I’ve ditched the registration requirement. See if that helps.

I’ve been hearing from a lot of you the last few days that you’re having trouble commenting.

Well, that might be because I turned on something in the settings of the blog that said, “Users must be registered and logged in to comment.” I happened to find it while trying to solve a separate problem identified by an alert reader — the whole comment function was being turned off on many posts. And I think I fixed that.

Having found the registration thing, I tried it because I wanted to see what would happen. What happened was that almost everybody had a problem commenting at all. So I just turned it off. Let me know what happens now.

As to what happens to comments going forward… well, perhaps this is a good time to say I’m right at the point where something is going to change soon, and it will not be accidental. I’ve written a lot over the years, and earlier this year, on the fact that I’m dissatisfied with the quality of discussion on this blog. It’s nowhere near as interesting, and certainly not as constructively engaging, as it was in the past. Maybe it’s me and maybe it’s you, but I think a lot of it is the nation’s Rabbit Hole problem — our whole society has largely forgotten how to engage in civil discourse with people with whom they disagree.

But a lot of it is on me, because I don’t post as much — or at all, some weeks. That’s mainly because I find it hard to find the time. But maybe I’d try a lot harder to find it if the discussions that resulted were more worthwhile, as they once were — and occasionally still are. Which is cause and which is effect? Did the chicken or the egg come first? I dunno. I’m allergic to both chicken and egg, so…

Anyway, I hope I have solved the immediate problem…

Sorry if you’re were frustrated….

10 thoughts on “I’ve ditched the registration requirement. See if that helps.

  1. Bob Amundson

    I miss the more robust blog with many more voices commenting. I am the Philippines on the resort island Boracay with reverse sticker shock. Too many Americans are isolated or immobile with no clue as to how their relative isolation affects their immature knowledge as to the vastness of our existence..

    I’m trying to be nice. But GROW UP AMERICA! The number of cranes is unbelievable; the wealth of our world is amazing. But are we sharing enough? I think not – I wish I could report that homelessness is not an issue.

    For libertarian Doug – you are a kind man. Contrarian for sure too. Does your kindness match the values of libertarian Messiah Rand? I was once libertarian but the theory clashed with my kindness value. Kindness should be apolitical, as I pray for love and kindness to come back to my beloved Country.

    I have a Filipina wife, and our 17 year old missed curfew of 0330. At Disco using fake ID. I trust her and she solved the issue by bringing me breakfast. Her name is Angel Grace, and this trip is her graduation present. Our 6 year old is Hope, and she helps me remember there is always HOPE!

    Oscar Mike. See Ya. Out (fricking Navy = Never Again Volunteer Yourself. Hey to Captain Warthen).

  2. Scout Cotham

    Yay! I was trying. First I tried to remember my old password because I thought I had one for word press sometime in the past. But it said nope. So then I told it I forgot my password, and it said, nope you never had one for that address. And I said, OK, well then, let me register. And it said, OK, but first it argued with me a little bit about my username. It said what I picked wasn’t allowed without having given any parameters. I confess, I yelled at it a little bit at this point. But then I finally picked something that it liked, and it said it would email me a link. It did not. I waited and then went on about my day and checked later. Still nothing. Tried again. Still no link. sigh.

    I was just coming back to try again one more time today, when I found this fabulous post! Thanks!

    Sorry, I’ve been away. I’ll try to be back.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Again, as I said on your later post, welcome back!

      I’d lower barriers ever day if it brought back some more of our old friends. Not that we have any barriers beyond moderation. But hey, I’d put up barriers just to take them down if it would get our dialogue around here back to where it once was…

  3. Dave Crockett

    Glad you got the comment/registration issue resolved.

    As for the future of the blog, I agree that there has been a slow but fairly steady decline and sporadic devolution of comments. Your analysis of the “Rabbit Hole” source may not completely explain it, though. I know, for me since retiring 13 years ago, my interest in engaging in political and social debate has declined. I just don’t have the physical or emotional ENERGY to take part as much as I did in the past. And I suspect the blog’s demographics are generally aging as well. I’ve not seen much of the old “regulars” and no compensating surge in new contributors.

    I still scan the blog pretty regularly (which is how I noticed the broken comment function), but rarely pipe up unless I strongly feel the need/urge to do so. I admire that you’ve been able to keep the blog active for as long as you have. It’s appreciated, even if you don’t get a kudo very often…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thanks so much, Dave.

      The thing is, since the time when I started blogging — 19 years ago — Americans have utterly forgotten how to converse about public affairs with people with whom they disagree. One reason I keep citing the Rabbit Hole is that it helps explain why. No, it’s not everything, but it’s a huge contributing factor.

