You Can Turn Off Comments, But You Can't Turn Off Discussions

I saw this on today:


Popular Science has decided to turn off comments. They aren’t the first and they won’t be the last.

As Adrian says in the usv comments:

Let’s face it – dropping comments on PopSci isn’t going to stifle societal debate. There are more than enough places online to debate the impacts of science.

There are so many places on the web to talk about stuff. There are the blog communities, like AVC and many others, and there are the link sharing communities like Reddit, Hacker News, and

The web (and increasibly mobile) is a great place to talk about stuff that matters to you. It always has been and it always will be. Some publishers will foster those conversations on their own domains. Some will let the conversations happen elsewhere. I am not particularly concerned about who does what.

I am concerned that we keep talking and I am not the least bit worried that we will continue to do that.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Anthony Serina

    So many websites where the comments section are beyond horrible. Probably more bad then good. USV type community is rare and hard to come by. That’s why it is the best.

    1. William Mougayar

      Yup. Anil Dash once wrote – you get the community you deserve. It starts with the blogger and participants. Community members emulate each other.If you walk into a food fight, you will probably partake in it. But if you walked into a civilized bar, you will enjoy a fine glass of your favorite drink and have a fine conversation.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        “You get the community you deserve” – if you’re lacking an audience, this doesn’t work as being valid, however if you have an audience – then how you manage and lead this community will certainly lead to who you attract to stay around, or who will not bother.Example wise, a site that just publishes a bunch of content with no one participating in the comments afterward who really cares or wants to engage, will lead to lower quality comments. A blog where there’s one author has the highest chance of there being someone who will engage and in a thoughtful way.

    2. fredwilson

      Actually there are tens of thousands of great blog communities out there which are a lot like AVCThey are hard to find and not many of them are talking about what we talk about here

      1. JimHirshfield

        Agreed. Disqus is working on better ways for folks to discover vibrant communities around a particular interest. They’re out there.

        1. Jim Peterson

          Have you made a directory categorized by interest?

          1. JimHirshfield

            Check out the bubbles on our homepage for a teaser.

          2. William Mougayar

            you want to punish Jim today?

          3. JimHirshfield

            How so?

          4. Matt A. Myers

            I’ve never been able to figure out the bubbles myself.

          5. JimHirshfield

            It’s a showcase using an engaging UI. It’s not a product.

          6. JamesHRH

            The bubbles are a missed opportunity.

          7. JimHirshfield

            Bubble are always fleeting.

          8. William Mougayar

            I could never get engaged with those bubbles. If your engagement numbers are good there, I will bite my tongue or eat crow.

          9. JimHirshfield

            It’s a showcase using an engaging UI. It’s not a product.It’s not about the volume of engagement.

        2. William Mougayar

          “Disqus is working on better ways for folks to discover vibrant communities around a particular interest.” When?

          1. JimHirshfield


          2. William Mougayar

            Looking forward to seeing it.

        3. awaldstein

          I keep hearing that there are scads of dynamic blog communities out there. I know there are very few that are frequented by the regulars here as showed us that.Can you/Disqus please publish a list of the top blogs with engagement at maybe 50% the dynamics of avc across 10 segments?Define engagement as some metric–3x weekly, 75 comments avg, 20-40K lurkers avg.Guest post here would be great format for this.You have the data, why not share it? The sites certainly will like it.

          1. JimHirshfield

            – See the bubbles. yeah, I know, you don’t like this showcase. But the data behind it is adjacent to what you’re looking for.- See our Community Blog which features vibrant communities.- Use your friendly search engine to look for recent posts that include the text “powered by disqus”Yes, we have the data and we’re working on something. But we’re also working on lots of other cool and necessary things. So I understand why you feel a little frustrated.

          2. awaldstein

            Not at all frustrated Jim.When statements are made by Disqus that there are many communities like this (which I believe there may be), simply give us links not bubbles!

      2. Matt Zagaja

        I agree. I have found many online sites and communities engaged in the fitness space, music, restaurants, alcohol and spirits, and cooking. The only “downside” is that many of them are aimed at women and therefore I generally do not feel comfortable participating, but I still lurk/read because the content is good.

    3. JimHirshfield

      I disagree that there are “probably more bad than good”. Clearly, the bad experiences stand out more in people’s minds than the healthy communities.

  2. pointsnfigures

    They should have two comments streams on some sites, “Kneejerk” and “thoughtful”.

    1. Jim Peterson


    2. fredwilson

      Business Insider effectively does that

      1. JimHirshfield

        Right. But I’ve always found that I read the one or two comments shown (note, I did not say “conversations”, just comments). And I don’t see or read any of the rest. That’s not community, IMHO. cc @pointsnfigures:disqus

    3. JimHirshfield

      As you may have noticed, Disqus uses a “best sort” by default to float the best comments to the top of the thread (upon initial page load. Thereafter, new comments come in on top).

      1. pointsnfigures

        You should categorize them as “creamy”

  3. William Mougayar

    I didn’t realize the government of China purchased PopSci. End of discussion.

    1. Elia Freedman

      I don’t understand? Are you being tongue in cheek or serious? If serious, I don’t think your comment is fair. I think their reasons are solid and Fred is right. Important articles will be discussed, whether on PopSci or elsewhere. If you were joking… well, that went straight over my head on this Sunday morning. 🙂

      1. William Mougayar

        I was half-joking, but punting against PopSci’s decision. Yes, Fred is right that discussions will happen elsewhere, but it’s sad that the publisher isn’t letting those discussions happen at the source. It shows they aren’t able to manage healthy discussions.

        1. Elia Freedman

          Or the topics are divisive and creating too many trolls.

    2. pointsnfigures

      they have excess cash.

      1. William Mougayar

        Right, they bought the site, and shut down the discussion.

  4. Jim Peterson

    This blog and just a handful of others have meaningful discussions and the spammers/ total idiots are kept at bay most of the time- how many comments do you delete and how many do you ban on a regular basis to maintain order?On my own sites- garden, home improvement, where I have expert articles produced there are great conversations on Facebook and Twitter but no comments on the site. Which seems the course Popular Science is taking.How do I allow an expert to be dissed by a person with no or 2 months experience? Or that has self promotion or slandering another person as a goal?And how does all the vile and noise help buyers, which is what it is all about ( in my case). I’ve wrestled with this for years.Even on Facebook we ban 3-4 people a week using a simple one strike you are out rule- no discussion.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I doubt many trolling comments get posted.There’s a psychological or behavioural effect in cities. If an area is dirty, trash everywhere, graffiti everywhere, broken windows, etc. – then people will treat it with the same level of respect.Likewise, if people see a place with established respectful dialogue then they’re more likely to treat it that way – and if trolls do show up, they won’t get an emotional reaction – which is the reward they’ll be gaining from it – and so any recurring trolls will not return quickly.

      1. Jim Peterson

        Behind the scenes in those beautiful cities you reference is a police force busting balls on the bad guys

    2. JimHirshfield

      I just visited your beautiful site. I was disappointed to see no comments. Have you ever tried Disqus? If so, how recently?

