments, except when someone posts 50 times on the same post. I think the community of commenters works fine just the way it is.

2. Who would you most like to see expand into blog writing?

Another senior superlatives question! I don't read a lot of blogs, and don't have time to add in more regular reads, but my guess is that many commenters here have their own blogs already.

3. Why do you comment instead of writing over on your own blog? You could link to these posts and write about the subjects raised here. Why don't you?

I already have a blog. It's quite personal and rarely focuses on the subjects written about here. And I don't comment here very often.

4. If I closed down the comments, would you shift into blogging? Would you miss the place that is the comments, or would this blog seem much the same?

It wouldn't require a shift since I have had a blog of my own since early in 2002. I think I would miss the comments, although I probably would still read this blog.

blogging cockroach said...

thanks for the kind words, professor.
actually i'm turning red from embarrassment
which is worse than it would seem
because my family and friends might think
i'm from another species and would make short work of me.
you know how insects are.

speaking of species, there is an old latin quote
'ars un specie mil'
'art is one its kinds a thousand'
that applies here.
there are all kinds of art, but the reason this blog is successful
and has the following it does is simply because althouse is an artist.
in the end no amount of reductive analysis can quite explain
what she creates with simple tools available to any of us.

anyway, on to the questions...

1.  i enjoy so many, and as others have said, don't want to offend anyone by exclusion,
but a few i particularly enjoy are john stodder, bissage, meade, simon, pogo, drill sgt.
trooper york, ruth anne, beth, balfegor, peter hoh, internet ronin if he's still around,
and i'm sure i've forgotten some, having only 960 brain cells left.
oh, johnny nucleo, how could i forget...

2.  anyone who wants to.  the more the merrier.

3.  it's been said so well already   writing my own blog is like being in
a bare white room with nothing to hide under.  imagine how a cockroach must feel. i'm working on my nerve, however, as we speak.

4.  if you closed the comments it might give me a little more motivation to blog
but only a little.  i would definitely miss the comments.
there is no way this blog would seem the same.

thanks again, professor
hoping to live up to the 'nice' part of your description.

B said...

Ann,

I swear, if you got together all of the Althouse regulars for one weekend at the Biltmore in Colorado, everyone would perform the most formidable bonding ceremony, and your dream of world domination - except that stinky lower Eastern Hemisphere - could become a reality.

Marishi-ten said...

"And I mean no false modesty, but intend rather a principled mediocrity in saying that quite often I feel like Antonio Salieri here..."

You're most creative, Pogo-- with full-on painted sentence and thought images- about assigned topics or passing fanciful ideas of yours- that the rest of us gaze upon, almost visually internalize and appreciate. Your logic and the cases you make are nearly always colorfully presented, too, because you are too considerate to bore. And then there's your wild, dry wit.

Stringing words together to grab and hold others' interest is cre-a-tive (adj- productive; expressive; imaginative; original.)

This was not a mash note, just to say :) Only a reminder that words are an artform, style and message will come through, even on blog threads.

therapydoc said...

I just got here (2nd time) but like the feel of it. It seems smart to me.

As a therapist I had to shut up most of my life, but as a blogger, or a commenter, I can actually give my 2 cents and join the fun.

The only part I hate is when they yell at me. That and when they tell me they love me. Both make me a little queasy.

John Stodder said...

I have two blogs now, but if I'm giving into what I truly enjoy, it is coming here and finding something to comment on, and reading the comments of others, rather than writing my own posts. Moreover, if Ann covers something, I generally don't, instead leaving whatever comments I might have here.

There are a very small handful of people here whose comments are usually disgustingly lame. Over time I've learned it's easiest to pretend they aren't there. Everyone else -- 95 percent -- are great sometimes or all the time.

I don't think this site is at typical of political blogs, however. (I realize this isn't a 100 percent political blog.) There are few sites where such a range of viewpoints are presented, both by you Ann and by your commenters. An independent outlook is definitely not wanted in most political blogs. I've seen my comments taken down on right- and left-wing sites many times, which is a very weird thing. Who are they trying to protect? I get the idea of not wanting "trolls." But a troll is someone who is deliberately obnoxious, not merely someone who happens to insert a different thought into the mix.

Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan and the other bloggers who won't allow comments are serving up half of what this experience is supposed to be about. Sullivan's avoidance of comments is especially apparent now that he's joined by writers like Matt Yglesias and Megan McArdle on the Atlantic blog site. He looks like a wimp. When Reynolds has addressed it, he seems to be sayinghe just doesn't have time for them. Much as I admire him, I find this to be a major weakness.

Ann, there isn't anything I would suggest you do differently on this site. It's you. If it's going to change, it's because you'll change and then you'll notice the blog has changed with you. There's no reason to overthink it.

Marishi-ten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ralph said...

I rarely looked at comments anywhere until this January and the Libby trial at JOM. Now I can't seem to stop. Guess I need a blog, or a life, but it's always easier to respond to others than generate new material. I also like to show off, but don't like being the center of attention (or risk the rejection of some or lack readers).
You wisely didn't ask which commenters we find irritating. There does seem to be a more diverse mix of regulars than at other blogs I've seen. Kudos for straddling the abbys or attracting nutjobs from all quarters.

ron st.amant said...

I will 'generally' comment when I get in on the conversation early (this being an exception to the rule) because once there's been about 40 or so comments I figure everything that's needed saying has been said (and likely 12 times)...unless I can mine a joke and then all bets are off.
Sometimes I'll post a comment as a marker, so I know where I left off following the discussion...not that I'm that self-absorbed *cough*

I have my own blog, and there are comments (a frighteningly large number offer me prescriptions for various "medicines" or mortgage advice...hmmm...)

I've reduced the number of blogs I read daily, and typically I follow the commenting if the topic of the post is interesting.

I gave up reading some blogs almost because of the comment sections. Have you tried to read Huffington Post? It's like sticking needles in your eyes! There's some rather howling moonbats at Swampland too. (and I wouldn't go near DailyKos if you paid me...and in Canadian...yes the dollar here is better than the greenback now...so eat it, Tancredo)

I just picked Tancredo out because his name makes me giggle.

Where was I?

I've had fun bantering with Trooper of late. I think I could sell a reality series with Drill Sgt. and Luckyoldson trapped in an RV touring the country.

Oh the whole I really enjoy the Althouseian Experience.

peter hoh said...

It's a big table around which we gather, but unlike a table in a coffee shop, we can all talk at once and all be heard. Sort of.

The back and forth between commentors -- how do you capture that any other way than by having comments? And it's not going to happen without comments.

One of my favorite blogs dropped comments a year or two ago. It became less vital. The quality and quantity of the posts dropped. Perhaps the group that produced it was headed for a decline in blog productivity, but once the comments were turned off, so was the energy.

I followed a few Althouse commentors to their own blogs. I keep going back to Ambivablog. Like others, I wish Beth ran her own blog. But there's only so much time, and I rather like having Ruth Anne, Reader, Simon, Internet Ronin, Drill Sgt, etc, chatting back and forth here.

Trooper's pop culture quotes have been a hoot. How would they work on a separate blog?

I have my own blog. I appreciate my regular reader very much, but I don't think she cares what I think about politics.

If you shut down the comments, Ann, I think I'd still read your posts, but something would be missing. I don't think that I'd start blogging about your posts, nor would I be likely to expand the scope of my blog. I'd hope that one of the regulars would set up another place where we can hang out and chat.

Finn Kristiansen said...

3. Why do you comment instead of writing over on your own blog?

I write on my own blogs, but they are kind of ignored.

4. If I closed down the comments, would you shift into blogging?

The blog would lose a little something if there were no comments as it is fun seeing how people riff off of the topics. Sometimes it's like watching a hand put a worm into a jar of ants. You have to look.

However, the blog would still be readable without comments given the variety of topics, her expertise in certain areas of law, and the photos.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm not at all considering shutting down the comments here, so don't read this post to mean that I'm considering doing that. Question #4 is only there as a test of what I think is Glenn's theory, that individual blogging substitutes for commenting.

hdhouse said...

Ann Althouse said:
"Here are some extra questions to show how much I care..."

Not to snark but the questions don't show how much you care as do 'what you do with the answers'.

