The always perspicacious Chris Clarke is talking about us, in a post where he talks about the pleasures and perils of managing comments on a blog.
I’d be lying if I said I never appreciated a good bar brawl of a comment thread. And some blogs make the free-for-alls work: Pharyngula comes to mind as an example of a wonderful, worthwhile blog with a laissez-faire comment policy. But few blogs have that winning Pharyngular combination of high traffic, sharp focus, distinct blogger personality, and devoted constructive regulars. The chance of a typical low-to-mid-traffic blog ripening into another Pharyngula is, as the blog world matures, decreasing.
He’s got it right — managing comments is tricky stuff, and there are the issues of setting the tone, of culling the more egregious violators, of keeping the place from descending into random madness. Probably the best example of a blog pulling off the delicate balancing act of of getting a convivial and smart continuing conversation going is Making Light; I think Pharyngula has a fine comments section that at least aspires to that level, less the “convivial” part. Chris accurately describes the situation here as a laissez-faire free-for-all.
Do you know how one of the standard scenarios in fantasy role playing games is the wizard in the tower (or the bottom of the dungeon), and you’ve got to fight your way through swarms of weird monsters wandering the stony halls to get to him? That never made much sense to me: why is there this weird mix of stealthy assassins and thuggish ogres prowling about, and why would some lich-king or demon take up residence in such an odd hole in the ground? But then I started this blog, and it’s become clear. It’s a focus for all kinds of raucous melees, so sure, all kinds of interesting denizens will occupy the place. So thanks to all of you readers, we have an interesting assortment of ogres, wizards, goblins, angels, nice townsfolk, and even merchants (the spammers, who don’t last long) dwelling in the hodge-podge maze of the comment threads. It can be a scary place — don’t go down there without full armor — but it’s also an exciting place.
Which brings us to today’s effort in comment management. After a long delay (December is a slow month, so I wanted to give this one more time to gather steam), we have a new Molly winner for December: Dustin. We’ll be giving him a corner crypt with easy access to the main thoroughfare for entering adventurers, along with a +3 Vorpal Sword.
We also need new nominations for this month, so consider this the January Molly nomination thread. While you’re congratulating Dustin, you can also mention someone else you think deserves an exalted position in the wandering monsters table.
Finally, with some trepidation, I’m also making this an Open Enrollment thread. Do you want to be on the Pharyngula blogroll? It’s easy. First, you need a blog with an RSS feed (I do all my blog browsing with a newsreader, so that’s an absolute requirement). Second, you need to give me a link to your blog in a comment here. And finally, you have to pass a test demonstrating that you actually read Pharyngula: name your favorite commenter. (That’s a cunning way to get more votes in the Molly nominations.)