In this morning’s reads, I linked to this article in the NYT: This Story Stinks.

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

This latest article confirmed my suspicions that trolls and other rude commenters work to undermine the intentions of of the author. In a study of over 1000 participants who were given a fictitious blog post to read on a new (mnade up) technology called “nanosilver.”

After reading the post, one half were exposed to civil intelligent comments, while the half were exposed to rude ones.

The researchers described the results as “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.”

The authors noted that “60 percent of the Americans seeking information about specific scientific matters say the Internet is their primary source of information — ranking it higher than any other news source.” Thus, Trolls and other jackholes operate to undermine basic knowledge in society about important principles.

The researchers findings confirms my instincts expressed in my prior post. Rude, dumb, and rhetorically misleading comments get deleted, their authors banned. I am no longer willing to give these cretins a platform. So while I am going to keep some form of comments, I have instructed my crack team of editors to delete junk comments with extreme prejudice. GYOFB.

I would love to find a more effective technological solution to this. Feel free to make any suggestions you like in the (heh heh) comments. You know what to do if you want them not to be unpublished.


Why I Am Considering Getting Rid of Comments (February 18th, 2013)

GYOFB (May 15th, 2011)

This Story Stinks
NYT, March 2, 2013

Category: Really, really bad calls, 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.

72 Responses to “Blog Comments & “the Nasty Effect””

  1. jib10 says:

    The worst part of this is when it effects the site author. I have seen more than one site ruined because the owner of the site becomes beat down and burned out from dealing with comments. Wrecks it for all of us. I have come to loath comments.

    Monitoring comments, now that is a task that should be handed off to robots. Until robots can police comments, just say no to comments.

  2. Frilton Miedman says:

    The primary intention of most trolls is to shut down communication, divert discussion to achieve an agenda or thwart. progres.

    Great example, special interest groups planting “angry citizens” into town hall debates to arouse false suspicions, and divert the message.

    I see it here, I see it all over, I worry they are succeeding by shutting down communication, discussion & progress.

    Are they succeeding here?

    I don’t know WordPress, but it seems like a system that allows regulars to flag response that automatically reverts it to “awaiting moderation”, and putting new members into a “trial” phase where they’re moderated might be a solution.

  3. idaman says:

    The solution is simple. Require a Facebook or Google + log in. Everyone uses their real names.

    Of course, I would probably only comment about 5% as much as I do now. There is something about being (partially – to other users at least) anonymous that I really like. Perhaps I am uncomfortable leaving a silly trail that will be data mined for decades to come… I dunno really… hmmm

  4. idaman says:

    Or require a Facebook log in at the account set up. Post a great privacy policy. And allow users to be anonymous on the boards.

    Just throwing it out there.

    If u do that, allow users to delete their personal data when they close their account like or SigFig does.

  5. clay says:

    That is disturbing and, unfortunately, will probably just embolden the trolls. Now I know why Fox News is so effective.

  6. czyz99 says:

    Attack ads work like a charm.

  7. Non Sequor says:

    I earnestly think that if a person doesn’t fall back and allow themselves to use their cognitive biases at least now and again, they end up burning out their brain from over exertion.

    Not everything is worthy of deep contemplation. Maybe on nano silver I just want to find out what the pack of lunatics I’ve already thrown in my lot with thinks and leave it at that and save my mental resources for subjects I have more competence and influence in.

  8. wally says:

    When I read a Big Picture post, I almost always read the comments, too. I’m willing to wade through a certain number for some with insight. Generally, yours seem well curated.
    What I don’t like are the comments at sites like Calculated Risk. I always read his posts, but never the comments. It’s the same people posting the same stuff over and over and over, very little of it even on-topic.
    If you do retain comments (which I hope), good curating is absolutely essential.

  9. znmeb says:

    For the moment, I have (Disqus) comments on my blog but I suspect I’ll end up turning them off.

    jib10: The Huffington Post has some cutting-edge technology for comment management. Unfortunately, they *own* the company that made it. But yes, until robots are smart enough and cheap enough to do this, moderating a “forum” is not something anyone with a quota should have to do. And we *all* have quotas. ;-)

    idaman: TechCrunch went from WordPress comments to Disqus to Facebook to LiveFyre. They have the money to pay salaried human “community managers”, though. I’m not sure “The Big Picture” does.