When blogs started (and only a few years ago) the term, both noun and verb, didn't need much specificity. So if we call Althouse a "blog" is it the same sort as Minkiw or Reynolds'? Are Salon and the Hill the same and are they blogs like Ann's?

Shouldn't we be adding modifiers in front of the term "blog" as in academic blog, personal blog, social commentary blog....and then some other qualifiers such as policitical or general or mother earth?

Should bloggers be REQUIRED to be forthright as to who they are? Newspapers don't publish letters to the editor signed "anon". As blogs are a midieval kiosk of sorts with "anon" being (at least on this blog - where users have screen names but withheld biographies) the norm, perhpas there would be less snipping if anon went away.

Last, Minkow's "blog" like so many blogs contained a lot of 1 sentence entries that linked to the substance...so he was less, in many cases, an "opinionator" than a content aggregator. It would seem the less guidance you give a discussion the more diverse the comment pool. Ann does it about right, a lot do it wrong and some do it better.

But all blogs aren't the same and some blogs aren't blogs.

Michael said...

I've never commented before, but have been a reader for years. Love the blog and without comments it would not be the same.

And like many others, I miss Sippican, Victoria and Johnny Nucleo.

Perhaps I'll comment more, but that depends on how much red wine is available.

Dan from Madison said...

I blog on my own and comment at many blogs. I went away from here, as far as comments go, about a year ago when the tone was getting ridiculous. It seems to have calmed down a lot.

I do have a problem with very long comment threads. Ann is very popular now (popular as far as blogs go) and has a lot of readers.

I only have time to check in once a day on my favorite reads - I feel that I can't comment properly on a post if there are already 75 commnents up there. For some reason I don't like breaking up the thread of comments. Many times the comments thread has gone in a different direction than the original post and to comment on the original post seems to me to break the flow of the comments.

Also I usually don't have time to read all of the comments and then make an intelligent argument to add to the post.

I have made this comment an exception as pretty much all of the comments in this thread relate to the original post. My .02.

Paco Wové said...

1. Who are the commenters here that you enjoy? [Most of them, except the assholes.] Would you like them better if they set up shop on an individual blog or is there some way that they operate well specifically as commenters? [Maybe. There are one or two who I think would be interesting in their own right. But commenting is not blogging.]

2. Who would you most like to see expand into blog writing? [I think they already have.]

3. Why do you comment instead of writing over on your own blog? You could link to these posts and write about the subjects raised here. Why don't you? [You mean, write a blog with posts appearing once a month?]

4. If I closed down the comments, would you shift into blogging? Would you miss the place that is the comments, or would this blog seem much the same? [No. On the whole, I'd miss the comments. Some threads are worthwhile, some are not.]

Darkbloom said...

One big difference between commenting and blogging is that when you blog, you can post about anything you want, but when you comment, you are posting on topics your host(ess) has selected. Of course, some commenters will deliberately post on other subjects in the comments, but I consider this impolite. (I'm not talking about cases where the thread organically evolves into some other topic, which is natural in any discussion and often very interesting.)

Generally, the comments are a great part of Althouse and there are some very skilled writers commenting here. It's always a little disappointing when the thread devolves into puerile name-calling ("you have BDS"; "you're a wingnut") but that's inevitable, I suppose. I just wish that those who engage in it would exercise more restraint. The occasional jab can be effective, but the reflexive use of invective is quite tiresome.

Too many jims said...

Simon said . . .some commenters who are simply outright abusive, towards you and anyone else who doesn't kowtow to the liberal conventional wisdom (without exception, it seems, the enfants terrible of the Althouse blog comments section are on the left).

Let me first say, I usually don't understand the incivility of liberal bloggers and commenters to Prof. Althouse. Even setting aside my (general) preference for civility, it would seem to me that these folks should employ civility because, I believe, Prof. Althouse is persuadable on a number of issues and she is more likely to be persuaded by civil arguments than poo flinging.

That said, I'd suggest that the reason that it seems to you that "without exception . . . the enfants terrible of the Althouse blog comments section are on the left" is because you are on the right. Ask Beth or MadisonMan (who I don't actually think is on the left) whether the tone of comments towards them is always civil.

