We regret to inform readers that we will be shutting down comment on most posts. We are far from the only site to be forced to make this change.
The purpose of Naked Capitalism above all is to foster critical thinking. For the overwhelming majority of this site’s history, we have been fortunate to have an articulate and engaged readership that gave high value added commentary and provided us and other readers with new ideas, informed critiques, and (sadly) corrections of our too-numerous typos.
That is no longer the case. The comments section has now become negative value added, to the point that Lambert and I are devoting disproportionate time to the moderation queue. The result is that I am ruining my health as well as neglecting original reporting. I am now regularly up all night until 8:00 AM and even as late as 1:00 PM waging a losing war to keep the quality of the comments section at its historical level. I am spending well over an hour a day on the moderation queue alone. As a result, I do not have time to read the rest of the site, much less comments on Links (which is an important source of reader feedback, particularly on breaking news) and many of the comments on other posts.
We’ve been inundated by new readers, which would normally be gratifying. However, the overwhelming majority of newbies seem to regard Naked Capitalism as a chat board and appear not to have read our Policies section. Even with the generous assistance over the years by many long-standing commentors in helping us in this effort, it’s costing us too much in scarce site resources to manage this influx, particularly since many of these newbies seem to regard commenting as a right, and not a privilege.
This misallocation of resources has gone so far that Lambert and I have had to involve occasional writers on this site in the effort to restore the comments section to its former level. But it may be that we need to accept that the Internet has changed and we were lucky to hold out as long as we did.
One of the things that has been most distressing is the apparent distaste of many of the newbies for nuanced, non-binary, information dense argument, which is this site’s calling card. Readers: if you don’t like what we write, it’s a big Internet. We suggest you read other sites rather than demand that we force-fit our material into your frame in the comments section.
Moreover, we have repeatedly stressed the importance of rigorous thinking and expression. But instead, we’ve seen a rise in fallacious forms of argumentation, like ad hominem attacks and broken record (repeating an argument after it has been refuted). Worse, readers persist in and defend these strategies even after we call them out. As Popular Science wrote when it shut down its comment section in 2013:
Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought…
If you carry out those results to their logical end–commenters shape public opinion; public opinion shapes public policy; public policy shapes how and whether and what research gets funded–you start to see why we feel compelled to hit the “off” switch.
Both Lambert and I like a good fight. At the same time, we’d always like to be kind. I was looking at some of my old comments from 2008, and I was shocked at how much my tone had changed. Some of it is now that the stakes are much higher now than they are then, some of it is that there are simply more people reading more broadly on the Internet than in the past, but some of it is that I am tired and frayed and with some readers, anything less than a sharp rebuke seems not to register. As a result, we as administators need to rebalance the blog to get back to reading and responding to fewer comments of much higher quality, and in a way that doesn’t overwhelm us as chronically time-stressed and occasionally snappish people. This policy change is intended to achieve that goal. And we believe that can happen. We earlier expressed our disappointment at how few readers were commenting on our wonkier finance posts, since they are often important from a policy perspective. We’ve seen a marked increase in the number of informative and inquisitive remarks on them.
We feel particularly strongly about the quality of the comments section precisely because our site has a significant following among policymakers, particularly financial regulators, journalists, and Congressional staffers. Having the site’s comments skew increasingly to noise as opposed to signal is not helpful in coming to better policy decisions.
We will continue to allow comments on Links, Water Cooler, original reporting, and media appearances by site writers. However, we are going to be strict about conversations on those posts. They are not an alternate venue for offering your views on posts where comments are closed. If you do that once, you get a warning and go into moderation. If you do it a second time, you will be banned. That includes not using today’s Links or Water Cooler to discuss this change.
I am deeply saddened to have to take this step. But the alternative is that I break down physically and there is no site at all.