Since I began this humble blog almost 11 years, 25,000 posts and 137 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 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.
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.
Forthwith, I give you the official comments policy of TBP:
A. Actually Posting Comments:
A lot of thought — and work — goes into what gets posted here; If you want to comment, I suggest you engage in the same processes of “thinking” and “working”.
I take the comments and feedback seriously, and attempt to read all that goes up here, though that is becoming increasingly difficult. (I do read all email, but make no promises about responding).
Email addresses on comments are not published, but I do see them. All comments with legitimate email addresses receive higher priority than disposable email addresses (ie., Hotmail, Mailinator, etc.). When I moved the blog to Word Press, that eliminated the cowardly “anons” comments — so its one less thing to ignore. If I am unable to respond to you privately due to a bogus email address, don’t be surprised if you get a snarky edit in your posted comment.
B. “Off Topic” posts and thread hijacks get deleted with extreme prejudice.
The first comment often sets the tone for the rest of the discussion; Please post intelligently.
When posting your first ever Big Picture comment, I suggest you make it informative, interesting, on topic, and of of moderate length — a paragraph or two. Lazy one sentence or one word comments typically get deleted. Posting First! gets you banned for life.
Long winded rambling comments will get edited (*snip*) or disemvoweled or deleted. One word of advice for those of you who like to pen 1000+ word comments: GYOFB.
I post comments in my own name. Anytime I comment in someone else’s comment posts, I will mark it as such:
BR: like this.
If I find I am spending time correcting factual errors in your comments a lot, it means you are on the road to full moderation.
C. “Guest” Comments:
On occasion I will post someone else’s email (or telephone call) as a comment in their name or initials — mostly because they can’t. My circle of colleagues/friends includes many people who work in firms with nasty compliance policies — due to their employers, they risk their own jobs by posting comments. I will, in my own judgment, do so on their behalf when appropriate.
D: Moderated Comments:
Posting comments here is a privilege, not a right. That is why the default setting for all new comments is moderated.
Most sites allow a cesspool of silly, unproductive, misleading comments to despoil the site. I have chosen not to allow that silliness.
My goal regarding comments is not to establish an open forum where any jackass can post any piece of false, misleading or biased nonsense without disclosing their position or interest — that’s what Yah0o message boards were for.
If your comment is off topic, self-promotional, lacking in intellectual coherence, it just wont get posted. If you repeatedly try to post those sorts of comments, you will get black-listed.
Demonstrate you are intelligent, civil, respect facts and are diligent about pursuing the truth and you eventually earn non-moderated status. The alternative, as mentioned above is for you to GYOFB.
E: Trolls and Asshats:
This may be a free country, but The Big Picture is my personal fiefdom. I rule over all as benevolent dictator/philospher king.
I will ban anyone whom I choose from posting comments — usually, for a damned good reason, but on rare occasions, for the exact same reason God created the platypus: because I feel like it.
This is far less random than it sounds. After 21,284 Posts and 266,427 comments, you get a pretty good feel for asshattery and instinct for douchebaggery. Neither is tolerated.
I encourage a broad range of perspectives, philosophies, sexual orientations. Dissent is good. I want to see a debate of views, a battle in the market place of ideas. (That Thomas Jefferson guy was onto something). You can post on nearly anything, so long as it is at least tangentially related to the topic at hand.
I reserve the right to edit any comment for length; If you annoy me enough, I will edit it to make you look an fool. On occasion, I will “unpublish” a comment if I feel it is too impolite, harsh, ad hominem, inappropriate. Off-topic posts are mercilessly slaughtered, and will be unpublished en masse. Do not publish 20 comments out of blog post’s 60 total. (It takes ~3 seconds to un-publish em all). Do not snipe, or flamebait, or engage in a private irrelevant debate. If you find yourself publishing way too many comments, consider this: This humble blog is my forum for expressing my ideas. Perhaps it might be best if you were to get your own fucking blog.
The fastest way to lose posting privileges is to misrepresent your host’s complex and nuanced views in some inane bumper sticker comment. Doing so gets them deleted and your own ass tossed out.
Other fast tracks to getting banned:
- Knowingly posting false or malicious material;
- multiple postings under different names;
- generally engaging in troll-like behavior;
- misquoting your host/overlord;
- being impolite in the extreme;
- using fake/mislabelled URLs;
- ad hominem attacks;
- being an asshole.
Right now, someone is reading this and saying to themselves “What does he mean, being an asshole?” If you wondered that to yourself, well the odds strongly favor that you yourself have sphincter-like qualities. Thus, you should consider it likely that you will be banned as a rectoid from posting comments sometime in the near future.
If you disagree with any of these policies, or feel compelled to complain to the management, then by all means send an email here.>
There are few things that I find more annoying than disingenuous rhetoric. “Why are you ignoring X? You must post on this NOW.” This alerts me to the fact you have a very small willie, and for reasons unrelated to that affliction, you should be ignored.
Sorry, I do not accept homework assignments. How about you fat lazy bastard get off your big ass and actually do some homework yourself? Then, you can post a clever observation and URL. Perhaps you will stimulate a conversation.
Of course, you could always start write your own blog; (Warning: This is actually hard work, and you are mostly lazy).
Worse still are the emails asking for my opinion on this, or would you comment on that. In 94.7% of the cases, I have already covered the subject extensively (this Google company is on to something). My apologies to the remaining 5.3%, but that’s how it goes: The tyranny of the ignorant majority oppressing the informed minority.
G. URLs in Comments:
I encourage people to link back to other sources and sites in comments. Feel free to put your own blog/site in the URL space when entering comments. However, link whoring is frowned upon in the body of comments.
If you are merely posting comments in order to enhance your Google score, I may leave the comment — but delete your URL above. Want some of my Google Juice? Play by my rules.
I encourage Trackbacks from non-commercial sites discussing the issues we chew over here. However, since trackbacks and comments can also be a way to raise your Google score, commercial trackbacks will be invoiced as advertising.
Please do not cut and paste entire copyrighted works of others into comments. Title, a URL, a few paras are plenty . The exceptions are for the author (Bloomberg, NYT, WSJ, Barron’s, etc.) of those columns.
Once posted, I do not delete comments. On rare occasions have I deleted reader comments after the fact at their request (less than 3 times — and only to save someone’s job).
If you post something that, several years from now turns out to be embarrassing, or revealing of yourself as an idiot, well, that’s just too God-damned bad. Think twice before ranting like a jackass.
K. Sturgeon’s law (aka the secret to this comments policy):
Theodore Sturgeon once remarked “ninety percent of everything is crap.” If Sturgeon had to moderate blog comments, he would have been far less generous.
The secret to this comment policy is that, for the most part, I have no interest in what 90% of you think. By “you” I mean the vast hordes of unwashed masses who may pass by here, and by “think” I mean every stray thought which randomly stays through your empty, concussed skulls, and which after a lifetime of participation awards, you naturally believe is worthy of publishing, plus a gold star.
I am here to tell you, no it’s not.
There is some small percentage of you who do have very intelligent things to say, have an expertise in a given area, are knowledgeable and well read in a particular field. I greatly enjoy your comments, and have learned a great deal from them.
Being able to distinguish between the two comment types in a time efficient manner means that I must engage in triage. If I make a hash of it, please figure out a polite way to tell me so.
-Originally written March 2008; Updated January 11th, 2013