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.