Marmot’s Comments Closed

I was saddened to read that Marmot’s Hole, a blog focused on Korea and which has long been one of the best regional specialist blogs out there, has closed blog comments. Looking at the link and the current comment status, it’s not clear if there will be no comments or just full moderation. But it’s a sad state of affairs that one of the best blogs out there, which has been in operation for significantly longer than CA’s five-plus years and which has a vibrant commenting community, has had to resort to such measures.

Bloggers can learn lessons from Marmot’s experience. With popularity came a broad and highly opinionated online community. After several years Marmot required online registration for commenting, which gave him the ability to stop random commenters and ban rogues. Of course, rogue commenters can also re-register with different names, different e-mails, and on different computers, so this requires vigilance. Then Marmot had a few posts on delicate topics that revealed the blog version of Gresham’s Law — bad comments drive out good comments. Said otherwise, it only takes one bad commenter to write something utterly outrageous that shifts all commenting in that direction. Finally, the final straw was that Marmot faced pressure from his boss at work for the controversial comments that appeared on his blog. I think this is another strong argument for the ComingAnarchy policy of author anonymity — although I’ve had the pleasure of meeting dozens of commenters and personally corresponding with hundreds more, and have voluntarily waived my anonymity on many occasions.

At ComingAnarchy, on very isolated occasions, we have blocked commenters who poison the blog comment atmosphere with “silent but deadly” measures that involve trickery with their ISP. But this has been very rare, with certainly less than ten in the life of the blog. For better or for worse, both at CA and at our quasi-sister blog Mutantfrog Travelogue, the blog material seems to have a natural ability to self-select a certain type of commenter. I think that’s because the sometimes controversial posts we write are actually obscure and inaccessible in theme and content, and most lunatics can’t be bothered to engage the conversations that emerge. Hopefully the discussion will continue to be the case and Marmot’s latest measures will be the exception, not the rule — because it is reading or engaging in the comment discussion that follows on the initial posts, not the posts themselves, that make blogging worth the effort.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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15 Responses to Marmot’s Comments Closed

  1. feeblemind says:

    A question to the contributors to CA : Is blogging worth the effort without comments? Is it not disappointing to go to the effort of posting on a topic and then receive no comments? I would think feedback would be a desired product of a blog post. Perhaps there is far more email feedback than comments? Anyway, I would imagine blogging without feedback to be akin to screaming from an isolated place. Someone might hear you but how do you know for sure?

  2. Sonagi says:

    “I think that’s because the sometimes controversial posts we write are actually obscure and inaccessible in theme and content, and most lunatics can’t be bothered to engage the conversations that emerge. “

    LOL, you got that right. Robert’s blog attracted comments from amateur and professional Koreanists whose insights added value to the original posts. It was an forum that brought together people like Andrei Lankov. Oranckay, Antti Lepanen, and the occasional knowledgeable Korean commenting in anonymity for informal exchanges open to the public. I’d like to see the comment section re-opened for serious posts on politics, current events, history, and culture. Requiring commenters to provide real names and work email addresses at registration would weed out trolls. A little vigilance in reminding otherwise reasonable commenters to stay on topic would yield threads worthy of the effort that went into the original post.

  3. Thomas says:

    I am a proponent of virtually all things open source. One of the great thing about blogs is the ability to have a fluid public dialog without barriers.

    However, like virtually all open source endeavors, there needs to be some mediating factor, some means to direct the effort in order for the work to be its most fruitful.

  4. Feeblemind, from my perspective the commentary is a very large part of why I blog. I don’t see a whole lot of sense in putting my ideas out there if I’m not going to receive any feedback. There’s always email but you’re still missing the conversational dynamic. Whatever was going on in the Marmot’s commentary must’ve been pretty damn bad to justify such a drastic measure.

  5. Curzon says:

    I’d echo MF’s comments — if I was blogging into a black hole, I’d give up pretty quickly. It’s the commenting community that makes it all worth it.

