in Critical Discussion, Markel!

Goodbye to Comments

Well, this is less something I’m changing my mind on and more something I’ve been considering for a while and basically been doing in a somewhat roundabout fashion anyway. I’ll explain.

It’s been a few years since I switched my site over to fully moderated comments, and for the last year or so I have debated turning them off completely, which I’m now going to do. I’m doing this for two primary reasons:

  1. People generally don’t leave comments anymore. They are in reality much rarer than they used to be.
  2. Moderation of comments is seen sometimes as an affront, and though I don’t agree with that sentiment, I’d rather avoid the discussion entirely.

What brought this back into my mind was a pair of comments on my previous post referring to wundergeek’s blogging cessation and the fact that it is in my opinion a regrettable thing. I’ve had a rather busy couple of days here personally for various reasons, and haven’t had a chance to check anything related to the site or bother with checking for comments (also for the previously stated reason of how rare comments actually are now).

I checked stats a bit ago and noticed some referrers to that previous post, which has seen a decent amount of traffic. One of them was a post by the author of this comment, which I’m publishing right here in this post, verbatim and in full:

That toxic woman’s contention has always been that we need to chase the toxic elements out of the hobby. Sweet schedenfreude of St. Murgotroyd, let’s hope her petard is a comy one, because she done hoisted herself on up it.

How’s that for a unique viewpoint?

This was referenced in a later post on the comment author’s site in which he said this of me:

It will be interesting to see if the man who believes in, “the chilling effect that stops other people from raising their voices and bringing unique viewpoints to the table,” will moderate that unique viewpoint into oblivion.  I suspect Ryan “Five Lights” Markel’s policy is that some voices are more unique than others.  And in this time of rampant catering to the hobgoblins of the left, he has no room for diversity of opinion on his blog – not when said diversity might just include a viewpoint to which he does not agree.  He’s got his own private Hayes Code to enforce, don’t you know?

These words essentially accuse me of censorship, which is an impossibility because I am not a government nor am I an agent of a government in charge of suppressing anyone’s free speech.

On the contrary, I strongly believe in and defend the right to free speech. I have spent the last seven years of my professional life working on and for the very platform that has given both wundergeek and Mr. Wright (the author of the comment) a method and platform by which they may express themselves. And I have spent even longer than that evangelizing for and contributing to open source software that has as a foundational principle the democratization of publishing and is the engine that powers WordPress.com.

All voices are unique, but this does not mean that I will agree with a given voice or even with everything any voice has to say. Nor does it mean that I should be expected to provide a platform for voices I disagree with on my own blog or site without reservation or selection—and in fact, the author of the comment republished the comment on his own WordPress.com blog, which is exactly what I would suggest and encourage in any case.

In a follow-up post, he said:

Moving on, as expected, the prize pig Ryan Merkin lamented the silencing of unique voices by silencing my voice, one of the most unique in tabletop gaming.

Again, the truth is far from it. The single site on which I write my words does not need to stand as a platform for anyone else’s opinion, as he even admits later in the same post:

Yeah, yeah, yeah: his blog, his rules.  He is well within his rights to refuse to publish one of my precious bon mots.

I would much rather encourage others to be writing their opinions on their own blogs, as he did and has done. Giving people their own platform and by doing so furthering the democratization of publishing is a better outcome than having comments on my own blog in just about every conceivable way.

Relatedly, discourse has become a strange thing in 2016, with “censorship” having lost pretty much all accurate meaning at this point and instead being thrown around by almost anyone whenever they feel someone is not listening to them or validating their opinion.

It’s because of these things that I’m finally following through on my decision to eliminate comments from this site, though in years past they have served a very good purpose. I’ve edited or moderated out comments for many things in the past, from having opinions I did not think needed fostering on my site, to having extremely poor grammar and spelling, to being on posts that are just too old to continue the discussion.

Increasingly, though, the correct move seems to be just shutting off comments entirely, as the process and weight of moderating comments and choosing what to let through is less desirable than encouraging others to use their own space. It’s much less of an echo chamber of self-reinforcement. (It also removes having to deal with comment spam at all, though Akismet is pretty darn good at removing that from the equation in the first place.)

In the interest of transparency and completeness, this was the other comment on my previous post:

No.

The central premise was wrong.

It was tried in the fire of reality, and found wanting.

I’m raising my voice to you right now, bringing a traditional viewpoint to the table. Typically this would get be banned, deleted, shadowbanned, de-platformed, de-jobbed, and probably doxxed, etc.

Those are the steps people like wundergeek take.

That’s why this is an act of bravery. I accept your criticism.

These are the last two comments to be published in any way on my blog, at least for the foreseeable future. Part of me is sad to see comments go, but I think the decision is best in the long run. If you read this, and you’ve ever thought about expressing yourself in the comments on my blog, please head over here and sign up for a new WordPress.com blog of your own. It’s easy to use and free, and you can start publishing your own thoughts and ideas today.

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