  10. catclub says:

    On the earlier post, someone else posted on various types of banning.
    I like the hellban best: the troll sees his posts, but no one else does.
    No responses, troll goes away. Plus troll cannot be certain that no one else sees
    his posts.

    The insidious version is that the trolls only see posts by other trolls.

  11. alonzo says:

    The right decision, Barry.

  12. stadtgeist says:

    Mr. Ritholtz, I can honestly say that I’ve probably posted twice to the comments on your blog. I don’t live in your world, or that of most of your readers and/or commenters. That being said, I think it would be a shame if the comments disappeared. As a somewhat infrequent (less than daily) reader, I get the sense that there are a lot of smart people who participate in the discussions here. And I learn a lot.

    I’ve learned from thoughtful comments here. Please consider Frilton Miedman’s suggestions to regulate this space. [Reasonable] Infrequent commenters probably wouldn’t mind the wait for his/her comments to be posted, while giving a fast lane to those you already trust.

    I’m sorry to ask for you to bear the burden of moderation, and obviously we are all welcome to GYOFB, but I think it would be a shame to lose these insights.

  13. barbacoa666 says:

    I don’t think that anonymity unleashes trolls. For a long time, my friends bombarded me with all manner of emails and FB posts concerning Obama, various corporations, food ingredients, etc. The vast majority of the information in these posts was false. I decided this had to be pointed out, and much to my surprise, i discovered that the people sending these messages were either aware the info was false, or didn’t care. To them, trumpeting their cause outweighed the truth.

    Since shutting off comments deprives these people of an outlet for their propaganda, I reluctantly believe most websites would be best served disabling them.

  14. Greg0658 says:

    the topic was a segment on Hardball today too .. hosted by fill-in Michael Smerconish

  15. icanspam says:

    Dear Barry,

    It seems to me that there are only four models that are viable; in order, they are:

    1: Ta-Nehesi Coates at The Atlantic:
    Heavily moderated and curated. Mr Coates is not afraid to use the ban hammer.

    2. Charles Johnson Little Green Footballs:
    Lots of peer feedback on comments. Trolls get shamed and eventually ignored.

    3. Andrew Sullivan at Daily Dish.
    No comments, but reader dissents are published.

    4. Jim Fallows at The Atlantic.
    No comments.

    Everything else seems to encourage the trolls to turn the blog into a sewer pit.

  16. wally says:

    Consider, also, that circumstances do vary. Back in the dark days of the big collapses (Bear, Lehman), site like yours and Calculated Risk were the go-to spots day and night… and a lot of the helpful info and opinions were to be found in the comments, not just in the formal posts.

  17. farmera1 says:

    My suggestion would be to continue to allow comments under your daily reading list and maybe eliminate comments for all of the rest of your posts. That might be a compromise that keeps the best and most informative posts, and eliminates much of the rest of the BS.

    I find the comments/links under your daily reads very useful. There are often articles linked in these comments that are worth a read. Usually these comments are pretty straight forward with only links and minimal pontifications. Sometimes in the following days you come back and use some of the links for one of your posts, so maybe you get useful information from these comments also.

    Personally I prefer it if you kept all of the comments as done now, but understand completely if you do away with some or all of the comments.

  18. TennesseeTrader says:

    I think it’s fairly easy to ignore comments from random internet people. Perhaps I was broken in on a message board that pertained to my college football interest.

    I take it you’ve had issues? Are the comments moderated? The comments on this site do require you to hit an additional link so it’s not like they clutter up the blog.

  19. smedleyb says:

    I like the new policy.

    Civil dialogue is such a rare species nowadays.

  20. JoseOle says:

    I don’t know if WordPress has this feature, but if readers are allowed to give thumbs up/down to comments, then two options would be (A) allow users to sort the comments based on these ratings, so that the creme rises to the top; (B) automatically hide any comment that hits a pre-determined threshold of either the thumbs down count or the difference between the thumbs up and thumbs down count. For B, hidden comments can be manually revealed by the reader, but the default is to hide them. Personally I think B works very well.

