Friday, 31 October 2003

Comments, partisanship, and blog tolerability

Robert Garcia Tagorda (Boomshock), in response to Matthew Yglesias, tries to figure out why he prefers InstaPundit to Atrios, in comparison to Matt’s stated reason why he prefers Atrios to Glenn Reynolds (InstaPundit):

Quoth Matthew (via Robert):

Now Josh [Chafetz] is right, Atrios isn’t exactly your source for civil discourse. On the other hand, neither is InstaPundit which Josh doesn’t seem to mind so much and which earns a permalink on his sidebar. Let me suggest that the problem Josh has with Atrios has less to do with civility than with the fact that they disagree regarding the main subjects of Josh’s interests. Personally, I like Atrios a great deal, though he’s uncivil, and I like InstaPundit a little, too, though he’s also uncivil. The secret here is that I agree with Atrios about most things, and I agree with Glenn Reynolds about a few things.

Robert argues there’s another reason:

But Matt overlooks one thing: partisanship. Atrios and Glenn both have biases, but the former’s confrontational style comes under the Democratic banner. ...

Partisanship gives things a different twist. It exacerbates ideological biases, because it introduces an element of “us-versus-them.” It’s much harder to debate somebody who fights not simply for a set of principles and ideas but also for a particular team. Partisanship, in and of itself, is not necessarily reprehensible. However, when you fuse it with an in-your-face attitude, as Atrios does, the entire package becomes very hard to consume.

I think there’s a third reason: Glenn doesn’t have comments. A lot of people seem to like comment sections on blogs—and sometimes they do add some value. But if you go to a site like Atrios, CalPundit, Balloon Juice, or LGF, you’ll find that the comments are generally filled with two groups: the trolls and the “amen corner.” And I think comment sections are just naturally polarizing that way; I’ve caught myself trolling at times, even though generally speaking I’m not a huge fan of trolls. Occasionally a comment thread does add a lot of value—indeed, if it weren’t for that occasional value, I’d probably never bother reading the comments at some of these sites (well, CalPundit and Balloon Juice; I don’t read either Atrios or LGF), and I’d probably enjoy the experience of reading them more on balance.

Now, I realize I probably open myself up to a charge of hypocrisy here; after all, I often post in other peoples’ comment sections. 95% of the time, it’s because I just don’t feel like what I have to say is worth a proper post here at SN, or you’d need the context of the original comment thread to understand it anyway.

All this, I suppose, is a long-winded way of saying “don’t expect a comments section here anytime soon.” But, if you have posted something relevant to something I’ve said, feel free to use the TrackBack feature to let SN’s readers—and me—know. If you don’t use a TrackBack-capable blogging tool, you can use the linked manual trackback form; thanks to Kevin of Wizbang for that.

Glenn Reynolds weighs in.