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)

Category: Web/Tech, Weblogs

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

203 Responses to “Why I Am Considering Getting Rid of Comments . . .”

  1. nj-professor says:

    Barry…… Sorry that you have to lay out such a missive but the pricks whose goal is to gum up an incredible forum, not just blog, are formally warned…..again.
    How about a self-managing 2 icon system many sites have:
    thumbs up (helpful and recommended)
    flag (inappropriate comment to be reported)
    This would (a) empower readers to be actively involved in the integrity of your blog/forum, (b) put assholes on alert not to waste their or anyone else’s time, (c) make life for your screeners a great deal easier.

    It may not be perfect but I think it might be helpful.


  2. BennyProfane says:

    hmmmmm…………..testing, testing, 1….2….3… this on?

  3. Seaton says:

    Excellent rant, thank you. I’ve tried over the years to do similarly, but never so eloquently and “on-target”. “Energy Vampires” are what trolls are. Either way, it’s your thinking (and perhaps eventual contractual agreement with FI) that impresses me, and helps my old head search for the truth, disregarding all the rest.

    “Still, a man hears what he want’s to hear, and disregards the rest,” Simon & Garfinkel, remember?

    Onwards and upwards, BR, I need the enlightment. Thanks

  4. mathman says:

    Why not open up a ning site for various fora re your blog posts – then all the commentary can be shunted “off-site” and go as deep or trivial as can be? Thereby readers who wish to comment, debate, post something in-line or not with the topic – can do so – and you don’t even have to be bothered with it. You too could visit the site at your leisure (train ride) and comment, read or not as you wish. Just a thought.

  5. Moss says:

    It would be a loss to completely shut down comments.
    Since you bring light to many hot button issues, which need debate, it opens up the site for the knee jerk type commentary.

  6. PeterR says:

    Two sites with the “carrot” drawing paid subscribers allowed to post anonymously, but you have full ID data on them?

    The free site would be a free for all, with you retaining the “stick” of moderating comments and banning posters as needed?

    “Paid” site cold be minimal charge per year IMO., maybe $20 to $100? You likely have good metrics on this.

  7. illoguy says:

    Comments on sites everywhere have turned into a depressing string of asshattery.

    It’s amazing how many regulars are predictable with their biases when replying to your posts. They think they’re contributing but they’re just noise.

  8. Cato says:

    Admittedly I assume that it was written tongue-in-cheek, and perhaps someone has said this before; I only skimmed through the above, but your disclaimer does little to dissuade trolls: “Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.” Moreover, apparently we are not truly anonymous post wordpress move?

  9. Lariat1 says:

    TBP is a daily must read for me. Although I do not have a background in finance or maybe because I don’t have a background in finance, I come here to learn without worrying about bias. I seldom comment but i read the comments because of the quality and knowledge of most commenters. I also appreciate the links that commenters post. It is a collection of knowledge that people want to share here. I can’t state enough that before and during our “economic downturn”, the knowledge I gleaned from this blog helped my business immensely weather the storm. Some of the best advice I was given was also in the comment section. I realize what a drag on your time and resources it is to monitor comments, but I would hate to see them go. Perhaps, play with it for a bit. Leave comments on your AM and PM reads, (” what are you reading?”) A lot of good info is in those comments. In the end, it is your child and you are the parent. I’m sure most of us here will respect your call.

  10. TAT says:

    Ironically, an post about banning comments sparked me to comment. Last year, I read a blog post by Jeff Atwood over at — it seems somewhat relevant to your plight:

    I happen to like the slowban idea. I have no idea if it works, but who wouldn’t want to aggravate the ones who aggravate you?

  11. polizeros says:

    Back in the 1980′s I was active on the ILink BBS net. Our conferences were high quality with little noise or flame wars. That’s because our rules were hardass. Attacks or flames got a warning. If if happened three times, the moderator could lock the person out of the conference and even their sysop couldn’t overrule it.

    Other BBS nets called us Ironlink because of our rules. However, we had excellent conferences.

    One idiot can destroy a conference or blog comments. You should feel no qualms about deleting comments.

  12. [...] The Big Picture, Why I Am Considering Getting Rid of Comments…, here.  Yeah, I’m guessing Boorstin did like the asshat chatter either. I created this blog, in [...]

  13. BITFU Search Engine says:

    Simply change your comment policy. And by “your comment policy”, I don’t mean that of the blog. Rather, I mean change the comment policy of Barry Ritholtz.

    Put up a clearly worded statement that while you really enjoy blogging, you have a f*cking life…which includes, but is not limited to your family, job and real life friends.

    As such, you will not only respond in the comment section randomly. And you’ll do so when you want without qualification or explanation. Some days, when you’re in the mood and just ‘cuz you can…you’ll issue a severe beat-down with prejudice. On others, you’ll simply Y-A-W-N…

    State that the absence of a personal response by Barry Ritholtz to certain comments does not mean you necessarily agree with that comment; and it sure as hell doesn’t mean you found the comment to be so powerful, insightful and humbling that you were afraid to confront the intellect that constructed such a comment. No, your choice not to respond means that you have a f*cking life. The End.

    Give a trusted intern or reader certain Moderator Access to zap out any racial/sexist or spammy sh*t…go about your biz…and make sure to go on a comment-fast a few times a week, as reading this sh*t day in and day out is toxic.

  14. Francois says:

    I assure you that, despite what your mommy told you, the world is none-the-poorer for not hearing your views.

    Game, Set, Match!

