Please Read The Comments


For me there’s also one disadvantage: one needs to host discourse engine and usually the small hosting that can power WP cannot power Discourse. Disqus has obvious advantage here: you can get it for free and hosted somewhere else. All depends how much traffic you have I think…


Both directions can be harmful on different levels.
Strong moderation protects the community from bad behaviours, and makes people who agree to the rules stronger together.
On the other hand, the stronger and more strict you impose rules and moderate, the more you aim your community to the “self-centered jerks who kick outsiders between the legs”. So you have a risk of closing the community on itself and losing in popularity for the external world.

Examples that come to mind : posting a topic for the first time on a random phpbb, and getting a set of the following:

  • ‘you didn’t say hi/please’
  • ‘new users should post in the new user topic to present themselves’
  • and any other collection of hoops to jump through before you can actually say what you want to say

Other example:
It went from the wild west at the beginning for the lack of moderation (lack of enough appointed moderators and early community not having access to the tools yet)… to, well, this:

Super User is for computer enthusiasts and power users. If you have a question about …

  • computer hardware,
  • computer software, or
  • personal and home computer networking

and it is not about …

  • programming and software development,
  • video games or consoles,
  • websites or web services like Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress,
  • electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer,
  • issues specific to corporate IT support and networks,
  • asking for a shopping or product recommendation,

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

In short, you can ask whatever computer question you want, except, well, all that. (Oh, and don’t you DARE asking a question someone asked two years ago, even if you would get updated answers.)

Don’t get me wrong, I love the SE sites. But while it’s nice to have kept them from becoming wild west yahoos, it would have been nicer if people on some of them didn’t become so stingy about what newcomers can or can’t do.

Because if a newcomer gets the door slammed on his face the first time he shows up, he probably won’t bother coming back. (Well, except scientists)


I find that a little rich given this from your post:

There’s no end of websites recreating the glorious “no stupid rules” libertarian paradise documented in the Lord of the Flies …

Maybe you meant to write “anarchic paradise” instead? And the lifeguard cartoon – libertarians are, as a group, fine with shirking their duties and allowing people to die? I don’t think you understand libertarianism.

Are both fine because they’re not part of the comments?


The vision for Discourse sounds awesome but I find the UI a bit confusing at the moment.

  • I don’t like leaving the blog post page to see the replies to comments, I did this a few times and ended up with lots of tabs open
  • I’m not sure where I’m meant to click to add to the top level discussion around this blog post. I’m confused because under “I find the Don’t Read The Comments movement kind of sad” on Please Read The Comments it says “1 Reply”, which when clicked on shows a overview of links to other blog posts instead of a reply. So now I’ve clicked the “Reply” button to the right of “1 Reply” I’m confused as to what will happen. Lets see…

EDIT - now I see the bottom of the page - I never reached the “+ Reply” button at the bottom because I didn’t know where the infinite scroll would end and gave up, of course I’ve sinced noticed the up and down buttons on the counter widget to take me there.


Regarding the cartoon, do you think the slogan also applies to programmers? as in “Libertarians make bad programmers”? I don’t want to start a flame war or anything. I’m just curious about the general opinion of letting users do whatever they want with a program. I guess this must be in another place/post


I’d say it doesn’t fully apply. Libertarians in real life make sense, since the framework to act in already exists and has its own rules and limitations (physics laws and such). As a programmer, you actually create the environment (God self-designation of the day: check). If you don’t define the rules, you don’t actually have an environment for people to meddle with. Being libertarian with users would be the equivalent of handing them the dev tools and let them do their own stuff.


I’m responding to your blog post, though, which, although in a sense it “includes” these guidelines by linking to them, is a separate text and presents a separate thesis. I think the goals of Discourse are admirable, and I’m even partly inclined to agree, to some extent, with your criticism of the absolutist “don’t read the comments” mantra. My point is simply that your post, as written, implies that the biggest problem with poorly moderated or unmoderated online communities is the signal-to-noise ratio. I don’t think you actually believe this, but comments like “If your website is full of assholes, it’s your fault” seem more harmful than helpful.

I don’t know. Certainly that will require some thick-skinned moderators, whether or not the task of moderation is partly automated and/or crowdsourced. I hope Discourse and similar efforts do ultimately help such communities. Until then, though, I find it hard to blame people for avoiding reading comments.


Well, that’s funny, because I always explain Stack Exchange as a system of science, data and facts:

So you want to turn away people from SE who aren’t willing to do science in the small.

See more in my talk, Learning vs. Discussion:

That is good! Because I do not!

I would rank the biggest problems in online communities as:

  1. hate (and its close cousin, persistent negativity)
  2. trolls
  3. spam

In that order. Discourse aims to provide communities with a) a default “bill of rights” that says this kind of stuff isn’t tolerated and b) tools that let the community participate in pushing out hate, trolls, and spam. Even if the moderators go on permanent vacation! Or never show up in the first place. Make sense?

