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Those who feel strongly about the issue of (not?) allowing comments should read Julian Sanchez, "The Psychological Prerequisites of Punditry", 5/3/2012, and Andrew Sullivan's comment, "The Feedback Firehose", 5/4/2012.

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  1. Nick Lamb said,

    May 5, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

    Sullivan's piece seems to miss, whether deliberately or by accident the dual audience of the comments, particularly comments via independent channels such as Tweets. The writer of the material being commented on, and their host publication if any, is one audience, but fellow readers are another audience.

    A newspaper editor, even freed of the mental shackles that go with the now obsolete physical limitation of square inches on paper, isn't in a position to deliver much value to the second group. Beyond screening out the most obvious spam and abuse, that is.

    This is perhaps most important when writers are actually trying to convey useful information (rather than peeving or relating an anecdote). There is an excellent chance, indeed a near certainty that some of the readers know more about any specific thing than the writer. Corrections and additions, in response to the original material or to other comments, can sometimes provide as much value to the readers as the original material itself. Whether the author writes this all up as a follow-up, takes it as criticism of their work and withdraws in a huff, or just completely ignores it does not matter to the other readers.

    Whether any creator should read, let alone respond, to the comments on their /own/ material is a personal choice, a matter of style or personality. Day[9] reads the chat for his live show while talking. His chat audience plays the role of supervising engineer (e.g. reporting if the audio levels are too high, or the video stutters) prompter (if he can't remember an exact number or the name of something the chat will soon fill with answers) and instant critic. At the other extreme there have been novelists who instruct their agents not to forward any reviews, let alone fan mail, so that they remain largely ignorant of the reception for their work, beyond knowing that it's selling enough to keep the royalty cheques arriving. I think this choice is independent of whether it makes sense to /allow/ comments adjacent to the material itself when published and the two shouldn't be confused.

  2. D.O. said,

    May 5, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

    I thought, for a brief moment, to organize GKP posting's comment blog. Each time Prof. Pullum would come up with a new post, this imagined blog would repeat the title, give reference (I don't think Prof. Pullum would allow complete reposting) and open the comment section. Now, as it happens, I am too lazy (or let's say, too busy) for that. Note that maintenance of such blog would be close to 0, it all can be done automatically.

  3. Eric P Smith said,

    May 5, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

    @D.O.: D.O.N.T.

  4. D.O. said,

    May 5, 2012 @ 8:12 pm

    @Eric P Smith: say, what?

  5. Jonathan Badger said,

    May 6, 2012 @ 8:26 am

    I'm not sure if this is what Nick meant by "dual audience", but there is also the issue that normal blog comments can comment on each other, not just on the original posting, and thus allow a genuine discussion to occur. The return to a "letters to the editor" type feedback system removes this, which seems a great step backwards.

  6. GeorgeW said,

    May 6, 2012 @ 10:35 am

    "There is also the issue that normal blog comments can comment on each other, not just on the original posting, and thus allow a genuine discussion to occur."

    This is a relevant point in this particular blog. Some people, who are interested in language are not surrounded by others with this interest or passion, have little means of discussing their interest.

    This would, of course, be different for professional linguists who are constantly around colleagues, attend lectures, teach and are perhaps saturated with student comments.

  7. marie-lucie said,

    May 6, 2012 @ 11:06 am

    For various reasons, not all professional linguists are constantly around colleagues, etc (eg those in small universities without actual linguistics departments, working in industry or other venues, and those who are retired).

  8. peter said,

    May 6, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

    I think much of the discussion of this topic misses an important insight: that after a blog is established and builds a readership, the regular writers and readers of the blog together form a community of people interested in the topics discussed there. Perhaps many academics, who have their own, long-established, communities of interest, do not fully realize the value of LL to those of us outside academic linguistics.

    Once it becomes the center of a community, the blog no longer belongs only to its writers. That is why some of us readers feel so strongly about not being able to comment on the blog posts on LL. We understand the practical problems of dealing with spam comments; that understanding doesn't lessen our anger at not being able to comment on every post at what we had considered to be our community's blog. It is as if one part of the community has told another part they are no longer welcome to attend community events.

  9. Pflaumbaum said,

    May 6, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

    I agree with the above, though I find it baffling rather than infuriating. What baffles me about this being an issue on LL is that this site has easily the best comments section I've ever encountered on the web. (I dare say there's a lot of unseen moderation by MYL and others, but even so.) And the few genuine trolls, like old 'Jimbino', are not generally vulgar or abusive.

