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Pogie emailed me today with a question: What value does commenting have on the blog? Good question.

Basically, I like comments, until they turn into flame wars and ad hominem attacks. I learn things from time-to-time in the comments section. Sometimes they lead to introspection.

Would dumping comments make the site less interesting? Would it hurt traffic? James Conner quit taking comments at Flathead Memo, what, a couple of years ago? I still visit his site but there are times I’d really like to comment on one of his posts.

Then there’s banning. Who to ban? People whose positions you don’t agree with? People who comment too much? People who derail threads? People who comment for self-promotion? Maybe I should ban myself since I’ve been known to get into pissing matches with folks who have commented.

I was at 4&20 Blackbirds for seven years and banned one person based on a personal attack that included my wife. There were a couple of others I should have banned but I don’t like censorship even if I find comments offensive.

So, gentle reader, your thoughts? It’s Don’s site and I’m sure he’ll make the right decision but maybe your comments on comments will add some perspective. Thanks.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

10 Comments

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  • These are some of my opinions garnered over 12 years of blogging (off and on) as well as being a frequesnt commenter and sometimes avid supporter of blogs and blogging both in and outside of Montana for many years more:

    1) Many if not most commenters treat their own opinions as facts, frequently confusing the distinction. What, most often, they are confusing is that facts are useful only in so much as reason is applied to them towards a given conclusion. If they are certain of their conclusion, that difference between opinion, assumption and fact becomes pointless. If their conclusion has become axiomatic (to them) then obviously any contra-point is a casus belli, because circular reasoning has become the norm. A reminder that this my opinion, but these people become the Worst.Commenters.Ever.

    2) Off topic commenters are generally harmless, if any other has the self-control not to attempt to own the web-space and argue with them.

    3) This one is for you, Pete. There is no place on a private blog for discussion of or concern about censorship. That doesn’t just apply to the blog owner, but to any writer/admin. No one, and I will argue this point until the cows go to slaughter, no one has a “right” or “authority” or any thing at all that allows them to tell another what to do on a webspace that other has actual authority and responsibility for. Ever. No one is owed a voice, just that the gubmint won’t deny that to them should they choose to use it. In my simplistic wrong-side-of-the-tracks thinkin’, I see it as this: The government has no legal authority to shut me up as a blogger, because they don’t control the Internet. Why should I afford another that control over my part of it? They have no control over me either. Deleting comments, changing comments or banning people is not censorship. It’s taking out the trash.

    4) Faux news think does not belong on blogs. There may be many sides to a story, but a blogger doesn’t have to help promote more than what that one chooses. When commenters demand to be heard, there is only fair response: GYOBFW. Google that if you don’t know what I mean.

    5) This is kinda a biggie: Most people claim to have “thick skin”. Very few do. Any blogger who has allowed comments for more than 3 years has likely proven their case. When deciding on a comment policy, a blogger doesn’t need to decide how thick a skin they have. They only need to decide how much time they wish to devote to the unruly children. What they also need to gauge is how thick a skin they require from their commenters and how much that affects their desire for traffic. The takeaway is this, the expectation of honesty on the commenting Internet should be very low.

    6) Finally, insular communities grow organically. Trouble-makers (the troubled?) tend to claim that as “bad”, “echo-chamber”, “sheeple”! All the while, they build their own insular communities which they guard with jealousy and venom. See point number one. I repeat, they grow organically. Comments are the only ‘weed-killer’ that a blogger has, save using the Round-up and allowing no comments at all. ‘Temperance’ is not a friend, because it ignores whatever bias and insulation has been built. Sometimes, you really do need a madness to the method.

    The Montana Internet has a long memory, and is as insular as a web community can get. Those who have rejected that idea remain somewhat obscure. To all others, no one forgets what they see as ‘the truth’ about any person they think they know, and like a bad marriage, they will manipulate and coerce regarding other commenters and certainly based on their assumptions about the blogger. Those should be considered factors when considering a comment policy.

    • Thanks, Rob, for the insights. Figured out GYOB and was close on FW but did end up Googling it. Got an informative email from James Conner at Flathead Memo. He doesn’t take comments at his site anymore. It basically boiled down to a choice between spending time writing or spending time moderating, and he chose the former. I forwarded his email to Don and I’m sure Don will take a look at your comments, and the comments of others. Decisions will be made.

