United States of Aging Survey 2015
Uber For Elders

TGB Reader Appreciation Day

A few days ago, one of the smartest, most interesting political websites, Naked Capitalism, made this announcement:

”We regret to inform readers that we will be shutting down comment on most posts...” wrote Yves Smith.

“The purpose of Naked Capitalism above all is to foster critical thinking. For the overwhelming majority of this site’s history, we have been fortunate to have an articulate and engaged readership...

“That is no longer the case. The comments section has now become negative value added, to the point that Lambert and I are devoting disproportionate time to the moderation queue.”

I'll miss those comments, some of the smartest there are online. As Yves noted in her post, they are far from the only website to shut down comments. The Week in late 2014:

”Too often, the comments sections of news sites are hijacked by a small group of pseudonymous commenters who replace smart, thoughtful dialogue with vitriolic personal insults and rote exchanges of partisan acrimony,” wrote Ben Frumin when he announced the closing of comments at the website.

In November 2014, CNN reported on the closing of comments of many sites including these:

”Reuters, Popular Science and the Chicago Sun-Times have recently nixed comments.

“Fairly or not, comment forums have gained a reputation as a haven for Internet trolls. Several of the sites that have banned comments noted the lack of civility in their decisions.”

Some websites that shuttered their comment sections moved them to Twitter and Facebook explaining that trolls and vitriol notwithstanding, the modern internet requires that conversation now take place on social media.

But not all go along with that. Last Sunday, Mediaite announced their new(ish) comment guidelines:

”Feel like being taken seriously? Don’t make up words that end in '-tards' or come up with creative ways to type out your favorite racial or homophobic slur.

“The use of sexually explicit or harmful language (threats) including the use of misspelled or punctuated words to insinuate, represent any of the above (also known as 'masked swearing') will get you banned with or without warning.

“Not only do these sorts of things lower the level of quality discussion in the comment section, they also turn off would-be commenters and readers from adding their own thoughts and insights.”

All too true. I bring all this up today because like Yves Smith and others, I have been scrambling most days in recent weeks to delete an increased number of comments that are gratuitously mean, make personal attacks on me or commenters, or have nothing useful to say - they just link to a commercial website thinking, I suppose, that gets them free advertising.

That's the bad news. The good news is that 95 percent of these comments are not from regular readers whose names I recognize. They are, apparently, fly-bys who get their personal kicks being ad hominem nasty on websites they do not otherwise participate in.

What I have always done with those commenters is ban them forever without notice, explanation or a second chance which is what I will continue to do and hope for now, as has happened in the past, that the recent uptick in rude comments will die down.

This blog has one of the best comment sections you will read anywhere. As readers regularly note, the comments are at least as good as my posts and provide a great deal of accumulated wisdom. This happens because readers bring experience, interest, humor, concern and thoughtfulness to the issues we talk about.

The people who regularly comment here make this blog what I want it to be: consequential. Individual posts are not always important although they are sometimes utilitarian. And readers won't be interested in every essay I write.

What I hope is that it is cumulative, that there is a benefit over the long term and to the degree that is so right now, it is greatly due to the attention commenters give to adding value. And as Mediaite noted in their guidelines, the only thing you really need to remember about commenting rules is “Don't be a jerk.”

So give yourselves a hand and thank you all. When so many good websites of different sorts are shuttering their comments, this one gets better and for now, I'll go with the hope that most trolls aren't interested in ageing and old people.

[As to the idea mentioned above that comments are moving to social media: not this blog. I distribute Time Goes By there for the convenience of social media mavens, but I never read Facebook and Twitter. I spend more time than I should staring at screens without them.]


Good for you, Ronni! I may not comment often, but I read your comments as well as your blog, expecting this level of quality and consideration.

It is a secular sin when we commenters fail to live up to the standards that you set in your postings, Ronni. I appreciate your withstanding the onslaught of the trolls to allow thoughtful exchanges of ideas among your legion of readers. (I'll save a person's or two's looking it up. A legion is in the order of a few thousand.)

It's invariably a treat to read BOTH your blog post and any comments to same. I find you and your readers to be not only interesting and informative, but to me it's great fun to note where readers are from and all the different perspectives.

Marge said exactly what I was thinking. I love to read the comments.

Thank you, Ronni, for keeping trolls at bay. What a pain. Tablet Magazine has been CHARGING to post comments. A complete turnoff though suddenly I think it might be to save comments for those commenters truly relevant (and well off). Here in Israel, it's a complete nightmare wading through trashy comments though Haaretz does a good job screening. Nothing is instantly published (as at TGB), a sound idea. Still, wading through troll stuff is a line item for them that in a more perfect world would be spent on gathering, analyzing, and putting out the news and commentaries. Last, the comments here I never forgo. Too interesting, varied, and helpful. And often witty and adding comic relief, much appreciated given sometimes heavy topics and life's unfolding moments/years/challenges.

