Jumping down the rabbit hole of the Climate debates is always very interesting but it’s also very frustrating to watch many brilliant (as well as stupid) and well-informed (as well as ignorant) people avoid each other because the blog environments are not civil enough to encourage quality discussion of really intriguing issues. Great examples of the challenge of discussing science in blogs are my two favorite “watering holes” for the active discussion of climate science: RealClimate.org and ClimateAudit.org
At both, intelligent and provocative posts often lead to “supportive” commentary from the allies of the blog but also ferocious attacks on critics of the initial post. This makes for interesting comments and reading if you can handle the emotional / intellectual heat, but I think the overall chases away the two very important groups who participate in blogging: the huge number of casual observers looking for answers to complex questions and the small number of authoritative voices who study a particular complex topic.
Even as a seasoned blogger who rarely wants to back down from discussion points I find it very frustrating to bounce back and forth hoping my reasonable comments will not be moderated (a major problem at RealClimate, and not much of a problem at ClimateAudit) and hoping that critics will be treat researchers with the basic respect they deserve (lack of respect is a huge problem at both ClimateAudit and RealClimate, where PhD science authorities are routinely accused of incompetence (mostly at ClimateAudit) and reasonable criticisms are dismissed casually as “nonsense” simply so they do not need to be addressed properly (mostly at RealClimate).
Increasingly blogs moderate reasonable comments because they don’t fit the political agenda of the blog and I still think this is anathema to quality discussion. Others (like Joe Duck) pretty much allow any comments that are not obscene, spam commercial, or racist so a single person can wind up dominating the conversation, chasing others away.
I’m rethinking my policies about how to manage commentst because it’s good to hear from more pe0ple. Howevert I’m not going to be snipping or moderating anybody anytime soon. I think Steve McKintyre of Climate Audit might have the right idea which is to push some comments to “unthreaded” if they are off the topic of the post. This leaves free speech intact while keeping a few people from dominating the whole comment show.
Final note is that I prefer to err on the side of giving everybody their full voice and I plan to continue doing that here.