Within the last few weeks, we've seen two major storms in which the weblog community turned fiercely upon its benefactors. First, Ben and Mena Trott were denounced for the new MovableType pricing policy. Then, Dave Winer was roundly excoriated for the weblogs.com transition.
In both cases, a ringing chorus of abuse questioned the motives, the abilities, and even the sanity of the very people who had done the most to create weblogs. In both cases, cooler heads eventually prevailed -- but not, I expect, before lasting damage was done to the relationship between the blogosphere and the very people on whom it most depends.
And, in both cases, it seems to me, the real culprit were comments and trackbacks -- technologies which allowed and encouraged flaming.
- Less delay between initial impression and publication encourages violent reaction
- Public disagreement within your own weblog invites rhetorical exaggeration and compels response
- Because you can't ignore an insult in your own home, writers feel compelled to respond to pernicious claims that appear in threads they contribute to. Remarks that otherwise might have been ignored ("He said what? I didn't know -- never heard of him!") are instead hotly contested.
- People who enjoy fighting duels find a natural audience in comment threads. If they wrote on their own weblogs, the constant, acid hostility would distinguish trolls from their victims. .
The full-day delay of traditional weblogs is a good thing; the mistake the Trott's made was not in raising their prices but in popularizing comments.
Weblog comments incite duels. Duels are bad for society. We should all forego comments and return to carefully blogging responses -- including responses we disagree with, but excluding responses we cannot tolerate.