  5. Elia Freedman

    I’ve had a couple of posts with a lot of traffic and sparked some amazing discussion. I was glad those few times that I had comments on my blog. Given that though I spent all day monitoring, reading and weeding out bad apples. I got nothing else done. I can’t imagine if I had that kind of traffic all the time or if I wrote multiple posts a day that got that kind of response. I’d consider turning off comments, too.

    1. awaldstein

      I blog infrequently but actually get decent traffic and a lot of comments.I’ve never deleted a commented or curated a discussion. Spam I delete, for the rest I just let it run its course.

      1. fredwilson

        That’s my policy too.

      2. Elia Freedman

        Also how I have generally handle it. I like to engage, though. That still takes a lot of time.

        1. awaldstein

          Of course, but that’s not moderation, that just the name of the game if you have a blog that drives engagement.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      Indeed, karma – action leads to action – if someone acts by posting, it uses their time, which will use your time – if you care and are engaged.Is having a curated network of people you’ll talk to, or who’s comments you’ll see, or who can actually post comments the answer? I’m not sure, because it’s not inclusive then and you’re preventing people from possibly learning – but if they’re not in a place where they’re wanting or open to learning – is it harmful? I’m not sure.

      1. Elia Freedman

        I know that I want to hear other opinions outside of the regulars, too. I always worry about “curated network” causing cliques.

    3. Anne Libby

      Yes, I had exactly the same experience.I don’t know that I’d turn off comments, but there would definitely be a pressure to monetize the blog to afford a resource to help with this. And since I don’t want to blog for a living…

      1. JimHirshfield

        “afford a resource”???? What? Fred pays no one to moderate this community.

        1. Anne Libby

          No, but William, Shana and Fred all put time into this space every day. And I would wager that there’s tactical time, and also strategic thought that goes into it.All “resources.”You can probably put some light on this: do most large volume Disqus users have a (paid) community management staff?

          1. JimHirshfield

            The largest publishers out there, for sure have paid moderators or out-sourced moderators. But small communities like this can crowd-source and distribute the moderation across multiple people to the point that it is not overwhelming.Moderators can delete or mark comments as spam from email (on mobile), from a back-end dash, or directly on the article page itself. So it is just 2 clicks to clean up any mess that gets through.

          2. Anne Libby

            Agree. And even that work is work. 5 minutes a day is 30 hours a year.I’m not dissing conversation. And I love Disqus! (Note to self: check back and see if I can have Disqus on my blog yet!)My point was that you have to value the effort, and the outcome to manage a community. It’s going to cost you time, or money.

          3. awaldstein

            Most blogs get less than 20 comments on a good day.No one needs a moderator unless their frequency and the comments are large.And honestly, if you do nothing, no moderation unless you are massively dynamic, it matters not at all.

          4. Andrew Kennedy

            +1^1 = 1

      2. Elia Freedman

        Personally I wrote because I want the engagement. I wouldn’t really want someone between me and the commenters, not as an individual blogger anyway.

        1. Anne Libby

          Of course! Me too.But I think what we were both saying was that if we had high volume blogs (we don’t) we’d have a hard time getting our revenue producing work done?(and not that we don’t value community, engagement, conversation, or comments…)

          1. JimHirshfield

            The win-win is where your blog furthers your revenue generating occupation.

          2. Elia Freedman

            Yes, agreed!

    4. JimHirshfield

      Pre-moderate comments for a few weeks.

      1. Elia Freedman

        It’s been a rare problem. I actually wish, for the most part, I had more comments not less.

  6. awaldstein

    There are many blogs.There are comments there and everywhere.avc is a wonder and a corner case.Most community happens in a flash, cross networks, time more than place based.I think that is the trend and a healthy one.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Understanding what causes people to be at the same place, at the same time, is the important thing to note.Example, Fred posts every day, generally in the morning – or though really people are notified when that happens, so the time is “whenever” or the action point of the “Post/Published” button being clicked.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Good stuff. I think Stack Exchange gets Q&A. They’re branching out beyond code, too, I think.

        2. Matt A. Myers

          Yup — Context helps form or hold space.

  7. Semil Shah

    Damn, I love the title of this post. Comments at scale or for a publisher like PopSci may require a resource to moderate, and sometimes people don’t like to invest the money and time into that, which is, as you point out, narrow-minded. (Just to play devil’s advocate, on the other hand, if a publisher is struggling for engaging traffic, having 0-1 comments per post can also send the wrong signal to readers. But, that may also be a larger problem that their content is not relevant.)

    1. William Mougayar

      But why wouldn’t the authors themselves be interested in participating in the discussions of their own articles. I just don’t get it.

      1. Semil Shah

        Lots of authors don’t care for interacting in the comments.

        1. William Mougayar

          There is a clash of cultures definitely…between authors that don’t care for interactions, and commenters/users that want it.

        2. fredwilson


        3. JamesHRH

          The key to fighting well funded troll is commenter engagement. You get that by commenters having a relationships with article / blog authors.Shared ownership creates shared defence.

          1. fredwilson


      2. Anne Libby

        I’ve seen interacting in comments cited as “unpaid work” asked of journalists…will have to look for one of those articles and post the links.Any journalists (current or former) out there?

        1. William Mougayar

          It is a short-sighted view if that’s the case, but it may not be their fault, because the publisher puts on to the next story right away. Their job is to crank up stories, not garner a community around their content. The smart ones will do it anyways, and engage with their readers.

          1. JimHirshfield

            Old school: journo paid per piece or word count. No incentive to participate in comments.New school: journo paid per page views or revenue per page. Lots of incentive to participate.

      3. Salt Shaker

        Author participation should be mandated by a publisher or EIC, frankly. Big mistake not to, especially for pubs w/ a paid subscription model. No better way to bond a reader w/ your pub, short of delivering good quality edit, of course….Author participation w/ readers can fuel retention, which I believe is the case w/ AVC. Manpower/time mgt is certainly an issue, but it can be done at least in moderation. Pop Sci is an old school brand w/ aging demos… Missed opportunity here on several fronts.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          I so wish hyperlocal newspapers would grasp this. I think they’re sitting on a great opportunity.

          1. JimHirshfield

            Agreed. It’s UGC – free content and a way to cement relationships with their readers, who are increasingly getting news elsewhere.

          2. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Yep. It’s one of the actual advantages they have over the new news media. They already have a community!

          3. Salt Shaker

            I occasionally email and engage w/ writers from the NY Times and NY Post. I find, anecdotally, that sportswriters to be more receptive than gen beat or political/policy journalists. Of course, sports are a high engagement topic. Politics too, but that’s a topic IMHO that can get quite a bit more inflammatory.

          4. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Makes sense. Tiny local papers are loaded with stuff people want to engage about. Just feels like a huge missed opp on many levels if they don’t cultivate online community and engagement.

      4. Aaron Klein

        Because they are paid per post, not per comment. 🙂

        1. JimHirshfield

          Exactly. But progressive publishers are starting to pay based on the earnings from the articles/pageviews. So, those guys have an incentive to get in on the conversation.