  15. ancientone says:

    Your blog is always the first thing I look at whenever I go on line. The comments would not be missed by me at all…..cut ‘em all!
    Love, Old Man.

  16. Gibson says:

    Reminds me of the explanation given by the guy at Letters of Note a couple years back…

    For what it’s worth, I reckon you should leave the comments open. Sifting through the shit is often half the fun.

  17. Some pragmatic questions I’m sure you’ve already meditated on…

    How much traffic / site revenue will you lose by disabling comments? Both in the short-run and over the long-run? Is it more or less than it would cost for a community moderator or similar solution?

    And then there is the larger, philosophical question of whether or not having comments helps advance the broader purpose of the site. In the last 11 years, have the comments affected your life (and the site’s life) in a net positive manner?

    Tough call. I’ve had comments on my blog turned off since day 1. But it’s a very different type of site and I probably wouldn’t attract enough trolls anyway. TBP has been a personal inspiration for me, and there’s a part of me that feels less alone knowing that other people have the same basic struggles with community engagement that I do.

  18. Jim67545 says:

    This is the only blog where I often read the comments. I appreciate substantively presented points of view and links to other sources. Obviously the quality is the product of a lot of pruning by BR. However, BR has a finite amount of time for this non-remunerative effort and I would rather that it be put into the articles. Still, the articles where BR solicits views or the daily reads where “what are you reading” is asked should, at a minimum, be kept in my view. Other blogs that have thrown open the doors to comments without limits are not worth wading through.

  19. Bjørn says:

    Your call. At cocktail parties people like to talk. Mostly about themselves. Strutting their stuff. It’s like the media, politicians, facebook……blah blah blah blah.
    The world has always been this way and given the soapbox of the internet everyone can now give their opinion or bully others into submission.
    Whatever you do!!! Keep doing what you do best.

  20. Arequipa01 says:

    Why not simply shut off the comments on most of your posts and then run an open thread on occasion, that is, whenever the spirit moves you.

    BTW, the vehemence (and the length) of this post on ‘whither comments’ suggests a breaking point. Did you perhaps receive an NSL?

    A little background:

    “This sort of letter is not uncommon post-9/11 and with the passage of the U.S. Patriot Act, which gave the FBI increased authority to issue so-called National Security Letters (NSLs). In 2010, the FBI sent more than 24,000 NSLs to ISPs and other companies, seeking information on more than 14,000 individuals in the U.S”

  21. SkepticalOx says:

    TBP is also one of the first reads for me every morning, and I especially adore the Morning and PM reads you post.

    However, the comments sometimes do get maddening when browsing through them (even this post’s comments are not immune… @Fred C Dobbs: banning music, seriously? false equivalency much? Context? GYOFB? If BR wanted to ban music on his blog, he is free to too!).

    I think Fred Wilson’s ( blog does a pretty good job sorting through the comments, and he gets hundreds per post (uses Disqus add-on), and the NYTimes “Reader’s Picks” in the comments section is pretty good too (lots of crap in the “all comments” section and the cream rises to the top in the Reader’s Picks – which is selected by default).

    I hope decide to do whatever makes you happy, but it’s the main content I come here to read.

  22. hue says:

    115+ comments on whether or not to comment

    comments are potential energy? “your eyes are stup_d”

  23. Moopheus says:

    ” if I take the time and the energy to construct a coherent, sourced, logical argument that follows the rules of the art of discourse,”

    And if you don’t? I mean, seriously, using links like this:

    And reposting the “work” of bloggers like “George Washington” somewhat undermine your claim to be sourced, coherent, and logical. I mean, jeez, this is a finance blog, not peer-reviewed physics.

  24. hammerandtong2001 says:

    My two cents:

    I read the blog daily, and have for a few years. I comment rarely, infrequently.

    I find the vast majority of comments offered here to be very high quality and often quite insightful. Compared to the rest of the web, where comment sections are nearly unreadable, I think the comments here add a lot of value.

    I ignore trolls and those who sidetrack reasoned debate – I bet most here do that as well. I can’t remember seeing a real “flame war” – but that might be due to the diligent policing of comments.


  25. techy says:

    Barry: Your site had the most intelligent comments, it was not perfect but it is the best thats out there on the wild wild west(WWW). Even calculatedRisk comments are not worth the time since not much is discussed in the comments. But that site is IMO as good as yours.

    But if it is not beneficial to you then it has to go. But what if you outsource your comments moderation to super users whom you trust. Or what if you outsource it to some finance students in india/asia?

  26. td says:

    I agree that your readers for the most part can separate the wheat from the chaff and if they can’t they’re probably spending more time at Zerohedge than they are here anyway…..

  27. mseidell says:

    Hello Barry and Thank You!
    The best example of comment management is Matt Haughey’s
    If you pay a one-time nominal fee for the privilege to comment, you can do so.
    Very important: content must be ruthlessly managed, a banhammer policy must be in place and enforced.
    If you haven’t visited, hit
    This might be too much trouble for a really focused site like yours, but I have enjoyed your work for years and appreciate it!

  28. JackH says:

    I won’t miss the comments.

    Your invitation to comment is, basically, uninviting, i.e., “Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.”

    I understand your reasons and agree with them, but never felt welcome to comment, if you will. Similarly, I don’t want to read the uninvited, either. I’ll continue to read your writings, which I do value, in either case.

  29. NoKidding says:

    Sorry (guilty troll). The need to pitch 2c is a personality issue.

