• The end of comments

    Popular Science is shutting off comments.

    Comments can be bad for science. That’s why, here at PopularScience.com, we’re shutting them off.

    It wasn’t a decision we made lightly. As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter.

    You should read the rest, and especially if you make or read comments here. Yes, in our moments of frustration, we have considered shutting off comments at TIE. Rest assured, we have no plans at the moment to do so.

    Also, I might as well tell you, we’ve implemented a comment moderation rotation so that those of us who find reading comments especially taxing* only have to do so a couple of days a week. The upshot is that you should not expect that the author of the post you may be addressing will read your comment. It’s for this reason that we’re responding less, which you may have noticed.**

    Sorry about that. It’s not itself a commentary on your comments; many are very good. It’s a commentary on the growing volume of both signal and noise. It’s tragedy of the commons. Most of all, it’s the price of sanity and productivity.

    * Ahem, that’d be me.

    ** Best way to engage us, frankly, is on Twitter.


    • If you want to see a succinct version of commenting rules, I suggest this one:

    • Comments here seem a much better way to communicate than through twitter, especially in light of the 140 character limit.

      An alternative is to have people register before they can comment, perhaps combined with a time delay or number of approved moderated comments before they can comment without moderation. Shut off the ability to comment for those who abuse comments. Allow people to flag inappropriate comments. Those actions could allow comments without as much wear and tear on the moderators.

    • It’s not so much the trolls that I find problematic as the spam. I guess I’m somewhat sympathetic to the troll’s mission (see: But if you don’t stay on top of it, spammers will fill up comments sections with incomprehensible gibberish designed to goose their google pagerank (I assume). I had to disable the comments on my HIV-related posts, because I kept getting testimonials for African witch-doctors.

    • You need at least some registration barrier (DISQUS apparently helped over at MoJo, if I remember what Kevin Drum said directly), plus active moderation.

    • Sound like someone was butthurt over there. If you cannot combat trolls with facts, figures, and evidence, then that speaks more against you than for complete Fahrenheit 451.

      Then again, I study economics – which is a science mostly consists of arriving at your predefined ideological conclusions, throw out all contradictory evidence, and then herald your conclusion as the one and only.

      I personally don’t mind trolls. In fact, I wish they would speak their mind more often. The more often they speak, the more ridiculous they sound.

      I hope creationists scream at the top of their lungs.

    • Akismet. Get it.