          1. Aaron Klein


          2. ak

            Incorporating a good commenting mechanism such as Disqus is the first thing to do to keep the trolls out and keep the discussion engaging and informational.I am not an author and do not know if the authors have any hurdles in their workflow. I do not think the incentives are misaligned. It is that the authors may not have found a way to better manage their posts and the comment streams. I am not sure if Disqus or other tools provide tools to the authors to better manage their workflow. Tagging, read/unread, commented/uncommented, worthy of commenting etc.

          3. JimHirshfield

            Disqus provides author-specific moderation. So, this makes it easier for the author to moderate their own posts, but not be overwhelmed with moderation of other authors’ posts.

        2. William Mougayar

          yup, but the smart ones should do it for their own benefit. those whose job feels secure won’t feel the need to expand their sphere of influence outside of their employer’s cocoon.

      5. Drew Meyers

        because some people have better things to do than deal with insults, comments by the totally uninformed, etcjust playing devils advocate 😉

      6. Matt Zagaja

        Not sure. The big newspaper in my state (The Hartford Courant) seems to have taken the position that its writers should engage in the online community and I think it’s great. I am now Facebook friends with and follow several of the reporters and columnists on twitter. The strange thing is that the actual comments section in the paper itself tends to be poor, but the conversations that are happening on the Facebook posts or tweets surrounding the articles are better than those.

    2. JimHirshfield

      That negative signal of just one comment is exactly the reason the publisher needs to reply to that one comment and make it 2 comments…and most importantly send the message to their readers that commenting is welcome here.As for resources – for sure it takes resources. You can’t host a party without being present and engaged with your guests.

      1. Semil Shah

        Yes, I think everyone on AVC certainly sees the value in moderating comments (and paying for it in many cases), but I’m not sure many publishers share this perspective, for whatever reasons.

        1. Zolicon

          ” Yes, I think everyone on AVC certainly sees the value in moderating comments.”I see no value in it in fact to Me it is no more than Their way of imposing Censorship upon us.What ever happened to FREEDOM OF SPEECH ?Also I sincerely thank You for posting that comment.Hey it just dawned on Me that there are no People behind the scenes reading our comments.It is all done by computers,So now We have Computers deciding what We can and can not say.

          1. fredwilson

            just to be clear. the only moderation we do here is removing spam. i just removed a spam comment from this very thread. everything else stays. there is no censorship here.

          2. Zolicon

            Okay now let Me be equally as clear.I have had comments like this be go to the moderators:” Well it looks like turning Your back on People who speak the Truth must be the Christian thing to do.I thank God that I am not a Christian.”I see no Spam or Foul language in that comment.Also please take note that My comment did not include or was solely directed at AVC,Here is My comment.” ” “I see no value in it in fact to Me it is no more than Their way of imposing Censorship upon us.What ever happened to FREEDOM OF SPEECH ?Also I sincerely thank You for posting that comment.Hey it just dawned on Me that there are no People behind the scenes reading our comments.It is all done by computers,So now We have Computers deciding what We can and can not say. ” ” “This part of what You read was a quote from Semil Shah commnt I was replying to.” ” ” ” Yes, I think everyone on AVC certainly sees the value in moderating comments.”

          3. fredwilson

            there is no such things as “go to the moderators”it either gets published or disqus’ algos flag it as spam and we have to fish it outthere is no moderation queue

          4. Zolicon

            Really I just posted this comment ” okay damn it that is enough ” and this is the message that appeared” ” Your comment is awaiting moderation. See your comment. This comment is awaiting moderation.” “

          5. fredwilson

            i have no idea why that would happeni will investigate

          6. Zolicon

            I i have no idea why that would happen either,But I do get it a lot when it comes to the comments I post especially when I include a link like this in a comment.…” ” i will investigate ” “Right on thank and I look forward to hear what You find out.

  8. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Was Popular Science using Disqus?Having comments is part of an overall business and growth strategy. It’s not just a feature to turn on or off. Takes commitment. But the returns can be pretty valuable. Not that I know anything about PopSci’s business, but it feels like a missed opportunity for them to turn off comments.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      If you’re not willing to support discussion though then there’s no real returns. And maybe Popular Science main readers and demographics aren’t really the science-type – more the people looking for entertainment or the next cool thing to talk about?

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Right. I have zero insight into their decision. But, it does seem like there’s an opportunity for a great community there. Doesn’t it?

    2. fredwilson

      Don’t know

      1. JimHirshfield

        They were not using Disqus. cc @MsPseudolus:disqus

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Well, there was their mistake.

    3. Anne Libby

      The Wall Street Journal comment section, last time I looked (2+ years ago?) was an uncivilized free for all. Similarly, one of my universities allowed their “official” linked in group be ruled by trolls for an extended period of time. I don’t visit either place any more. I can’t be unique.If you’re not willing to invest in community management, you’re in a brand damaging situation.To earn the potential value of an engaged community, you’ve got to devote resources to community management. If you won’t do this, maybe it’s better to shut down comments altogether…

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Similarly, I wouldn’t touch HuffPo’s comments with 40 foot tongs. I wouldn’t want to be associated with it. It would be a waste of time.I’ve advised a few hyper-local newspapers on social media, and I always urge them to get their journalists to engage in the comments of their pieces. I really think engagement in comments can be a secret sauce.But, yes. It’s all for nothing (or worse) without community management.

        1. Anne Libby

          So agree with you.

  9. AlexHammer

    The “cream of discussion does rise to the top”, and I also believe in the wisdom of crowds, but those who can foster the most intelligent debate and discussion will have a leg up for sure

  10. Matt A. Myers

    A local newspaper’s website turns off comments after a short period of time. I have brought it to their attention a few times, asking to leave them on – however they haven’t yet.Comments only being open for a short period of time results the majority of comments you’ll see that are the quick jerk-reaction thoughts (whether pro or con) and trolls (some of them are serious though) making quick and empty comments or replies – and then you’re left unable to “voice” the emotion and thoughts that an article brought up.In a sense the result is like they’re acting as a bully trying to win an argument by preventing you from getting a word into the conversation, or like a child who’s plugging their ears and making incoherent noises to drown out what someone else is telling them – so they can keep on pretending their view of the world is the correct view.Then those who are willing to spend the time to go into deeper thought – which will lead to hopefully the other person being able to start to see a different perspective – are then unable to be engaged with them. This is detrimental to society’s growth and everyone’s learning – which perpetuates intolerance, distrust, hate, crime, war.The bubbles that get created, whether because someone only watches one particular news channel, or content curated in a certain way attracts a specific group of people, leads to funnel thinking which is narrowing by nature.Mechanisms for inclusion I think will be important in the future, to expose people to new or different ideas – or a concerted effort of helping others learn will be required in order to pull people out of their filtered bubbles. To do this in a kind way takes many many people who are thoughtful and growing themselves, as this one-to-one interaction that requires nuanced listening and understanding isn’t scalable – it’s only scalable by numbers, by networks of people learning from each other and then spreading their new learnings to others.At the root there needs to be a cultural shift because people follow or are naturally pressured into doing the norm. If the norm is talking and discussing things, preferably in person or at least a certain % of the time, then others will be drawn or lead into this. We are social beings, and really we just want to be in contact with other – and those who don’t are afraid or haven’t learned how to yet, are closed off for some reason; This isn’t a question of introvert or extrovert either.I’m going to try my best to bring the yoga community together in a stronger, more cohesive way, because I see them as being leaders and great role models for this kind of community building and a platform for real-life discussion and self-exploration.

