April 13, 2016

"Above the Law" kills its comments section.

Ah! I've been there and back more than once. Let's see how it's reasoned out:
In the early days of ATL... the comments were amazing.... Today the comments are not what they once were. Although occasionally insightful or funny, ATL comments nowadays are generally fewer in number, not very substantive (often just inside jokes among the commentariat), yet still often offensive. They also represent a very small percentage of our total traffic (as we can tell because of the click required to access them).

It’s not clear how or why our comments changed in number and quality....
This is like a lovers' quarrel: You changed! In the lovers' quarrel context, when that line comes up, what's the next line? I think it's: You never really knew me.
... [N]umerous websites have eliminated their comments sections in recent years, largely because they felt that the comments were not adding sufficient value and that discussion had migrated to social media....
So it's not like a lovers' quarrel, because it's not a face-to-face discussion. It's the writer on one side and whoever all those people are who choose to respond in that writer's space, the comments section. The writer feels that in the old days, a different sort of person came around. It's not that those people changed. Those people left, having found better places to write — Facebook, Twitter, etc. — and the people who are here now are not changed people. They're different people.

That made me think of a line from "Grizzly Man": "He discovered that many of his bear friends had gone into hibernation and scary, unknown and wilder bears from the interior had moved in."

47 comments:

tim maguire said...

ATL comments have been garbage for many years. And most of the posts seem to encourage garbage replies.

Ann Althouse said...

"And most of the posts seem to encourage garbage replies."

How so? I haven't kept up enough to know.

traditionalguy said...

The Grizzlie Talker must have had a trick. I hope he did not hug them.

David said...

Since I never read ABL, I can not comment.

Laslo Spatula said...

One of my favorite commenters here at Althouse is Althouse herself.

I enjoy when she stops into her own creation; sometimes to keep the conversation on track, sometimes an observation, sometimes a quip, sometimes a cryptic teaser.

Moebius Strip.

I am Laslo.

MayBee said...

Grizzly Man always gets a thank you from me.

Our latest documentary obsession is the Amy Winehouse doc. Have you watched it?

holdfast said...

Wow. It's been years since I spent any real time at ATL. I remember the comments being brutal, crude and vicious, but also hilarious and sometimes insightful.

So no more jokes about the Criminal, Deadbeat, Walruses? Does Mystal still work there?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Laslo Spatula said...

I enjoy when she stops into her own creation; sometimes to keep the conversation on track, sometimes an observation, sometimes a quip, sometimes a cryptic teaser.

Yeah, I like the New Testament Althouse, in here washing our feet, rather then the Old Testament Althouse, moderating and deleting comments.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Of course, I understand the need for moderating/deleting. We are a fallen comment section.

Laslo Spatula said...

"This is like a lovers' quarrel: You changed! In the lovers' quarrel context, when that line comes up, what's the next line?"

I didn't change. I just never told you what I was thinking out loud.

I am Laslo.

Lem said...

It could be reflecting the frustration of witnessing more people at the top, like our president, being exactly that... Above the Law... and nothing is done about it.

Early on I expected Alhouse to be hard of lawbreaking, but then it slowly sunk in that the blog is not about that.

I don't know what Above the Law is about. I do know a Justice Willett tweet I read this morning comes to mind... Liberty is imperiled more "by gradual & silent encroachments ...than by violent & sudden usurpations" —James Madison

Is not going to be no grisly.

Laslo Spatula said...

"This is like a lovers' quarrel: You changed! In the lovers' quarrel context, when that line comes up, what's the next line?"

I didn't change. You just never found the bodies.

I am Laslo.

Guildofcannonballs said...

Because of "the" drinking, I can't be sure I didn't cause this, but I don't remember a single comment of mine forcing them onto this path, in the sense I have never left a comment there (I can remember).

Laslo Spatula said...

"This is like a lovers' quarrel: You changed! In the lovers' quarrel context, when that line comes up, what's the next line?"

I didn't change. I am wearing the same underwear as the day before.

I am Laslo.

tim maguire said...

Hi Prof., I'm thinking of the guy (can't remember his name and he isn't there anymore) who graduated from Harvard, couldn't pass the bar, defaulted on his student loans, and expressed no shame over the default. He was race-obsessed and his columns usually had a hard social justice slant (though SJW was not a term yet). He regularly made moral judgments on financial issues despite his own financially immoral behavior and his legal knowledge was suspect at best. It was actually difficult to make substantive comments because his comment section tended to be a contest to see who could insult him more.