  21. Frilton Miedman says:

    Wally, I’d add that today is still a dark age of well funded interests trying to impose control over public discussion and sway conversation in An age where public opinion is the only thing standing in their way.

    BR has displayed integrity by standing by fact, opposing group-think and media hype , seeing members responses often confirms his points, many compound with additional info and links.

    It creates an impromptu think-tank that other influences seek to inhibit.

  22. Oral Hazard says:

    Barry, a while back you posted a one or two-page release that “outed” a D.C. firm that was spewing mothership talking points to minions. Those are the farging bastidges that need banning.

    There’s got to be basic respect for the host and the privilege of being heard. But on the subject of civility I’m reminded of an old story: One day a holy man was teaching in a temple, reading the account of Israel’s oppression at the hands of Cyrus of Persia. A voice from the back of the assemblage yelled “That motherfucker!!!” Immediately he was grabbed and brought forward. The holy man said to the group, “What are you doing, you hypocrites? He’s the only one in the whole place who truly heard what I was talking about and felt the injustice and spoke from his heart.”

    Yeah, an electronic comments section isn’t a temple or a public square. But a lot of people of good will have expressed sincere and strong sentiments here, maybe not always as clearly or as articulately as they might.

    Just saying.

  23. drtomaso says:

    I believe that comments, while they do provide an outlet for trolls and misinformation specialists to work their magic, also provide considerable value. A blog without comments is really just self-published editorial. Its the give and take- that interaction with your community- that makes a blog something special in its own medium.

    Please, please if you haven’t done so yet, take a look at what is arguably the best, largest and oldest technology blog,, and their system of community moderation. You can read about it in their own words here:

    You may be able to approximate something just as effective by enabling one of the many multi-moderator mods for WordPress, and granting moderator rights to a select handful of your more prevalent readers. Outsource this drudge work to the community you have built up over the years, and let it work for you.

    Just hunting around with Google I found these :

  24. Pull the f’ing trigger man, most comments suck this one included.

  25. Fred C Dobbs says:

    Nothing wrong with censorship. Incendiary remarks, such as yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded room should be censored. Good idea. Weed out the opinions in search of facts. Time someone stood up the potty-minded blabbermouths.

  26. billybob says:

    I love the blog and the comments. I learn a lot from both.

    If you do decide to use FB account sign-in to comment, could you also include Twitter as an alternative please? I detest the FB, and long ago took down my account on that time-wasting, brain-drainer.

  27. mpetrosian says:

    Why not create a subscription with some special pay only content and exclusive rights to comment. The freeloader/troll correlation is probably very high. Even something like $1 dollar per month would do the trick.
    I’m a proud troll. Not everyone is going to ping your intellect and ego just right.

  28. dsimmons says:

    I keep hearing comments on or comments off. What about different commenting systems. I don’t know if they can be integrated or even what you are looking for.

    I am fond of the way slashdot keeps the trolls out ( ). I don’t know if that works here because the quality is higher and the quantity is lower.

    Gawker has a different system that requires community involvement. It works well though having the same people over and over may create an echo chamber rather than the occasional insightful expert point of view.

    Another possibility would be to have subscribers who can comment. I’m not suggesting anything hard core, but if the barrier to entry is non-zero then that cuts down on the lazy trolls. The problem is that a true nugget might not get posted because of the this barrier.

  29. Frwip says:

    I had a late comment to the previous post about a ” Catholic policy ” of a Purgatory time before getting to Paradise :-)

    The key to easy moderation is to moderate commenters, not comments.

    The idea is that commenters 1) should be registration only with a valid, reputable unique email account (it’s already the case here) and 2) should prove themselves over a period of weeks or months, their comments only visible to themselves and to the administrators, before obtaining the privilege of being published.

    Trolls and spammers never get published, their account simply cast in Hell, ghosts ignored forever [*]. And if a previously worthy commenter goes off tracks, send him/her back to the Purgatory or even cast to Hell. No need to inform the repeat offender.

    It requires a bit of back-end work so the administrators can have easy access to the whole flow of comments in context so moderation can be performed efficiently. But it’s probably worthwhile. A good community of commenters certainly adds to a good blog.

