Whinging in Comments

“Your roof, your rules” –George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones

Lambert here: I’m writing this so Yves doesn’t have to. Because we all want Yves writing two or three McKinsey-quality posts each night, and not wasting her time doing administrivia, right?

Barry Ritholz at Big Picture has what Yves considers to be the gold standard for commenting policy. It reads in relevant part:

[F]ast tracks to getting banned:

  • Knowingly posting false or malicious material;
  • multiple postings under different names;
  • generally engaging in troll-like behavior;
  • misquoting your host/overlord;
  • being impolite in the extreme;
  • using fake/mislabelled URLs;
  • ad hominem attacks;
  • being an asshole.

Now, let me state right off that the NC commentariat, 99.9% of the time, shines brightly; the informed and robust debate to be found here is one of the jewels of the web, and in particular the econoblogosphere. And 99.9% of the comments from the NC commentariat don’t fall under any of Ritholz’s bullet points. And you, readers, have managed to achieve that even with a very open comments section. By contrast Ritholtz moderates all the comments on his site and only those ones he has approved appear.


I wish to draw your attention to Ritholz’s final bullet point, which some of you may know as Rule #1 (“Don’t be an asshole”). Here are some sure-fire ways to violate Rule #1 and get banned, should you wish to make that choice:

1. Mention, in comments, that your comment is in moderation or has otherwise not appeared;

2. Complain, in comments, that your comment is in moderation or has otherwise not appeared;

3. Email the admins to mention or complain that your comment is in moderation or has otherwise not appeared;

4. Conflate moderation or spam-detection with “censorship” (ZOMG!!!!) despite repeated reminders that these processes are impersonal;

5. Comment, in comments, on commenting, moderation, “censorship” (ZOMG!!!!) or indeed go meta on commenting at all.

Why are these Rule #1 violations?

1. Such whinging clutters the threads with material that in no way contributes to informed and robust debate.

2. Such whinging doesn’t tell the admins anything they don’t already know, since the admins periodically check the queues for comments and approve the comments that should be approved.

3. Such whinging assumes that the admins are “on call” to manage the comment threads in near-real time all the time. However:

a) There is no funding for, and have been no contributions dedicated toward, the full-time administrator such a level of service would require, despite repeated entreaties and

b) surely, in any case, it would be better to fund writing by Yves (or David Dayen (or lambert)) rather than site administration.

4. Such whinging assumes that the admins do not already know that the reader experience with comments is imperfect.

5. Such whinging assumes that scarce time and scarce money have not been spent in order to try to solve the problems that readers experience.

Finally, Yves’s time is Naked Capitalism’s most important resource by several orders of magnitude. No Yves, no Naked Capitalism. Burned out Yves, Naked Capitalism in ashes. If a single Rule #1 violation causes Yves even 15 minutes of stress (and they have!), that is 15 minutes too many. And the vast majority of Rule #1 violations lately have been about comments and moderation.

So, if you want to get banned, whinge in comments about comments. Yves’s roof, Yves’s rules.

NOTE Here is a fine discussion of what it means to be an asshole and how to spot them in the wild.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.