David Lat occasionally stayed on topic, but others, like Staci Zaretsky, more often distracted the reader with frivolous observations and unsupported conclusions. Even Joe Patrice, who was brought on as the token conservative, acted more like a poor-man's David Brooks.

John said...

I've been a follower of your blog, on and off, for over a decade. I have infrequently commented here or elsewhere but have enjoyed reading comments over the years. I've always believed comments were the readers ability to interact with the writer/blogger on the topic chosen by the writer.
Over time, comment sections have evolved and not necessarily for the better. It started early with the trolls, but I believe Twitter and other SM pulled many of those offenders off the comment sections to a darker place. Today, most comment sections have their own, individual culture.
Your blog AND the commentators have continued to provide the right amount of interest and discussion that keeps my attention.
I'll no go back to my porch and watch the neighborhood - quietly.

Laslo Spatula said...

"This is like a lovers' quarrel: You changed! In the lovers' quarrel context, when that line comes up, what's the next line?"

I didn't change. You just didn't believe me before.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

"This is like a lovers' quarrel: You changed! In the lovers' quarrel context, when that line comes up, what's the next line?"

I didn't change. All the lies I have told you still apply.

I am Laslo.

tim maguire said...

Yes! Elie Mystal! That's the guy I was trying to think of, above.

Laslo Spatula said...

"This is like a lovers' quarrel: You changed! In the lovers' quarrel context, when that line comes up, what's the next line?"

I didn't change. I just never had the chance to fuck your sister before.

I am Laslo.

Humperdink said...

Treadwell taught the world that tree hugging is a whole lot safer than bear hugging.

Laslo Spatula said...

"This is like a lovers' quarrel: You changed! In the lovers' quarrel context, when that line comes up, what's the next line?"

I didn't change. I have been in the same constant psychological pain since you met me.

I am Laslo.

damikesc said...

So, the usual Leftie site kills comments because they don't like it nonsense. The Left is not a fan of speech at all.

Guildofcannonballs said...

Part of the reason I hold this blog and the proprietor(s) in high-esteem is the allowance of a very free exchange of ideas. Had I gumption I could start my owned damned blog if I don't like anything happening here to such an extent I wanted to pull a Blackhawk "Goodbye Says It All."

Things of mine that have been deleted, well, I only remember one now here, and one at Puparazo where I talked about "but buddies*" before none other than, Ladies and Gentleman, The Vice President of the United States of America, Joe Biden did, and, ya know, with my memory issues and all who knows about that, but the deletion I remember was a rap song talking about a lot of murder and killing. Think it named names and stuff, but much differently than when Steel Panther does it. For real.

Fact is everything I write that isn't from elsewhere is riddled with contradiction. I wouldn't know this as much without Althouse allowing me to learn at my own crude pace.

Everything would make more sense if my original profile pic I wanted, but wasn't able to figure out how to set it even though I have the gnome there now, were available to give me strength in this battle of/for/by America's soul.

https://zerocoolpointsdad.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/oregon-caveman.jpg

I figured if Althouse could look right to find out what the hell is going on, I could look leftward without hatred. To be sure, maybe I can, but I certainly thus far have not.

*I was referring to "but Buddy" in The Hudsucker Proxy at Puparazo.


Bob Ellison said...

I've been toying with a business model for a comment-section network that would use reader's ratings to drive comment-priority. For example, a comment on conlaw from Ann Althouse would tend to go toward the top right away, whereas some schmoe's comment would appear down low, unless and until he started saying smart stuff that people found insightful and worth reading.

Probably the most famous example of comment abuse happened at Amazon over the last few years. They say roughly I got this product free for my promise to lie about it on the Amazon comments section.

Comments don't have a unified regulation regime. Most sites, even very big ones, rely on the Althouse system of just moderating and deleting solely on owner discretion.

Ann Althouse said...

"Elie Mystal!"

He got started as the result of a competition modeled on "American Idol" in which I was one of the judges. The contestants were blind graded, so I had no idea he was black, and I criticized him for inattention to racism.

Ann Althouse said...

