As noted earlier (and trust me, every few hours for the next week), this is Reason's annual Webathon, where we ask readers of Reason.com to support our award-winning (and, full disclosure, award-losing) journalism in print, online, and via video.
This year, we're hoping to raise $200,000 to help promote "Free Minds and Free Markets" in 2015. Go here for swag and giving levels and rest assured, you can give in Bitcoin and any payment method this side of Camel Bucks.
I outlined some reasons to give here. Here's another: Unlike an increasing number of sites, we let you—the hoi polloi, the rabble, the masses—comment freely at Reason.com.
That's not simply because we're lazy or because we don't read the comments anyway (we do, and we cry, just like real humanoids!). When we started Reason.com and, later, our staff blog Hit and Run, it was central to our conception that we would allow immediate and unfiltered feedback from our readers as much as possible. Commenters can be brutal—I've been called everything from a "gay Elvis impersonator" to an "apologist for stupefaction" and worse (and will almost certainly be in the comments section of this post).
But one of the great things about classical liberalism, capitalism, the internet—indeed, one of the things we celebrate generally in all of our work—is the way that new technologies have in general leveled long-standing hierarchies. Hell, that picture above of me is an example of the ease with which all of us can speak more freely. Thank you, poopdogcomedy of The Daily Kos, for helping to prove my point (I know I'm living in a glass house on this, poop, but investment in a spell-check app, why don't ya?). You may be a mangy left-wing cur, but this much we can agree on: Speaking up and speaking out and speaking back has never been easier.
Keeping the conversation open like we do at Reason.com is an increasingly endangered sensibility, especially among folks who don't like having to mix with the, er, wrong sorts of people. Consider this recent column by The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, which was forwarded to me by Reason columnist and Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy. "The elites," she notes, "are being annoyed that the common man can call them out on their brain farts."
RESOLVED: Comments Sections Need to Go
…Reuters recently got rid of comments on articles….Vox, the site run by former WaPo-er Ezra Klein, doesn't have comments at all. The New York Times heavily curates its comments sections….
In the early days of [Cillizza's blog at the Post] the Fix, a group of regular commenters—some who liked my work, some who didn't—banded together to keep the guy typing IN ALL CAPS ABOUT SOMETHING THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ACTUAL POST from overrunning the site. It worked—for a while. But, as we added more writers and the traffic numbers grew, the ability of a small-ish number of commenters to police an increasingly large number of "loudest guys on the block" was reduced significantly….
The best solution? Not to get rid of comments entirely. Instead, deploy an army of comment curators who harvest the best of the best for each article so that scrolling to the bottom of the page is rewarded. Unfortunately, given the amount of content that any news site produces in a given day, you would need hundreds of people to curate the comments….
Rather than use resources on people who try to make comments sections smarter…[h]ire more content creators who can widen our community in ways that make more and more people want to be a part of it. That seems to me to be the way to be the best steward of our growing online city. And the bigger the city grows, the harder it is to hear the loud guy screaming nonsensically down the block. Win-win.
As a matter of basic logic, that's not win-win. It's Cillizza wins, commenters lose.
Invest in Reason.com and claim your right to comment like it's 1999. And get some cool swag and a tax deduction too. Details here.