Randal Rogers (Internet Ronin) said...

What hdhouse writes about the difference between Mankiw's blog and Althouse bears repeating:

Last, Minkow's "blog" like so many blogs contained a lot of 1 sentence entries that linked to the substance...so he was less, in many cases, an "opinionator" than a content aggregator. It would seem the less guidance you give a discussion the more diverse the comment pool. Ann does it about right, a lot do it wrong and some do it better.

It is a point I thought of after signing off last night with regards to Reynolds. Reynolds rarely actively opines, much of his commentary is assumed by his links. As an aggregator, on an average day, he may post 40-50 links to articles or commentaries on a wide variety of subjects. Even minimal management of the comments sections would quickly become a full-time job. Without that management, they would quickly become sewers like so many other high-traffic political sites with equally prolific posts.

What Reynolds does exceedingly well is provide links, and therefore widespread exposure, to otherwise over-looked bloggers. A large number of "successful" bloggers can trace their rise in readership to his links. It seems to me that that is much more important, and useful, than allowing comments on his site.

Althouse has successfully maintained a good mix and posting frequency to attract the large and relatively dedicated readership to generate the critical numbers of commenters for interesting conversations in response to the initial posts. Very few individual blogs survive as long, perhaps because so many of them have such difficulty tolerating dissent.

Roger said...

1. Enjoy most commenters although some can be a bit tedious--but that like life.
2. Maxine is like a box of chocolates; trooper york's pop culture knowledge and sense of humor is positively astounding.
3. Tried blogging, but discovered it was damn hard work. So commenting is easier. And I have actually learned a lot from commenters.
4. Probably wouldn't read your blog without the comments and too lazy to start my own :(

Galvanized said...

I have too many favorite commenters on here, but it's mostly the regulars listed above. And, ironically, I like the ones with views different from my own, many of which I disagree with completely. I think there's a lot of intelligence here, so it would be such a shame if you were to close the comments section. I would say that it's about half and half for me on the enjoyment I get from reading the Althouse blog -- half from your posts, Althouse, and half from the comments. It is the equivalent of a cup of coffee for me to run through a couple of posts, the photography, and the comments a couple of times a day. You should feel a sense of accomplishment for setting up such a nice little hangout here. I think that, for the most part, it's a safe and pleasant place to be. And I occasionally, like everyone else, I guess, get a hearty laugh and some good insights. But it's the differing viewpoints that I enjoy, because I think it's a pretty good mix of opinions here - conservative, moderate, a couple liberal here -- that makes Althouse work so well.

Icepick said...

From a former regular commenter, now more of a seasonal commenter. I'm one of those commenters that slinked away. The comment sections seemed to be generating more heat than light at some point, and I don't need any more heat living in Florida. It seems to have calmed down somewhat now. So onto the bonus questions! (Hopefully this will keep me from scoring a zero on this test.)

1. Who are the commenters here that you enjoy? Would you like them better if they set up shop on an individual blog or is there some way that they operate well specifically as commenters?

Too many to list, for the first question. As for the second, it depends. Commenting and blogging are different endeavours. Some people are good commenters, but not so good as bloggers. For some it's the opposite.

The most notable difference between commenting and blogging is that the commenter gets a running head start - someone else has already provided the gist for the conversational mill. The blogger, OTOH, needs to come out with some sort of (at least semi-) original content, that's hopefully been fleshed out at least a little bit. Or think of it in musical terms - one might be an accomplished musician who can riff on a theme quite well, but couldn't compose an original theme themselves.

2. Who would you most like to see expand into blog writing?

With the benefit of hindsight I can say that I can't make that determination. I've seen several good commenters start blogs that either weren't that good or that died from neglect. Some can produce good regular content, some can't. I'll let the individuals decide for themselves, and see how it works out.

But my favorite commenters who are also bloggers (all from about 2-3 years ago on this blog) are all linked in the blog-roll on my own blog. There are two exceptions: I don't have Amba linked, and Reader_Iam has stopped blogging at her own place, although she occassionally guestposts at DWM. (I took Amba's blog off my blog role because the comment section THERE had some people that had the power to make me furious whenever I read their comments. I don't like being that furious that often, so now I only occassionally drop by. Better for me, better for Amba's blog.)