    Of course, what seems interesting or insightful to a non-pro like me, a decade-plus out of the field, may be banal or clearly false to the writers here. But there are also a lot of linguists on the board, and they seem to engage fruitfully with the writers, each other and the interested amateurs.

    I'm not denying that it's irritating to have commenters misunderstand your posts and keep claiming the same wrong thing over and over again, or that this has happened to GKP on occasion. And I'm not presuming to tell him or anyone what to do with their own blog. I just think, in the scheme of things, they've got it pretty good here.

  10. David Walker said,

    May 6, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

    @Peter: Well said.

  11. languagehat said,

    May 6, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

    that understanding doesn't lessen our anger at not being able to comment on every post at what we had considered to be our community's blog.

    This is an absurd sense of entitlement. It is not "our community's" blog, it is its authors' blog, end of story. They didn't allow comments for a long time; I didn't like the policy, but it was their blog and their choice. Then they allowed comments, mostly, and I was pleased; I understand why Geoff Pullum doesn't want comments, and that's entirely his prerogative. You can be unhappy about it, but you have no right to be angry about it (or if in some sense you have a "right," it is a foolish one to exercise). If you want your own community where you have full rights over all comments, by all means start one. This one is not yours or mine; we are guests here, and we should appreciate it and not start demanding comfier cushions and better hors d'oeuvres.

  12. Pflaumbaum said,

    May 6, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

    marie-lucie's presence in the thread reminds me of something else. Anyone remember Don Ringe's terrific series of posts on Proto-Indo-European back in 2009? The comments in those threads, by marie-lucie, David Marjanović, and various Indo-Europeanists, were brilliant. I learned plenty of new stuff even though I had studied historical linguistics at college, and they inspired me to return to it in my spare time.

    And here's the thing: some of that discussion was triggered by a commenter who was, if not a troll, at least quite annoying – he was constantly calling into question the basic premises of historical linguistics as a science, while gesturing at some vague mysticism. Sometimes the bad side of having comments can lead to good ends.

  13. Ray Girvan said,

    May 6, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

    @languagehat: You can be unhappy about it, but you have no right to be angry about it

    I think it's more about how it's done than its existence. (I say this all as a great fan of GKP). I'm of the strong opinion that he's throwing out the baby with the bathwater – nevertheless, as you say, it's his prerogative to close posts to comments. But it could be done without the 'parting shot' aspects: the outro jokes that are supposed to be funny, but to me at least come across as "Comments are closed because you're a load of %!@#s who can't be trusted to comment". What's annoying is the (I'm sure unintentional) impression of dissing the reader.

  14. Brian R said,

    May 6, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

    On the site I was reading just before this one, a commenter, knowledgeable on the article's subject of quantum computing, lamented that comments on similar articles are always 90% off-topic, silly smart-alec remarks. This is likely because it's really hard to fool yourself into thinking you know something about quantum physics when, like me, you don't. Unfortunately, with language that's not the case. I can understand why GKP (and others?) doesn't want to open comments. And, I actually like the excuses for not opening comments. I think they're funny, and not every opinion I have shared was necessarily worth the time of others. If GKP means me, I can take it.

    However, there are two points I'd like to make in favour of keeping comments open, at least more often. First, viewed as a group it seems that a certain percentage of comments will remain uninformed but at an individual level that's not necessarily true. I'm sure many have had their eyes opened by the responses they've received. Second, if blogs like this one, or Julian Sanchez's close comments the bar for public discourse on the web is lowered. Either way, though there appear to be many intelligent comments as well, the postings are what bring me here.

  15. me said,

    May 6, 2012 @ 10:46 pm

    I'm surprised by the amount of bias in this discussion. Isn't anybody going to post a comment for the anti-comment side?

    I like comments because they often let me read further analysis of the thingy.

  16. Larry Sheldon said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 12:14 am

    I can not imagine finding that Andrew Sullivan has said something worth noting, mush less something that I would admit reading.

    Say something against comments? Not me. There are lots of places where I won't read the comments because of the troll-baiting trolls, but I believe in the sunshine rules–open meetings, open discussions, and laws, rules, and regulations that go down when the sun does.

