Announcing Site Policy Change on Comments

A bit over two months ago, with considerable regret, we announced that we were shutting down comments on most posts because it had become too costly from an administrative standpoint. Lambert and I were spending so much time on the moderation queue that it was coming at the expense of researching and writing new posts. One of the things that was particularly distressing was that we had had an influx of new readers, which would normally be a plus, but many of them were insistent that as a presumed left-leaning site, that we were obligated to promote, or at least not attack, institutions, individuals, and policies that they deemed to be aligned with their vision of correct thought and action. In other words, they wanted us to wear their team jersey and were determined to reeducate us and the readership.

Whether it is because these proselytizers have realized we are incorrigible and have moved on to more vulnerable targets, or that our curtailing comments helped the commentariat understand how much thoughtless, intellectually lazy and hostile comments took out of us in terms of time and energy, we’ve seen a huge drop in the sort of comments that had been plaguing us. And all the writers, including guest authors, like reader interaction, even when the comments are critical. The feedback helps, indeed forces all of us to stay on our marks, as well as providing additional insight and information for the benefit of all.

We are thus provisionally restoring comment privileges on all posts. We have also updated our comments policy (see our Policies tab in the header bar). I urge you all to read it. Please bear in mind that this new statement does not represent a change in our comments policies but is a more explicit description of what our policies have always been.

We’d really like to go back to status quo ante and hope that the difficulties we were having were just a rough patch, as opposed to a sign of the general decline in discourse on the Web. We hope our comments section will again be an outlier, in the best sense, by serving as a venue for articulate and informed debate.

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45 comments

    1. Benedict@Large

      Fingers crossed. :-)

      And here’s hoping everything doesn’t degrade now that we are all absolutely, totally, completely sure that our personal favorite candidate will most surely save the world.

  1. Eric Patton

    I fully support every decision you and Lambert have taken so far (regarding comments). I hope this works out, but if for whatever reason it does not, I’m reasonably certain I’ll still support you anyway.

    The comments really improve the site. But, of course, it would prove difficult for you to run the site from your grave. So do what you need to do to get enough sleep. ;)

  2. John Zelnicker

    Glad to hear that the problem commenters seem to have gone elsewhere. While I always enjoy the comment sections (and almost always learn from them), I didn’t really miss having them on some posts since there was plenty of opportunity to comment on other posts. In fact, it saved me a bit of time that I could devote to reading the main posts and avoid falling behind as I so often do.

    But, it is good that you feel you can re-open the comments on all posts. Of the 4 or 5 websites where I regularly look at comments, NC has, by far, the highest level of intelligent discourse (even when it’s not).

    Keep on truckin’!

  3. JustAnObserver

    Very interesting insight into the why. A troll-wave of – presumably – Dembots ?Even though the efforts of Yves & Lambert spared the rest of us from this it would be really interesting to see, or get some insight into, the contents of this flood.

    Maybe Lambert could do one of his wonderful linguistic/rhetorical analyses (aka takedonws) on some of the more typical or perhaps egregious ones … anonymized of course … no naming & shaming here, perish the thought … unless its the PE shill class.

  4. susan the other

    Thank you guys. I was just thinking how much I love the comments. When I first started making my comments I did so by holding my nose and jumping in. Not that the comments section was bad. Just the opposite – they were way, way intellectual. Economists made arcane arguments, and long-winded ones. I was intimidated. But I had so many questions that were too impatient for pontification and super intellectual discussion that I just went ahead and said what I thought. I thought I would be ostracized, ridiculed and shown the door. But instead I found a place that took what I said, no matter how inarticulate, and allowed me to say more.

    1. Lambert Strether

      I just want to call attention to this: ” I found a place that took what I said, no matter how inarticulate, and allowed me to say more.”

      This, ideally, is an important function of the blogosphere. So one can see why entities like Facebook would (a) monetize it and (b) destroy any ability to create a collective memory.

    2. craazyman

      Evidently by allowing you to post your comments here somebody is maximizing their utility.

      This is an example of a non-financial utility transfer function. It represents the utility boundary of a 2-dimensional two-factor microeconomic agent differentiable continuous rational self-interest field.

      Professor Ed Bucks up at MIT was studying these before he had a nervous breakdown and ended up sitting in a tree all day watching deer through binoculars. Maybe some other economists will have better luck. If not, there’s lots of other trees in the woods!

  5. phichibe

    As much as I enjoy(ed) the NC commentators, I hope the opportunity cost of resuming open comments is not allowed to get too high. Yves described being frazzled to the point of exhaustion (a certainty) and excessive acerbity (an impossibility) and I think her writing longer pieces is way more valuable than shepherding a bunch of errant readers’ opinions.

