a companion discussion area for blog.codinghorror.com

Please Read The Comments


My blog doesn’t get too many commenters, just a few faithful, plus all the spammers. I have the Wordpress thing set to pre-moderate any new commenters - and once I’ve approved someone, they can comment all they like. I love my commenters, and although I’d be happy to keep writing even if I had a readership of zero, they are the lifeblood of my blog.

To be a commenter on my blog, all you have to do is say something at least a little bit relevant to the article. As far as I can see, no spammer has been capable of doing this yet.

That’s the only moderation I find I need. If the comment is relevant (no matter how misguided, erroneous or dissenting) it’s allowed. In fact, I’ve had a few occasions where commenters have pointed out an error in my post, and I make a point of putting a public P.S. in my post pointing out my mistake (partly as a reminder to myself to be more careful in the future).

As for Discourse, I’m new to the platform and it seems strange to me that when I read replies to a comment, and then scroll down, the reply appears a second time?


I wanted to reply to the overall post by clicking reply “at the end” of the page as directed but the “+ Reply” button didn’t work.

That said Jeff (Atwood) I was a bit confused about your intent to host your blog comments external to your blog. You indicated that your new host didn’t support comments… yet if you had gone the WordPress route there would be a plugin all ready to go for you… right?

Is this just extreme dogfooding or (if) you had decided to host elsewhere… would you have opted to host the comments “inline”?


I do not, and will not, offer in-page commenting here. If you want to reply with a comment, you go next door to the community clubhouse. There’s a fairly strong, but permeable, membrane between the editorial area here and the community area there. This is intentional.

If this was truly a “clubhouse” model, why can you see the comments from the website?
Perhaps it’s a clubhouse where you can stand outside the window and listen in, without talking.

I’m also finding the duplication of comments a bit disorienting.


Me too, although I got progressively used to it as I read down the page. I suppose it’s to prevent things getting too deeply nested, and hence missed.

I think a visual cue (small transition animation?) when you click on the “in reply to _” box would help prevent some confusion here.


When I saw the heading “Please read the comments” in Coding Horror, I totally thought I was getting a thoughtful essay on why it’s important to comment code and understand what the comments mean before making modifications. “I find the don’t read the comments movement kind of sad.” I certainly know some developers that don’t comment their code, but I didn’t know that they had a movement. Wait a second, somebody’s complaint about comments is that they are misogynistic, racist, etc.? I mean, I know that programmers say stupid stuff, but in the comments?

[ Reads a few more paragraphs. ]



I really agree with what Jeff said. I always read the comments and believe all creators should too. But the biggest issue with comments on blogs vs. comments on something like Stack Overflow is community ownership. Jeff wrote:

the only form of moderation that scales with the community is the community itself.

On blogs there’s an different power structure in place between the author and the commenters. A blog is not the commenter’s community. A blog is owned by the blogger.

Thus when moderating comments on a blog it often feels like censorship - no matter how well intentioned you are. The same is not true for general discussions (non-blog) where the community shares a common goal. This is why Stack Overflow works: everyone there wants better and more correct answers. I may have the altruistic idea that my comments on blogs will only make the blogger better. But not everyone who comments on a blog wants the blogger to be better. Some just want them to shut up. In fact, some bloggers - gasp - might be wrong.

I’m not sure discourse addresses this fundamental problem for blogs.


I really enjoyed the knock on libertarianism while also praising bottom up vs top down community moderation.


I dunno. I tend to think a blog without comments is … a blog. A blog doesn’t have to be a ‘community’ or a ‘discussion’.

Having said that, there is nothing worse on the web than an unmoderated comment section. I read the comments on select few sites, and avoid the comments on the vast majority of websites I visit; my time’s to precious to waste it reading garbage.

As for Discourse, my verdict is still out. I’m not seeing how it is any better than other commenting systems out there. The separation from the blog post itself is at the very least mildly annoying. I’m not feeling the upside.