  17. greg said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 12:32 am

    Ray hits it on the nose. Previously a huge fan of GKP, I find myself more and more irritated and insulted with every parting shot. Language Hat is quite right that it's the prerogative of the blogger, and that this is not "our" community. But then it's not a community at all, just as a one-way conversation is not a conversation, and so I find myself not bothering to read entries with comments disabled. (I've considered implementing precisely the same hack that D.O. describes.) With no disrespect to the LL Headquarters team, at least half the pleasure of the Log consists in the back-and-forth of educated, interested participants who are welcomed into the discussion.

  18. judy w said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 1:33 am

    What greg said.

    I love Language Log. I look forward to reading (and learning from) posts as well as comments. But, as greg said, "[p]reviously a huge fan of GKP, I find myself more and more irritated and insulted with every parting shot". I no longer waste my time with GKP's arrogant peevishness.

    All the other posters are wonderful! Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with us.

  19. Adam said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 1:59 am

    @DO:

    Good idea. Do it.

    @Ray Girvan and Greg:

    I agree completely. Those snide outros are an embarrassment to Language Log.

    @LanguageHat:

    Almost all LL authors routinely enable comments but disable them as an occasional exception. That should be the rule for LL authors, and those who aren't willing to follow it should post their articles somewhere else (on their own WWW pages, for example). It's especially hypocritical for an author who routinely disables comments to post comments under authors' articles—that should not be allowed!

  20. Geoffrey K. Pullum said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 2:40 am

    Beam me up, Scotty. I've seen enough. I just got called a hypocrite by a complete stranger, in a comments area provided for him by Language Log, because I write for free on Language Log (and sometimes comment on others' posts) but don't always have the time to moderate a comments section as well. Let's head for home, Mr. Sulu. Our work here is done.

  21. Circe said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 2:58 am

    Ray Girvan and Greg:

    I don't know but those "Comments are closed" jokes are rather a highlight of a GKP post for me. I am sometimes a bit disappointed on the few occasion when he doesn't put them in : ).

  22. Breffni said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 3:29 am

    Adam:

    That should be the rule for LL authors and those who aren't willing to follow it should… that should not be allowed

    Tell me this is satire. You're not seriously telling one of the co-founders of a volunteer blog under what conditions he may and may not contribute?

  23. Adam said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 5:19 am

    @GKP

    I didn't call you a hypocrite; I said it was hypocritical to add comments to other authors' articles while generally refusing to let anyone else add comments to yours. Surely you can see the inconsistency in that behaviour? (And you know there's a difference between calling someone an X and saying that a particular thing someone does is Xish.)

    In a previous article about this topic, you said that another blog you contribute to doesn't give you the option of disabling comments—but you write articles there anyway, and just ignore the comments section. Why couldn't you just do that here?

  24. Adam said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 5:25 am

    @Breffni

    Not satire. All the other LL authors enable comments, and encourage the community discussion which has become an integral part of LL. They should insist on that standard.

  25. Hamish Ramsay said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 6:06 am

    In the pre-dubbyadubbyadubbya era, blogs were current affairs documentaries, and the comments sections were purple-faced people like my pa, dissenting vocally with Dimbleby and Day, while my long-suffering mother – listening from the kitchen – proffed the sage advice: "You know where the off switch is, dear".

    Technology has evolved but the stereotypes remain. I like GKPs neatly phrased pseudo-excuses, which take thought to conjure for our benefit, but others may not care for them. Just bear in mind that offence is something that can only be taken, never given.

  26. Breffni said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 6:14 am

    All the other LL authors enable comments, and encourage the community discussion which has become an integral part of LL. They should insist on that standard.

    What's next, a Language Log constitution? What other standards do you envisage? A minimum posting frequency? Should LL enforce topicality criteria on its bloggers? Why not a style guide? It's a volunteer blog, not the Times of London. It's a bunch of linguists trying to do something in their spare time to stimulate interest in the field. Never mind bloggers' alleged obligations, exercise your own rights: if absence of comments fatally undermines your appreciation of a post, don't read posts without comments.

  27. Adam said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 6:34 am

    I like GKPs neatly phrased pseudo-excuses, which take thought to conjure for our benefit, but others may not care for them. Just bear in mind that offence is something that can only be taken, never given.

    GKP has written previously on Language Log that he doesn't allow comments because he takes offence at the "drivel" posted by "lunkhead[s]".

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3690

    That puts a rather different spin on the "parting shot" jokes/insults as well as on GKP's claim here that he disables comments because he doesn't have time to moderate them. (He could just choose not to read them at all, as he does on Lingua Franca.)