    [* But to turn the tables on trolls and waste their time, it's always better to let them post comments over and over and give them the illusion that they are being published, while they are the only one to see their own comments, with no answer ever. I believe it's already feasible with Disqus.]

    Original comment:

  30. sailorman says:

    You could capture the IP address of the commenter and block that. This would prevent a troll from creating another google or facebook or wordpress and continue to comment. Most ISPs use a fixed IP address, so the troll would have to switch cable companies if they want to get a new IP address.


    BR: We do — user name, IP Address and email

    Junk email addresses (Hotmail, Mailinator, Yahoo, etc.) are automatically moderated

  31. PeterR says:

    Barry, have you asked yourself how you will feel if you lose the opportunity to police the comments, and to vent once in a while?

    Yes, “opportunity.”

    If dealing with comments is ONLY a chore with no reward for you personally, then yes, “Hasta La Vista, Baby!”

    I would miss the comments, and your venting once in a while. Hopefully you can find a meaningful middle ground, a soothing angle of repose?

  32. hyde says:

    in my opinion, the comments here are not in any way worth the handwringing energy you put into thinking about them. I appreciate that you care enough to consider the issues involved, but seriously: just kill them and be done with it.

  33. nj-professor says:

    Hey Barry….

    As long as comments (reviews, blogs, etc.) on the internet remain anonymous this situation can only get worse. The conundrum is that the cat is already out of the bag.

  34. PeterR says:

    Time to mint your own gold coins? :)

  35. hammerandtong2001 says:

    As far as “automated” solutions go –

    The “Electronic Data Discovery” folks may have a thought on this. EDD providers are the go-to folks when legal matters require culling through reams of electronic/digital information. For example, we’ve all heard/read about big investigations by DOJ, SEC, etc. and after rigorous discovery, prosecutors produce the “smoking e-mail” filled with incriminating info, etc. These types of e-mails are literally needles in haystacks, and EDD firms use software and linguistic search techniques to isolate a small number of bad eggs in a sea of millions.

    Maybe one of these firms has a stripped down solution which can easily flag questionable posts?


  36. cuprous says:

    Barry, open comments are a tragedy of the commons of sorts. The only way to preserve any level of meaningful discourse is to filter them. It’s time consuming and unfortunate but, to be redundant, it is what it is.
    That written I do appreciate the comments here as often they provide insightful supporting or contradictory views. Please don’t let the idiots ruin it for the rest of us.

  37. b_thunder says:

    “I have instructed my crack team of editors to delete junk comments with extreme prejudice. GYOFB.
    I would love to find a more effective technological solution to this”

    If I had MOFB I’d try a “democratic” and “automatic” solution: letting other “commenters” give thumbs-up or thumbs-down to other posts. When a certain poster gets enough thumb-downs (either overall, or on average over certain number of comments) he gets “demoted” to the very bottom of the comments page, sort of like relegation to a lower division in soccer. If the communal feedback improves – he can be “reinstated”, if feedback worsens – he gets canned and his IP/email blocked for good.


    BR: You are confusing this benevolent dictatorship with a democracy. Its not.

  38. CountryMouse says:

    Leadership again – thanks, BR

  39. BottomMiddleClass says:

    The trouble is even with a voting system you still risk getting over run by trolls who vote thoughtful comments down and vote their own “IM RITE U R DUM” comments up. With anonymous access, you risk ONE person making multiple accounts to upvote themselves and god forbid you get multiple people making multiple accounts.

  40. Mark Down says:

    Come on BR, ANOTHER should or shouldn’t have comments…..

  41. rktbrkr says:

    If you do decide to use FB account sign-in to comment, could you also include Twitter as an alternative please? I detest the FB, and long ago took down my account on that time-wasting, brain-drainer.


    This site has been blessed with mostly worthwhile observations and commentary not filled with bilge like many other sites – “birds of a feather flock together”!

    I guess the trogs know they can’t commandeer this site to vent.

  42. idaman says:

    Barry, I mention this only because I think it is fascinating, I’m not suggesting this problem is OK (It is your business after all), so here goes…

    The era when our constitution was written, trash talk, false narratives, character assassinations were common. For example, a doctor from modern eastern Pennsylvania might write a column in the paper claiming he was a farmer on the Indian frontier of western Pennsylvania under a false name and then go on to lie about a politician he hates. This type of public discourse was common. And yet, they still put the right of free speech in the constitution. Brilliant.