  11. Jan Schultink

    Leaving technology and moderators aside, I think that good discussions can only develop in certain types of communities.AVC is a very narrow interest group with daily returning visitorsOther types of communities are those where experts answer questions of newbies (Tripadvisor, pets, etc. ), but again for a very specific group of people (those who are interested in safaris in Botswana, or trying to get an Italian Greyhound to behave at home)As soon as you have a massive amount of traffic to a generic content item (Gangnam style video [almost 2B views BTW]) or a highly controversial subject (drop “Israel” in any comment line and the yelling starts) the discussion starts to unravel.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Unravel – as in, unfolds or falls apart? Both would happen I imagine – you can see it fairly commonly on threads on Reddit.

      1. Jan Schultink

        Falls apart I am afraid…

  12. Tom Labus

    one bulb dimmed out of so many.

  13. LE

    Not a reader of that magazine and have never read the comments.But other than the other reasons mentioned here my guess is that the type of material presented ended up resulting in a whole host of flame wars. Kind of like on HN when you get into things like “php sucks” that end up having more comments than up votes. I think theirs an algorithm that automatically kills wars like that.(Anyone who read those comments and could chime in please do.)

  14. leigh

    It bugs me when people who post content on the Web don’t have comments. It feels at best lazy and at worst self important. If they want to just have their say in a non-interactive environment there’s a medium for that, it’s called print.

    1. awaldstein

      Hmmm–Seth Godin’s blog has no comments as you know 😉

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        That has always bugged me a little.

        1. awaldstein

          Not all blogs are communities.

          1. Anne Libby

            And Seth knows where he needs to spend his time to run his business.

          2. awaldstein

            Don’t know him so don’t know.I do know that not all businesses are community driven. It’s one way, not the only way.

          3. Anne Libby

            Exactly what I meant. (I don’t know him either.)

          4. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Maybe it’s just personal preference on my part. If I want one-way communication, I’ll read a book. And I do love all Seth’s books. I almost don’t see the point of blogging, though, if you’re not going to engage there.

          5. Anne Libby

            It’s a way to spread his ideas.

          6. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Yep, for all I know there are plenty of people out there who’ve only gotten him via his blog.

          7. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Funny, though. I don’t follow his blog. I’ve read and love his books and other output.But maybe so. Maybe there wouldn’t be much point in comments on Seth’s blog. Seems like he could afford a moderator, though. 😉

      2. leigh


    2. Jeff Pester

      “Self-important” might be the term we use to describe someone who feels they know how everyone else should act 🙂

      1. leigh

        Actually i think the term closer to my comment is called “having an opinion” 😉

  15. JimHirshfield

    I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with publishers about commenting, conversations, and communities. It’s how I make my living. (disclosure: I work at Disqus).The number one piece of advice I give publishers when they ask me about best practices is that they need to participate in the conversations – no matter what commenting platform they use. It’s like hosting a party. You can’t NOT show up, not talk to your guests, much less ignore them.For all those articles/posts that get only 1 comment: there will always only be one comment if you, as a pub, refuse to engage and have a conversation. It isn’t just about that one-to-one engagement. Upwards of 60% of the visitors to a site that uses Disqus find themselves in the comment thread at one time during their visit. It’s this large audience segment that will learn, by the publisher’s behavior, whether it’s safe or welcoming to jump into the conversation.Unfortunately, many traditional publishers view comments as the digital analogue to the “letter to the editor” – something that rarely merits the publisher’s response. Publishing was once a one-way broadcast. Not any more. #fail.There are many technological tools used to address bad behavior – and we’re very proud of the ones we’ve built. But it ain’t a self-driving car. It’s a dynamic space and there are always new ways for just one person to metaphorically piss in the pool and ruin it for everyone else.It’s no accident that AVC is a vibrant clean well-lighted place for conversations. It’s a special place, but it’s not unique, not an edge case, and others can and have built communities with the same dynamic.

    1. Drew Meyers

      “You can’t NOT show up, not talk to your guests, much less ignore them.”The difference is that you invite your guests to your house, meetup, etc — so of course you can’t ignore them. On the open web, anyone can show up…and litter the conversation with crap, insults, etc. They can “crap” on your thoughts all they want, but they should’t (necessarily) be able to do that in your own house. There are plenty of places for them to discuss the topic already, & I get that dealing with uninvited strangers is not for everyone.Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent of having comments. But there is another side to this.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Perhaps. But if I substituted restaurant for party, I still stand by the analogy. If you’re going to have a restaurant, and you ignore or don’t engage with your patrons, you will shortly be out of business.

        1. Drew Meyers

          yup. agree with that restaurant scenario. the scenario i’ve been exposed to recently is a consulting firm in the real estate vertical. they publish a blog, which is great. but they make zero money from their blog…and don’t really have an interest in dealing with people who randomly show up on their doorstep to crap on their thoughts. so they recently shut off their comments (& got crapped on by numerous people on twitter for it). they may be an edge case…they are very well established, and don’t really need to grow their reach. nor do they care if they turn away or even piss off looky loos looking to waste their valuable time (because they will never make any money from that type of person anyway).anyway. i’m in the pro-comments category in a big way. but that doesn’t mean it’s the right approach for everyone, in all lines of work.

          1. Anne Libby


          2. JimHirshfield

            Yes to what? 😉

          3. Anne Libby

            To @Drew Meyers’ entire comment. Encapsulates exactly what I have been (unsuccessfully) trying to communicate elsewhere today.

          4. JimHirshfield

            Thanks for clarifying

          5. JimHirshfield

            No PR effort was ever one by the party in question shutting down the lines of communication. Not saying there’s a negative PR issue with the firm you reference, but still, don’t see this helping their public perception.

          6. Drew Meyers

            there are good and bad ways to shut down communication channels. not communicating at all is not the best strategy.wrt to the firm i referenced, they don’t care. they are very well respected already and their work and clients speak for themselves. their reasoning is largely the same as seth godins:…the people they respect and want to work with, have private channels to reach them already. they get comments on their blog posts, privately…and they prefer that than the public channel that brings totally uninformed comments not worth their time to deal with.

    2. reggiedog

      Without getting defensive and defending your industry, how can you reasonably counter the problem that Popular Science couldn’t deal with?The science says that one crazy comment, strategically placed, will sway an honest dialog. This was discussed at length 6 months ago when Popular Science made its decision. It seems to me that the research, which was published at the same time, simply showed them what they knew from years of dealing with it. And these trolls aren’t crazy and they are very strategic.