  30. Gatsby says:

    Well said and well done Barry! This blog should not be a town hall where nutters and paid hacks get thier share of the stage. I don’t worry about TBP turning into an echo chamber, and if it does an echo chamber of reson, logic and empirics is not a bad thing.

    While the lunatic fringe can provide useful insight from time to time, the paid trolls (hacks) and unpaid trolls (zealots) are never of any value to discourse. Thier goal is to stifle conversation and skew the truth. I appluad Barry for his effort to block them out. We will all benefit from it, especially if it leaves Barry more time to type.

  31. James Cameron says:

    Unfortunately – and I’m sure BR knows this – there is no easy answer here. Blogs, especially successful blogs like BP that touch on a wide range of topics, some controversial, will always invite a wide range of responses, some good, some not so good. That’s the nature of people, and it’s the nature of this beast. The audience may be more circumspect for a while after being scolded, but it’s only a matter of time, and I suspect for only a very brief time, before offenders return to their old ways, or new ones appear.

    Paul Kedrosky’s Infectious Greed has (d)evolved to a comment-free blog/serial twitter feed, though it’s not clear to me that the audience has benefited from this.

    I suspect that BP would lose some significant appeal to a good portion of its audience if it were to close off comments entirely.

  32. san_fran_sam says:

    I generally don’t read comments. the signal to noise ratio is too low. I have better things to do with my time.

    I generally don’t post comments. I don’t have anything to add that someone else won’t also say. i don’t want to have to get into a dialogue with some other poster.

    Bottom line, if you discontinue comments, it won’t affect my reading of your blog.

  33. DeDude says:

    I think this blog has had an excellent balance of getting rid of “low-value” comments and still having an open and free debate between people with interesting views and complementary new information. We probably don’t really know how much work that takes from your side, but it is very much appreciated. I visit Calculated Risk but never read or participate in their comment section; at TBP I both visit and comment. I hope you will find ways to change this site such that you can live with the burdens, and most of the active users can find a site worth visiting and engaging with. Good luck and thank you.

  34. MorticiaA says:

    I am amazed at the ass*&ts who pop up even on sites where you don’t expect them. Example, I “like” a FB page for German Shepherd owners, and I go there to swap tales and pictures of other GSD owners and talk about how brilliant our pups are. That is the type of place I would LEAST expect the judgmental idiots to show up, yet there they are, posting their personal opinions as fact.

    They’re everywhere, Barry. But I’m glad you’re not denying everyone… I find many of your readers post intelligent, thoughtful responses and/or sources of information where I can dig further if I want to.

  35. MorticiaA says:

    Edit, SWAP pictures WITH other GSD owners. I only want to see pictures of their dogs, not them.

  36. Slash says:

    I don’t comment often. I don’t work in finance, so a lot of the discussions are way above my head.

    Moderating comments on any site that gets decent traffic is time-consuming, but necessary. The ones that don’t moderate much – I haven’t visited them, but apparently anything goes, short of criminal behavior (like posting pictures of underage girls or threatening the president) – are well-known (to those familiar with them) as wretched hives of scum and villainy. Even the ones that do moderate have to try to strike a balance between too much and not enough. Sometimes an off-topic comment is funny as hell and the tangent it creates is entertaining. A lot of the times, off-topic comments are just crap. And trolls (at least what I perceive to be trolls or true believers of one persuasion or another who are so extreme and unreasonable that they are indistinguishable from trolls and thus the distinction becomes moot) are a constant problem. I wish I had the free time these people do to trawl the internet looking for places to take a dump all over a perfectly nice comment thread.

    I wouldn’t blame you for getting rid of comments altogether. Corralling comments is a giant pain in the ass. People with real jobs usually don’t have time to do it.

  37. mutton says:

    I love your blog Barry. You have taught me more than any other website ever has. I do regularly enjoy reading comments and responses, but dont have the insight or knowledge to comment myself. I skip over obvious rants and gibberish comments, so I self filter.

    I do enjoy when you go on a tirade like this. Thanks for the “rolling donut” analogy…that made my day.

  38. Slash says:

    One of the links mentions “hellbanning” which I’d never heard of. It’s the moderation technique of hiding the activity of troublemakers and trolls from everyone but the troll themselves. Sounds awesome (though I don’t know it’s implemented).

    I wish one of the websites I visit regularly (besides this one) would do it. Despite what some people here say, it’s tiresome to scroll through hundreds of comments (not usually a problem here, but a big issue at the site mentioned earlier) to get to the good ones (“good” meaning not spam, not attention whoring, not childish namecalling between two other commenters, not tremendously off-topic). This site (the one mentioned above) is actually pretty good at keeping out spam and has filters, but there are still too many douchebags (esp. sexist ones). I guess they are willing to put up with a certain percentage of that to get the traffic. They’re entitled to run it that way, but it does make me avoid certain topics under discussion because I know the comment thread will be filled with the same crap that the regular trolls/crazy people regularly submit.

  39. advsys says:

    Do what you have to do. I for one would give up a lot as long as it means that you continue to provide the content you do. Some of the most honest and useful content ever!

  40. Robert M says:

    I highly recommend you that you do not end the comments sections. I neither read every post or comment on them nor do I read them in a timely manner. I do read the posts that help clarify my thinking and the comments give added clarity or reasons to think more. The chaff separates very quickly after a few reads.
    Ban people for peace of mind but do not end the comments.

  41. WFTA says:

    As a passionate progressive I may have been an offender—hope not.

    I’d hate to see the comments go because I read many and many are very intelligent and articulate. I feel like I’m hanging with a good crowd.

