After much deliberation, we have decided to follow the lead of other prominent web sites that have removed public comments from their principle articles. Skeptoid episode transcripts no longer have comment sections.
First, after years of doing this, it’s become clear that comments are a net loss for the quality of the content. Most of the time, comments constitute misinformation: rants and disagreement with the fruits of our research. This misinformation typically far exceeds the word count of our articles; for our articles presenting a reasoned analysis of 9/11 events, there was as much as 75 times as much content on the page promoting absurd conspiracy theories. We no longer choose to promote this nonsense alongside our hard work.
Second, promoting discussion on the site does not bring new people in. The more discussion can be pushed outward, by using the share links on the new transcript pages, the more new people off-site will find out about Skeptoid.
Third, moderating comments and keeping up with the site maintenance to accommodate them is a drain of resources that are better spent elsewhere. We want to focus instead on the quality of our content and on creating new and better projects.
Fourth, we followed the scientific method and checked the database to see whether the same people who support us (our organization is funded almost entirely by listener donations) are the same ones who comment on the episode transcripts and subscribe to our emails. The answer was a resounding no. In fact, in our nine-year history, almost nobody first came to us by commenting on an episode and later became financial supporters. Instead, supporters have always been doing what we love: Posting links to the episodes on their social media and elsewhere, and driving the conversation on external venues where new people see it and learn about it. Conversely, commenters tend to be hit and run.
Sites such as Popular Science, Snopes, Wikipedia, and many others made this decision long ago, for similar reasons. We want Skeptoid to be a resource, not a graffiti wall.
Criticism of this decision has mainly been that we are not open to criticism. If this is your conclusion, we haven’t explained the decision very well. The decision not to give equal time to misinformation does not mean we’re not open to criticism. Those familiar with Skeptoid know that we dedicate entire episodes to criticism and disagreement in our Listener Feedback shows. In this venue, misinformation is presented in proper context. Our contact page remains open to anyone with useful feedback, corrections, and other suggestions; and as those familiar with the show know, we also dedicate entire episodes to such corrections. We’re very open to criticism; we’re just not open to defacement.
We are also not open to providing flagrant pseudoscience on our pages alongside our good information. Much of the commentary consists of simple disagreement with sound science or true history. Antisemitism, conspiracy mongering, vaccine denial, and promotion of alt-med charlatans does not belong on a web site devoted to providing the best science we can. It is not to the benefit of readers coming here for information if we provide them misinformation alongside it.
The net result is that Skeptoid episode pages are now much better for sharing. They are better for classrooms, better for curious web surfers, and better for anyone looking to learn. And that is, ultimately, what we’re about.
For now, comments remain on the blog as always. Feel free to chime in.