Why I Am Considering Getting Rid of Comments . . .

Since I began this humble blog almost 11 years, 25,000 posts and 110 million page views ago, it has managed (despite my best efforts) to accumulate half a million comments.

This was never my intention.

I created this blog, in the words of Daniel Boorstin, to figure out what I think. It is where I gather my favorite charts, quotes, links and assorted ideas. The blog is simply a diary of random thoughts of a person working in finance. Think of it as the musings of an intelligent investor who, despite studying his subject for decades, still puzzles over many aspects of it.

Overall, the goal with this blog has been an attempt to discern the objective “Truth” (whatever that means) in an industry that does its best to hide that truth from public view. When I do uncover a small measure of truth, I enjoy sharing the discovery here.

I frequently solicit the input of readers. These are the open threads and reading linkfests and general discussions where input is specifically invited “Hey, what do you think? What you are reading, doing, listening to?” The rest of the time, the site is mostly me trying to work through ideas, concepts, quandries and issues. That this is done in a public place is almost beside the point.

Some of you occasionally send me a pleasant email or say nice things to me privately. Quite a few of you impress the hell out of me. Most of you are kind, decent folk. This missive is NOT directed at you.

Managing blog comments has become an increasingly time consuming job. Policing the spammers, trolls, haters, and other purveyors of falsehoods has become a larger time suck than I am willing to accept. Dealing with such cretins hardens your outlook and shortens your temper more than I care for. Perhaps this is the reason so many high profile blogs have closed down their comments altogether.

Were I to shut down my comments, it would be for a reason I have not seen enumerated elsewhere: The intellectually disingenuous rhetorical sleight of hand that has become a substitute for legitimate debate. (See this and this). I simply do not have the time nor the interest in correcting every half-truth and lie. But I have even less interest in polluting the blog with this sort of nonsense.

Therein lay my quandry. A harsh solution beckons.

500,000 people per month swing by these parts. You are, for the most part, professional folks with careers and families and other interests. You have proven yourselves to be overwhelmingly intelligent and polite and lovely people. The vast majority of you are also way too busy to comment on posts. Analytical data shows the overwhelming majority of blog readers do not post comments.

To put this into some context: The blog has garnered ~half a million comments over nearly 11 years. That is also the number of monthly unique visitors. Do the math, and you realize the individual visitor-to-comment ratio is > than 132 to 1.

This ratio is similar to that of large media sites. For example, The Guardian has found that less than 1% of all readers actually leave a comment. And of those comments, more than 20% come from a tiny percentage — the 0.0037% who try dominate the discussion and shout down every one else.

Therein lay the problem: A small group of trolls somehow confuse these sites for a town square. It is not. This blog is not a forum where I am obligated to give equal time to every crackpot conspiracy theorist, birther or intellectually lazy wanker out there. To be blunt, I don’t give a flying fuck at a rolling donut about these jackhole’s opinions. These folk need to rapidly disabuse themselves from believing other people’s blog’s are an open invitation for whatever ignorance or ill thought out nonsense they are peddling.

The trick, according to cognitive psychologists, is to undercut logical arguments by appealing to emotions. According to academic research, this takes advantage of the way the brain works. Emotions come to the forefront faster than “rational” thoughts. Daniel Kahnman divides the cognitive processes as either “thinking fast” (Emotions) versus “thinking slow” (Logic). Scathing, emotional, negative, knee jerk comments can actually nullify intelligent, coherent, logical, sourced, data driven arguments through this technique.

Therefore, consider this a warning not to waste your time: I do not care about the output of your cognitive biases, I am disinterested in the myths you cherish, I care little for the mass media rumors that influence you, or the heuristics you believe in. I especially detest the unsupported, commonly believed narratives that you constantly use in the artificial construct you erroneously call reality.

Thus, I have reached the conclusion that I will no longer tolerate this. To this small group of trolls and asshats, the the 0.0037%: EFFECTIVELY IMMEDIATELY, YOUR COMMENTS WILL NO LONGER BE PUBLISHED HERE.

Phrased differently, if I take the time and the energy to construct a coherent, sourced, logical argument that follows the rules of the art of discourse, I no longer feel obligated to post the comments of those who refuse to follow the same said rules.

The rest of the readership will not notice any changes. Indeed, the vast majority of the people who do comment should not notice a change either. (Their comments will still be approved)

But the assclowns will. I am aware some of them will scream censorship, and to you folks, I state: GYOFB. Nothing is preventing you from blogging on your own. I mean nothing other than your own laziness, lack of original thought and poor work ethic. Start your own blog, tediously build it into something filled with whatever sort of BenSteinery you care to vomit onto the page . . . Just do not expect to see it published here.

While you are free to start your own blog where you may express your unrecognized genius fully, you have precisely zero right to comment here. Going forward, your comments will be deleted with extreme prejudice. (To repeat myself, GYOFB).

I will clarify a point in advance of the knee jerk response: I am not looking for sycophants. I am happy to be disagreed with. I love when intelligent, thoughtful people post reasoned, researched, sourced responses. I WANT TO LEARN THINGS THAT ADVANCE ME TOWARDS ENLIGHTENMENT. But that is not what I am referring to today.

There are far too many comments not aligned with the goal of pursuing the truth. The focus is upon momentarily winning the emotional response through intellectually dishonest means. I have zero interest in half truths, devious rhetorical devices, technically true but highly misleading statements, etc. I assure you that, despite what your mommy told you, the world is none-the-poorer for not hearing your views.

To those of you I have emailed with and met and conversed and broke bread with, please do not stop. I am continually impressed with the quality and depth of what you have taught me. Most of you are intelligent, well educated, thoughtful people. You understand ideas, the value of data; you appreciate empirical evidence; you understand the rules of Oxford debate; you are open minded and thoughtful, positive souls. I revel in speaking with and meeting you. I appreciate your opinions. I love your attitudes. You make the world a better place.

To paraphrase Thomas Hobbes, life is short. I share his desire it need not be solitary, nasty and brutish. This manifests itself in my lack of patience for the negative, spiteful, annoying, dishonest, unproductive asshattery that is all too common online.

In order to encourage more of the desired, proper, intelligent and worthwhile sorts of comments by the people I like, respect and appreciate, as well as to discourage as many of the false, nasty and brutish other, I have developed a few rules about what is suitable for comments.

You can read the official comments policy of TBP here.




The Science of Why Comment Trolls Suck (MoJo)

Trolls win: Rude blog comments dim the allure of science online (Eureka Alert)

Research Shows Commenters Make Up Less than 1% of Total Audience (Examiner)

How to Deal With Crappy People (Altucher)

Clive Thompson on the Taming of Comment Trolls (Wired)

The Guardian publishes stats on the size of their commenting community (Curry Bet)

The Guardian Reveals an Important Truth About Article Comments (Scholarly Kitchen)

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