When he won and revealed that he was black, he taunted me for my sensitivity to race, which he assumed I wouldn't have manifested if I'd know I was reading writing by a black person. Terrible me, right?

Guildofcannonballs said...

"This is like a lovers' quarrel: You changed! In the lovers' quarrel context, when that line comes up, what's the next line?"

I do this so, this world we know, never changes me.*

The purpose is to stop the onslaught of negative, feminine energy all wee weed up up in hair. So you misdirect with the "I do this so" meaning she thinks you accept her premise, then bring up "this world we know" to showcase your superior understanding of the risky world that is reality ever even for us incredibly blessed by God in the United States of America, then let her know everything is okay, you wear the pants and don't get overexcited as nature would have it when you were younger, and softly affirm "never changes me" to ease her nervous mind.

*Garth Brooks after Oklahoma City bombing.

Also people that think a man would say "You changed" are in error for the most part, and of course following the charge "You changed" the woman would go on and on and on and on and on about how and why and how you said, YOU SAID!, you wouldn't (change) but damnit ya did, damnit.

Guildofcannonballs said...

Not that most people give a damn about gays or minority rights, likely because of often having been a part of a perceived majority such as college students perpetually pedestal themselves on, but when straights start mucking up gender roles within straight relationships that hurts everyone, couples of the same sex included.

This is truly a 50/50 (us/them; you/me; cats/dogs) failure here, with all to blame for everything gone wrong.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

This is like a lovers' quarrel: You changed! In the lovers' quarrel context, when that line comes up, what's the next line?

God dammit Amy, well of course I've changed.
With all the things I've done and the places I've been
I'd be a machine if I had stayed the same.

Frank Turner - Tell Tale Signs

Guildofcannonballs said...

"Blogger Ann Althouse said...
When he won and revealed that he was black, he taunted me for my sensitivity to race, which he assumed I wouldn't have manifested if I'd know I was reading writing by a black person. Terrible me, right?

4/13/16, 9:29 AM"

In one sense, hoping to advance the notion "my sensitivity on" whatever topic not to convey one's moral superiority but instead in service of transparency, here acknowledgment of self-recognition of being non-pedestrian racially, is perhaps the biggest task one could fulfill.

Gabriel said...

I am suspicious of any blog that doesn't allow comments. A good example is Vox. They pretend to be explaining an issue, but in reality they have left out a great deal of context that discredits their narrative. And because they disallow comments, you have to go elsewhere to get that context. I'm pretty sure this is deliberate.

I always read comment sections for this reason--what did the author leave out? Sometimes it's perfectly justified; for example a blog post about great circle routes might have lots of comments by flat-earthers that wouldn't have added anything if the author had included the things they are saying, but here's what's so great about comments: if they suck you don't have to keep reading them.

Guildofcannonballs said...

"acknowledgment of self-recognition of being non-pedestrian"

Without this acknowledgement, the persons claiming Trump wouldn't last until the ... or the ... or the ... or the .. and now saying The Arrogant Clown should have won it in a walk but was too outdealed by Cruz, might create anxiety for themselves when cogitating their prognostication skills.

With the acknowledgment comes duty; duty duty duty. No* anxiety: duty.

*I mean sure sure maybe a little, but with duty that anxiety is turned into steadfastness faster than you can say steadfastyness.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Gabriel said...

blah blah blah

ts;dr*

except to see that Gabriel is one of those flat-earth deniers who is okay with suppressing the truth. Noted.

*too sucky; didn't read

Bruce Hayden said...

I do like comments, and often look for them whenever I read an article. Some have so many comments that I don't bother, but also often skip over articles that don't allow (or provide for) them. But, there also seems to be a difference in blogging whether the blog is aimed at commenting or the original article. I think, by now, that Ann's blog is aimed primarily at us, her commenters. She throws stuff together that someone else likely would not, and then opens it up for us to have fun. And, yes, now does some nudging in the comment section. I like it, which is why it is one of my favorite blogs. But, I don't think that it would be nearly as interesting for many of us if commenting were not enabled. On the flip side, I also am a compulsive reader of Instapunit, which allows comments, but I almost never bother to read them, and even less frequently comment myself. There, the primary thing seems to be the author's comments on links to other articles. And, I also follow Drudge, where there is no commenting, which is probably a really good thing. My memory is that this subject came up at Volokh awhile back, and the consensus was that the comments were helpful, the discussions mostly pretty balanced, and EV keeps the civil. (I got into this sort of thing thanks to him chiding me on intemperance on an email forum we both participated in back when blogging was new). And, I think that is what I needed in many cases, what Ann and Eugene do, which is light moderation to maintain civility and keep things somewhat on topic (though I do appreciate being able to stray a bit here - thanks Ann).

tim maguire said...