    Best regards,

  42. hyde says:

    do it if you feel like it. if you find having comments to be more trouble that it’s worth then go ahead and scotch ‘em. the blog posts are the thing, for me, and if removing comments makes it easier for you to maintain the site then so be it.

  43. jus7tme says:

    I am quite on board with your editorial content and point of view, but nevertheless I am also quite adamantly against shutting down comments. Feel free to ban the kooks after they have proven their kookyness, or have a scarlet letter + filter for troll and/or troll comments, or any other practical procedure that cuts down on the kooky crap. But PLEASE do not shut down comments in general, and do not pre-censor them excessively.

    I’m sure it is correct that less than 1% of blog readers make comments. But MANY MORE THAN 1% READ THE COMMENTS. And THAT is the point.

    I cannot fathom how badly our democracy will be if newspapers and blogs start shutting down comments. Some newspapers already have in effect done that by requiring people to use facebook or google logins, and I personally will not frequent newspapers or blogs that do that. Can you image how little we would know about Wall St crimes and shenanigans if it was not for the anonymous commenters of the blogosphere?

    Please Barry, you are one of the very good guys. Please do not change that. Discussion is what keeps democracy and truth alive. Please do not let the propagandists win but shutting down discussion.

  44. jib10 says:

    Kill the comments if managing them affects the quality or number of your own posts. I have commented a few times but I read this blog because of what you think, I already know what I think. I dont read the comments on TBP very often because I have never learned much from them. Honestly, this is true on most sites (TNC’s blog being the one major exception). TBP comments are not worthless nor as riddled with trolls as most blogs but just low value compared to the content of the posts.

    For people who really want to comment there is a solution. A commentor should setup a shadow blog. Each post would have a link to the latest post on TBP and then allow comments on the shadow blog. Let the people who get the value from commenting pay the cost of maintaining the comments.

  45. JimInMissoula says:

    Probably been suggested somewhere in the 141 comments above, but some subjects are always going to be troll-bait. If it’s giving you heartburn, close comments for those topics. Most comments here are pretty high-quality when I bother to read them, but I can certainly sympathize with the fact that it’s a huge waste of energy debating the ‘jackholes’… and that energy can be put to better purposes.

    BTW, your Kahneman reference is spot-on. Great book.

    Thanks for your efforts.

  46. GeorgeBurnsWasRight says:

    BR, I really appreciate your blog, worth at least ten times the price . Please do whatever you need to do so that you can continue it; the comments are of far less value anyway.

    I read the comments in hopes of learning something of value, almost always about markets, trading/investing psychology, and the economy. Too many people seem to think that blogs about these topics require a political response.

    The only time I read comments in hopes of learning something about politics is when the original blog post was about politics. Otherwise, political comments are a waste of my time. Which is not to say that I have never gotten sucked in by someone else’s comments, but when it happens, I’m ashamed of myself.

  47. DuaneBidoux2 says:

    I appreciate the frustration of dealing with the trolls and asshats.

    A couple of thoughts perhaps: why don’t you consider having the people you know who post and who you have followed take turns moderating for you? I’m sure there are a number of dedicated readers who post regularly who would volunteer on some kind of rotating basis—but if you don’t feel comfortable doing that I certainly wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to deal with the bs and just stopping the comments.

    Also—a truly well intentioned comment: maybe you might cut back on the satire in your comments heading dealing with acceptable behavior. It’s just possible, based on your own observations that the people you are most concerned about won’t actually grasp it is satire.

  48. kaleberg says:

    It would be a shame to get rid of comments. You have a lot of great commenters, and I learn almost as much from some discussions as from the primary article.

    Still, I know that managing comments is a lot of work. I do agree that you have to have a strong commenting policy and enforce it. I’ve seen PZ Myers and John Scalzi, among others, deal with problem trolls and comment spam over the years.

  49. SiNuAge says:

    Wanted to share my 2 cents.

    I think a higher barrier to entry would dissuade most trolls and the like, keep the noise down and not prevent someone who has a really good nugget of info to share. I mean for me, I was willing to jump through a few hoops (i.e. getting registered here) to post a comment cause I think it will aid the discussion.

    As for comments Techcrunch tried to make users use their facebook profile and it worked too well ( cutting down their comments. It may be an alternative to try before banning comments altogether. I’d prefer if there was a linkedin comments plugin instead of a facebook one since linkedin profiles are more valuable, but sadly it’ll take a significant amount of development work to do. (

  50. bear_in_mind says:


    While reading and participating in dialogue here is rewarding, I appreciated the duality reflected in the stick-man cartoon included in your post. And the Hobbes reference.

    A blog without open comments may be somewhat less engaging to readers, but a blog without your posts wouldn’t be The Big Picture. Thus, first and foremost, take care of yourself.

    Close the comments section if you must; consider alternatives if you can; and know just how appreciative your readers are of the contributions you make to our understanding of complex and mundane issues alike.

  51. millefleurs says:

    I never read the comments or comment myself; to you I say “Hear, Hear”, knowing you will understand.

  52. James Kostohryz says:

    Hi Barry:

    I am a frequent reader of yours and an infrequent commenter. I publish articles on Seeking Alpha and Minyanville, (I believe you have even quoted/referenced my articles once or twice on your blog) and so I completely understand your thoughts and feelings on comments. I really struggle with this. I will soon launch my own website and I have been thinking about what to do about comments. This article and the various links that you provided have given me some good ideas. Thank you for that.

