Blog Commenter Credibility

Ryan Grim contends that, “Blogs can often be judged by the quality of their commenters, the little people who make the blogosphere work by scouring documents, pushing a position or incoherently tearing someone apart in all caps and awful spelling and grammar.”

While it’s true that there are popular blogs that I won’t read because the comments are a cesspool, is it really fair to judge blogs based on their comment sections? And is it really true that some substantial number of people read blogs based on the quality of their commenters?

There are some top notch blogs out there (Kevin Drum‘s comes to mind) which have obnoxious commenters despite the post author(s) being quite civil. Some bloggers have simply decided to make their comments sections be free-for-alls for whatever reason, whether philosophical (free speech!), logistical (policing comments can be quite time consuming), or monetary (flame wars mean return visits).

Many top blogs have eliminated commenting altogether and others allow comments only from registered users. I’ve chosen a middle path, banning a handful of the craziest commenters and the most vicious personal attacks but otherwise letting things ride. As a result, I think, OTB has one of the more reasonable comments sections among high traffic, non-specialty blogs.

But there’s always the possibility of addition by subtraction: Should I spend more time policing comments? Move to a registration-only system?

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Uncategorized, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    Please don’t go to the registration system. I make it a rule not to comment on any blog that requires registration. It’s bad enough the ones that have the authentication code to deter spammers.

  2. Perhaps I am lazy, but whenever I have to work to leave a comment, I tend to simply not leave one. I rarely have something I want to say badly enough to go through the trouble of registering in the first place (although, granted, I am already registered here…).

    Plus, what stops a registered users from being obnoxious? It seems to me that all it does is decrease the number of comments.

    Captchas are annoying enough, so I am not in favor of registration in general.

  3. Wyatt Earp says:

    I agree with the previous two comments. It is surely acceptable to ban someone who is constantly spouting drivel and attacking other commenters, but a registration system is an overreaction.

    And I agree with you: judging a blog by its comments is inherently unfair. I try to let people speak their mind, and despite being an English minor in college, I do not take off points for spelling or punctuation.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    The way things are here now is great, James. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  5. Triumph says:

    But there’s always the possibility of addition by subtraction: Should I spend more time policing comments? Move to a registration-only system?

    Yes. Superfluous commenting must be stopped immediately.

  6. RJN says:

    Leave things as they are.

  7. I believe you are making the best of a difficult situation. Any attempt to moderate will be met with howls of censorship, no matter how unfounded such complaints may be. Comments do allow for interesting discussion, followup, humor and pedantry from time to time, so I’m in favor of them.

    When the tools evolve so any reader can automatically filter out selected commenters, e.g., those suffering from advanced BDS, that will add to my enjoyment and the utility and efficiency of the comment sections.

  8. G.A.Phillips says:

    If you want to stop calling people donkey in one form or another just say so, but it will be hard to give up using the term monkeyworshiper.

  9. just me says:

    I think some blogs tend to draw more kooks and trolls than other blogs. There are some blogs I may read original posts, but don’t participate or read the comments, because I don’t like the tone of the comments.

    I don’t care for required registrations though-if a blog requires registration, I usually take a pass on making comments.

  10. Tano says:

    It aint broke….