    There are only a few critical folks who’ve been in the Belly-of-the-Beast and come out to join the resistance to its predations. We need use them to the best end, and for me it’s the long-form pieces, with occasional apercus concerning Talleyrand. Her takedown of private-equity (itself a dishonest euphemism for the old LBO crowd) was exactly what I’m talking about. I don’t know :Lambert’s background but assuming he’s also a refugee from the ‘rape and pillage’ world, he too shouldn’t be tasked with supervising a playground.

    Thanks for everying on NC….

    p

  6. PlutoniumKun

    Great to have it back.

    I find it really interesting that the problem seemed to be from the left – the only other site I regularly read through comments is the Guardian, and it is plagued with trolls from the right, it hadn’t occurred to me that there was such a thing as systematic trolling from the progressive side. Although there is certainly a lot of twitter mobbing from certain specific parts of the left – particularly feminist and anti-racist campaigners. But as time goes by I’m becoming more and more cynical about the manner in which a certain type of ‘liberal’ is happy to use social liberalism as a cover to support their pro-rich policies.

    But its good you guys are standing up to it – among the many reasons I love this site is that it isn’t afraid to slay a few beloved tropes of the left and to recognise that there is a much bigger picture than narrow sectional ‘isms’ in trying to create a more equal world.

  7. ambrit

    The ‘noise to signal’ ratio has come back into balance? Great!
    I wouldn’t be surprised if NC had to reinstate the more restrictive policy as the national election comes closer. I can envision a wave of newly hired Partisan Internet Trolls, (PIT’s) being unleashed upon the blogosphere as part of the election “process.” Don’t feel shy about imposing more draconian policies when needed. We’ll cope.

  8. abynormal

    aby(who nu)normal
    September 8, 2015 on Links at 9:07 am
    Thank You Yves & Lambert for continuing NC comment section(s)…a Positive Heavyweight for a hard and wired world.

    “Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” ~Voltaire would have Loved NC ‘)

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Thank you

    Each time I post, here I am grateful to Yves and Lambert for having this great website.

  10. RUKidding

    Whatever works is fine with me, but I hope things run more smoothly for all concerned. Thanks for the update and for your most excellent work.

  11. jgordon

    I like the comments. It’s always good to have different perspectives, even if they aren’t agreeable. I’m sad that I couldn’t see many of the comments from the koolaid drinkers though. Those are always the most fun to respond to. Perhaps you could allow a few representative comments through?

  12. mitzimuffin

    I may not comment often, but I do read the comments regularly. It’s like being in a master class!

    I do worry about Yves and Lambert. They do yeoman’s work, and I want them to remain well. So two do what you must to maintain yourselves, so we selfish lurkers can continue to learn, and refine our analytical skills. Thanks for all your work.

  13. Brooklin Bridge

    Thanks so much! I find Susan The Other’s and Lambert’s response insightful. also, the NC comments section is special, it can be truly helpful after reading a post.

    Comments still don’t warrant anyone from NC going nuts with exhaustion and frustration . Of course to do what you guys manage to every morning at such an ungodly hour, you have to be a little nuts to start out with – so it’s understandable that adding more nuts to that could get messy..

    A nifty day!

  14. Faye Carr

    Lessons learned. And more interesting now we have the back story. Esp with ya know, 2016 and all…

    Heck, I would be happy with just a up or down arrow to support or not – commentators posts.

    Even for my own rambly food production comments.

  15. Laughingsong

    Thank you, for that and for all of your hard work and attention on this blog. I would be lost without it. I will support any decision you make regarding policy in general and comments in particular, but I find the comments almost, almost as helpful as the posts. And if I ever inadvertently posted something that made you question the sanity of allowing comments, I humbly and abjectly apologize! I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, sometimes downright eye-rolling. I will happily just lurk.

  16. fritter

    The comments have been quite good in the past speaking as an avid (daily) reader who rarely pipes up because my views are either already generally expressed or enlightened by other posters. I do suspect it will be harder to maintain until after the election due to incorrigible s on all sides. Glad you guys are giving it another shot though. Just don’t let it get you down if they come back.
    There are people who will troll the comments like it’s their only job until the oligarchy agrees on a new set of speakers. There are few places where “liberal” thought can be expressed outside approved DLC sound bites especially during election season. Places like Naked Capitalism and FireDogLake (sigh) remind us even if the world is mad, repressive mental servitude to one orthodoxy or another doesn’t have to be the answer.

  17. Oregoncharles

    Thanks for trying again. Let’s hope it goes better, but the first priority is still keeping yourselves and the site functional – or better.

  18. allan

    Thank you. Keep up your great work, which makes this one of the best sources there is, in print or online, for economic, policy and political information and analysis.

  19. Ray Phenicie

    I must have missed the fray because I have not seen any examples of offensive behavior listed in the references above. Having said that, I am glad the comments are open again.

