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Outsourcing comment moderation in blogs October 16, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in blogging, economics, ideas.

Okay, so Mankiw Chacha (my very Indian way of referring to one of my favorite bloggers) has decided that the comments on his blog will hence be disabled.

The growth in the comments section was fine with me, as long as the discussion remained civil. Mostly it was, and I learned a lot from the comments. But unfortunately, a few (usually anonymous) commenters too often crossed the line.

I just don’t have the time to police comments and enforce good behavior, especially since some posts were generating more than 100 comments. And I don’t want to host a party in which a small vitriolic minority consistently tries to ruin the event for everyone else. So I decided to turn the comments feature off.

That is sad. What of the following would his loyal readers prefer ?

– Make some donations so Mankiw Chacha can pay someone to moderate the comments section.

– Or raise money through advertising to do the same.

– Hire unpaid interns who can do the same for him in return for some of his time (which would be less than what he would himself have spent cleaning up the site) discussing economics ( “Ask me a question” types ) – but then how successful would be able to have them with manageable attrition rate ?

– Or someone else can host a website where he/she will link to (not reproduce) Mankiw’s post and ask readers to comment on that website instead. He will then choose to moderate if he so pleases. He may also try to monetize the traffic and perhaps agree to share the revenue with Mankiw lest he be sued. (I don’t know what the law says on this). Mankiw of course will probably not mind redirecting the proceeds to charity/school-fundraiser/microfinance organizations.

But then for years now newspapers and magazines have been successful without providing the comments section so to speak. (Yeah, friends and family members have suffered as a result, but thats a different thing). So maybe blogging can work too. But can it when most other popular blogs do have allow comments ?

In the meanwhile, what other solutions are possible that address Mr. Mankiw’s predicament ? Any other organic/market-driven (not to be confused with financially driven) solutions ? This year’s Nobel in Economics went to folks who studied ‘mechanism design’. I have no real idea what that means but Alex says

Mechanism design is a very general way of thinking about institutions. An institution or mechanism takes as input “messages” or “signals” from agents and it responds with an outcome. The idea of mechanism design is to create institutions that produce a desirable outcome while respecting the fact that agents have private information and are self-interested. It turns out that designing mechanisms that work well while respecting information and self-interest constraints is very difficult.

At the risk of over-simplification/being a jackass, I ask why lessons from ‘mechanism design’ or economics in general can’t help an economics professor come up with a mechanism to moderate comments on blogs ? πŸ˜€



1. Deepak Krishnan - October 17, 2007

“”Mankiw Chacha (my very Indian way of referring to one of my favorite bloggers)””

This is becoming a regular feature of your Mankiw Blogs πŸ˜›

2. Sharath Rao - October 19, 2007

Inspired by how Brad Delong refers to Matthew Yglesias when Brad links to him. (Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002)

This one and “http://www.matthewyglesias.com/archives/2007/03/debating_health_care/”

here :


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