  28. Brian R said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 7:15 am

    I'm curious how many LL readers have ever read any of the articles that GKP has published in academic journals. 'Drivel' and 'lunkheads' appear in the thinly veiled subtext. Though I don't necessarily agree with all I've read, I enjoy his style and respect his opinion. If we don't like it, LL has a more than fair satisfaction guarantee that can be reviewed under 'comments policy'.

  29. Adam said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 8:09 am

    You can be unhappy about it, but you have no right to be angry about it

    We don't have a right to make LL authors allow comments, but we certainly have a right to ask the LL "board" to set a standard for its members.

  30. Brian said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 8:27 am

    Nick Lamb says: "Sullivan's piece seems to miss, whether deliberately or by accident the dual audience of the comments, particularly comments via independent channels such as Tweets. The writer of the material being commented on, and their host publication if any, is one audience, but fellow readers are another audience." But zillions of people write to Sullivan even though they know that this secondary audience doesn't exist on his blog. He does a good job of publishing readers' thoughtful dissents and corrections. I figure he saves me the time of wading through oceans of rehashes.

    I read a couple of home decor blogs, and it's wearying to see dozens of comments (paraphrased in their entirety) along the lines of "Wow. Just wow." and "Love love love!" and "I don't think so" and "Best. Post. Ever."

    In my experience, LL's comments area has by far the best ratio of worthwhile reading. Some of the credit accrues to the intelligence of the readership, but I know there's some culling because one of my comments was disappeared when I was too tart in describing Mark Levin's radio delivery. I don't begrudge GKP his right to contribute to a blog without also taking on unwanted comment-tending chores.

  31. languagehat said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 8:41 am

    But it could be done without the 'parting shot' aspects: the outro jokes that are supposed to be funny, but to me at least come across as "Comments are closed because you're a load of %!@#s who can't be trusted to comment".

    Like Circe, I always enjoy his inventive ways of saying "comments are closed," and it's surprising to me that they could be taken as actual insults. If you don't like them, of course you have the option of not reading them.

    That should be the rule for LL authors, and those who aren't willing to follow it should post their articles somewhere else

    Good lord. This reaches such an astonishing level of arrogance that I find myself speechless.

  32. BenHemmens said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 11:11 am

    It would be easy to make software that separates comments into different streams, e.g. serious, silly, Vogon poetry – and then readers could select which category they want.

    For the record, I think it's the blogger's prerogative to toss comments according to whatever criteria they like. Less talking about it and more just getting on with it and deleting is probably the best route to having commenters you can stand.

    I write other things for a living. It's in that department that I get bothered when someone is dissatisfied with the results. Over here I'm just doing it for fun, and if what I meant as fun isn't for somebody … well then, just bin it.

  33. Ellen K. said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

    Those of you who find Geoffrey K. Pullum's closing bits insulting need to engage your sense of humor. Or just don't read them, since since your missing part of what makes them enjoyable to read anyway. I've occasionally read stuff of his published elsewhere, written in a standard academic style, and I've found such writings well written and informative, but not near so fun to read as his writings here. And if posting comments but not allowing them makes him a hypocrite, so what, no big deal. If you can't live with minor hypocrisies, you might try being a hermit, because that's the only way to avoid it.

  34. Chandra said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

    While respecting Prof. Pullum's right to do whatever he wants with the comments section of his own posts, I have to agree with others that a large part of my enjoyment of this blog is the active, interesting and entertaining discussion that takes place in the comments.

    I find that, in general, the best comments sections Out There on the Internet are those where the audience itself is given a measure of responsibility in moderating each others' comments (through thumbs-up or thumbs-down voting, mark-as-abusive options, etc.). I also like the more recent trend of forcing people to use their Faceook accounts to comment on articles, which attaches their name and photo to the comment, thereby cutting down on a lot of trolling and general assholism by removing the shield of anonymity.

    Admittedly, LL comments have neither feature – but then this is something of a niche blog, so perhaps less of a natural target for trolls and the like.

  35. Ray Girvan said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

    @Ellen K: need to engage your sense of humor

    That's one of the more tiresome defences of questionable humour: blame the audience. If a significant sample of intelligent people – we're none of us stupid or humourless – find something insulting rather than funny, there's something amiss with the style of the humour.

  36. BenHemmens said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

    If … intelligent people … find something insulting rather than funny, there's something amiss with the style of the humour.

    Cut the poor man some slack – he's a linguistics professor, not a round-the-clock standup comedian. You can't produce one-liners that hit the spot for every member of the audience in the spaer moments of every day.