      1. JimHirshfield

        1. They could have used a modern commenting platform with robust moderation tools. Not shilling Disqus. There are multiple better options than what they were using.2. I wasn’t a reader of PopSci, but I read their post about shutting down comments. I didn’t get the sense that the authors and editors looked at comments/conversations as something to nurture, but as a problem that needed solving. My guess, admittedly a weak framework for this bullet point, is that they weren’t having conversations with readers.3. Related to #2 is that if they are SO concerned about readers rewriting/reinterpreting science, then they should take their role as the purveyors of good scientific reporting to correct misrepresentations, lies, etc among the commenters.4. They could have incentivized and/or trained their writers to participate in the comments/conversations. Distributing the load of moderation across writers – and eventually to trusted readers is one of the most strategic things they could have done.5. I’m not sure if they conspicuously posted any community guidelines. But doing so adjacent to the comment threads gives the publishers a doctrine to point to when it is violated. This gives the publisher the ability to remove comments that reference false or no science, without looking like they’re censoring free speech. IOW, rules were posted in advance; our house, our rules.6. “The science…crazy comment…sway an honest dialog” to me reads like a convenient justification for taking the easy and old school route of shutting down the conversation. This isn’t new science. Who is shocked to hear that one person can influence the masses? This phenomenon pre-dates messianic times. Now, all of a sudden, PopSci is so central to the survival of the scientific community that discourse is a bad idea? (Sorry, this one may sound defensive…couldn’t help it; had to get it off my chest, esp since you referenced it)….I’ve gone on long enough. Gonna stop here. Thanks for reading this much.

        1. reggiedog

          Obviously, you did not read WHY they shut down the comments.

          1. JimHirshfield

            I did read it. Not sure why you think I didn’t.

          2. reggiedog

            You don’t address their problem, their references or their reasoning.

          3. JimHirshfield

            So you say. My position is that their stated references and reasoning are hollow; use the right tools and processes and the problem can be addressed.

          4. reggiedog

            Please explain what “tools and processes” a publisher can use to counter professional trolls with significant resources and an anti-community agenda who are making incendiary comments, which are scientifically proven to create an unnatural bias?FYI: this just came out:…How does a publisher win at playing Whack-a-Mole?

          5. JimHirshfield

            Processes – I listed some in my numbered response above.Tools – A modern commenting platform, as I also mentioned above. Are you looking for a feature list now? Details include sentiment analysis, keyword filtering, spam filtering, user reputation scoring, comprehensive moderation tools that allow for quick comment management (e.g. 2-click comment deletion), etc. Stopping here because this isn’t the place for feature list.

    3. Matt A. Myers

      I really would love to be pointed to similar communities – with a daily post by the generally the same author, etc..I wonder though if once these get exposed and the filtering system that leads to the current community members having found it, if it will ruin the quality or dirty the space some.

      1. JimHirshfield

        We feature great communities on our community blog. cc @wmoug:disqus

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Oh good – it’s Tumblr! Followed. 🙂

        2. Matt A. Myers

          Yup… Finding the kinds of gems I’m looking for. Awesome.

    4. Barry Nolan

      Jim – I especially love Disqus comments in the sports pages of ‘newspapers’. Vibrant and fun. How does Disqus work when the paper is published in a Newsstand app?

      1. JimHirshfield

        Apps can use our API or render HTML5 within the app. I’m no expert on the latter, but CNN uses our API to pull comments into their iPad app.

        1. Barry Nolan

          Thanks Jim. I haven’t seen, and miss Disqus in the Newsstand apps I read daily. Here’s to continued success.Barry

          1. JimHirshfield

            Thanks.Clearly it takes more resources to get commenting into apps. So, I get why many publishers don’t do it.

          2. Barry Nolan

            Yes. If it’s not a simple as two lines of code and five minutes, my experience is that it won’t happen.

  16. reggiedog

    Did anyone actually read why Popular Science shut down their comments (before slagging the editors)? It happened a while ago and it isn’t about how crappy you think their editors are, it is about the professional trolls that have taken over media (for financial gain).…The game is quite a bit different than we’d all like to believe. Even PBS isn’t immune:…If you think that media is a free flowing objective discussion, you are also probably thinking that the JOBS act was about startups and not hedge funds….

    1. Salt Shaker

      Still seems short-sighted and borderline arrogant. Science is hardly exact and often open to interpretation and contrary views/opinions. Glad to hear they will selective leave the pipe open to reader commentary for certain articles, but that policy (selectivity) in and of itself is a form of censorship.

      1. reggiedog

        “arrogant”?!? WTF? are you saying that a person who has to shut down a nice party because of a few bad apples, which they are powerless to stop, is arrogant?There is a war on honest dialog. Giving up the battle is hardly arrogant. What would you have them do instead? Go broke trying to track down where all the trolls are coming from?

        1. Salt Shaker

          Don’t get all rabid on me reggiedog :). Don’t you think they should be focusing on filtering out the bad seeds, who presumably are the vast minority, rather than shut down the entire pipe? I’m not dismissing the prob, just their solution. Not everyone w/ a contrarian view is a troll. “Borderline arrogance” (not outright arrogance) comes into play when PS editors function as judge and jury in what allegedly is an open forum. Yes, it’s their space to manage but their solution seems extreme and likely bad for biz. Only time will tell.

          1. reggiedog

            How can they protect the community from strategic, behavioral science-back trolling from well-financed professionals? They can’t possibly compete with the resources used against them. That is what they are saying. They would love to be able to do it, but how can they reasonably compete? Whack-a-mole isn’t a game they can play.

          2. Salt Shaker

            PS needs to have faith that their readers are intelligent enough to see the light. Or they can add an “editor’s comment” to a problematic post. A complete shutdown seems rash and counter to the spirit and importance of commenting in general. Controversy isn’t bad, as long it’s consistent w/ a pub’s stated policy. With a complete shutdown, the terrorists win.

          3. reggiedog

            I read the article as saying they can’t, because the science says that it doesn’t work that way and they want to be fair to/protect their community.

          4. Salt Shaker

            In making this decision, PS’s editors relied on third-party studies rather than poll their own audience. That, in and of itself, is ridiculous. As a result, there’s a good chance PS will see a reduction in web traffic, UVs, page views and engagement metrics. No prob if they are a non-profit….but they’re not. As a very mature brand, that fundamentally caters to a demo few advertisers covet, they’re likely not in great financial shape to begin with.

          5. reggiedog

            I would suggest that PS’s editors have quite a lot more experience in dealing with this situation than you give them credit for.

          6. Salt Shaker

            FYI, the. online editor who posted PS’s policy change, and undoubtedly was an advocate, left the company shortly after this decision was made. Why do I get the feeling you have more than just a passing interest here? Nothing wrong if you do, but transparency is a welcome attribute.

          7. reggiedog

            Now that is a troll; deflect the point of the article by spending more effort looking for a crack somewhere else than talking about the point that the author was trying to make. No I never worked for popular science.

          8. Salt Shaker

            Touché. I’ve actually spent many years in publishing but I don’t profess to be an expert on commenting and commenting policy, although I obviously have strong opinions. However, Jim H. is and I’m sure he has many data points from which he bases his opinions. Net net: I’m not sure PS did thorough due diligence here. If nothing else, PS is an authoritative brand and they should have been able to stay above the fray and deal w/ contrary points of view, even from trolls. I believe their response is weak and ultimately it tarnishes their brand image.

