See below for my take about the differences between posts and comments on EphBlog.

Posts and comments are different. A post appears on the top of the main page at EphBlog. It can only be written by someone that we have approved as an author. Readers can’t (easily) avoid posts. A comment, on the other hand, does not appear on the main page (except via a link in the Recent Comments widget). Anyone can write a comment and readers can avoid them easily by not clicking on the comments link for a given post. Although we do not have good data on this, my understanding is that posts are read by at least ten times as many people as comments.

My purpose here is to explain the history of how EphBlog has dealt with posts and comments in the past, the reasons behind that history and my suggestions for going forward. I am not a member of the Board of EphBlog, and the Board could, at any time, decide that a new policy would be best.

Summary: Posts are sacred. We do not have enough of them. We want to encourage more, so we give authors maximal freedom. We rarely delete posts. Comments are discretionary. We have plenty. Many comments are trollish and off-topic. Deleting them, if anything, raises the quality of the conversation at EphBlog. Moreover, to encourage participation from more authors, we want to give them maximal control over the content of the comment threads which follow their posts. Authors have the right, but not the obligation, to police their comment threads however they see fit.

Over the years, I have had discussions with some faculty members about participating more at EphBlog, about bringing the magic of a Williams classroom to a larger audience. Almost to a person, they have insisted that, to do so, they would need the freedom to delete off-topic comments from their threads, to guide the conversation in the same way that they would in a Williams classroom. One of the reasons that I was not a fan of our recent change to require that comment deletions be noted was precisely because it raises the cost of comment moderation by making it more of a hassle. But, with luck, the hassle factor will not be large enough to make a difference and/or special dispensation might be granted in certain threads and/or for certain authors. But that is a discussion for another day.

The most important problem that EphBlog faces is a lack of authors and a lack of posts from those authors (other than me). Anything which encourages more authors — like almost never deleting their posts and allowing them as much freedom as possible to delete comments in their own threads — is a good thing.

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