  20. mad as hell.

    Now that’s what I’m talking about!

    There is not a site that i have seen in the last 10 years that does not have more current interesting “stuff” than the posts and comments in your NC..

    The comments are the key because they are so damn insightful.Especially when I’m not sure what the hell someone is talking about. I have said this before, I have sometimes spent an hour or more reading the articles and comments. Glad you can go back to your old insightful ways. I was getting kind of nervous.

  21. JCC

    Thanks, I often feel I learn as much from the comments and occasional links therein as I do from the blog postings themselves.

    On the other hand, you just restored/added another 30 to 60 minutes of time I spend here :)

  22. Carlos

    I just want to be sure that strongly held differences of opinion are supported, even if against the editorial consensus. Are extremes of the left wing out? or is it just puerile trolling that is a pain?

    I admit for a long time I had a hard time buying the editorial stance on a Grexit. Through sometimes painful discussion, I eventually came to understand and appreciate the sites viewpoint on the topic. It has improved my perspective.

    If I was denied access to robust (but reasonable) argument, I would not wish to comment, I would visit (and subscribe) less. I’m just not a group think kind of person. I think it is beneficial to everyone for the editorial viewpoint to be challenged (within reason) when different perspectives exists.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      To clarify: we don’t mind people who disagree with our viewpoint. But what happens on heated topics is that some (and in the case of Greece, it was many) of those who objected argued in bad faith. They’d make ad hominem attacks, engage in broken record, straw man what we said, and too often get nasty about it too.

  23. gerold k.b. weber

    Good to have the fine part of the naked capitalism commentariat back. Let’s hope the others behave better in the future and follow the comment policy, and specifically avoid ad hominem attacks.

  24. lostinamerica

    Thank you Yves and Lambert !

    Reading nc posts has always been first and foremost, but I do enjoy the comments.

    And should dynamics change again, I will understand if your policy changes.

    The election year’s almost here, so we can expect the political/economic trolls to come a trolling.

    Reply ↓

  25. Norb

    The value that I find in the NC comments section is that it is one of the few forums that demonstrates how a democratic society should function. The idea that a writer or speaker stands up in public to express their ideas and then defends and explains those views brings true value to both individuals and society overall.

    One hopeful sign I see is that bad faith arguments are loosing influence and power. The real work we all must do every day is to combat the forces in our society that operate in bad faith to promote their agenda.

    We are in a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism.

    Yves, Thanks for all your work.

  26. Jack King

    I went to your “policies” section to check out the rules on commenting. My guess is that since I often disagree with the poster that I have fallen into the category of “troll”. I would think that offering another side to an issue would be welcome since it may broaden the discussion and bring out facts that may not have been considered. Having said that, this is, of course, a private blog which has a perfect right to establish its own “rules of the road”. One of your rules, however, that is not enforced is that those who respond to comments should be respectful to others and not use “salty” language in attacking other’s comments. I have continually come under attack. I really don’t mind since when someone uses insults instead of logic, I know I’ve won the argument. I only mention it because that is clearly one “rule” that is not being enforced.

    By the way….you mention “paid troll”. I would love to know how I could become one.

  27. knowbuddhau

    Hurrah! I originally came here because of mentions by Pepe Escobar, one of the very few journalists I rely on. I stayed for the comments. I don’t know squat about economics, and even less about finance. I have no idea how to evaluate articles on my own and thus rely heavily on the discourse in the comments. Dawns on me now that just as I find it unfathomable that people can get through 4 or 6 or even 8 years of college and have no understanding of psychology or its elder sib, mythology, there must be others who feel the same about econ and finance.

    I especially appreciate the comments of guest authors. Articles from the likes of Michael Hudson are great; responses in the comments, and a little of the ol’ back-and-forth with our most gracious hosts, make me feel like I’m back in grad school.

    And honestly, I even like the typos and whatnot. Very humanizing. Who was it who said something like, perfection is unlovable, it’s our faults that make us unique and endearing to others? IOW, thanks for keeping it real. :)

  28. Gio Bruno

    I enjoy reading thoughtful, prepared, cogent, interesting ideas in the Comments.
    I’ll try harder to meet the standard.

    Yves and Lambert are the Best!

  29. participant-observer-observed

    Hooray! Hope we can effectively police ourselves.

    NC has the best comments of any blog. If people stick to econogeek and save rambling for the links page or another blog it will preserve quality.

  30. Jeff

    This is great news! The exchanges in the NC comment section have taught me a great deal, and I was really sad to see them go. Thanks for bringing them back!

  31. RBHoughton

    Glad you have done that Yves. My suspicious mind feared the PTB were leaning on you as appears to have happened to the UK newspaper Guardian.

    For my part I will do my best to be brief and focused in my comments. Thanks.

Comments are closed.