Daring Fireball on accepting comments

Gadget blog drama time! John Gruber, proprietor of Daring Fireball, responds to a complaint from pundit Joe Wilcox, who believes that Gruber should publish Wilcox's responses at DF itself to make the conversation fair. Gruber's having none of it:

You write on your site; I write on mine. That's a response. I don't use comments on Wilcox's site to respond publicly to his pieces, but somehow it's unfair that he can't use comments on my site to respond to mine? What kind of sense is that even supposed to make?

Now that DF has achieved a modicum of popularity, however, what I tend to get instead aren't queries or complaints about the lack of comments, but rather demands that I add them — demands from entitled people who see that I've built something very nice that draws much attention, and who believe they have a right to share in it.

They don't.

Wilcox's argument is that there are established good practices of the internet that Gruber fails to live up to out of cowardice, to shore up the authority of his analysis. But Gruber's right: everyone who wants to respond can do so at their own websites. Why isn't this good enough?

It's as if the exposure offered by being published in the margins of a popular venue is more valuable than the right to publish at your own — as if what people really want is a right to be heard.

We accept comments at BoingBoing and publish them automatically, yet receive complaints just as Gruber does — some folks don't want it to be moderated, either. Sometimes, the contention is that accepting comments turns a website into a USENET-style public venue covered only by social conventions. Unfortunately for them, our commenting policy lacks the provision, "Void where prohibited by a sense of entitlement."

Not without reason, some believe that Boingers' vigorous defense of free speech creates a milieux here whereby the comments should be an unfettered, energetic free-for-all. But it's not just about entitlement … more practically, that results in a noisy, infested mess that drowns out anything of quality. We want to create a non-hostile and non-adversarial community environment, even at the cost of criticism. Antinous, Arkizzle and Avram do an unbelievably difficult job making sure the comments are spam- and arsehole-free and otherwise safe to swim. Accepting comments on a widely-read blog creates a lot of work. It's a task no-one should begrudge anyone else for choosing not to do.

That said, if your first-world problem set includes the right to post on a blog specializing in the emergent steampunk and unicorn issues of the day, you're probably our kind of reader.

I'll Tell You What's Fair [Daring Fireball]