January 19, 2003
Topic Drift in Comments

Looking back over the comments, it seems to me that they suffer at times from excessive topic drift.

I've had a bunch of complaints that clicking on "comments" links gets one a discussion that has very little to do with the post...

So I'm going to start pruning topics not just for personal attacks on other participants in the discussion, and not just for gross misrepresentations of matters of fact, but also for germaneness.

As always, the decision of the judges is final.

Posted by DeLong at January 19, 2003 12:20 PM | Trackback

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Sweet.

Posted by: Paul on January 19, 2003 01:06 PM

Sounds good.

Posted by: Ian Welsh on January 19, 2003 01:22 PM

does anyone have a recipe for cheese puffs?

i'm sorry, i couldn't resist. :)

Posted by: quinn norton on January 19, 2003 04:11 PM

Before I say "sounds good", what's the objective function at work? I have been one to comment on topic-drift here (and elsewhere), but I guess I see it as part of the medium.

Another part of the blog medium (not unconnected to topic-drift) is short attention spans. Weblog posts get pushed down the page as new posts arrive, and commenters move their attention to the latest stuff. Which means comments don't just drift off-topic, but they DRIFT OFF generally, fading out as people lose interest, even when issues might be unresolved.

So, Brad, if the plan is to edit comments, my question is what would you like the comments to be like? More focussed, on-topic, short bursts of activity? Longer, linear discussions that really try to grapple with the issue you've raised? You-don't-care-as-long-as-it-stays-on-topic?

I'm just wondering what the point of this is, I guess.

Posted by: Michael Harris on January 19, 2003 04:46 PM

Very wise. One of those things that requires a visible hand to be effective, I guess.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 19, 2003 04:50 PM

Cheese puffs are objectively pro-cholesterol.

Posted by: Chris Marcil on January 19, 2003 06:06 PM

For pertinence to the topic, as for many things, trust, but verify

Posted by: David on January 19, 2003 07:19 PM

Addendum to the above comment. I've checked out a few comments threads where serious topic drift is occurring. I can see the benefit of cutting off the tendency to start pontificating on a favourite, barely related topic.

That said, still interested in the answer to the broader question(s).

Posted by: Michael Harris on January 19, 2003 08:54 PM

I want cheezy puffs!

Posted by: Paul on January 20, 2003 12:14 AM

Michael, as to your question: I believe that Brad probably just wants to keep us all civil and keep his weblog educational. It's fine for me; cuius situs, cuius lex.

Posted by: Paul on January 20, 2003 12:21 AM

Speaking of which, aren't education vouchers a terrible idea?

Posted by: dsquared on January 20, 2003 06:28 AM

I think that there should be more threads on penguins.

Posted by: zizka on January 20, 2003 09:15 AM

The real problem is education vouchers printed on cheese puffs.

Posted by: David Margolies on January 20, 2003 09:16 AM

But sometimes, drifting can lead to some really interesting new topics. As I remember it, the whole "Coase Lighthouse" topic started as a drift on a comment here and ended up being hashed out on several other blogs, and a fine time was had by all...

Posted by: jimbo on January 20, 2003 09:41 AM

back in high school, I had a penguin teach me his family cheese puff recipe. Lemme find it and I'll post it.

Posted by: Brendan on January 20, 2003 04:34 PM

Jim Miller's post has apparently been pruned from the 'Cretins' thread, so it would make sense to prune my riposte as well.

Let me also apologize generically for any tendency to rise to flame-bait, and I hope my occasional heterodox tangents are not more trouble than they're worth.

That said, I heartily applaud the recent increase in penguin-related subject matter, but what about the economic implications of the four-legged duck?

Posted by: RonK, Seattle on January 21, 2003 02:35 PM

There are four legged ducks? Where? Are they being micro-chipped in Singapore?

Posted by: Michael Harris on January 21, 2003 03:10 PM
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