Comment sections on blogs are always an odd thing. Good things happen when people ask questions for clarification, correct legitimate errors in posts, and share insights. However, writing anything on the internet is an invitation for some people to subvert the conversation.
I get a lot of comments that you don’t see, because I delete them fairly quickly. Most of those comments are obvious spam, but others are people sharing their own theories about the Universe, without regard to what the post they’re commenting on had to say. To these commenters, their theories are obvious and my neglecting to pay them their due is tantamount to censorship or suppression. The best example of this came in an email after I closed comments on an earlier blog post:
I have placed several replies to entries in your blog; the latest of which has caused you to shut the thread down in a huff. I had mistaken you for a scientist and having read your commenting policy I realise you are actually a science writer. My understanding of the difference is that a scientist debates the factual issues, whereas a science writer only entertains subject matter with which he agrees.
…If you are not prepared to debate the issue, your blog is a waste of time. I will go find one which actually debates the issue, not one which provides only acolytes to the blog-meister.
Now I don’t know anything about this gentleman, whether he has scientific credentials or not, since he doesn’t list them. My own are easily located; I hope I live up to my education and training. (Also, you can read my comments policy here and decide for yourself if it’s excessively censorious.) What’s ironic in this case was that I was deflecting comments on a topic I know little about, deferring to the scientific literature and experts in that field. I was attempting to end an increasingly insulting yelling match between several commenters who were getting farther and farther off the topic of the original post.
So, since my comment policy is obviously not clear enough for some, let me clarify a few issues. This blog is my space. I’m not obligated to have comments, but I’d rather have them than not. I like having conversation and allowing people to ask questions. It’s pretty common for commenters to catch errors in my posts, or to ask questions that lead to important clarifications. I don’t want to lose that! However, for now I’ve closed comments on older posts: anything older than 30 days is off-limits for comments. Blogging is an ephemeral art, and very few of my posts get new readers after a few days anyway, so this will cut down on the amount of active comment curation I need to perform.
For those who say this is censorship or suppression, I remind you: this blog is an unpaid labor of love for me. You can sign up for a blog on WordPress (which hosts this site), Blogger, Tumblr, or any number of other platforms. Then you can write about what you want to, and I can do nothing to stop you!