    Above all, thank you very much for your blog. It is a great resource and I expect that it will continue to be no matter what you do with the comments!

    All the best,

    James A. Kostohryz

  53. icantdance says:

    I have been a reader since the financial crisis in 2008, posted handful of times:

    I appreciate the blog greatly, and comments very slightly, were I to quantify the value I derive is in the posts: >90%

    slashdot posts do work very well, as thatguydrinksbeer mentioned above, but that is a more obsessive community and a more concentrated forum

  54. davidwaring says:

    Hi Barry, Regular reader but non commenter here as well. First thank you for writing I understand that this is not where you make your money so I appreciate you doing it. I have stopped reading the comments on most blogs because of exactly the issue you are writing about here, there is too much negativity and not enough thoughtful discussion. Seems like this is a big problem for many bloggers so hopefully someone smart will come up with a technical solution that will automatically ban the trolls if they haven’t already.

    Best Regards,

  55. No BS says:

    Long time regular visitor to your blog, Barry. Have not commented for a long time, but this topic brings me back to make a comment. Your blog has benefited a small time investor like me by providing more thought provoking and interesting financial perspective, especially as an alternative to the likes of CNBS. I am sure most of the readers of this blog will agree. I rarely read comments on most other blogs/sites. I do think overall quality of commentators on this blog is much better than any other financial blog. I would not like a few trolls would affect your decision. I will continue to visit irrespective of what you decide to do about the comments. I thank you for the effort and resources you have put over the years to make it a must read blog.

  56. PDS says:

    Wow BR…must have had a rough nite!…if you can’s stand the heat etc etc…As one RIA to another…take my advice…focus on your clients more and less on the blog…you’ll be a happier man (and after you do that successfully, come talk to me about monetizing your biz :)

  57. MikeInSF says:

    A few wing-nuts aside, the reader base here is pretty intelligent, informative, and entertaining. (Whatever happened to CNBCSucks, anyway?) I appreciate the difficulty in weeding through the trolls, but do enjoy reading reader comments and hope you will continue offer comments in one form or another. As others have pointed out, there are options available to auto-manage the idiots among us. I suspect the tools available to do this will increase as others face similar problems.

  58. Slash says:

    RE “I cannot fathom how badly our democracy will be if newspapers and blogs start shutting down comments.”

    Oh please. Obviously, I haven’t read all the comments on every website, but I think our democracy could survive fine without the large majority (I’d put it at at least 80%) of all the site comments. Esp. on newspapers. Holy crap, have you read those things? If not, have a look-see, but be warned, you can feel your IQ dropping with every entry.

    At least one local (Dallas) TV news station has been reading tweets and Facebook posts on air. Because it’s really super-important for me to know what TexasGal1998 thinks about the story I just saw. FYI, she’s sad about the sad thing that happened. Good to know.

  59. yuvalw says:

    Hi BR,

    As you said, most of the readers do not leave comments, and I think that most of them also don’t read them… I think you can disable comments altogether and have them available on a special post once in a week, like Thursday night, for readers to comment and interact with you.
    Thx for the wonderful and informative blog,

  60. Joe Q says:

    As a frequent reader of your blog, not registered, never having posted comments directly on your site, yet a daily reader and purveyor/linker of the information you provide, I say you are right on the mark. I, like probably many other readers, don’t have a need or desire to post comments directly on your site. When I find something interesting on any site/blog/what-have-you, I put an entry in MY blog, or pass info via email or other means. I never even opened comments until today, and frankly couldn’t figure out how I could post on your site even if I wanted to. In short, it’s YOUR blog. Congratulations on your success. My blog gets zero comments, even from friends and family. But even so, I wouldn’t feel the slightest desire to post crap posts from various sources, if I did not see some value to the discussion.

    I’m sort of new at this, despite 30+ years in software and technology. As I begin to embrace the blog concept, your post today made me think how reasonable it is that I have set my blog to only post approved comments. That’s not tyrannical — it’s my blog — I do what I want with it. No need to explain further, either for you or for me. I guess the difference is I won’t have a large public screaming about the disgrace that I moderate comments. WTF?

    For example, another blog I enjoy is Jesse’s Cafe. Never saw a comment there, ever. On the other hand, another favorite is Naked Capitalism, and I find the comments there pretty useful, given so much to read, and so little time. I pass through the comments, at times, to see if I might have skipped over an item in the daily links that was more than I thought it was. Or to see a different point of view offered by regular, recognized commentators. I think that gets to the essence of the problem: how to permit good/valid commentary and weed out the rest of the crap, given human limitations.

    Hope you develop this theme further, and publish further on the topic. It’s useful and rings true for lots of readers/writers.

    All the best,
    Joe Q

  61. Dave says:


    Regarding comments, to be or not, I’d vote NOT.
    Just takes too much energy to worry about.

    It is YOUR place Barry. I come here for YOUR content.

    Some have suggested open comments for particular posts, and that might be a good first step.


  62. Michael B says:


    Your opinion blog will be sorely missed. And I can totally relate to your comment below that while others think that it’s an open forum, these dilettantes feel they can intrude by providing their own opinions and free-riding and piggy-backing your thoughts, which were not open for discussion.

    They don’t even realize that no one cares what they think whereas they should be showing respect to you by not sullying your great insights.

    “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.”

    Let me thank you for all the years and your writing/research efforts. To which, I always found your comments to be of high integrity and most importantly truly fair, right or wrong. Your last report was beyond refreshing and added even greater confidence when you listed 2012 calls, including the few that went astray.