Ann Althouse said...
"Elie Mystal!"

He got started as the result of a competition modeled on "American Idol" in which I was one of the judges. The contestants were blind graded, so I had no idea he was black, and I criticized him for inattention to racism.


Ha! He must have really taken your criticism to heart! Or maybe he thought so little of you as a white person that he felt he needed to hide his real self to have a chance. Then he decided to try to turn the tables on you rather than admit you were right. That sounds like Mystal.

The Cracker Emcee said...

While Althouse can rightly boast of Laslo's presence, it's over at Reason's Hit and Run where the largest community of quicksilver comedic commenters reside. Wickedly funny comment threads.

"I didn't change. All the lies I have told you still apply"

This made me laugh out loud, though.

Terry said...

Treadwell: "Am I a great person? I don't know."
Treadwell (and his girlfriend) were killed by his own ego, disguised as a bear.
I hope never to be the subject of a film by Werner Herzog.

MayBee said...

I am suspicious of any blog that doesn't allow comments.

I agree, Gabriel. And for the same reasons.

Franklin said...

The only reason I visit blogs and put up with the bad writing and esoteric posts is because of the comment sections.

ATL in particular was only valuable for its comment section. Are you telling me people simply can't wait to read Elie Mystal's next racist screed?

Their traffic is going to drop off. Same thing that's happened at Curbed and Eater since VOX took over and started going SJW on the comment sections.

damikesc said...

While Althouse can rightly boast of Laslo's presence, it's over at Reason's Hit and Run where the largest community of quicksilver comedic commenters reside. Wickedly funny comment threads.

Reason itself is brutal to read and, for me, the comment section is just too much inside humor. I've seen enough woodchipper references and "you know who else did (x)?" lines to last me a while.

Michael K said...

"I had no idea he was black, and I criticized him for inattention to racism."

I used to listen to Charles Payne on the radio and had no idea he was black until he showed upon Fox. He sounded like a guy from Chicago but is from New York, had a single mother and joined the Air Force to pay for college.

"I am suspicious of any blog that doesn't allow comments."

Worse is a blog that deletes comments from certain people who disagree with the blog politics. I used to read and comment at Washington Monthly when Kevin Drum was there. We agree on very little but I have great regard for him. The other commenters there got angry because I was not in favor of single payer back in 2007. They would go to my own blog, look for personal stuff and then post nasty comments back at Wash Monthly.

Then they began to delete my comments and leave the nasty replies. It was weird. I e-mailed Kevin and asked about it and he replied he had no control.

Then he moved to Mother Jones and they block me from any comments. I can't even wish him well with his lymphoma.

They are really in a bubble.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Maybe a month back, Bloomberg stopped putting the number of comments on an article where anyone could see it w/o clicking through. I wonder whether this has something to do with Megan McArdle's disproportionate comment total. I say this because hers (with AA's and Volokh's) is one of the three intellectually balanced comment sections I've discovered. None of them are "echo chambers," and all of them are spirited and thoughtful.

sdharms said...

Listen to him he sounds just like trump in his speech patterns

mikee said...

The changes over time in comments sections on blogs is not like a lover's quarrel, it is like one member of a couple finding themselves in a strange part of their city, late at night in a broken down car, with unknown people surrounding the car shouting at them to come out and play. For example, I now comment here.

Grizzly Guy? No, guy eaten by grizzlies.

Rusty said...

It looks like the Bears closed Treadwells comment section.

Zach said...

I used to read Above the Law occasionally. At one time it was something like a gossip column of the legal world, and the comment threads could be vicious and insightful. I'm not a lawyer, but it's sometimes interesting to read about other people's worlds.

Now, though... What exactly does ATL do? Mystal's stuff is just clickbait. Worse, it's repetitive clickbait. And the rest are just bland. There's no authorial voice, no editorial voice, no real areas of expertise.

I don't think the quality of comment threads declined so much as the site lost its audience. The comments declined because the audience left.