    2. SubstrateUndertow

      Surely “PopularScience” could have been more daringly creative and pioneering here?Maybe like, some sort of ongoing development push towards a community-driven, self-policed, epistemological-noise-filtering set of comment functions aimed at elevating the art of general scientific debate to meet the organic contextual challenges of the internet.Thus seizing this opportune occasion to launch their “PopularScience” branded “live ongoing new-media-experimentation” by releasing their:living-science-debate Appavailable today on both Android / iOSSeems like an opportunity missed?

    3. fredwilson

      I did not slag anyone in this post

      1. reggiedog

        of course you didn’t mean to slag them, but the set-up clearly focuses on editorial censorship and not about the professional trolls who are not part of the community and spoiling the party for everyone. Hence the way the AVC community talked about the editors and not the trolls. The PS editors have a real problem – and so do we media consumers – to the point where they feel that a 100 year old plus institution is under attack by professional hit-men who are not playing by the rules and they don’t have the resources to serve their community as they see fit. They have been hijacked just like most every media outlet has these days. Its game-over for honest dialog.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          So you’re saying there are no ways to deal with professional trolls?

          1. reggiedog

            Yes I am. And I am including finance, big oil, big pharma, big retail, etc. as in the professional troll business. They are way too influential, well-funded and smart to go up against by Popular Science or just about anyone else. Have you ever seen a blogger analyze his comment stream when he detected a pattern of attack. You’d be amazed at how hard trolls are to recognize. Without talking about Popular Science’s problem of perceptions being swayed by the crazy comments tactic.You are aware that “social media managers” and “growth hackers” are not only working for startups, right? These guys have way more resources and more at stake than anyone else.

          2. Matt A. Myers

            So I guess the only answer is to help people educate themselves from curated and vetted sources.

        2. Salt Shaker

          “they don’t have the resources to serve their community as they see fit.”Like most old school, traditional print pubs, PS is attempting to shift readership and monetize their digital platforms w/ the continued decline of print advertising. Social and commenting are both integral components to a successful migration. PS needs a moderator to help manage the process, expectations and perceptions. Being held hostage by trolls and paying a ransom is hardly the right solution. Pure and simple, this is a resource allocation issue, although I’m not sure PS or its parent, Bonnier, fully understand engagement. But then again, the median age of a PS reader is prob around 50 yrs. so prob doesn’t matter much.

          1. reggiedog

            You are blaming the victim. How do you suggest they deal with the fact that one crazy comment, strategically placed will sway an audience? You did read the article on the reason they shut it down?

      2. reggiedog

        Honest question, Fred:Why would you re-position a 5 month old situation (which was a well-discussed bombshell at the time) where a publisher says, “We give up. We can’t play whack-a-mole with professional trolls any longer because science shows us that it doesn’t work and there is something going on we think is bad for the core values of our community.” and turn it into “Publisher doesn’t want discussion”?Do you read their article differently from me? Do you think they are being irresponsible and unfair? Your header and quote at the outset are clearly a complaint about the publisher’s actions.

        1. fredwilson

          here is the honest to god truth1) i saw the post on yesterday… 2) i saw adrianh’s comment at which i referenced in the post3) i started thinking about all the conversations that happen at, reddit, hacker news, etc that are not connected to the article or blog post and i realized that whether or not you have a comments section on your posts, there will be places that people will go to discuss it. that has been happening with my posts forever on reddit and hacker news and i just realized that is happening all over the placeand so i wrote that you can shut down comments but the discussions will just happen elsewherethat’s how this post happened. it is not a judgement on popsci. they can do what they want. it doesn’t matter. that’s the point.

          1. reggiedog

            That makes sense, but the Popular Science situation is different than “where the discussion happens” and fed into an interesting set of biases (and lack of intellectual effort) on the part of the AVC community. I almost thought you were doing an experiment on how little it takes to re-direct sentiment in a comments section, because as you can see, the resulting comments denigrated Popular Science more than they showed a community engaged by reasonable back-and-forth on the real issue. Actually, quite a validation on PS’s decision and a behavioral science experiment in itself.

          2. fredwilson

            you are overthinking my post by an order of magnitude

          3. reggiedog

            Apologies, I can have a tendency to do that!How people interpret information, and how that interpretation engages people is a subject that is very interesting to me. (And obviously to you, given that is a huge factor in engaging a community!) Thank you again for your post.

    4. BillMcNeely

      It was not my intent to slag anyone. When I read their reasoning for shutting down their comments section it just struck me as odd. In Afghanistan where I had to help educate men in there 20s and 30s on basic health/science our kids learn in grade school the back and forth helped get the concept across. Maybe I have been in to many Shuras and Jirgas and think talking resolves more than it actually does.

      1. reggiedog

        You missed their main point that they have encountered a technique used by professional trolls which they cannot counter. You missed the point that “back-and-forth” doesn’t work because the other side isn’t playing by the same rules of engagement. They have known it for a long time, and they provide several references as to what is happening across the web.

  17. vruz

    Unbundling is fine. If they don’t feel comfortable with the conversation it’s okay to not host the conversation themselves.You can set up a separate forum, mail-list or run a semi-official site at zero cost.However what they are wrong is in kicking out the communities that form around discussion, making them a distant satellite, leaving them orphaned.It creates a barrier, a friction very difficult to overcome between the reader and the publisher. They may have a hard time seeing value in the discussion, and that they have nothing to learn from the public in a 20th century-like read-only publication.A similar thing happened at the dawn of the social networking websites. I was a Tribes user, and Mark Pincus couldn’t see the value of having conversation happening in the website itself. It was an annoyance meant for techies, in his view at the time. Fast forward a few years, and Facebook integrate xmpp chat in the main product. Retention, extracting value, etc.It may be about setting priorities, sometimes you can’t do everything, or it may be about laziness, or it may just be about “I’m not good at this” let somebody else do it. But you can’t find value in it anymore when it’s gone.It’s a lot harder to find and acquire value when you kick value out.And now the value is there for somebody else to dig it, such strategy is, I think, misguided.

  18. JLM

    .When ideas wrestle, the result is better ideas.To publish something and not allow it to be weighed and measured by others is a bit short sighted. It is like marinating fajita beef — the longer it marinates, the better the taste.I even appreciate the arguments of knee jerk flamers as this is a test to ensure one has not missed something. Some blind spot in your own thinking.I admit to having my own opinion influenced by arguments I have not been previously exposed to. That’s the beauty of a conversation.Take, as an example, the issue of climate change (nee global warming). The passage of time and the careful examination of the data both historic and current has influenced the discussion. [For the record, 1F over 100 years dependent upon vodka laced Russian temp recorders, is the biggest bunch of nonsense ever assembled. But that’s just me being provocative.]JLM.

    1. JimHirshfield

      You had me until the last paragraph. 😉

      1. JLM

        .Catch and release.JLM.

        1. Anne Libby

          Well played.

      2. pointsnfigures

        they are actually talking about having a mini Ice Age.…

  19. FlavioGomes

    Its a rare blog that you learn as much or more than the original post. Avc is among them. In my opinion, Its excrutatingly painful to experience that elsewhere, at least with content/blog sites of general mass appeal. Newspapers are some of the worst places to have that experience.

  20. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Interesting related article (that from its title looks like a comment troll) but is not…

  21. Brian Manning

    In some ways it’s lame to shut off the conversation, but I completely get why the big publications do it. Their comment sections get littered with nonsense and profanity.

