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September 26, 2007


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I have no comment, instead a question:

I regularly read Balkinization, this blog, Dispatches from the Cuture Wars (the Ed Brayton blog referred to in another thread), and Volokh, including comments. I think there is no question that the caliber of bloggers is consistently high in that quartet (although as noted before, Brayton is not in the same prestige class - to tell the truth, I'm not even sure he's a lawyer).

However, the quality of comments is markedly different. In descending order, I would rank them Balkinization, Brayton, Volokh, and this blog, with a pretty large gap between the first and second duos. (To fend off accusations of self-flattery, I'll note that I comment rarely if ever at Balkinization or Volokh, only occasionally at the other two.)

I don't see an obvious reason for this. Although I understand Volokh to be considered a conservative blog, I see little if any obvious conservative bias in general, although a couple of the individual bloggers are so irritating that I often skip their posts. So, I don't think its political bias on my part. In fact, I would say that Balkinization and this blog are comparably "left", and Brayton's blog is much more issue-focused than the others.

Another possible explanation is popularity - the greater it is, the more likely the comments will be of low quality (sorry, Prof Reynolds). That fits Volokh, which is probably the most popular of my quartet, but not this blog which is probably the least. (Yes, though relatively unknown, Brayton has a larger readership, or at least commenter-ship).

I'm at a loss as to why this inconsistency of comment quality exists (or perhaps I'm simply wrong.) Any ideas?

- Charles


I should add that this relates to the post in that I am including in my measure of quality not only how knowledgable the commenters are but also how civil. Although in general, I find the two highly correlated.

- Charles


"you might include some good liberal blogs in your blogroll"

I'm game. Got any suggestions? Most liberal blogs I've seen are horrible. Blogging just doesn't seem to be something intelligent and interesting lefties do (Does Kaus count? No, he doesn't count -- he's effectively the modern day equivalent of a 60's neoconservative.) There are 2 or 3 left-leaning econ blogs I like, and that's about it. It's just hard to find much that is intelligent or compelling on the left side of the blogosphere. Is there a lefty "Instapundit"? Is there a lefty "Marginal Revolution"? Is there a lefty "Patterico"? Is there a lefty "Volokh Conspiracy?" If there are, name them.

Really. Name them.


Prof Sunstein

With respect to a comment on left on Prof Reynolds' last post, how do the exclusion of comments on a blog add or detract from the framework? While I dislike the incivility of certain blog comments, the exclusion altogether seems to add to the echo-chamber, no?


I'll name a few (although your complaint against Kos et al really is just a disagreement with position, thus demonstrating Prof. Sunstein's entire point. You don't like what they say, so you name call and wall yourself off).

Having said that, I find Matthew Yglesias of the Altantic blog and Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly blog to be reasonable liberal/progressive bloggers. They certainly don't march in lockstep with their side of spectrum.

Also, I would note your call for a "lefty Volokh Consipiracy." I would agree with Prof. Sunstein that Profs. Volokh and Kerr, and others, actually can't be cabined in the manner you describe. See Prof Kerr's many discussions about FISA in which he appears to lean to some findings of unconstitutionality.

The VC blog is my favorite of all, and I put myself squarely on the left side of the spectrum. I say that because the professors on that site seem to value intellectual honesty over partisanship. Errors are admitted and corrected immediately, and the posts don't often fit into neat, partisan packages.

Michael Martin

Towards the end of this post, Sunstein is getting to an important point -- there are benefits to less "diversification" because there are benefits to specialization and divisions of labor. Just like the price system facilitated finer and finer specializations in the division of labor, the blogosphere is facilitating finer and finer specializations in ideology.

I'm not sure it makes sense for a blogger to link to other blogs that are ideologically opposed to her views in order to promote diversification of ideology. That's just going to frustrate the readers who are looking for other related viewpoints.

I think bloggers have to stick to their schtick in order to keep their readers, and rely on the readers to do their own research (through social networks or folksonomies?) to identify good sources of alternative views.

A related point to this discussion is that the status is probably going to grow in importance in the social interactions we have in the blogosphere. Up to now, communication on the Internet has proceeded in more or less a veil of ignorance from a status perspective.


Teenagers have managed to successfully impersonate professors and so forth. As more and more of our lives are conducted online, and personal accountability for actions online increases, so too will the importance of personal status in online communication. Polarization entrepreneur stock is up in the short run, but down in the long run in this regard.


I'm surprised at ctw's opinion of the quality of comments on Balkinization and VC. While the posts on Balkinization are much more detailed and pensive, the comment threads are close to unreadable because they are invariably taken over by certain regulars. Unless one has time to waste, it is close to impossible to get value out of any of the comments. VC is peppered with a variety of "lite" posts which seems to add a degree of levity. I hope someone can solve the problem at Balkinization.



I guess it's a matter of what you expect from blog posts and comments. I read this blog and VC for education (IANAL), not for "levity" (for which I watch the Daily Show and Colbert).

I'm not sure what you mean by "taken over by certain regulars". I find the comments here mostly informed and thoughtful (though admittedly typically partisan), even on the rare occasions when I know enough to disagree. OTOH, on VC I find the comments not only partisan but also typically sophomoric and content-free. But in fairness, altho VC is reputed to be conservative/libertarian, I find a minimum of partisan bias in the posts, with the exception of D. Bernstein, who seems to be in the "criticising Israel is anti-semitic" camp, and J. Lindgren who often is the epitome of a Republican partisan hack. OTOH, Volokh seems the epitome of the rational, objective analyst (except when defending his "brood", eg, the aforementioned - then he loses it.)

Clearly a matter of taste.

- Charles

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