Most bloggers have a "comments" section attached to their sites as do I. My comment section has the option for me to add one of those qualifying challenges where you have to copy those squiggly words before you can proceed. It has only been recently that I have had to add this to my comment section because I have been receiving a ton of robo-spam and nonsensical comments. It's a shame we have to do this, but its part of our brave new world where anything seems to go now.

Appreciation for your enthusiastic determination and design to manage this blog so all of us are spared the dreaded trolls.

I, too, find the comments here are part of the whole shebang that begins and often ends my days.

It is so refreshing to read your posts and the comments that follow because insults and snarky remarks are missing.

I think the NYT must weed out trolls because commentators can disagree with each other, but they do so sans snide remarks.

I agree with Marge and Florence.

Is there a Blog Master award?

There should be. And it should be called, The Ronni, for the first recipient, one Ronni Bennett, who has kept the TGB blog one of civil comportment while producing educational, supportive, and entertaining columns the keep her blog buddies returning for the enjoyment of learning and sharing.

Okay, sorry for all bold--I and the
"the keep" should be, "that keep".

Mea Culpa, I failed to edit.

I wonder what kind of people post the racist, mean stuff. Do they hurt small animals? Is it my neighbor?

I also cherish this website, read it religiously and comment occasionally. I am a couple of years younger than you, Ronni, and find that everything you write about resonates deeply. Thank you for it. :-)

I love the comments, and even though I may not leave one on a certain post, I will return the next day to see what others have posted. Sometimes a comment will prompt me to write a reply.

As for the spam comments, I just checked my WordPress stats, and I have over 47,000 spam comments that WordPress has caught and not allowed to be posted. Very thankful for that feature of WordPress.

I gave up reading Grist because of the endless snarkiness and troll-like behaviour that made every discussion degenerate into nastiness. So I can see why some bloggers are cutting out comments altogether.

A big thank you, therefore, to you, Ronni, and all the other thoughtful bloggers who take the extra time and trouble to block out the trolls and other annoying and irrelevant would-be commenters. It is much appreciated.

Why people are so quick to argue rather than discuss is a tragedy in solving all of our issues on the Internet.

Thanks Ronni....and I do like the ban without notice. A reality that made me laugh. I do facebook tho. I do the photos for the "American Cancer Society Discovery Shop/Point Loma" store, and I stick a few photos up on "Great Curves" site too. It's good to see you there also.

Negativity is something I ACTIVELY avoid. I live in a 55+ community and feel it important to contribute. I am Chairman of the Social Committee so I can help organize happy events for residents. More often than not, I avoid events and meetings here where I know people will bring vindictive and suspicious attitudes to committees and such. This is probably cowardly on my part but it is the only way I can live happily where I am. Now that I think about it, selective attendance is probably analogous to hitting the delete button! Thanks for screening this "bad juju" from your column - I keep coming back (and have for 5 or so years) because it is,simply, an educational place for me.

My comments section is open to thoughtful, polite, on-topic comments -- with the stated rule that I can and will at my discretion block, ban, edit, delete anything that is obscene, off-topic, rude, spammy, etc. The WordPress spam filter does an awesome job of stopping obvious spam, but I can add to the list any names I choose.

I love comment sections that produce thoughtful discussion and insights relevant to the topic at hand. It disappoints me to read a truly thought-provoking article and find I cannot comment, but I understand the problem and abhor those sites that allow endless flame wars and personal attacks.

Whenever you come across a well-behaved classroom full of attentive students, you know there's a fine teacher at the helm. Maybe she was lucky enough to get good students, but she's still the one who sets the tone and who nips in the bud those spitball-shooting kids, before they've had a chance to get too disruptive :) Those are the teachers we remember with fondness. So thanks Ronni.

I second all the above! I didn't originally read the comments section, but some time ago, I got hooked.

Thanks to you all.

What a sad commentary on our society! I suppose I sound like all the older generations before me, but it does seem to me that there's a great deal more of mindless egocentricity showing up these days in malicious actions towards other people. We can only hope the pendulum swings back towards the middle soon, as it always does.

I learn a lot from the comments of your readers on the topics you have chosen for us. We don't always have to agree, but, discussion should be simply discussion and not arguing. Discussions are needed....let's don't abuse our privilege to enter into the conversation....

I'm another who says "Just keep doing what you are now doing", Ronni.
You regularly offer a tremendous wealth of fun, interest, and informational sources to your readers.
And he comments section offers much to think about.

Both are important to the overall value of the blog.

We are so lucky to have you at the helm.

'Way to go, Ronni. Keep your finger (preferably the middle one) poised over the 'Ban' button. Re: the spammers and the mean, contentious bloggers - -I get some slight encouragement, in knowing that they are part of civilized society's Problem, and not part of its Solution. What a way to live, - - in negativity. Again, Thanks, Ronni, and all the rest of you 'frequent posters'.

I TOO ENJOY AND LEARN FROM TGB BLOG. When I would like to make a comment on other blogs, I'm usually stopped because I do NOT want to join anything else or create a new password.

Ronni, I appreciate the work you are doing here. I hadn't thought about how hard it is to filter out unwanted, troll posts. Thanks for running a classy blog.