  22. jason wright

    science is a religion of sorts, and has its faithful guardians. outsiders with something new to say are not always welcomed with open arms.

  23. Bob Labarre

    In consideration of Popular Science’s decision, I would suggest that the rigor of science may not lend itself to the democratic comments section that other digital media and Blog Communities can afford and encourage. For example, if the physicists handling the Manhattan project in 1944 had to defend themselves against the average loud voice on the street, we might all be speaking another (European or Asian) language today. A Blog Community such as A VC has many different intelligent voices that can comment philosophically with intellectual parity and equivalence about most of the tech-disuptive new ideas of our era. This is not necessarily true with Science, wherein the brightest member of a blog community may have no business arguing physics with a professor of Physics who is explaining a new discovery in technical terms in a scientific document. (Otherwise, exceptional physics talent and selection for professorships after years of post-doc PhD research are not distinctive or do not command some hierarchical notice?)This inappropriateness is compounded by the study cited by Popular Science, that showed that the community who should be listening more carefully to the “Manhattan Project”guy who went to school, is instead more carefully taking their cues from the loud poster who didn’t.

    1. fredwilson

      I guess that’s my point. We need to have those discussions as a society but maybe not at popsci

      1. JimHirshfield

        Yeah, but REALLY, it’s PopSci, not the American Physical Society’s academic peer reviewed journal. cc @Bob Labarre:disqus

        1. Isaac G

          And to the degree that most people are laymen and don’t read said journals they (me) get to read about new cool science at popsci – so they are the source and they take that fact with a level of responsibility about how science gets explained to non-scientists

    2. BillMcNeely

      Completely valid thought.

  24. $94070303

    The worst part is that the scientific community suppresses human consciousness by not encouraging people to use their “OWN MIND & METHOD”. Since true knowledge is the highest asset people can acquire, an institution playing a gatekeeper of reality weakens humans in their process of realizing their ingenuity.

  25. Isaac G

    I thought this was super interesting and got a chance to talk about it with a friend who is a staff writer there at popsci. I think the big take away is that science is way more important than expression and its integrity trumps that. first amendment stuff is certainly important but its pretty silly to call censorship as some folks here are on this. Private site private rules, some people are idiots, so shut them up. A great example of this is the vaccine ‘debate’. the way we tend to frame things is that there is always a reasonable side and people can disagree and have equally valid opinions – this isn’t the case. some people are wrong, don’t have the expertise to judge the merits, and are a danger to other folks who might not know better.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Which is why the “experts” at PopSci should be in the comments keeping the readership informed and correcting any misguided advice.”Science is way more important that expression….” Really? I think science has always been best served by sharing knowledge and open conversation. Academics publish, and further science is built upon that. I don’t see why conversations threaten that. I’m not buying the “integrity of science” justification one bit.

      1. Isaac G

        Which is why the “experts” at PopSci should be in the comments keeping the readership informed and correcting any misguided advice. —> this would be super nice if there was a ‘BS’ tag to put on BS comments, some ‘misguided advice’ should be more appropriately labeled BS”Science is way more important that expression….” Really?–> new cancer drug > new poetry, so yes.–>but more seriously comments/papers that do get published get peer-reviewed, conversations certainly don’t threaten it per se but it’s an interesting problem of distinguishing or navigating b/w the peer reviewed world and the rest of the world. I like it when science is more accessible and popsci and others do a super job of explaining it. but this is a more complex problem than you are admitting than just more talk make more good. I think science has always been best served by sharing knowledge and open conversation. Academics publish, and further science is built upon that. I don’t see why conversations threaten that. I’m not buying the “integrity of science” justification one bit. [—>the integrity is that peer reviewed bit above – it makes they way we think about certain sources of information and conversations way different than in other arenas we operate in]

        1. JimHirshfield

          With all due respect, I think you’re conflating the creation of the original content (the article, the blog post, the scientific paper) – all of which can be peer reviewed – with the conversation that follows.Comments are conversation that happens after the publication of the paper. Scientists present their papers at conferences and conversations ensue, be they in-person at conferences, or through other forms of communication.

          1. Isaac G

            fo sho – the problem here being those worlds are so close together that they can get mixed up easily – and it can be really tough to switch b/w and be a good reader and judger of the conversation. Popsci, i think, felt that part of their mission is the appropriate dissemination of new science and a responsible educational mission alongside that. if the conversation detracts from that it undermines their values and the trust people put in their publication and editorial judgement

          2. JimHirshfield

            So now you’re saying that some readers are not intelligent enough to discern what’s been journalistically reported or scientifically vetted in an article from the opinions or (purported) facts shared in the comment section?I get that you are conveying the justification as told to you by your friend at PopSci, so please don’t this as a personal affront.

          3. LE

            some readers are not intelligent enough to discern what’s been journalistically reported or scientifically vetted in an article from the opinions or (purported) facts shared in the comment sectionThere is no question that “some” readers are not intelligent enough to discern” (between vetted and opinion).Not only that but even otherwise well informed, thoughtful and intelligent people can be brainwashed by repeated information if it’s linked to an otherwise respectable source. Even if it has not been vetted.Take AVC. Everyone who thinks Arnold is a wine “expert” raise their hands. Or anyone who thinks I am a domain expert. Or JLM is “the best” CEO coach and well worth the price.The other day I read where Fred thought you were a good comedian. And you know now I think of you as being funnier than I thought previously. (Call it the Seinfeld effect).Nobody has independently vetted these facts at all. There has been no scientific research. But the community (and/or Fred) has said so and it is therefore taken by many people as fact.By the way this is not to say that I take either side of whether it is a good idea or bad idea for the comments on pop sci. But I definitely do understand why it might not be a good idea.

          4. JimHirshfield

            Look, no argument that the people who want to talk about the subject at hand span the full spectrum of intelligence and/or expertise. But none of that is grounds for muting conversation.If the science behind shutting down commenting is that one person’s opinion can influence others (as I’ve read that this is one of the justifications), I call bullshit. We’ve known this since about humans for millennia.

          5. Isaac G

            I think intelligence might be the wrong word because it is condescending – it’s simply domain expertise. I’m not a climate scientist and its pretty darn hard to sometimes make sense of that issue because of the ‘discussion’ surrounding it. I think also its a mistake to assume conversation is always worthwhile – sunday morning talk shows/thomas friedman et al are almost wholly worthless.I of course don’t take offense btw – I just think you need to acknowledge (despite working for disqus) that there are good AND bad things about conversation in specific contexts. It is complicated and there is more at stake. There are a lot of places on the web people can have conversations, infinite places in fact. If popsci feels that in order to lay claim to particular editorial stance it undercuts the mag for their to be a comment section people can still discuss it on twitter, fb etc. Taking comments away specifically from the page doesn’t ‘shut down all converstion’ only specifically on popsci, per their wishes.

          6. Cam MacRae

            Those are conversations amongst peers, not the ranting of paid lobbyists pushing the barrow for some long since discredited position.All scientists I know love it when their work is discussed — by people with a half clue.

