Bloggers and Real Life

Wizbang’s Paul has hung it up, I think for good this time, saying “It just ain’t fun anymore.” The last straw was a recent flamewar he got into with Ace but he’s been tired of the trevails of blogging for quite some time. Coincidentally, his colleague, Jay Tea, is taking a hiatus having just helped a friend get through his father’s dying days.

Although I’ve been at it hard for almost exactly three and a half years now (that milestone will hit officially Monday), I’ve managed to avoid the “blogger burnout” that seems to afflict most bloggers. Sure, it’s a ton of work and there are days when I feel like obligated to simply crank out content just to get something up, those days are still, fortunately, rare. I’m still a news junkie and sufficiently curious about the world around me that I’m seldom long without something of interest to opine about.

My least favorite part of the “blog job,” though, is the incivility in comment threads and the occasional cross-blog flamewar. While OTB’s comment threads are quite civil compared to most blogs of comparable traffic, there are a handful of regulars who forget the number one rule of our site policies: “Remember that the people under discussion are human beings.” The follow-on — “Comments that contain personal attacks about the post author or other commenters will be deleted. Repeated violators will be banned. Challenge the ideas of those with whom you disagree, not their patriotism, decency, or integrity.” — is something that I’ve largely refrained from enforcing, since it’s a lot of work and I hate to alienate regular visitors.

That’ll likely change, though, as four or five regular visitors–almost evenly divided ideologically, by the way–who are driving down the tone of the discussion. I think I’m better off making a few folks mad than have the comments section be an unfriendly place.

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. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Herb says:


    I am just curious. Are you saying that there will be censorship coming down the line ?

  2. DavidV says:

    Just remember that by “making a few folks mad” you’re also making the majority of your readers and commenters much happier. While the censorship of opposing viewpoints in the comments that exists on some blogs is offensive, mandating civility on your cyber-property is more than reasonable. In fact, in any other context, it would be quite unremarkable.

    It’s also good sense. While I tend to agree with the folks at LGF, for example, I rarely visit there because of the level of vitriol in many comment threads. On the other hand, the relatively civil discussion in OTB comment threads is one of the reasons why I regularly read and occasionally comment here.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Herb: Not at all. The government will be making no decisions on this blog. The ownership, however, will step up efforts at ensuring civil discussion.

  4. Arttu says:

    I agree with you, there has to be some policy in every discussion. Taking it to the ad hominem level helps no-one; everyone who has tried to discuss with people who can’t be sensible and keep it on the right level knows it’s… well, nothing fun.

    But then, too strict a policy might lead to not accepting eg thought-provoking irony/sarcasm that would spice up the conversation. There’s a difference between witty humor and hatred, though.

    P.S. This has nothing to do with anything, but sometimes I’m wondering if anyone actually clicks those social bookmarking/Web2.0 service links… or then it’s just me 🙂

  5. Bill says:

    I think the best solution to avoid blogger burnout are vacations. Either get someone to guest blog for you about three weeks a year, or just take the weeks off. You get vacations from work. You need vacations from blogging.

    Maybe blogging only on weekdays is a good idea, too.

  6. I think people have different levels of tolerance for “incivility,” but I hope your tolerance is rather high. Comment threads with a touch of vitriol are always more entertaining than dry, academic debates.

    If you go banning people who enliven the discussion with a bit of meanness, be careful not to let comment threads get boring. And don’t forget about the chilling effect, where other commenters with more-or-less legitimate comments may fear running afoul of the policy and so don’t post.

    Also, if one of my comments gets deleted at a blog, I never read it again. I’m sure I’m not alone in that policy.

  7. Veritas Regina says:

    I agree with David V. One can only take in so much vile behavior before it gets to be stressful, especially if we are reading multiple blog/comments every day. Why does every commenting section have to be ruled and marked as “their territory” by the angry young men contingent? Their behavior seems to me to be like public urination.
    How about responding to the trashy commenters with a standard issue “Comments denied. Please review site’s policies, revise your comments, and resubmit. Thank you”? We will know if a blog has been politically sanitized or if it is merely trying to keep it clean and open to everyone.

  8. DavidV says:

    One thing I remembering liking – I think it was at Ann Althouse – was a notation in the comments section itself if a comment was deleted. I think that makes the blog owner think twice before deleting, while readers are able to see how much commentary is being removed.

  9. don surber says:

    Attack the post, not the poster

  10. Bill Quick says:

    James, I’m coming up on my fifth blogging anniversary, and I started out with the idea that pretty much anything beyond out and out insult would be okay in my comments.

    I’ve slowly changed, and I now ruthlessly enforce my own idiosyncratic code of conduct in comments. Sure, I make a few people mad, usually people whose opinions I don’t give a damn about anyway. But on the whole, I enjoy my blog – and so, I think, do my readers – a lot more when neither of us have to wade through assorted species of crap in order to find the good stuff.

    I enjoy blogging, and I’m not going to let a few losers destroy my pleasure it it.

  11. Dodd says:

    The burnout hit me after the 2004 election. I poked along out of a sense that I kinda had to for several more months, but when I did finally pull the trigger on my site after 4 1/2 years I didn’t miss it nearly as much as I thought I would.

  12. Jim Treacher says:

    Also, if one of my comments gets deleted at a blog, I never read it again.

    I wonder how they deal with the sense of loss.

  13. Steve Verdon says:

    So Paul has thrown in the towel…I couldn’t care less. One less scientifically ignorant blogger out there.

  14. Anderson says:

    Comments that contain personal attacks about the post author or other commenters will be deleted.

    Thanks for the reminder; I suspect I’ve violated this rule myself lately, though I suppose I could fall back on the “but he did it first!” argument that’s been working so well for Israel lately … on second thought, maybe not.

  15. Steve White says:

    I’m a moderator at Rantburg. We enforce a code in our comments and while we’ve lost a few regulars we rather liked, in the end it’s helped to preserve what we are (a news gathering blog on the WoT).

    I frequent some sites, left and right, that apparently have no code of conduct at all for their comments. You wonder, after a while, what all the angriest, vilest commenters do in their day jobs. Has to be something.

    My humble suggestion: make clear what the code of conduct for comments is and enforce it. If you’re getting enough site visits and comments such that it’s more work than one person can do, bring in a second person. That’s what we did at Rantburg, and at least there, it’s worked.

    Good luck.

  16. Doug Karr says:

    A blog entry should be the ignition to start a conversation. If you merely wish to sway people in your opinion, I can see getting burned out. However, if you’re truly interested in people’s reactions to your thoughts, I’m not sure that you will ever burnout.


  17. Rob says:

    Another solution to burnout: No comments. My blog is what you would call low-traffic, which is fine by me. But then i don’t have to deal with fanatical net people who love to argue and insult and spew vile filth.