Monday, January 31, 2005

Correcting the Self Correction Debate

The blogosphere definitely has the technical capacity to be a self-correcting medium. But, as Atrios shows us here, it is not automatic.

But, blogs are not "self-correcting" - you actually have to, you know, make corrections. And, especially if you operate a comment-free blog, your errors are not necessarily going to be pointed out to the rest of the world.
Kevin Drum takes this argument to the next level.

What makes this all the more mock-worthy is the longtime aversion of conservative bloggers to comment hosting, which is the only genuine self-correction mechanism in the blogosphere. Yes, my comment section might be full of trolls and their vitriol, but anyone who has a factual disagreement with what I write has a forum to point it out in the same place as the post itself.
Kevin goes on to note that only three of the top 10 conservative blogs feature comments while five of the top six liberal blogs do. He finishes with:

Tight message control has always been a key characteristic of conservative politics. It's emerged as a key characteristic of the conservative blogosphere too.
This is unquestionably true, but I'm not certain that lack of comments in and of itself demonstrates this. The reality is that heavily trafficked blogs will, if available, generate hundreds of comments for every post. If the author chooses not to moderate, legitimate comments will be lost under an avalanche of vitriol and trolling. On the other hand, moderating comments in such a scenario represents a major undertaking. To be effective, the author would have to sacrifice time that would otherwise be spent producing new content. Therefore, I understand the reluctance to enabling this feature.

However, there is another option: Trackback. If this feature is enabled, you are allowing other bloggers the ability to plant a link to their comments right on your post. At the same time, you filter out everyone who isn't invested in what they're saying (no more anonymous trolls). It's not a perfect solution. It's true that constructive comments aren't limited to those with blogs. And Trackback spam is beginning to develop here and there. But as a mechanism for error correction, it's far superior to traditional comments in a high traffic scenario.

So, let's repeat Kevin's survey, only this time we'll include those who have Trackback enabled. The right scores much better this time: Powerline, LGF, Michelle Malkin, Captain's Quarters, Volokh, and Wizbang all have either comments or Trackback. Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, Hugh Hewitt, and The Corner all still fail. Even so, this represents a 100% improvement above Kevin's results. And, more importantly, I think that it more accurately reflects the conservative bloggers reluctance to be exposed to criticism. The reluctance remains, but it is not as ubiquitous as it would appear on first glance.

However, any way you slice it, Glenn Reynolds is a coward. You can take that to the bank.
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