3. Why do you comment instead of writing over on your own blog? You could link to these posts and write about the subjects raised here. Why don't you?

Commenting is more of a direct conversation, for one thing. For another, who the heck reads my blog? I think I've got three semi-regular readers, and that includes me and my wife! What I write there is usually for my own entertainment only. (I do have an audience in mind there, and at some other places I've blogged, but those are VERY limited in scope.)

And there's no point in answering four. You're not going to close the comments (the comment sections are part of the performance), I already blog some, and of course the tone would change here.

bill said...

I still think Maxine is really Ann.

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry said...

Among the more interesting exchanges on Althouse are those between Simon and hdhouse. Sippican was truly witty. A rapier mind. I like the sensibility of Madison Man and Roger even when I disagree with them. There are many other terrific commenters here, and to answer Ann's question #4, without the comments, I probably would come less to this blog.

But there's only so much commentary I can take -- on any blog. I really don't need yet another utterly pointless argument about whose politics are dirtier. So occasionally I'll take a break from it for a while.

Nevertheless, this a truly unique comments section. As I've started reading it again these past few months, the uptick in Maxine's posts, the arrival of Trooper York, the settling of the permanently aggrieved into lovable self-parody (kind of like Frank on the old MASH), and the new New York City mix of topics, has turned this place into a surreal confection. It's Althouse 8 1/2; Fellini crossed with the Monkees.

I wonder if this has always been Ann's goal?

Anthony said...

I can see both sides. It's possible on political blogs to get out of hand with basic troll spam sent from the opposing side. And there's always the danger, as Insty notes, that a comment will be used in the MSM as a surrogate for the blog ("Just look at the kind of people this blog draws!")

OTOH. . . .I've learned a lot from comments and fora generally. The few times my own blog has gotten some comments on a post have been my favorite part of blogging because you get to interact with readers and generally explore what you were trying to say more deeply. I like blogging, but I also participate more in a forum I belong to simply because of the interaction.

Trooper York said...

Dominic: Times are changing. You've got to change with the times.
Boss Paul Vitti: What, am I supposed to get a fuckin' website?
(Analyze This 1999)

Freder Frederson said...

some commenters who are simply outright abusive, towards you and anyone else who doesn't kowtow to the liberal conventional wisdom (without exception, it seems, the enfants terrible of the Althouse blog comments section are on the left).

God Simon, you are a twit! I am sure I am one of the enfants terrible you are referring to. But really, have I ever called anyone a traitor, accused them of being a terrorist sympathizer, questioned their manhood or said that they deserved to be murdered? All those things have been said to me on this blog and Ann herself has been extremely rude to me, consistently calling me a troll for disagreeing with her and criticising her for excusing torture.

And the most terrible enfant of all on this site, Cedarford, is a raving anti-Semitic, racist, xenophobic, right wing nut, who has threatened me and called me and others all kinds of vile names yet Ann has never even warned him that his statements or language are inappropriate.

Trooper York said...

Isn't this great Squidward? Just you & me together for hours and hours and hours! And then the sun'll come up, and it'll be tomorrow, and we'll still be working! It'll be just like a sleepover! Only we'll be sweaty and covered with grease!

(SpongeBob SquarePants)

bill said...

Dave Winer: People use blogs primarily to discuss one question -- what is a blog? The discussion will continue as long as there are blogs.

Do comments make it a blog? Do the lack of comments make it not a blog? Well actually, my opinion is different from many, but it still is my opinion that it does not follow that a blog must have comments, in fact, to the extent that comments interfere with the natural expression of the unedited voice of an individual, comments may act to make something not a blog.

reader_iam said...

'Pick: You actually delinked Amba because of X,X,X and possibly X?!? (Did I miss anyone?)

reader_iam said...

I guess I have no room to talk, since I functionally delinked everyone and everything when I took the old blog private. But that wasn't personal, and technically speaking, the blogroll is intact, and in fact I still add blogs to it now and again. (Let's hear it for empty gestures!)

Amba's such a peach. She's close to the last person I'd ever delete.

But each to his or her own.

Luckyoldson said...