  • Pete, like Groucho Marx, I would never comment on a blog that wouldn’t ban me! For they have no class.
    Just kidding of course. I love the comment section. There is SO much collective wisdom out there that it’s incredible. I mean, just go to any lefty site like Huffpo, etc. The comments are the best part.
    And yes, I don’t like the personal attack comments. Geez, just put your stuff out there and let others enjoy it. For you see, we ALL come from different backgrounds and experiences. And I for one appreciate that. I mean, look at Rob. He lives down there in the Bitterroot country. Very, very different country from where I live. I like his input. And folks from all over Montana contribute. We get a lot of regional input that way. Rob in the Bitterroot, Norma in Dillion, me in GF, Bob in the Bitterroot too, and so on. We have Missoula folks too.
    Here’s my take on it. I really enjoy folks who bring their own unique experiences to the conversation. By way of example I would offer up one of my favorite books, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I maintain that NO ONE in America could have written such a book except Ken Kesey. Why? Well, he actually WORKED in a mental hospital in Oregon! We are ALL little Ken Kesey types bringing our own little unique perspectives and experiences to our comments. And I love that. Why do away with that? I would vote a hearty NO to any efforts to restrict comments. I mean, why? Why take someone’s voice away? As long as we’re talking, we’re not SHOOTING at each other!
    You see, I’ve been in the blogosphere probably longer than anyone else. I remember the early days. If was a free for all! And it was damn fun! The original Missoula blog had some of the best state writing I’ve ever seen. And it really hasn’t been matched since. And we all pretty much got along, and developed a sort of respect for each others’ opinions. And it was very informative. And did I mention FUN?!
    Hence, I am no fan of censorship. As long as it isn’t libel, nor threatening violence, what the hell, let’er rip!
    The inbred righties need to get smacked down now and then, and the best place to do that is on the blogs!
    Just my two cents. Keep the change! I think that Don understands perfectly well what I’m saying. There are very few places where folks can speak their minds without an editor hacking their stuff to shit. Let’s keep it that way!

    • Pete, can we agree to just BAN guys like Ken? For he has absolutely NO redeeming value for high school students today! That sounds like a great notion sometimes, no? People who are different kinds of TRVTH tellers are very, very scary people, for they just don’t fit in! NEVER give them a platform to spout absurd nonsense!……………..keep the world safe for the nurse ratchet’s of the world! Conformity does keep us safe!

  • Commenting has its place. As does the ability to screen, and shut down comments altogether. I know a blogger who had a non-gender-specific blog-handle who was outed as female after a spectacularly distinguished “career” in the blogosphere where “she” was well respected for her posts and considered a go-to read for a number of years. I don’t know why, but most people apparently considered that blogger to be a male entity and thus entitled all due respect. Once she was “outed” as a female, her blog became a cesspool of vile name-calling against her for almost a month. She shut the comments section down entirely due to the personal nature of the attacks, almost shut her most excellent blog down which would have been a serious loss to the blogosphere, and finally did come back online with a hired band of censors and a really different comments section.

    Many female bloggers have experienced this. The level of vicious personal attacks is frightening in its intensity and singlemindedness. That is why most female bloggers do so anonymously, or have severely limited and censored comments policies. It also explains why there is a serious dearth of really good blogs from the distaff side of the spectrum. Most women don’t have the resources to withstand the attacks, or to staff up a crew to read and approve all the comments of a popular blog before publishing. So after all the attacks, the blog disappears, I guess that is the desired aim of these attackers – silence the voices of the bloggers.

    So as to the question of whether Mr. Pogreba should keep or dump his comments section? I have only been a reader of this blog for about a year now, but I haven’t seen anywhere near the volume of responses to any one post that would lead me to believe that it can’t be managed by him or the various guest posters who write here – even, thankfully the women. So until it reaches the level I described above, I say let ‘er rip. The ignorant idiots just let us see them for what they are, and the more intelligent among us can easily learn to skip their rantings for what they are.

    • Mr. Pogreba? That makes me feel quite important. 🙂

      I think you’re right that the volume of comments is hardly problematic. My questions is, though, do some comments discourage others from participating? Should there be real moderation of comments to perhaps encourage more people to discuss the posts or is that unlikely to change anything?

      Thanks for the perspective.

      • Really? Seriously? Someone was discouraged from posting here? Who? I guess I’m missing just who is the target audience that should be the only ones allowed to post. My suggestion? Don’t go there? Hell, half the literature you teach would offend SOME of the elite fern bar crowd clamoring for moderation of the comment section! Other countries around the world with vigorous debates in the bars and on street corners, etc. would laugh like hell at the notion that comments should be moderated. Of course, craigy the moor will LUV the fact that comments will be moderated, for that means he has won! Once you start to self-censor, the rightwing gains another victory! Seen it happen all the time, and it’s just real sad. Self-censorship is what they subtlety and insidiously strive for, for if they can silence their harshest critics, they win by default!
        And really, do you REALLY want just the conformity nerds posting here?? Yuck!

  • I agree with lokywoky on this. One of the biggest reasons we don’t see women write more is because there are men who will never let a women speak. No matter her degree, or Life experience without hecklers

    I attribute a lot of it religious doctrine, and the belief they still live in a patriarchal society. Obviously it is not true anymore.

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