I was surprised, yesterday, to get a thoughtful letter of resignation from a LLOG commenter. To preserve the anonymity of his pseudonymity, I'll call him 'X'. Mr. X's stated reason for leaving was that
LL is becoming far too centered on my babblings. Defending my own crudity is becoming tiresome, time-consuming, and harmful to others – notably yourself and whoever else's good names are behind the board. I prefer to do whatever is most helpful and appropriate – in this case I've missed that target pretty goddamned impressively.
I appreciate the letter. But I feel that it expresses a widespread misunderstanding, namely that Language Log is a "board" or "forum" for discussion, a sort of latter-day usenet or a small-time reddit. It's not — Language Log is a weblog, in which posting is limited to small circle of friends.
Over the years, we've gone back and forth about whether to allow comments. I mostly enjoy comments — though during periods when we didn't allow them, I got nearly the same benefits in email responses from readers. Geoff Pullum mostly doesn't like dealing with comments, as regular readers know well; and other Language Log posters have positions somewhere in between. But anywhere along the continuum of opinions about comments, it's a secondary question. Without comments, LL was LL without comments; with comments, it's LL with comments.
The thoughtful Mr. X continued:
I didn't like my reactions to being called a troll, and notably I didn't like my reactions a great deal more than I didn't like being called a troll in the first place. This tells me something I don't like hearing.
The key problem with open discussion on the internet was expressed clearly in William Faulkner's letter resigning his position as postmaster of a Mississippi post office:
As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.
It's the genius and the curse of the Internet that an investment of two cents is no longer required.
In any case, I've instructed Language Log's Customer Relations Department to refund double Mr. X's subscription fees, in accordance with our long-standing policy.