html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: First, do no harm.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

First, do no harm.

This is fantastic. It is better to have no comments than to have comments that do damage to civil society. If you cannot (or will not) put in the time to have a comments section that is neutral or better, then no comments at all is a big improvement. I love that he recognized his responsibility to the greater community. Full props to Prof. Mankiw.

I liked this a lot, too.

***********

It occurs to me that bloggers may be evaluating different things in their comments sections. Remember how I told you that all communication has two different contents, information and emotion? I can imagine a blogger thinking, well, my comments are neutral or better - still information dense, lots of ideas shaking out. An emphasis on civil conversation is a reminder that the emotional content of the comments section is equally important. Nastiness destroys the informational content (as people revert to pre-formed thought, cleverness and attacks on irrelevant stuff, like the person), which might motivate bloggers who lean heavy to the content=information side of things. But since the emotional part of the content is the part that chases away marginalized and targeted voices, the emotional content must also stay neutral or better if you want to hear what they have to say.

18 Comments:

Blogger scott said...

Wow. Some people must blog a lot more seriously than I do. I wouldn't having the energy to have comment issues on my blog. I would just wither and blow away.

Hello, Megan.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Hello Scott. Yeah, I'm thinking that blogging to my standards is pretty demanding.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

Isn't this "One Thing Engineering" as well? For example, artists insist on the value of shock and transgression as being integral to the emotional value of what they are communicating. Your argument suggests that people proscribe all but neutral or positively phrased emotional content if they are to engage in "responsible blogging."

3:28 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Yep. The goal I'm maximizing in this case is full and unafraid participation. That's what I want, and comment moderation is the tool to get us closer.

If other people have other goals besides free speech and civic participation, they might devise other approaches.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

"full and unafraid participation" of particular content though. For example, you would not suggest your blog as a place for people to express their deep anger and rage over issues. As you've blogged before, those kinds of emotions are important as well.

"other goals besides free speech and civic participation"
Again, this is a particular type of speech, but most definitely not free speech for all. It maximizes inclusion of people who wish to speak and hear comments with particular emotional valence.

This is common in the classroom, for example, where only participation of a particular sort is tolerated. This might not be a good rule for political demonstration though, where part of what you are doing is showing your outrage and how important an issue is.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

But if attendance falls off a lot, I will start looking for another hobby. Maybe golf.

Oh no, not more cartball.

6:35 AM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

In short, I agree with you that rude people, jerks and assholes should be banned from blog comments, because they do make people miserable. But I'm not sure if I believe in the positive duty of inclusion, nor do I think that making all comments positive is necessarily desirable. I'm much more of a pragmatist - prune the worst of the lot before the poison the well, and let people talk.

8:42 AM  
Anonymous The Gender You Despise said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline said...

I don't understand the priorities of people who insist on no shoes in the house. Yes, your floors stay a bit cleaner, but at the risk of stubbed or crushed toes, cuts on your feet, slipping and falling, etc.

Of course this comment will probably seem very out of context after moderation occurs...

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah i always thought mankiw's comment section was angry, annoying, and a waste of time.

megan has a good comment section. so did fresh pepper, but he said he never read them. somehow he didn't have to moderate because everyone else in the comment section did it for him.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

OK, y'all. I have to clean this thread up. Wish I didn't have to, but I think there's enough context left in the new comments to make sense of today's posts. And this one is veering wildly away from, like, content.

4:36 PM  
Anonymous doctorpat said...

I don't understand the priorities of people who insist on no shoes in the house. Yes, your floors stay a bit cleaner, but at the risk of stubbed or crushed toes, cuts on your feet, slipping and falling, etc.

Cuts? Slipping? What do you have on your floors? Broken glass and pools of oil?

Or are you talking about someone who insists on no shoes EVER, even when a bottle has just been dropped on the floor and the shards need to be cleaned up.

I still don't get the slipping part though. Bare feet have more grip than anything short of a rock-climbing shoe.

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

when you track through a lab with godknowswhat on the floor and then use a public restroom with godknowswhat on the floor, perhaps taking off shoes in the the house might seem quite reasonable.

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of Greg Mankiw's decision to end comments. If one is willing to ignore the minor information costs to determine the tone of the comments section, then anyone who isn't happy with the tone available with no moderation can achieve the current result by never clicking on the comments link. I can't see how eliminating comments for everyone is better than prominently including a short acknowledgement that the desired comments policy has become unenforceable, so people should be aware that the tone will sometimes be inappropriate (lowering the information cost almost to zero).

For good measure, because of the volume of traffic his blog attracts, there is a solution available which is likely to be better for almost everyone, including those who care about the tone of the comments section. Adding advertising to the blog would probably bring in enough revenue to support hiring someone to moderate the comments. I doubt that the inconvenience of ads would exceed the value of comments for many readers.

Telnar

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just realized that my previous comment lacked an important piece of context: As someone who has read Greg Mankiw's blog for a long time, I found the comments there to be far better than neutral in aggregate and on average (even if I only had time to browse them in a fraction of the posts I read).

I probably have more tolerance than some for the occasional negative experience reading a comment, so I would view a comments section where half of the comments were insightful and half of them were destructive as a net positive. However, it wasn't necessary to make that choice. In fact, it was only recently (perhaps as a result of a few posts receiving links to partisan sites – an experience not unlike Megan’s experiences when posts on lawyers were linked to a site where lawyers gathered) that negative tone comments even became a non-trivial issue.

Perhaps this was the start of a new trend and would ultimately have needed to be dealt with, but there were many lesser options available (e.g. requiring pre-registration to be allowed to comment).

Telnar

5:20 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline said...

"Cuts? Slipping? What do you have on your floors? Broken glass and pools of oil?"

It's dangerous to cook barefoot because things get dropped, spilled, splattered, etc.

"I still don't get the slipping part though. Bare feet have more grip than anything short of a rock-climbing shoe."

I have slipped many, many, many more times in bare feet indoors than I have while wearing shoes (and I wear shoes most of the time while indoors, so it's even more out of proportion relative to the opportunity to slip).

Also, my experience has been that people who insist on shoes off inside their homes also tend to keep their homes freezing cold, so walking around in completely bare feet isn't feasible. Socks/hose are very slippery.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline said...

Also, for me it just flat-out HURTS to go shoeless for very long -- I end up with really bad pain in my feet and lower back if I spend much time walking around with no arch support or cushioning between my feet and the hard floors.

7:53 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home