A word on comments

“Don’t read the comments.”

It’s a truism of online culture that the overwhelming majority of online commentary is, at best, dispensable. At its frequent worst, it is ill-informed, vitriolic, hateful, and a disgraceful cesspool of humanity’s ugliest impulses. Avoiding comments sections entirely is generally considered prudent.

Over at The Daily Beast, I’d try to keep myself from reading the comments on my pieces, only to succumb all too often to morbid curiosity. (I’ve been told that everyone reads comments on their articles, even if they know better and pretend otherwise.) The angry ones followed familiar patterns, often along the Big Pharma shill track. The good ones were rarely so effulgent in their praise to make reading the whole mass worthwhile.

And then some time ago the Beast did away with comments entirely. I did not miss them.

In fact, about the only place in the vast twinkling reaches of the internet where I’ve found the comments worth reading and engaging is hereabouts at Ordinary Times (nee League of Ordinary Gentlemen). The community of commenters here comprises thoughtful, funny, interesting people who add to the value of the original post. If it’s not truly unique online, it’s at least pretty flipping rare.

The reason this community has endured in this way is due, not only to the sterling character and lustrous erudition of all you fine people, but also to a commenting policy that the editorial staff make an effort to maintain. I’ve seen many behind-the-scenes discussions about comments that push the boundaries, what kinds of rhetoric are acceptable and which are verboten, etc. The seriousness and concern with which the commenting policy is treated is why I think the comments at OT are worth reading.

Here at Blinded Trials II: the Bloggening, we endorse the commenting policy of the parent blog. But in this particular space, there is an added layer. We request and expect that commenters make a good faith effort to remain agreeable.

I am loath to speak with too much authority for my co-bloggers, but I know Elizabeth and I returned to blogging together because we wanted to go back to writing for the simple fun of it. As gratifying as it may be to have one’s work at a larger outlet, what you get to write there is dependent entirely on the demands and opinions of editors. (If you happen to read this, beloved Beast editors, this is not grousing! Merely a statement of fact.) As the mountain of my failed pitches and smaller heap of spiked articles will attest, what I think is worth writing about or publishing there is only loosely correlated with what actually runs. We wanted a space where we could once again talk about whatever the hell we wanted.

*cue Cyndi Lauper*

Speaking only for myself, I am sincerely delighted that anyone takes the time to read what random musings I toss into the bandwidth sea. I am similarly delighted if you have thoughts to share, and I sincerely welcome respectful disagreement. I am not asking for an echo chamber or a constellation of virtual gold stars pasted to my sticker chart.

But the non-Russell parts of the internet are boundless and inexhaustible, constantly renewed by the second. If you think I am puerile and irritating and are just dying to make sure I know it, I politely request you hie yourself hence to literally the entire rest of the web. I’m here for the joy of it, and if your idea of a good time is poking people in the eye for sport I’d rather you do it elsewhere. As I had reason to mention the other day, if I wanted to deal with assholes on the internet, I have any number of Twitter accounts to unmute.

Similar sentiments (mutatis mutandis) by a much more prominent internet denizen than me can be found at point 25 here.

I realize that for the overwhelming majority of you, it is unnecessary to say any of this. I have gotten to know so many great people through this forum, commenters and fellow contributors alike. Almost everyone conducts themselves hereabouts exactly like a humble blogger would hope. I am sincerely grateful for that.

But I figured it was worthwhile to make my particular expectations clear, just so there is no room for confusion moving forward. Be nice. I mean it.

Photo by hang_in_there

Daniel Summers

Daniel Summers is a pediatrician in New England, formerly known hereabouts under the pseudonym Russell Saunders. He contributes to The Daily Beast, and his writing has appeared in Salon, Cato Unbound, iO9, and The New Republic. You can follow him on Twitter @WFKARS


  1. “I am loath to speak with too much authority for my co-bloggers,”

    You are absolutely, positively speaking for me here.

    Just so’s ya know.

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