    My source:

    (A great read, BTW. Goes down easy.)

  43. pastafarian says:

    My touchstone for whether to read comments on any blog is the signal to noise ratio. The commentariat here and at nakedcapitalism often add to my knowledge and understanding. Here, that’s due in part to BR’s pruning. As wally noted, calculatedrisk is an example of comments run wild, hence essentially worthless.

    Speaking selfishly, I hope the comments stay–as long as the signal to noise ratio remains high. If that’s lost or if our host decides life’s too short to spend his time dealing with trolls, I, for one, won’t miss the comments.

  44. Bob is still unemployed   says:

    @sailorman – “… Most ISPs use a fixed IP address, so the troll would have to switch cable companies if they want to get a new IP address….

    That is incorrect. Most (if not all) ISPs use a dynamically assigned IP address for residential usage (via the DHCP protocol). The IP address assigned to you has a fixed lifetime (usually a few days, after which the IP address can be renewed or changed to another. It is easy to change the IP address assigned to you, just change the MAC address that the ISP sees. Some routers allow you to do that, or you can just plug a different PC into the DSL or cable modem.

    My ISP, Comcast, changes my IP address once every year or so. My friend’s ISP, Charter, changes his Ip address every two or three months.


  45. Low Budget Dave says:

    If you have a post that is an invitation to discussion, then allow comments for that post. If you have a post that is just a dissemination of information, then turn off comments for that post.

    I usually like comments, and tend to avoid blogs that don’t allow them.

    Brad DeLong (Berkeley) allows comments, and so tends to be more responsive when his readers disagree or misunderstand. Greg Mankiw (Harvard) does not allow comments, and does not respond to his readers at all.

    I prefer the former, because I like to see what other people think. I like authors who are willing to listen.

  46. Robert M says:

    I suggest you eliminate this as part of your comment policy, “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.”
    If the data shows that people deliberately attempt to subvert your material then you shouldn’t wave a red flag.

  47. constantnormal says:

    Humans are broken … perhaps “by design”, perhaps through evolution … but broken.

    And like all broken (or just badly designed) systems, we require regulation in most things, especially including debate and conflict resolution.

    Just don’t go all PC on me. There is such a thing as bad regulation, y’know …

  48. DeDude says:

    I don’t think this sites comments are out of balance with respect to those problems. Sometimes it is even a good thing to have one of those silly fact-free talking points “slammed” by the smart group of people who comments on this blog. Yes if they go overboard “edit” them – but you don’t want people to get scared and worry more about the language than the content of their comments. As others have mentioned there is already a very favorable signal-to-noise ratio in TBP comments, but if you disagree then tighten it up. Some kind of input from regular commenters on what is good and bad may also work – as long as you retain the final say (to reduce the risk that well stated but unpopular comments become targeted by group think).

    You could also test the idea of converting to a “letters to the editor” format. This would take away the debate between individuals, and give you more power to control comments as some letters would be published and others not.

  49. Ramstone says:

    Disqus seems the best way to keep score on the regulars and flush the turds and assorted drive-bys.

  50. AnnaLee says:

    BR, My FB name, while a plausible name, is, nevertheless, not my real name.

  51. Bob is still unemployed   says:

    @ramstone – “disqus…”

    I refuse to use Disqus because of their cross-site data collection and tracking. They are just as bad as some of the ad networks in that regard.

  52. Bob A says:

    what percentage of readers ever even look at comments?

    i suspect it’s so small as to be insignificant.

  53. The Window Washer says:

    “Why not create a subscription with some special pay only content and exclusive rights to comment. The freeloader/troll correlation is probably very high. Even something like $1 dollar per month would do the trick.”

    I second the vote for this.

    Make your reading list posts as ‘subscriber only’ for a buck a month and the right to comment.

  54. JohnnyVee says:

    I’d hate to see comments totally go away. I comment, rarely these days, and I also enjoy reviewing other people’s comments and BR’s occasional rebuttals. How about having some type of sign-up and vetting process for those that want to post comment. A code of conduct and word limit. I know to ignore the 3 paragraph posts. Anyway, I would be willing to help out.