      Human beings have in this century experienced radical changes in the way they consume information, and its led to something entirely different from the way people took in information ever since the Cognitive Revolution 70,000 years ago. All of a sudden.

      People used to have differing opinions. Now, they have — or think they have — differing realities. They don’t drink from the same fountains of information. But they do drink information — from a shockingly overwhelming firehose. They choose which firehose to drink from, and they are drenched in a flood of assertions previously unimaginable, and far too quickly for their brains to evolve to handle it.

      And each personal firehose is shaped to tell that person what he or she wants to hear. That’s the truly awful part about it.

      They get used to that. And there is no room left in their lives, or their brains, for respectful attention to what other people might think…

      1. Ken

        A couple of things here:

        1) An established expert on the internet (whose name I don’t recall) said a couple of years ago that, according to his analysis of the data, the so-called “Rabbit Hole” effect has been vastly overstated.

        2) This assertion was underpinned by an experiment conducted last year in which turning off search algorithms showed little to no noticeable effect on diminishing partisanship in search behaviors.

        3) Speaking on NPR, journalist Frank Langfitt, who lived in and reported from the UK for a number of years and recently returned to the US, noted that the UK is polarized to a lesser degree than the US and political discourse in the US is vitriolic to an extent that isn’t the case there. Which corresponds to what I’ve observed elsewhere outside the US. But if internet “rabbit holes” are to blame for polarization, why the difference? Mainly, I think it has to do with fact that, outside the US, there are no real equivalents to Fox News OR, equally importantly, to the politically conservative radio landscape that exists in the US. That, in combination with siloed internet consumption, means that people can live out their days entirely within “alternate fact” environments. Which helps explain why, as Langfitt observed, in contrast to most Brits, Americans tend to live in wholly different realities.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          As for one and two, you’d said that before, and I know you’re not convinced by the Rabbit Hole thesis.

          Again, I hope you’re not thinking that Brad thinks it explains everything. It most certainly does not. As I may have mentioned, I’m not a ones and zeroes guy. It’s a complicated world. This country has had a great pile of flammable junk piling up for years. The Rabbit Hole thesis struck me as a good answer to the question: “What little spark set it afire in the middle of the last decade?” I haven’t seen a better one, particularly in the sense of explaining the very sudden leap in this phenomenon of large numbers of people believing in completely separate realities.

          As for #3, thank you! I meant to mention that yesterday in a comment, but got distracted. (I almost added it to the post, but wanted to stick with the topic of the immediate comment problem.) I had heard that interview a couple of days ago and wanting to tie it into this.

          Here’s the interview with Frank Langfitt. I urge y’all to listen to it, because it’s free and it’s only 6 minutes.

          There are a number of reasons things are worse here, but I don’t have time to write a book today. More briefly:

          You understand, of course, that the Rabbit Hole is a phenomenon with many facets. It’s not just “social media did it.” Social media arose at the same time that most shared sources of information — which fostered some consensus at least on what facts were, no matter how much people’s opinions about what should be done in light of the facts differed — were suddenly moribund, if not completely gone. With the advent of social media, they switched from shared sources to “tailored for me” sources. And the atomization that had begun with things like “My News” options on media websites and Fox News exploded in a big way.

          I don’t think that happened in Britain in quite the same way. When I was there early in the last decade, I was struck — truly impressed — by the vitality that still existed in the newspaper industry there, from Fleet Street down to smaller pubs like the Oxford Mail. I’m going to be there this summer, and will be interested to see how that has changed. Anyway, maybe that softened the blow a bit over there.

          At the same time, there are parallels. Brexit, for instance. After Brexit, Britain got Boris Johnson, and we got Trump. Britain was lucky. Yeah, Boris is a narcissistic blowhard with bizarre hair, and a shameful liar, but he’s not the complete idiot we got. He’s a classics scholar.

          But Britain isn’t out of the woods. Suddenly, Nigel Farage is again a factor, and could end up being the nail in the Tories’ coffin (not that they weren’t about to be tossed out anyway). A sort of Trumpy situation, although not AS bad…

          Anyway, thanks for reminding me about that interview…

          1. Ken

            Vitality does not necessary equate with reach. Circulation numbers for all UK dailies have fallen significantly over the past 10 to 15 years. On the other hand, it’s my subjective impression that newspapers outside the US haven’t lost as much ad revenue as US papers have. Therefore, they may be able to retain “vitality” without having the impact they once had in terms of reaching a broad audience.


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