Trooper York said..."The two fellow commenters that I enjoy the most are Titus and Lucky. I think both of them are much nicer than they come off on this board and are better people than we know from our contact with them."

Well, that was out of left field...the one with the huge green wall...although I'm not sure what to make of Titus.

Regardless, thankzzzzzzzzzz...ad back at ya.

Linus said...

I think it's awesome that Eli Blake said "Occasionally Palladian-- reading Palladian is like digging for diamonds. You have to go through a lot of plain ordinary dirt before you find the nugget."

That's exactly how I feel, except that all the plain ordinary dirt is what everyone else is writing and Palladian's comments are the diamonds. Gushy, I know, but I find myself saying "Damn, I wish I'd said that" a lot with his comments.

I am not a frequent commenter but a long time reader, and there are two commenters whose comments I just skip nowadays. Life's too short when they take over a post with their Blogger1, Blogger2,Blogger1, Blogger2,Blogger1, Blogger2, Blogger2, Blogger2, Blogger2, Blogger2, Blogger2 rapid fire, stream-of-consciousness inanity.

Jim Howard said...

I appreciate the commenters who restrict their comments to one to four fairly short paragraphs.

IMHO when a comment exceeds four short paragraphs then it is no longer a comment, its a blog post and should be posted on the author's own blog.

Icepick said...

Reader, I delinked Amba because of X, X and the many faces of X (I know you know who that is), but I'm not sure who the other X is you mentioned.

And I actually delinked because of my reaction to them as much as because of their presence. They were making me frothing mad, and I was commenting that way as well. If that's all I can contribute, then I need to not contribute at all. So I had to remove the temptation.

Plus, it's not like everyone else in my blogroll DOESN'T have her linked. I can get to her site in two clicks if I want to. Lately I've started reading her site again, on occassion, but I'm trying to keep the comments to a minimum.

In short, it wasn't Amba, it wasn't even her commenters: It was my REACTION TO some of her commenters. Amba's a fine writer, though, and a fun person.

Icepick said...

And I'm JUST UNDER Jim Howard's limit!

Marishi-ten said...

Top fave commenters over the years- PeterUK and Richard McEnroe. They're the absolute best and so droll you reverberate smile for days on end. No one's better. Wish they'd comment here more often.

rossi said...

This was the first time in a while I've a) read through the entire thread of comments and b) posted anything in reply.

And I'm only doing it to a) say how much I enjoy Althouse's comment about how much she likes to "start something", as it is to me as much as a slogan as any blog deserves and b) tell you how little I read instapundit any longer and how I will never just click on a link that says "Heh." on it--too much to invest in a click and no ability to comment--your blogs are simply different altogether.

That said, a) good night and b) good luck.

amba said...

Miss Sipp? Go read his blog! I do! He deserves a lot more traffic.

Of the people I know mainly as Althouse commenters, and not as bloggers and/or blogfriends outside A'House, I enjoy Pogo, Stoddard, Balfegor . . . I know there are several more. Freeman Hunt, Eliabeth . . . I get over here in fits and starts. When I see 197 comments, even on a topic I want to read about (Hillary picking Sandy Berger!), my heart sinks and I go, "I don't have time!"

Falling asleep now, but . . .

The whole thing about blogging is you can respond, you can answer. If you have a blog, you can answer the world, you can answer something that piques your curiosity, alarm, or anger. You are a participant, not just a passive, anonymous audience member. So it's appropriate that the same thing extends to reading blogs. Just as the blogger can answer the world, you can answer the blogger. You can talk back, help make the thing, whether it's the world or the blog.

So when a blog doesn't allow comments, it feels two-dimensional. It feels old-media. Glenn can get away with it because his style of linking is so distinctive and useful and it becomes a conversation. He's like a dispatcher, sending you off to other places. But generally, if a blog doesn't allow comments, I feel like I can't get any purchase there. It's such a one-way street.

hdhouse said...

My dissertation advisors always lectured me that the "writing was in the footnotes".

Aren't blogs dissertation text and the comments the "unproofed" footnotes?

knoxwhirled said...

Also props to Bissage, AJ Lynch, Jennifer, Freeman Hunt.