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The Sciences

The Art of Commenting

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMay 5, 2009 7:51 PM

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I'm ambivalent about the value of blog comments. Part of me loves Andrew Sullivan's blog because he spares us from having to wade through the bushels of crap he undoubtedly receives-- though Sullivan often highlights and edits the best of his reader emails in a way that provides excellent counter-perspective to a particular topic or thread. The other part of me enjoys reading comments at Dot Earth, Real Climate, or academic sites, such as Savage Minds (even though I've lately been critical of them), because the comments are generally intelligent. But at so many blogs the majority of comments are either 1) inane, 2) rah, rah, 3) churlish. They add little value to the original post. They don't foster constructive conversation. And I haven't even started in about comments to newspaper stories. Troll around there for a few minutes and you're bound to drown in a cesspool of nasty bile. It's not the best face of humanity. Still, as a journalist, I mine blog comments the way I mine policy papers, journals, goverment docs. There's always buried jewels for the taking. And ocassionally, revealing debates break out in a comment thread that sometimes take on a life of their own. There's value in that. For anyone interested in how to become a quality commenter, this post is worth a read.

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