Emergent Comments

by Russ Roberts on June 8, 2009

in Weblogs

I am once again thinking about the purpose and productivity of comments here at the Cafe.

Last night I posted a brief observation on the state of macroeconomics. As of 1:45 pm or so today, there are 51 comments. Eighteen are by Daniel Kuehn. I note this not to drive Daniel away–he has many interesting things to say and I particularly value the fact that he doesn't look at the world the way I do. But he (and others) will make the first or second comment on every post. What then follows is a discussion of what Daniel thinks of macroeconomics or whatever is the topic. That's fine. But I'm not particularly interested in hosting a discussion board that is persistently expropriated by a single commenter. Rather, I'd like the comments to be about my post. Or better yet, the ideas of my post. Not about whether this commentator or that one understands macro or has read macro or is an idiot or not an idiot. And of course this problem is not all Daniel's fault (though he often starts it, lately). It is also the fault of the people who respond to Daniel or others in particular ways.

This use of the comments here is an emergent phenomenon. I can control but only at a very high cost. Not worth it.

This use of the opportunity of the comment function isn't free. It discourages other kinds of discourse that I would prefer. It discourages other people from commenting, both who agree and who disagree with my worldview and Don's.

So I am looking for suggestions for how it might be controlled in a cost-effective manner. This kind of occasional post on commenting is low-cost but not effective. It seems that the ideal suggestion would be to use software within the blog that does nested conversations. So a side conversation about Daniel's views of macro could continue for people who are interested (and clearly many of you are) without distracting or discouraging comments on other matters related to the post.

This blog is run via Typepad. Does anyone know offhand if Typepad does this well? Or WordPress? I am open to suggestions. I would prefer to have suggestions sent directly to me. Comments on this post about comments are closed. Write me at my last name followed by the at symbol followed by gmu.edu or any other email you have for me. They all come to the same place.

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