    Based on reading bits of Far From the Madding Gerund in the house, I do think that as a comic writer, GKP has matured quite respectably. And I think he manages to hit the jackpot with a comments-closed line every two or three posts, which is a pretty good rate.

    Though on http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3629, I was disappointed that he missed the obvious "Comments are closed, ***holes!"

  37. Ellen K. said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

    Ray, your argument ignores those of us who DO find his posts, including the "comments closed" bit at the end, entertaining.

    I will allow that in some cases it may be an issue of different tastes, rather than inability to see the lighthearted nature of some of his wording. But it's not the role of every author to satisfy every reader. And the fact that some people take his comment comments as insults suggests to me that they aren't doing their job as a reader. Which includes understanding the style of writing they are reading. Seems to me they are failing to do that.

    It's one thing to find it lame. To each their own. It's another thing finding it insulting. Sometimes, when a reader finds something insulting, the fault lies with the reader. Not always, but sometimes, and I think this is one of those cases.

  38. Ray Girvan said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

    @Ellen K: And the fact that some people take his comment comments as insults suggests to me that they aren't doing their job as a reader

    … which comes down to still, as I said, blaming the reader. It's a "no true Scotsman" fallacy – anyone who read it properly would get the joke, and if you don't get the joke, you haven't read it properly.

    OK, blame is a sliding scale. At one end of it, X makes a racist joke and people are offended: it's X's fault. At the other, X makes a totally innocuous joke and a few miserable blighters are offended: the miserable blighters have the problem.

    But in between, as you say, it's down to different tastes. But I will not be characterised as one of the miserable blighters for disliking jokes that are in that middle territory.

  39. Dan S said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

    @GKP: I hope I'm not over-interpreting your comment, but please PLEEEASE don't stop posting! Most of us, you must surely know, are delighted to see your postings, each of which is a treat!

    @greg and @Ray Girvan and @judy w:
    I also regret the loss of the discussions on GKP's postings. But not so much as I remain grateful for Geoff Pullum's fascinating postings.

    Having comments enabled IS NOT FREE. GKP is going to read them, he's probably expected (by Language Log's committee of managing partners) to moderate them. And — because of the responsive thoughtful scientist that he is — the poor man is probably doomed to actually REFLECT UPON those comments, many of which will indeed be drivel, or irrelevant, or inescapable proof of lunkheadish incomprehension. He's a teacher. He's going to be grieved by poor students.

    So, while I regret those comments being closed, I don't demand that my lilies be gilded. If you must find a message in them, then I'd urge you to interpret his (inspired and amusing, IMHO) comments-are-closed outro's not as "you can't be trusted" but as "I can't be bothered." And why should he be bothered?

    @peter, did you maybe want to say "disappointment", rather than "anger"? I miss that commentary, but I don't presume that this blog is anyone's but the authors'. Please take @languagehat's response to heart.

  40. Pflaumbaum said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 6:59 pm

    I think the hilarity or otherwise of GKP's closing gags is a bit of a red herring. Yes, obviously, as with any jokes, some will find them funny, others won't. But surely the point Ray Girvan and others were making is not that they are offended by the content of the jokes per se, but that whenever they read the jokes it hammers home the real reason (as the commenters see it) that the comments are closed – i.e. that GKP considers them lunkheads whose views are an irritation at best.

    It may be that they could do with somewhat thicker skins, but I'm not sure their sense of humour is the issue.

  41. Don said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

    I'd just like to pipe up in favor of the "no comments if the author doesn't want them" side of the discussion. GKP has made it pretty clear that having to leave comments open would immensely discourage him from wanting to post at all. Personally, I'd be far more upset by losing the opportunity to read GKP's excellent posts than by simply not being able to comment on them.

    (And, as others have said, you really need to relax if the so-called "parting shots" are ticking you off. It's never even crossed my mind that they could be construed as anything but a humorous tidbit to look forward to at the end of each post.)

  42. Greg Bowen said,

    May 7, 2012 @ 8:24 pm

    I don't recall that GKP has ever claimed that all who post comments on his topics are lunkheads–just that those lunkheads who do post make it not worth his time. If the parting gags are causing lunkhead-related offense, it's only due to self-identification on the part of the offended.