    Therein lies what is wrong with the entire industry (but right with reading your Think Tank). When so- called experts can only tell you weeks from now what you should have done today, it is more important for them to fuel their egos and to sound right after the fact than BE right at the time, as they cite the then-obvious. But never will they post their track record!

    Certainly Merrill comes to mind. Talk is very cheap when a firm that could not see its own demise (and therefore could not do for itself) still had the audacity to make recommendations for its clients.

    But the purpose of market forecasting is to be somewhat ‘foretelling’ and not predictive of the past. Neither is it for media (e.g., CNBC’s CLOSING BELL) to try to intimidate what few viewers they have left by making their audience feel small for having missed out on some short-lived rally. TV anchors that never see tops but always know where the next opportunity comes by suggesting viewers buy the next opportunity dip and every dip thereafter (into oblivion).

    So again, many thanks for all your efforts and enlightening writings and for being a man of integrity.

    And perhaps someday, either the ‘impotent’ oversight agencies and ‘incompetent’ Congress will sign into law some Investors’ Bill of Rights or at least agree on what FINRA has been struggling with (i.e., figuring out the true definition of ‘fiduciary’) or one of us will perhaps write a book titled “It’s time to invest in the investor” because these capital markets can’t exist without capital, and the public has been fleeing en masse for years.


    Michael B

  63. Jim K says:

    I’m responding to your “comments” post. I enjoy your blog, in part because you have fashioned a unique style of conveying the “puzzles” we all experience. I’ve never commented on any blog, and almost never read comments unless the blog is arcane enough that most won’t be interested.

    I find that I visit your site at least 3 times a week, often time to look at your suggested links, or your graphics. If shutting down comments frees up more of your or some intern/support person’s time, thus making you more productive at sharing your thoughts, just do it.

    Screw the assholes. The rest will live with the content.

    Best Wishes,

    (A scientist, not a money guy, but hey….)

  64. David C. says:


    interesting views. thxs for sharing.

    I have recently had my own ‘epiphany’ on these related matters as shown below. Can I assume you have already seen the ‘Stephen Forgets.’ cartoon. Offensive yes, but it hits home on the matter of which we discuss.

    Here’s a draft I have yet to decide if I am going to drop into a hobbiest website

    I continue to be amused (and disappointed) by user responses when someone suggests a specific product upgrade, regardless of cost, for another product.

    And then someone needs to ‘flame’ the idea as if the upgrade is too expensive relative to the product being upgraded. Yet in so many threads on HF, the discussions are on how one’s $500 to $2000 headphones will sound connected to much lesser costing product as example, $99 DACs/Amps or even other modest costing products $299 ..

    I don’t understand why the online community has to be so offensive.

    But let a recently published cartoon say it all, “Stephen Forgets That He Isn’t On The Internet


    David C.

  65. John L says:

    If shutting down comments gets more commentary from you, please do so within the hour! I don’t read the comments but I read your blog several times daily. I come for the food and don’t eat the pie….

    No need to respond and thank you for what I consider to be one of best, fair and insightful information sites on the WWW….

    John L

  66. Thornton says:

    Dear Barry,

    You are wise to cut off the nonsense and I have one suggestion. If you do not have a blood pressure monitor, get one and use it frequently. See how the pressure goes up as you react to a ration of nonsense, and how it can go down if you ignore the crap without even thinking about a response. Your years to expand and use your wisdom will may last much longer if you do this.

    Good luck,


  67. Mike K says:

    Please help me with my new years resolution of not reading and replying to Internet comments. So far, so good this year. Get rid of the comments, I’m begging you.

  68. Dott. Ida says:

    as for the comments, I think the problem in general is the possibility to use code names, it should be obligatory to registrate to the site and therefore use only registration name in comments. i understand your decision there are a lot of nuts around

  69. HK says:

    This might make you smile…but it is too true in some cases:

  70. Andrew P says:

    Dear Mr. Ritholtz:

    Just a quick note to thank you for posting your thoughts online. I am a cord cutter (ie no cable) and don’t read the paper as much as I used to. I try to stay on top of the macro economy through websites such as yours (or more specifically RSS feeds). I work in very niche and small investment banking (ie far from Wall Street) so it’s important to know what’s going on at a macro level. I perceive you to be somebody that tries hard to be independent and not have any hidden agendas – rare these days.

    I’d also like to point out that I have no interest in reading the comment section as it has, unfortunately, become rather like reading comments from a “Yahoo” article. I don’t have time for that and frankly find it depressing that so many people have nothing better to do than be so unproductive!!

    Thanks again and keep up the great work!

    Best regards,

    Andrew P

  71. really liked what you wrote on comments and trolls. nice. very. i have dealt with the nonsense over the years and that bit of your writing sums it all up. nice.

    Michael Covel

  72. ME says:

    Hi BR,

    I used to comment as “me”. I quit reading comments years ago. I never could figure out who was worth reading and who wasn’t. I am sure there were a few good ones but no one I wanted to follow, just noise.

    So I pay my $50 bucks and listen to you and Kevin.

    I read a lot of blogs like Yves, Mark Thoma, Jim Hamilton but never the comments.

    Save yourself some time, a lot of time, quit reading that stuff, we won’t miss it.

    Woodstock, GA

  73. Brett says:

    Shut down the comments.

    I am fed up with the demotic myth that everyone’s opinion is equally valid and interesting. Most of these people are morons. They should be told to sit at the back of the class, shut up and listen. Maybe
    they’ll learn something.