I also appreciate the commenters. It is great that comments here don't get drowned out by vitriol personal attacks, usually accompanied with obscenities. We have a "safe" place to exchange views here, which we owe to the vigilance of Ronni. So thanks again Ronni, and thank other commenter.

What more can I say?! But I'll say it anyway--A grateful round of applause to Ronni and all the fine people who comment on this thoughtful and thought- provoking blog. Thank you!

Though I comment infrequently, I read all the comments on every one of your blog entries. They are often enlightening or humorous and frequently extend the learning on whatever the topic may be. I'm not on Facebook, nor do I tweet or tumbl; I don't have a blog of my own nor a google account, and I'm grateful that your blog allow us readers to comment without them.

But should you ever find your comments overrun by trolls or spams, I bet there are a lot of us who would be willing to give up our anonymity -- and somehow post with our names and stand behind our comments -- rather than give up this wonderful opportunity for community and discussion. Cheers, Ronni.

I thoroughly enjoy the blog and the comments, although I do not always agree with "the best is yet to be" school of thought. I sometimes feel I hold a minority view that, although old age is a condition of life that must be accepted, in many ways there's not a lot to like about it. I appreciate being able to express occasional divergent views.

Thank you, Ronni, for banning trolls but continuing to support the free flow of information and thought. It must be quite the balancing act!

Another commenter adding my thanks and agreeing with most of the other commenters. I really appreciate all you do to make this an informative and interesting blog. Thank you for monitoring the comments. That in itself must be difficult and time consuming.
I learn from you and I learn from the other commenters. It is much appreciated.

Three Cheers for Ronni.
We all love you and appreciate your good works ... and your hard work ... to bring us Elders a top-quality, clean and very interesting blog!

Thanks for this column. It always strikes me as eminently cowardly to insult people in a manner where they can't answer back.
An informed and polite disagreement on the other hand is always of interest. Who knows?--maybe there is something new to find out.

I read this column daily, but I do not comment on every subject. I find most of the comments to be thoughtful and sometimes a bit humorous, and always intelligent.

None of us snipe at each other and we all respect each others' viewpoint, even if we are on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

Since you screen out the "trolls" I have no idea how many of that kind of post you receive, but I thank you for eliminating posts that are either meant to try to sell us something or are just plain insulting.

I appreciate your blog and the comments of my fellow readers. I have given up entirely reading the comments on many other offerings they are so rude and thoughtless. Thanks for weeding those inappropriate comments out for us.

Kudos, Ronni, and to the many comments above, well said.

Ronni, your steady readers are your friends.

We come here to share, learn, laugh and motivate each other to keep on keeping on.

It's as if we are sitting in a virtual coffee shop, trading tips, enjoying a couple hours together and being our authentic selves.

I love your blog.

I love your choice of articles.

I love how clean and neat your blog is, and how easy it is to navigate.

And the comments!

I can't wait to read the comments, and I often go back to read them after dinner- to see if there are more comments.

I am glad that you look over the comments before posting them.

Thanks for your hard work.

I agree with everyone that Ronni is to be applauded for writing positive, informative articles. I also really enjoy the comments, always full of good discussions and different points of views.

There are only a handful of blogs or news articles that I will read the comments. I am active on fb and Twitter, but am rather careful who I follow.

Often, though not always, I comment on TGB to offer an alternative viewpoint or at least to color outside the lines a bit. But today, I want to join the chorus and say thank you, thank you to Ronni for giving us a website that is full of information and intelligent discourse without those awful mud fights that some commenting sections degenerate into.

I do join in on political or current event discussions on several other sites and as long as the comments are thoughtful, I feel some satisfaction. But too often the tone of the comments is disrupted when some jerk makes a personal insult out of a disagreement and the discussuion never returns to civil discourse. At that point I feel a bit embarrassed to have been a party to the discussion. Alternatively, as in the NYTimes, the delay the monitor uses to winnow the comments is sometimes long enough to render a comment obsolete. What's a good blogmaster to do? I guess, like Ronni, she or he must spend inordinate amounts of time (that I previously did not appreciate) on unobtrusive gatekeeping.

I have seldom commented here and haven't anything new under the sun to add to the great comments that have come before mine. Just want to say that I am a loyal reader who is thankful for this blog and all who contribute. Each person is a valuable part of the community you have created. Visiting here serves as a respite from the rest of the mindless nonsense found in blogdom.

Though I rarely comment, I want to add my appreciation and thanks to Ronnie and those who regularly do for making this blog a must read with my morning coffee. Thank you, thank you.
Arleen in NJ

Yep, I see a lot of those nasty comments as well (not here, fortunately), usually from those angry people way out on the left or right of the political system. I agree, you've got the best comment section in all of blogdom.

It's a shame that people share their negativity online. I think your decision about comments is a good one.

I never had time to read the Comments when you posted every day, Ronni. Now that the posts are more infrequent, I find the Comments fill the gap. I, like others above, have gone back several times to see what else is new in the thread of a particular post's Comments. I've never done that in any other blog I read.
Thanks for monitoring them.

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