  43. Courton Loreno said,

    May 8, 2012 @ 12:02 am

    The comments closed jokes are, at least to me, fun and witty. For those saying that having comments closed implies that they don't have worthwhile opinions or that he considers them dumb didn't actually read the post he did on why he closes comments. As someone who constantly reads comments of people on Youtube and Yahoo (shockingly bad also), people don't always care about how well done your videos/posts are. Some people are actually only there to make cruel and snide comments, or any other way of derailing the thread and drawing attention to themsevles (see his example). It is those people and comments he is stopping, not those comments that are actually worth allowing. He leaves the jokes as a parting gift for those that would want the comments open, not as a insult, as many are suggesting, but to make up for the loss dialogue that could be happening (at least that's how I see it).

    As a sidenote, sorry for any errors I made throughout this comment. I don't leave comments on many sites, since mistakes are grounds for discrediting other people's opinions, and unless its for a class (in college, Political Science major in case you were wondering) it isn't fun to read all the "these are all the ways your high school failed you" type comments.

  44. Misha said,

    May 8, 2012 @ 5:20 am

    @ D.O.
    Just don't do it! It's like rewriting the end of "The Old Man and the Sea"!

  45. Richard Hershberger said,

    May 8, 2012 @ 10:03 am

    "I also like the more recent trend of forcing people to use their Faceook accounts to comment on articles, which attaches their name and photo to the comment, thereby cutting down on a lot of trolling and general assholism by removing the shield of anonymity."

    Do we really want to force people into the Borg Collective to make full use of even those corners of the internet not yet assimilated?

    In any case, anyone who wants to be an anonymous troll can simply set up a fake Facebook account. Yes, it is against Facebook's terms of service. So what? And even many real accounts don't have a photo. Mine doesn't, but I only maintain a minimal account for the occasions when not having one is too much hassle. Actually using it for what seems to be its intended purpose of posting photos, minutia of daily life, and political bloviating seems not merely a colossal waste of time, but a peculiarly uninteresting colossal waste of time.

  46. Andrew said,

    May 8, 2012 @ 12:19 pm

    The discussion about comments about blogs begins and ends with Rands, and can be summarized as follows: if you're not willing to leave comments open, you have no business running a blog.

  47. Chandra said,

    May 8, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

    @Richard Hershberger – Of course there are some people who dislike Facebook on principle, or who will make a fake account with a fake photo or whatever. But the fact remains that it still cuts down on an awful lot of anonymous trolling, because MOST people do attach their real name and photo to their FB account, and MOST trolls won't bother going to the trouble of setting up a fake one.

  48. languagehat said,

    May 8, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

    "I also like the more recent trend of forcing people to use their Faceook accounts to comment on articles, which attaches their name and photo to the comment, thereby cutting down on a lot of trolling and general assholism by removing the shield of anonymity."

    Do we really want to force people into the Borg Collective to make full use of even those corners of the internet not yet assimilated?

    Hear, hear! I hate that trend with a passion and will not comment on blogs that require Facebook accounts (even though I have one).

    if you're not willing to leave comments open, you have no business running a blog.'

    It continues to amaze me that people are willing to visit someone's house and insult the host with no apparent sense that they are doing something untoward.

  49. Pflaumbaum said,

    May 8, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

    @ languagehat

    It's not that amazing, it's just that other people don't necessarily perceive blogs according to your guest-host model. If they did, then they would likely be more unassuming.

    I also think peter's comment above is not as absurd as you portray it. Surely it's not that surprising to you that many people identify with their favourite media sources and feel a personal connection to them? To take an extreme example: if, say, the New York Times one day published a leader advocating white supremacy, I'd expect a lot of people to feel not only offended but somehow betrayed. They associate the paper with a certain set of values and they identify with it. They're New York Times readers.

    I don't share the anger that others feel about GKP's comments policy. In fact I basically agree with you that we should be grateful for what we get. And I'm sure you've had your own troubles with rude and annoying commenters. But I don't think the position of these posters is quite as bewilderingly beyond the pale as you're making out.

  50. languagehat said,

    May 8, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

    Surely it's not that surprising to you that many people identify with their favourite media sources and feel a personal connection to them?

    No, of course not. And to some extent my astonishment is a rhetorical device; I understand the psychological forces at play and have felt not dissimilar things myself in my weaker moments. But the point is that as adults one of the things we are supposed to try to do is to suppress such (basically childish) expressions of frustration, just as we suppress our feelings of rage when someone takes the last of those delicious little sandwiches we'd wanted another bite of so badly — rather than snatching it out of their hands and denouncing them to the other guests, we seethe to ourselves (and later perhaps to our significant other), because we are social beings and not egotistical monads.