  74. dvdpenn says:

    FWIW, this is one of the few blogs where I do read the comments. But I’d still visit The Big Picture just as regularly if the comment section were completely shut down. Let the True Believers launch a “Friends of The Big Picture” message board or something if they want to keep the community alive (I’m being only half-facetious) …

  75. Ezra Abrams says:

    perhaps you are aware of slashdot ?
    they have a system that works surprisingly well – self moderation; commenters rate other commenters on a 1-5 scale (1 bad, 5 good)
    the slashdot software lets you filter what comments show up; i think my current defaults are that comments rated 2 and higher load automatically
    you may not have enough visitors to make this work – slashdot is big – but it sis a great system

    PS: it is also another example of how backward sites like wordpress and typepad are; slashdot is full of great features that seem totally lacking in all std blogs

  76. formerlawyer says:

    Ta-Nehisi Coates runs a blog containing equally informed commentary at the Atlantic (thank you for bringing him to my attention) and used to moderate his blog at The Atlantic quite heavily to ensure the saliency of the comments. When that was not possible he cut off commenting altogether. He regularly, every two weeks or so and more often when he was busy with other projects opened up the comment to the “Lost Battalion” as he refers to his community. His postings, like yours seek understanding as to what an examined life might be. That being said he is nowhere as near as prolific as your are Barry. The other difference of course is that he is paid to write at The Atlantic, and presumably moderate his column/posting, while you have a day job (although I suspect that he, like you derives great pleasure from constant stimulation) .

    Like this post he has struggled with dealing with the some of the same issues. He has recently appointed 2 some community moderators to manage the inflow of comments.

    Ars Technica has recently revamped its commenting software and “wetware” to allow for a Reddit style voting:

    As others have said, I read this blog daily primarily for your posts but also for information in the commentary. As a semi-regular commenter since late 2008 I apologize if my comments have crossed the line (indeed I well remember an exchange early on when my rudeness led to an apology and voluntary withdrawal from commenting).

    All that being said, your mental health and blood-pressure is the most important thing, if you are even slightly agitated by some poster’s (me included) continual reflexive recourse to squishy fact-free faith based (ideological or otherwise) half-truths or truthiness arguments and rhetoric – close the commenting.

  77. formerlawyer says:

    Sorry, the community is the “Horde” – face palm. Dam it the next iteration better ged an edit function.

  78. joby says:

    Can’t say that I would miss reading the comments, as I rarely do. But knowing that the option is there to read and post is sort of like having a car in mid-town…you rarely use it, but the luxury of knowing it is there anytime is worth the trouble.

    Similar to dvdpenn above, I’d continue to read with or without the comments. Too bad a few bad apples have to (as usual) spoil the fun for everyone else.

  79. temporary_commentar says:

    amusingly, in a cross-cultural note, is that the Penny Arcade commentary is on this exact topic, although not blog comments specifically. “The Corollary”.

  80. ezrasfund says:

    First, thank you, Barry, for what is truly one of the best blogs on the web. And thank you also for the opportunity to join in the discussion.

    I place great value in the comments here as a place to see how people are reacting to the ideas and news of the day. Just as I always read the editorial page, I always turn to the comments section. When it is well policed and well organized ( The Big Picture or the NY Times) it enhances the articles; when it is a free-for-all ( Yahoo or HuffPost) it is a time-wasting cesspool.

    I understand how much time and expense must go into maintaining these high standards, especially the challenges of the the comment section. You are preforming a great public service.

  81. Frilton Miedman says:

    One member, “nj-professor”, may have the perfect idea.

    Allowing a system of flagging, if a number of flags are entered by separate & established regulars, (to prevent abuses for personal reasons by a single member) when a problem presents itself, the post goes into moderation for review, if this persists for the individual, he goes.

    All new members go into moderation when flagged more than once (by multiple members), being posted is then left to chance, if BR decides he has the time to bother – new members, first time posters get a “one strike” rule (Troll screen)

    No need to waste BR’s time screening trolls with new names, if the intent for the new guy was legitimate debate, he can create a new name and try a different approach.

    I say this after several members commented that even BR’s interactions with members leads to interesting discussions, and even new blog subjects.

    This blog is unique, it has taken on a “think-tank” quality other blogs don’t have.

    As bad as some of the occasional comments can get here, take a peek at ZH, and it’s obvious that BR attracts an entirely different demographic, or. at least filters out the ZH “AuDiEnCe”.


  82. DuchessGateau says:

    BR, This blog is an island of sanity, and a pleasure to read. Do whatever you need to in order to preserve your satisfaction with your it. Your writing strikes the perfect balance of intellect, fact-digging, humor, and emotion, and it’s not fair when readers don’t put as much effort into their comments. I will miss the good comments, but don’t let the idiots drag you down! You don’t deserve the aggravation.

    After all, does the NYT publish any and all letters to the editor? No, nor do we want them to. They publish letters which they deem to have merit. That’s not censorship, it’s a service to the reader.

    If only there were some way to edit people’s comments in real life! How often do attention-seeking morons take up everyone’s time in public meetings, work meetings, etc. Everyone is grateful to the moderator who prevents the lunatics from taking over the asylum. But it sounds like an incredible hassle, so make it easy on yourself and conserve your energy for more productive/enjoyable pursuits. THANKS AGAIN FOR THE EFFORT OF MIND!

  83. Kiron says:

    Read your piece on comments. Totally agree with you. I thought about allowing comments on my newsletter, but decided against it. Cannot do it as there are too many nutcases around, though more so in respect of free newsletters.