  6. Gresham’s law works very strongly with blog comments. A popular blog attracts a lot of rotten commenters. One solution is to ruthlessly delete comments that are destructive (defined by the blogger). Also, some topics attract swarms of bad actors, some of whom then stick around.

  7. Anon says:

    Cheers to obscure and inaccessible themes and contents, and a heartfelt thanks to all the CA blogmeisters and commentators.

  8. I think that’s because the sometimes controversial posts we write are actually obscure and inaccessible in theme and content, and most lunatics can’t be bothered to engage the conversations that emerge.

    A popular blog attracts a lot of rotten commenters.

    I’d add that the matter of political partisanship is another element here. I think if you lined the four of us up you’d find a gradient of ideological/politica proclivity that, on the whole, is near impossible to “pigeon hole” as being any certain political bent. A “bit to the right” at best. It’s been my experience that the more partisan and extreme a blog’s ideology, the more extreme it’s readership and commentary. Bear in mind I’m speaking a bit off topic, and not in terms of Marmot.

    This isn’t to suggest that a blog whose theme is of a particular partisanship can’t present ideas and collect commentary that is constructive and not superficial or extreme (indeed Lex’s own Chicagoboyz is an example of a smart blog that maintains a collective political ideology yet also a stimulating commentary that compliments its content.)

  9. Anon thank you for that and thanks for your readership.

  10. Roy Berman says:

    “It’s been my experience that the more partisan and extreme a blog’s ideology, the more extreme it’s readership and commentary. ”

    I do think that’s generally true. While my personal politics may generally be pretty lefty, I’m more interested in getting civil comments on the blog than trying to push any agenda, so I (and the rest of us) generally make an effort to keep political discussions in a more debatist than polemical style. Of course there is the occasional exception.

  11. Durf says:

    Your mother is the occasional exception!

    Wait, what? Yes, that was sad to see the Marmot shutting down like that. It’s a tough line to walk when you want to produce something of quality and have that quality extend to the conversation that follows, but the topics you cover are ones that tend to attract Internet yahoos.

  12. Curzon says:

    It’s been my experience that the more partisan and extreme a blog’s ideology, the more extreme it’s readership and commentary. Bear in mind I’m speaking a bit off topic, and not in terms of Marmot.

    Marmot was writing about Korea, and I don’t think you can get much more partisan than that.

  13. Robert says:

    Marmot was writing about Korea, and I don’t think you can get much more partisan than that.

    Ain’t that the truth. It’s a funny place, Korea — it seems to bring out passions in a way I can’t imagine is the case in Finland or Namibia.

    Anyway, I’ve reopened the comment section for now — I guess a blog isn’t a blog without comments — but I’d love to get some pointers from you (perhaps via email) on comment policy and comment moderation.

  14. ChicagoBoyz’ official, published comment policy, is as follows. It arose by trial and error. So far it has worked for us. If we got more traffic, and moderating the trolls became too burdensome, maybe other steps would have to be taken. The main thing is each contributor polices his or her own posts. I tend to be draconian about deleting unhelpful, insulting or way-off-point comments. Others engage in dialogues with people who seem to me to be purely trolling. As Chairman Mao said, let 100 flowers bloom.

    “Comment Policy: Whether you agree or disagree with us you are welcome to comment here as long as you are civil, with the following caveats: …Chicagoboyz authors, like Chicagoboyz readers, are individuals and do not agree about everything. Each author manages the comments on his own posts. Some of us are very laid back or enjoy arguing; others routinely delete rude and even mildly snarky comments. There is no company line and that is part of the charm of a group blog of amateurs. If you don’t like it go elsewhere. … This blog is private property. The First Amendment does not apply. We have no obligation to let you post comments or to follow the rules that you think we should follow. If you can’t live with these minor restrictions you should probably start your own blog and leave us alone. [These caveats] apply not to you of course but to a small minority of Chicagoboyz readers who will mostly ignore or misunderstand them. Nevertheless it seems like a good idea to provide some guidance as to how this blog operates, because we want to encourage thoughtful discussion. The many insightful comments left by our readers over the years have made this blog much better than it would have been otherwise.”