I understand what you’re trying to say, but… as a transgender woman, I avoid reading comments as a way of protecting myself from feeling like utter shit every day. Seriously, I work to stay abreast of developments in the treatment of trans folks, and things are getting better, but… aside from glancing at the first couple of comments to be sure it’s really as bad as I expect (and it almost always is), I don’t read the comments. And when I share links? I explicitly advise people not to read the comments so that they know not to even bother with the first couple.

Every single time a news story, a blog post, a video, or anything regarding trans issues is posted on a site that invites comments and in a space that is not explicitly trans-friendly (even queer-friendly is not enough), the comments are sure to be absolutely vile. They will assert that people like me are freaks, perverts, that we should all die, that we are mentally ill, that it’s good if we get raped because maybe it will cure us.

At first, when you get hit with that sort of thing, it’s no big deal. You roll your eyes and move on. But when it’s day after day after day (and I assure you it is), it starts to take its toll whether you want it to or not. Because it’s saying the same thing that society has said to us for decades. It’s saying the same thing that we beat ourselves up with to keep from allowing ourselves to be who we really are. Because it’s the same thing we fear to hear from friends, from family, from lovers, from people passing by on the street. (And in the case of many trans women, passersby on the street have no problem saying the same sort of thing you see in online comment sections–because society accepts it.)

If it is a trans-friendly space? That still might not be enough, as one of many agitators against trans rights will occasionally pick a high-profile post to share with their friends, and then after that point, well… it turns out that it’s no less distressing to see reams of that shit when you’ve imposed moderation than it is to see it when you’re a reader.

So, yes–I understand what you’re saying, I really do. But at the same time, you’re missing something big. You’re missing how incredibly damaging words can be when they’re relentless and unavoidable.

And that’s why people say “Nope, no more. If people want to engage with me, they can do it somewhere else. Because I have no responsibility to subject myself or my readers to this shit.”


Discourse isn’t a system for slapping drive-by comment graffiti on whatever bathroom wall of a web page is available…

… it’s a system for building long running, standalone communities – and that requires a clubhouse, a place that truly belongs to the community.

For example, you can start a new discussion topic here if you like. You can also create a meta topic complaining about the way this site is moderated, or suggesting some enhancement. Can you do any of that in a blog comment?

Not exactly. We try to use Discourse as much as we can internally so we’re dogfooding the same stuff we are selling and giving away (it is open source after all) to everyone. If it’s good enough for the dog, it’s good enough for us, too… right?

And I can tell you that the tools Discourse provides to manage community are worlds more advanced than the tools TypePad provided to me for blog commenting. They’re also much more advanced than the tools in WordPress. Discourse is a tool for managing discussions first and foremost; that is what it excels at.

No, I don’t think anyone is an asshole. OK maybe I do think some people are, but it’s a small and obvious list, and you are not on it.

No, my suggestion is that Discourse has helpful guidelines on constructive conversations, and you have the right to enforce those guidelines as you see fit on your community. And Discourse provides all the tools to make that as easy as possible – even automatic in many cases.

Only 50 replies and you’re already bemoaning the lack of the infinite headed threaded hydra? Try harder Conery! :wink:

Are you building a community, or are you providing a wall for people to scribble their drive-by graffiti on? Discourse is the former.


Okay, let’s see. Here in Russian internet I have two example of IT-related communitites IMHO diseased to the core: http://habrahabr.ru/ and http://linux.org.ru. They’re both a community-generated news sites, to summarize. Problem is, almost any discussion under any arbitrary selected article is the pointless arguments about personal preferences. Commenters can even be neither rude nor offending, just arrogant and ignorant.

How are you going to moderate such a community? Oh, yeah, there’s a lot of very intellectual, albeit not intelligent, discussions. Between people whose only need is to prove that they’re right at all costs! No open flame, nothing degrading, no “imma first to comment lol” idiocy. But the signal/noise ratio in effect is zero anyway, there’s only noise in comments, so I personally don’t even start to read comments there (to be honest, I don’t even go there at all as a result).

So how do you moderate such a community? Habrahabr has a karma system for individual posts as well as for individual users, it does not help at all. Both examples I proposed a multi-million communities, and their whole purpose is to be like that, there’s no way to just increase the banhammer in size and start squashing everyone who offtops, because everyone offtops at some point.