  55. The Window Washer says:

    Bob A Says:

    what percentage of readers ever even look at comments?

    i suspect it’s so small as to be insignificant.

    Comment obviously have value to Barry and anyone that’s been around since “the good old days” remembers when reading the comments here was a must. He’s just trying to skew back.

  56. lalaland says:

    I agree – your commenters are often very interesting, and I read your comments more frequently than almost any site I visit. Honestly I skim past the trolls, authority figures and self-publishers; they aren’t really much of a nuisance unless it becomes a back-and-forth between the forces of lame and interesting rather than a discussion on the subject matter. I’d guess it’s more frustrating for you than your readers -

  57. ancientone says:

    Jaron Lanier, a giant in the creation of many things on the internet, has become a strong critic of anonymous commenters on websites. He calls it a danger to political discourse and the polity itself. He sees anonymity as a poison seed; it encourages the display of the ugliness of human nature hiding behind screen-name masks. It is slowly turning us into a nation of hate-filled trolls.

  58. Randel says:

    You are not having fun anylonger dealing with the jerks. Shut off commenting. Your site has wonderful information, and we do not need the jerks. Randy

  59. jlivermore says:

    Oh for God’s sakes; Kill the comments. We come to read you! Whatta y’wasting time and server space.”

    “At some point you have to ask yourself if you want to be an analyst or trader, if you want to be trader leaves the whys and wherefores to others and focus all your attention on price.” The Boy Plunger

    P.S. “Don’t sell stocks when the sap is running up the trees!”

  60. Roanman says:

    I killed comments at my little site, although I like commenting here along with a couple other places. I did it mostly because I got tired pretty quick of slogging through the spam in order to find a couple of real comments.

    Ending comments will cut your traffic some, my site is a toy and has no commercial or any other kind of aspirations for that matter. Your site serves as a promotional tool among other things, but I seriously doubt you’d notice much difference.

    Of course the other great reason to end commentary is to end challenges to your point of view and the stress associated with disagreement, which stress I don’t minimize.

    In my own case the comments that got to me were the ones where the guy explaining where I’m wrong might possibly be right, not the one’s where they just call you an asshat. Killing comments will allow you to sit there and peacefully consider the likelihood that you’re an incredibly brilliant individual with all of the answers that the world truly needs.

  61. Init4good says:

    kill the comments – give urself a rest. You can always bring em back later

  62. Init4good says:

    after reading some of the “comments” above, you should go 0.50 cents per month. If you are willing to pre-pay in 3-month or 6 month increments (ur choice) you can comment until you cancel ur .50c per month. Call it an “entertainment” fee – after all, that’s why ppl read some of them, no?

  63. AmyM says:

    The study just shows that propaganda (the big Lie) works, unfortunately. When the trolls are allowed to run free, they ruin a site.
    Your site’s commenters, however, are worth reading and I always learn a lot from them.

  64. boveri says:

    The only questions I would have for myself in deciding whether to keep comments are:
    1) Do they make me feel good about me and my work
    2) Do I need them in any way

  65. zoran says:

    Have you looked at LinkedIn influencers? Seems that there’s less trolling there, as you have to use your LinkedIn account to comment…

    I’ve seen quite a few people posting the same article on their blogs + influencers (example: Mark Cuban), looks like they’re trying it out :)

  66. DeDude says:

    This phenomenon of tribal entrenchment killing focus on the issue, was interestingly on display recently in the “tussle” between a liberal economist (Paul Krugman) and a moderate former GOP congress man (Joe Scarborough). They had a “first encounter” on the morning Joe show where Krugman was being described as being way off and alone in his ideas. He reacted angrily in his blog to this since a lot of economists actually agree with him that the “here and now” problem is the slow economy, not the deficit and debt. At the next encounter on Charlie Rose it turns out that Joe suggests that we in the next few years should have infrastructure stimulus spending but we need to address the deficit 3-4 years from now. Krugman’s position is that we need infrastructure (and other) stimulus now and that the deficit does not need to be addressed until 8-10 years from now. So in reality they agree on the basics (stimulate now, but deficit/debt will become a problem later) and they just have a little disagreement on “degree” and on “timing”. They should have had a useful substantive debate on Charlie Rose about when (at what metrics) the shift from stimulus to deficit reduction should be initiated; and with what tools that change should be instituted (revenues vs. spending cuts – and what types). Yet because of the negative, adversarial and disrespecting way their first encounter started up, they end up in a silly rhetorical fight rather than substantive debate at their second encounter.

