Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why Comments are Gone

Some of you have noticed that the comments section is gone. I disabled that feature of the blog. A friend has asked me to explain why.

This blog started on a lark. It was originally set up for my students in ec 10. After a few weeks, however, the existence of this blog became more widely known, and the readership started to grow. One day last week, more than 20,000 visitors stopped by. This is now one of the top economics blogs, and it is one of the few that are free of advertising (well, almost free of advertising). The blog is sometimes even quoted in the mainstream media (such as in this recent NY Times article).

All that is gratifying, but it is also time-consuming. In addition to this blog, I have classes to teach, students to advise, papers to write, textbooks to update, and three children to raise. Oh, yeah, my wife likes to see me now and then, too. It is fair to say that among all those activities, this blog ranks as my last priority.

To put it simply, this blog is a hobby. My late colleague Zvi Griliches collected coins; I blog. As far as I can tell, Zvi never let his hobby interfere with the rest of his life. I am trying to do the same.

The comments section has been, for me, a source of both fun and frustration. Originally, I had hoped that it might provide a way for my students to debate one another on economic issues. It never quite worked out that way. Some of my current and former students did participate (and shared with me, privately, their sometimes odd screen names). But a vast majority of the commenters fell outside this category.

The growth in the comments section was fine with me, as long as the discussion remained civil. Mostly it was, and I learned a lot from the comments. But unfortunately, a few (usually anonymous) commenters too often crossed the line.

I just don't have the time to police comments and enforce good behavior, especially since some posts were generating more than 100 comments. And I don't want to host a party in which a small vitriolic minority consistently tries to ruin the event for everyone else. So I decided to turn the comments feature off.

The absence of comments may deter some readers from coming by. I hope not. But if attendance falls off a lot, I will start looking for another hobby. Maybe golf.