So how do you moderate such a community?


You are thinking of Coding Without Comments, perhaps?

So you can observe us playing ping-pong for a while before you commit to coming in and picking up a paddle! It’s fun to observe, and most people are readers – so why not optimize for that? I eventually want to get to a “best of” model here where only the really great comments are surfaced on the main blog.

Longer term, people who visit here regularly and comment will gain trust levels and can help moderate this discussion area. That’s exactly the goal: to turn the reins over to the community, because the only moderation that scales with the community is the community.

Discourse can be used to fill the commenting role, but it is fundamentally a system of community, not drive-by commenting.

I appreciate where you are coming from. I recently spent a lot of time at http://bbs.boingboing.net where there is a much larger transgender community and I gained a totally new perspective on the risk you take on daily.

The intent of Discourse is to provide great open source community tools so that more safe, clean, well-lit spaces – with automatic community moderation generated from trust, and excellent best of breed moderation tools – can form on the Internet. Cruelty, rudeness and incivility should not be tolerated, and that’s a standard set of guidelines built in to every single Discourse instance: see ours at /faq.


Start over using better software on a different website? :wink:

Sometimes for the older communities that are completely entrenched in their ways, the young turks who are fed up with the status quo have to create a new splinter community that does not inherit all the badness of the existing site. Then the new site eventually grows to replace the old.

Communities as a whole hate change, and the older they are, the stronger that effect is. But there’s usually a contingent of folks unsatisfied with the way things are who are willing to forge ahead elsewhere.


From a moral point of view it’s perfectly fine for discussion communities to not allow decent. But it will generally make for a very boring discussion if all everyone does is agree.

A certain level of agreement is necessary for a productive discussion, but the more basic the ground rules can be kept while retaining a civil atmosphere the greater the diversity of opinions that can be expressed and the more interesting the discussion.

Tightly constrained discussion can work to focus towards a very defined goal, but there is nothing like a wide variety of options to get the odd and unexpected revelations that make the best conversation.

Of course that is just my opinion and your welcome to keep yours.


It looks like the on-blog mirror of the comments has a bit less polish to the UI than the full-take Discourse view of the same stuff. Is that going to change at all?

I listened to you go on about Discourse features on the Stack Exchange podcast, and some of the bells/whistles (mostly to do with quotes / replies and understanding the threading model) don’t carry over.


It should be easy based on this blog post


Jeff you should make a post about how Discourse is different, I am yet to see how this is better than slashdot style (although I don’t like threading too much I find that there is incredible insight when comments go offtopic in slashdot). Also Discourse definitely needs a WYSIWYG if you ever wants to get into the non-programmer folk. As matter of fact many of the stack-exchange sites also need WYSIWYG editors.

Also kill the quoting, quoting is Evil.

There is something wrong with the site, I can’t pinpoint exactly what with all this AJAXy stuff, but it doesn’t feel “native”. It is the same feeling I get from google.com now. I believe it is because new posts are loaded automatically when I scroll, I rather click on a link to load more pages or else I get that feeling of helplessness that I am not in control of what is happening. I don’t get this from 9gag.com for example (even though it also uses AJAX), because there is a button to load more posts.


Well, your entire blog post is about comments on blogs, so… Perhaps you’re intentionally conflating the concepts of ‘comments’ and ‘community’. Perhaps you should have titled you blog post ‘Please Join The Community System’ rather than ‘Please Read The Comments’.

Not all blogs need comments, and even fewer of them need ‘a system of community’.


Is there a source for the graph? it looks like SMBC.


I was happily surprised when I pressed “Shift+?” and a keyboard shortcut list popped up! Now I’m flying through comments like a ninja.

I’m a little put off by the separation of the post and the ability to reply, but at least the comments are still under the post. I’m not sure how I feel about having all the replies to comments hidden by default. What’s the reasoning behind that?

Also, how does the community curate itself? I didn’t find that to be clear in the blog post.