          7. JimHirshfield

            Your citing extremes (peers at one end, lobbyists at the other). You undercut your own logic by saying that scientists love it when their work is discussed by people with half a clue. So, there are conversations happening across a spectrum of expertise, intelligence, etc. Seems obvious. So we shouldn’t shut down all conversations because of a few extremists, IMO.

          8. Cam MacRae

            I haven’t undercut my own logic at all.Conversations among peers at a conference are one thing, a toxic environment in which trolls and lobbyists rule the roost (as was the case here) are another.You appear to agree that these are extremes.It shouldn’t be a massive leap then to accept that only one extreme has any value.(There’s not much value in the middle either, save for a very limited set of circumstances).

  26. Matt Zagaja

    When Bill Nye decided to debate Ken Ham there was a meta-discussion about whether choosing to debate a creationist “elevated the idea of creationism to something worth debating.” A faction of the scientific community believes that by having these discussions they grant some kind of legitimacy to the other side and therefore they should cease to do so. I disagree, I think the data is clear that the facts do not speak for themselves. Polling groups have conducted polls of the American public on issues of fact like evolution, climate change, President Obama’s birthplace and religion, and whether Saddam Hussein attacked us on 911 and a substantial number of people, if not a majority in some cases, get these facts wrong.I can understand the concern of the scientific community. There are many people in the world that lack the toolkit to assess the truth and validity of the facts. Others will cling to the low likelihood of a fact being false in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary just because there are many things for which we can’t be 100% certain or our understanding of the fact hinges on trusting someone they do not trust (and probably believe they will soon hit the Powerball as well).As someone who studied chemistry in undergrad, I think the cool thing about science is that in many aspects it is open source. You do not need to trust when someone tells you mixing chlorine and ammonia together will produce a dangerous gas because you can try it yourself. You do not need to trust that CO2 is a greenhouse gas because you can get the instruments to measure the heat/radiation it captures and see it on your own.

    1. Cam MacRae

      Great comment, Matt.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      Michael Brendan Dougherty had an interesting take on that, “In defense of creationists”.As I noted in a comment there, Michael is such a great writer that he’s worth reading even when I don’t entirely buy or grok his perspective.


    I like the idea of a website deciding if they are “asking” or “telling”. If they are asking then they are inviting comments. If they are telling then they don’t want feedback..What I think is most important here is that the web needs fast ways for people to say “I visited and I good with this” or “I visited and I don’t agree”. These two allow someone to be part of the internet of things but not have to waste time posting comments that have been posted dozens of times by dozens of other people with almost the exact same wording..Startup100M [@] ObjectMethodology [.] com

  28. carribeiro

    I’ve spent a good part of the day thinking (and tweeting) about the role of accessibility in the quality of the debate. Popular Science is, as its name implies, dedicated to the polarization of science. The problem is that the more accessible the content is, the shallower the debate gets. Commenting becomes an exercise on bike shedding; or worse, plain trolling. And worse, the trolls end up drowning legitimate participants in an avalanche of noise. I’ve left many communities over my nearly two decade online existence due to this.This is not to detract from the need for popular outlets for knowledge dissemination. They are necessary, as they bring more awareness and more people to the table. Insight is not an exclusive right of the scholars. However, there must be some way to discourage trolling and allow the best participation to come to the surface.Many communities tried different strategies with being degrees of success. Older sites such as Slashdot tried to impose some order with karma. Later, Wikipedia has transformed itself from an truly open collaborative platform into a committee run, more closed group. Stack Overflow and Quora improved a lot from Slashdot’s reputation system, but had suffered some loss of quality over the years too, to some varying degree. Both employ a active moderation system to impose some order; the fact that Stack Overflow sites have a more limited scope seems to make it easier to manage.One thing that struck me today while thinking about it is how the dynamics of community building play over time. History repeats itself often. A new community is created, and at first, it is a place of vibrant discussion. Over time it grows in reach but quality suffers. Then the early users leave and find some other place to go. It has happened so many times in the Net short existence that some people seem to believe that this fate is unavoidable.I don’t think that community inflation is unavoidable. I believe that someone will crack this code, and develop better ways to manage it. As in the real economy, it may be the case that some inflation may be tolerated, as a condition to sustain growth. But it may be stable enough that sincere users will not be pushed away by hordes of trolls like it happens today.

  29. george

    Really like your Headline Title…Briefly, censorship runs counterproductive to changing science, or the world.

  30. Julien

    One more, the “location” on the web becomes irrelevant. This is fascinating!

  31. jeffyablon

    What’s remarkable about this is the hubris PopSci is displaying. As so many commenters here have pointed out, we’ll all keep talking, wherever we do so. By disabling comments “in their house” PopSci is saying, simply “go to someone else’s”OK PopSci. You win. I won’t clog your forums with comments. Not SPAMMY one, not those of at least somewhat marginal value, not spot-on commentary that your writers can see and maybe make their future work better. I’m just … goneIncredible.

  32. The Candid Nation here. I can understand why they would do this in a way. From what I have experienced, people comment and the whole topic that is simple enough, drags and drags constantly. Although I wouldn’t agree with this in the sense that someone might appreciate the content and you would not reply, that’s impolite.

  33. polo

    I like very much : “the web is a great place to talk […]. It always has been and it always will be”.From somebody born before the web. Seing it changing everyday and maybe , i will see it disappear for something else.

  34. M. G. Rabbi

    A visually refreshing and knowledgeable blog.thank you

  35. Daniel Kuhl

    As with the comments here, I almost always find the most useful information in the comments section. I’ve just added Disqus to my own site, so there are certainly useful tips for how to engage with the audience, and stay engaged. If you can inspire good discussion, your page will quickly fill with relevant content.

  36. Jose Paul Martin

    Interesting and I think so true…”Some publishers will foster those conversations on their own domains. Some will let the conversations happen elsewhere.”I love to have the conversation where the crowd is… there’s more discovery, more interaction – it can be on facebook, twitter, or google plus… it needn’t be on my own domain.

  37. JimHirshfield

    That one was personalized to you.

  38. Matt A. Myers

    That’s not really a fair point of view or really very kind IMHO.Lots of people write great content but don’t get viewership, etc.. Do they deserve not engagement? Similar idea might be ignoring homeless people.And yes, it’s a highly competitive world and so people’s time is limited – but doesn’t mean because one person is getting it, they deserve it more than someone else.

  39. awaldstein

    :)But indeed they are a glaring billboard when you are one of the first ones to comment Jim.

  40. Matt A. Myers

    I keep getting a Lululemon one, of a women doing a very wide-legged variation of Goddess pose – to advertise their “Skinny” pant, it seems. I don’t mind – a little temporarily distracting when I don’t expect it reading text though. 😉

  41. Steve

    hmmm your lucky i guess, I see a DOG, Bad Movies and a Burger.

  42. JimHirshfield

    Matt, what you do or wear in your personal time is no one’s business but your own. 😉

  43. JimHirshfield

    They’re ads. Do you expect inconspicuousness?

  44. Matt A. Myers

    Interesting. Start searching for yoga or fitness-related things and maybe your luck will change? 😉

  45. Matt A. Myers

    Haha. Made me laugh. Thanks. 🙂

  46. awaldstein

    I expect value Jim.