    And I'm sure you've had your own troubles with rude and annoying commenters.

    Heh. Yes indeed, and I'm sure that's involved here; as the proprietor of a similar establishment, I naturally rally round (as Bertie Wooster would put it). But it seems to me that my approach makes for a more civilized discussion, and if everyone adopted it, Geoff Pullum wouldn't need to shut off comments.

  51. Pflaumbaum said,

    May 8, 2012 @ 7:01 pm

    Agreed. Of course, there are lots of ways of growing up. Some kids grab all the sandwiches, some of us are too timid to speak. I think where blogs fail in giving free reign to the communal toddler, they succeed in encouraging readers to ask questions and express opinions, even dissent, rather than just listen to daddy. I'm guessing you feel the same way, since you allow comments. The only thing I disagree with Prof Pullum on (apart from possibly CGEL's description of accusative co-ordinated pronouns in subject position as 'unquestionably non-standard') is that the balance between respectfulness and vibrant discussion on LL seems to me to be really good. Of course, I don't see what gets deleted, but if there are swathes of foul-mouthed lunkheadedness, it's surprising that I never seem to see it before it's culled. (Always allowing for the possibility that I embody it, but manage to stay just on the right side of culling…)

  52. languagehat said,

    May 8, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

    Oh, yes, I wouldn't dream of not having comments — I've said more than once that if it weren't for the commenters, I wouldn't still be blogging. But I'm not a professor, and I think that makes for a different psychology. (And yes, the comments here tend to be excellent, if not quite at the top of the heap according to Astro's list here… but don't tell anyone I mentioned it!)

  53. Andrew (yet another one) said,

    May 8, 2012 @ 7:28 pm

    I declare myself on the side of not compelling writers to open comments, for several reasons already cogently argued above and so not to be repeated here.

    I genuinely find it hard to understand the attitude of those who disagree, which seems to me to smack of entitlement. I suspect there may be a generation-gapl factor at work here.

  54. Pflaumbaum said,

    May 8, 2012 @ 7:36 pm

    @ languagehat

    Well since "Astro" has The Guardian's seething nest of vipers at 4, I think we have to treat his/her opinion with some scepticism.

  55. Ellen K. said,

    May 8, 2012 @ 8:15 pm

    @Richard Hershberger: Yes, people can register a fake identity when required to register. That doesn't change the fact that requiring registration greatly reduces the amount of troll behavior and other obnoxiousness. Even when registration is particular to the forum and making up a name isn't against the rules.

  56. Adam said,

    May 9, 2012 @ 3:47 am

    Someone wrote:

    I also like the more recent trend of forcing people to use their Faceook accounts to comment on articles…

    Why should Facebook refuseniks be cut off from using a site completely unrelated to that "Borg"?

    Andrew wrote:

    if you're not willing to leave comments open, you have no business running a blog.

    I don't agree with that. My argument is that the standard for Language Log is to enable comments most of the time unless there's a very good reason, and LL authors should press each other to conform to that.

    Don wrote:

    GKP has made it pretty clear that having to leave comments open would immensely discourage him from wanting to post at all.

    But he's admitted that he continues for write on Lingua Franca even though that one doesn't give him the option of disabling comments.

  57. Misha said,

    May 9, 2012 @ 5:15 am

    I really enjoyed when Mr. GKP was exercising his right not to open the comments. There is no law about this, and even if there would be a law… Isn't it refeshing when somebody breaks the law?
    I never was offended by his closings, and when I felt the need to express my point of view concerning a topic, I presented and discussed it with my coleagues.

  58. Chandra said,

    May 9, 2012 @ 11:55 am

    @Adam: "Why should Facebook refuseniks be cut off from using a site completely unrelated to that "Borg"?"

    Because a site's moderators happen to be more concerned with finding simple and effective ways to cut down on their workload than with catering to the ever-dwindling proportion of Internet users who don't have a Facebook account.

  59. languagehat said,

    May 9, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

    Because a site's moderators happen to be more concerned with finding simple and effective ways to cut down on their workload than with catering to the ever-dwindling proportion of Internet users who don't have a Facebook account.

    I'm not sure you realize how condescending and contemptuous that sounds. As I said above, I have a Facebook account but will not use it to sign in to blogs; I deplore the increasing tendency to homogenize everybody into one slurry of Bought-and-Sold Consumer Units. And frankly, it reminds me of the desire some people have to require specialized IDs for voting. Like voting, commenting should be available to everyone, not just the plugged-in fortunate sons. (I welcome all comers at Languagehat; sure, I have to clean out more spam than I would otherwise, but I'm happy to pay the price for inclusiveness.)