  67. genauer says:

    Unfortunately, I dont have a simple answer to the question here, either:

    how to keep the aggressive trolls out, and the tone civilized, and the effort to do this reasonable.

    Having engaged in linkedin discussions, previously, a little bit, I have to say, trying to later look on who said what, when, is a miserable effort.

    One important point, I do not see here voiced at all:

    Outlets, which operate as a one way street, no comments allowed, or requiring to register as a “follower” are repulsive.

    Bad examples:

    VoxEU (e.g. Karl Whelan)

    Just one recent prominent example, to be specific:

    Olivier Blanchards (IMF, MIT) ludicrous Multiplier statement, the hilarious data picking behind that

    This was ridiculed in diplomatic words by e.g. the FT (Financal Times) , Davies and many others, people here might not accept as readily as a “serious source”.

    People like e.g. deLong even censoring any reference to such contradicting voices, disqualify themselves.

    Krugman, spewing one public insult after the other at EU officials, discredits ALL US economists.

    They just become some some sect, reinforcing their belief systems, and the rest of the world just laughs about it.

    “Audiatur et altera pars” is at the core of (european) civilization.

    I believe other cultures might have similar statements, I dont know, and I would be interested, if somebody here could point them out.

    Silencing dissent is a tell tail for sectarians, the folks who one day drink the Kool Aid.

  68. genauer says:

    Please, please, please,

    I DO NOT want to divert the discussion here to this Blanchard / Multiplier topic, not at all!

    It was just an example, about an important topic, where the other half, continental Europe, at some point, stops listening to those folks at all.

    And such a systemic breakdown of discourse is long term very bad for us all.

  69. Dante says:

    My one and only comment to your new policy of not taking comments is what took you so long. The trolls ruin good forums. Good for you.

  70. tdotz says:

    I’ve been thinking about suggesting that perhaps requiring real identities – no anonymity – would have the desired effect.

    Here is how it’s working on LinkedIn:
    “The other benefit, Roth sees, is that there’s no anonymity on LinkedIn. Everyone’s writing — the “Influencer” and anyone who comments — is tied back to a professional reputation. If you make a comment, your employer, employees, future employers can see what you’re sharing. People are thinking hard about what kind of comments they’re making, so you see little, if any, trolling — a coup for a blogging platform.” –

  71. [...] Barry Ritholtz (one of my favorite bloggers) reporting about a study of the effects nasty comments have on reader perception: 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. [...]

  72. genauer says:

    Requiring real names sounds great, …. at first glance.

    But it would effectively silence many people, like me, from my perspective the large majority.

    I have to deal in daily life with intelligent people (majority PhD in STEM fields, at least a master) who most would expect to be “enlightened”, not foaming before the mouth, but more calm, data driven.

    But when it comes to “social questions”, economics, bankers, a lot of them have little (quantitative) knowledge, understanding, and often pretty peculiar opinions.

    In the German media the mantra “the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer” is trotted out on a regular basis, just, if you look at easily available data from respectable sources (DIW), this is not the case in Germany. The distribution is pretty much the same as 50 and 100 years ago, and in global comparison very equal.

    Nevertheless, pointing ou this fact drives some of them ballistic, and one week later to spread, that I was in favor of impoverishing the poor. Sounds very weird, I know, but it is true.

    Even the 2nd largest private German Bank, Commerzbank, is running TV Ads ranting against derivatives on food.

    Writing comments is not supposed to be during working hours. If you do it late in the night, you are a weird guy.

    Reading this blog, and even commenting, would make me a capitalist pig in their view. Here I fit in nicely : – )

    I can’t change these attitudes. The people are as they are. And that means that my professional life (and linkedin, xing with that) must be completely separate from my blog activities. “Real name” on display would be a KO criteria.

    I believe, that this is not only my personal situation, but similar for many others as well, justifying to go into such detail here.