Me too, that is absolutely the goal!

However, you will note that this works both ways: I got (correctly) criticized in the comments of this blog post for using stormfront as a partial example. Racism is dumb and offensive, but it is not illegal. And as it turns out, even dumb, offensive racists have standards of conduct and civility among themselves… that is their “safe space”.


I was kind of surprised why I couldn’t use my Discourse identity here as well. Mind explaining, @codinghorror?

Any chances of making the “Show replies to a post” button working on the main site? It’s like you’re hanging a “Wanna see more? Join now!” kind of sign into your window after you have been glazing for a few minutes.


@robconery, your article on UnitOfWork and repositories was excellent. You were able to say something I’ve been trying to put into words for awhile now. Thank you.


I can’t speak to the Salon example (I don’t read Salon), but this behavior of stating a controversial opinion and then playing the victim is pretty common. One well known example of this is “Feminist Frequency” on “Tropes VS Women in Video Games”. Say something controversial and then express shock/outrage at the negative reaction by those you’ve insulted - who would have thought. There are tons of examples of this.

Have a policy. Have identity (so you can ban/filter), but moderate only those comments that violate the policy. Anything else is just a pointless echo chamber.


First discourse reply. I like it!


Well, indeed, a “nuke” solution is a solution, too. :smile: I admit I was unnecessarily bitter in my statement, but my point was that the degradation of the “comments” section can be not in spam, flame, trolls or some othere idiotic behavior but in the state of mind of the community overall, in overall arrogant and igronant attitude of comments and conversations. There’s a lot more to do than to just filter the offending comments and/or ban the offenders, when anyone is an offender. What, you’ll hire a pro psychologist as moderator? :smile:


For @FichteFoll and @jeremybanks – it turns out most communities are more interested in local namespaces than global ones.

In other words, in your own clubhouse you demand the right to be referred to as @dave and @harry. Seems reasonable to me.


I’ve been frustrated with blog commenting for a long time. It seems that the Internet hates comments. Yet, they’re absolutely vital in making content better.

Good comments (good conversation) provides enormous value and it’s also the place where the 9% and 1% (via Participation Inequality) hang out.

Seeing this post and the sad announcement from Copyblogger pushed me to complete my post about the power of blog commenting.

Funnily, the commenting platform on my blog is terrible. I’ve thought of moving to DISQUS but when I mention that I get a howl of disapproval from a certain part of my community. So perhaps Discourse is the answer. I certainly like where your head and heart are regarding this topic.


Did you mean to say “willfully ignorant minority”? In a moderated community often the moderators are a very small percentage of the community at large. In communities I have moderated this has ranged from 0.3% to 0.005% of the community being moderators.

From my own experiences I would have to agree with @sam_saffron and @mshappe here.


I’ve actually seen a few cases of I suspect was meant here–they’re communities where if you do not embrace the dogma you are an infidel, heretic, and must be destroyed.

The moderators in such communities either are the source of such attitudes or merely did nothing to prevent it. The group becomes the majority, simply because nobody else sticks around as the echo chamber becomes more rigid & it becomes heresy to even suggest that there could possibly be anything wrong with any of this. (If you don’t want to be okay with multiple viewpoints, just be honest to everybody and just run the comments off.)

Moderation is an issue of quality, always, and things go wrong when you have anarchist or totalitarian mods.


you suck, bitch!

…is a something you probably won’t be getting much of, since commenting requires:

  1. going to a separate web page,
  2. logging in, and
  3. navigating through an unfamiliar system.

I can tell you that these barriers make it much less likely for me to post. And maybe that’s a good thing. If I couldn’t be bothered to post something here, then you probably shouldn’t be bothered to read it.

Still, I wonder where lies the perfect balance. I know a NYC landlord who tells me, “If your tenants aren’t occasionally moving out, then you aren’t raising your rents aggressively enough!” He pushes the threshold until he starts to see a tiny bit of what he’s normally trying to avoid. I think he has the right approach.

For comments, the parallel is: If you don’t get the occasional “you suck, bitch!” post, then maybe you’ve created too many barriers to posting.

I don’t know where the line should be drawn, but I think this is a good start. Good luck!


This reminds me of an interesting article discussing how land ownership is a ‘natural monopoly’.

I see a parallel here between the ‘ownership’ of a blog and the community that runs underneath it. Given the right environment, it can be a shared and mutually beneficial interaction. But under other circumstances, it can become a sort of dictatorship where the blog owner ends up ‘raising the rent’ to the point where no one can communicate.

Makes me wonder if there is a means to analyze the ‘conversion rate’ of a blog’s ability to attract useful comments.


As the audience size for a blog goes up, you do need to move the commenting barriers up one rung every few years in my experience.