  60. Greg Morrow said,

    May 9, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

    Professor Pullum's posts are extraordinarily valuable. I do not understand people who are eager to be offended by either his taglines or his comment policy, or who are prompted by his acerbic style to speak disapprobation.

    I am very much in sympathy with the thought that a blog is the space of the blogger, in which readers and commenters are guests.

    The posters at Language Log are subject matter experts discussing and explaining the matters that they're expert at. I'm pretty much left with THANK YOU as a reaction.

  61. Keith M Ellis said,

    May 9, 2012 @ 11:46 pm

    A thousand times what Dan S. wrote above.

    There's been many a time I was very sad to see that GKP hasn't allowed comments to his post, and I very strongly agree that the discourse in the comments that elaborates upon and explores the subject of the posts adds a huge amount of value to the blog (to the degree to which I, personally, would be much less inclined to read LL were it to lack comments — this has little to do with my own participation and mostly to do with how much I usually click to open a thread with great anticipation of reading knowledgeable people going into the post in more depth).

    But all that said, GKP's posts are usually small treasures and I, for one, don't think he refuses to open comments because he has nothing but contempt for LL readers. On the contrary, I think he rightly just has contempt for a tiny minority of people (that the rest of us usually don't even see) who abuse the privilege of commenting and, in general, it takes more work than he feels he can spare to shepherd the threads.

    For the record, I've always read GKP's comments-closure reasons as good-faith attempts to actually soften the blow, and not at all to add insult to injury. I've always had the impression that he sort of feels bad about not allowing comments and the jokes are sort of an admission of this.

  62. Chandra said,

    May 10, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

    @languagehat – It's unfortunate that you choose to read my comment as condescending and contemptuous, but that is entirely your interpretation and not my intended tone. On my personal blog I do not in fact require people to sign in to Facebook to comment, so this is not a rationalization of my own reasons for doing so (or not). It's merely a reflection on the likely attitude that people take when they do choose to employ this strategy. I happen to see it as pragmatic rather than contemptuous, but you are of course entitled to your opinion.

    As for your penultimate statement, I don't think I need to point out the ways in which "voting = commenting on blogs" is a considerably flawed analogy, and in fact somewhat insulting to actual marginalized peoples who experience actual oppression.

  63. languagehat said,

    May 10, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

    Oh, come on. It's an analogy, not an equation; it's very tiresome to have every analogy dismissed because something about one part is different from something about the other. Well, duh, that's why it's an analogy. I assure you I have every sympathy for actual marginalized peoples who experience actual oppression (as if you truly thought I didn't).

    But I apologize if I read your comment with an implication you didn't intend; it may have been the choice of language ("happen to be"; "catering to the ever-dwindling proportion") that threw me. Of course you're right that moderators frequently care more about finding ways to cut down on their workload than making it easy for people to comment; I just think this is a bad thing, so I get easily worked up about it, and it sounded to me like you were supporting it. I'm truly glad you don't require people to sign in to Facebook to comment on your blog.

  64. Pflaumbaum said,

    May 10, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

    So yeah, I'm starting to see Professor Pullum's point…

  65. languagehat said,

    May 11, 2012 @ 10:18 am

    Heh.

  66. BenHemmens said,

    May 12, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

    I think anyone who reads this forum should be able to see Julian Sanchez's point ;-)

  67. Adam said,

    May 15, 2012 @ 4:37 am

    @Chandra

    I'd be quite happy to use a userid and password to log in to post comments here. (I provide a real e-mail address in the form anyway.) But no-one should be required to participate in Zuckerberg's "they trust me … dumb f*cks" scheme for other purposes.

  68. Sam Paulis said,

    December 31, 2012 @ 6:35 am

    I think the hilarity or otherwise of GKP's closing gags is a bit of a red herring. Yes, obviously, as with any jokes, some will find them funny, others won't. But surely the point Ray Girvan and others were making is not that they are offended by the content of the jokes per se, but that whenever they read the jokes it hammers home the real reason (as the commenters see it) that the comments are closed – i.e. that GKP considers them lunkheads whose views are an irritation at best.

    It may be that they could do with somewhat thicker skins, but I'm not sure their sense of humour is the issue.

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