The theory was great.
People could offer their own views on your writing and then you could have an exchange of views based on mutual respect, even if the conversation got animated.
In practice, online comments – whether on blogs or on conventional media sites – quickly became the domain of arseholes. They post under a variety of fake identities and spew what most arseholes spew. More often than not the same arsehole had multiple identities to increase the quantity of mayhem.
So it is that newspapers have started to shut down the comments functions on websites. No one will mourn their loss.
Comments have had a chequered history at SRBP as well. The problems started at the beginning. Anonymous comments, apparently from a political staffer, added nothing to the discussion and served purely as a distraction. So SRBP shuttered comments for a while in May 2005.
Bigger online spaces with a bigger audience had a bigger problem rooted in the same thing. Andrew Coyne closed comments on his site around the same time as SRBP did.
The people with a brain and a sensible comment to make “have been drowned out by all the other crap -- low-brow, insult-filled, intolerant of opposing views, and unspeakably tedious.” Coyne wrote. “I have no desire for this site to serve as a clubhouse for hard-right wackos, usually anonymous, with way too much time on their hands.”
Eventually, your humble e-scribbler opened the comments again but they quickly proved to be more of a pain than anything else. There were some memorable and valuable discussions. But for the most part, the comments section was filled with partisan crap from folks who preferred to sling crap from behind a cloak of invisibility.
Once they got tired of being ignored there, the arseholes moved to Twitter. Thankfully, the Twitter gnomes created a button that let’s you mute people. #nlpoli is much less busy and much more interesting if you take the hard rule of muting all the fake IDs, except the good parodies. Some days you can go hours without seeing a new tweet once you mute the noise.
What wasn’t that was some spammer posting links to some some site offering Viagra, Russian mail-order brides or other uselessness. Imposing comment rules moderation got rid of all that but still, sensible people – even folks who wanted to violently disagree using their real identity – were so few and far between that no one bothered making comments after a while.
That’s the customarily long winded way of saying that comments at SRBP are now gone for good. Folks wanting to offer their opinions on stuff posted here can still e-mail email@example.com or tweet @edhollett.