  84. Das says:

    Hope all is well.

    Loved your piece on comments – I agree with everything you say. As aussies say: “good on yer!” [Please don't ask me to translate - no idea but its good I think.]

    Stay well.


  85. tesky says:

    I forgot where I first heard this: Newspapers allowing comments alongside reputable, researched stories is like ordering prime rib with a side of maggots.

  86. Scott Teresi says:

    It would be a shame if the worst commenters had enough effect for you to turn comments off. I read your blog for its insight into topics that aren’t covered well enough in the media. But I often scan the comments for extended conversation within and around the topic, possibly extending it further than the original post. Most of the commenters don’t detract from these discussions, and I value their extra set of eyes (exposure to peer review)! With comments off, everything said must be taken with an extra grain of salt, because there’s no community feedback.

  87. [...] I think we both much prefer the current system to the previous one. That system created a lot of what bothers Barry Ritholtz in this post, a post I empathize with. The comments should be a place for thoughtful disagreement and yes, even [...]

  88. Frwip says:


    The current policy for commentators is to let them post unconditionally once they’ve registered then kick them out if they become a pest.

    Another, better way to run the comment pool would be to only let commentators in once they’ve proved themselves worthy. The wannabe commentators can register themselves and post comments immediately but at first, their comments would only be visible to themselves and to the administrators.

    After a while, if said commentator’s comments are consistently interesting, you can turn on general comment publishing privileges or otherwise let the commentator rot into obscurity, unpublished.

    You would get rid of the spammers, or more exactly, you wouldn’t have to care that much about them. They would post and post and post but it wouldn’t show on the blog. A single user nuke command would delete them entirely and their comments from the database. And the trolls and monomaniacs would also tire quickly of being left into purgatory, with no audience to bait or harangue .

    Call it the Catholic policy: spend some time in the purgatory first and maybe, maybe, you may enter paradise. Say what you may but I believe those guys at the Council of Trent were onto something. Yet, as lucrative a business it may be, I would strongly advise against the selling of indulgences :-)

  89. [...] per our prior discussion of comments, I am looking to identify people who do not belong at this [...]

  90. xSiliconValleyEE says:

    Thanks, Barry, for doing such an informative and analytically based blog! I read it a few times per week and comment very infrequently, trying for each comment to add a benefit to the discussion, though probably failing miserably to do so. I also enjoy reading the comments on a number of posts of interest, so many are very intelligent and add substantially to the posts.

    I can’t comprehend how you make so many great posts, much less how you moderate so many threads, wow, and thank you!

    I like what many of the comments above basically say, though expressing differing implementation methodologies: Hopefully, a way will be found to effectively delegate comment moderation, and relieve you of almost all time suckage, both in responding to some of the comments and in natural emotional responses to some of the comments.

    Another idea: Maybe add a more prominent disclaimer that you won’t be reading the comments often, and comments/commenters will be aggressively removed by others/other methods, relieving you of most time suckage in dealing with this subject?

    BTW, love the “honeypot”! :-)

  91. Great post Barry!

    Annoyance at public comments is exactly why my site went private. At first, we got so busy I had to hire someone to deal with all the stuff and then we got busier and I originally decided to charge just $20 per month to get rid of the non-serious people. That got rid of 90% of the people – a real blow to my ego!

    Anyway, then we grew and each time I raised the price and each time people came anyway until we finally got it to a level (about 500 Premium and Basic Members) where, thanks to your magic rule that most people don’t comment anyway, I am comfortably able to have a good conversation with all of them on a regular basis.

    I know it’s a big change but it was a very profitable one for me and one you may want to consider for yourself – we currently have a core group of very intelligent people and our chat sessions are very lively – without all the nonsense that drags down the day. Not only do I get to put my trading thoughts on paper but I get to bounce them off a group of highly intelligent people who are serious enough to pay to be part of our community.

    If you want to check it, I’d be happy to set you up with access.

    All the best and thanks for all you do,

    - Phil

  92. Lugnut says:

    Ban hammer the asshats and block the source IPs

    Too obvious?

  93. DanKrell says:

    As a (real estate) blogger, I totally understand how feel about comments. Filtering through spam comments took up valuable time, and I eventually stopped allowing comments myself because they did not add to the overall theme of the post.

  94. [...] of my professors (Digital Self classmates – it is on the sidebar of our class site). In this blog post, Barry Ritholtz details the reasons he is turning off blog comments (and links to why some others [...]

  95. This Story Stinks

    We asked 1,183 participants to carefully read a news post on a fictitious blog, explaining the potential risks and benefits of a new technology product called nanosilver. These infinitesimal silver particles, tinier than 100-billionths of a meter in any dimension, have several potential benefits (like antibacterial properties) and risks (like water contamination), the online article reported.

    Then we had participants read comments on the post, supposedly from other readers, and respond to questions regarding the content of the article itself.

    Half of our sample was exposed to civil reader comments and the other half to rude ones — though the actual content, length and intensity of the comments, which varied from being supportive of the new technology to being wary of the risks, were consistent across both groups. The only difference was that the rude ones contained epithets or curse words, as in: “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these kinds of products, you’re an idiot” and “You’re stupid if you’re not thinking of the risks for the fish and other plants and animals in water tainted with silver.”

    The results were both surprising and disturbing. Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.

    In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology — whom we identified with preliminary survey questions — continued to feel the same way after reading the comments. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.

    Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought.

  96. [...] bring this up, because I had previously mentioned I was considering getting rid of comments [...]