The Dish On Comments

This thread compiles the various discussions of commenting policy the Dish has had over the years.

Tue Apr 10, 2007 – 05:00PM

The Bloggers’ Code of Conduct

Here’s a very helpful fisking of the whole concept. Couldn’t agree more. Some have argued that I’m a hypocrite on this because I don’t have a comments section for each post. The reason in the past is that I didn’t have time to moderate it and I was afraid that it would fill up soon with some of the more charming material I receive by emails. Increasingly, though, I realize that not monitoring a comments section at all may be the only way not to censor it. Which has made me consider adding one. The major drawback from my point of view is that readers may be less inclined to write me their own emails, which are often the highlight of a day’s blogging. In a sense, by airing a few emails and selecting them personally and responding to them at times I already have a very tightly managed high-quality comments section. But, strictly speaking, you could do that as well as adding comments for those who see fit. I’m of two minds on this. But if I do decide to add comments, I don’t think heavy monitoring is in the cards.

Wed Apr 11, 2007 – 06:19PM

Just a report back. The emails have been coming in around 10 to 1 against allowing comments. I’ll take it all under advisement.

Thu Apr 12, 2007 – 07:11PM

Another view:

Considering that most of your respondents are surely like me, having no idea if you even read our emails, and knowing well how seldom you publish them (unless they help you make a point one way or another), I think it highly improbable that your readers vote 10-1 against comments. Comments can be moderated, you know.  And while there are many posted comments that are ignorant, uninformed, and occasionally vulgar, it is preferable, especially in ‘the blogosphere’, to have the opportuity to make a cogent and lucid point rather than dealing with an imperious blogger such as yourself.  My usual response to a ‘no comments’ blog – especially a high profile and successful one – is, What are you afraid of?  Your no comments policy is the act of a control freak, not someone willing to engage in the sometimes messy and often fractious marketplace of ideas. And, of course, I will never know if you read this one, either.

You do now.

Sun Apr 15, 2007 – 05:33PM

Here’s an email from a regular emailer – the kind you’d read every day many times a day if we had open comments sections. He’s responding to this post which noted a remarkable 30-point Democratic advantage among those under 30. Here is his response:

Below is what the “30 point lead” link connected to.

Democrats lead by five percentage points among men, by fourteen points among women. Nancy Pelosi’s party holds a staggering 30-percentage point lead among voters under 30. Separate surveys have shown that a declining number of Americans now identify themselves as Republicans.

So voters under thirty are neither men nor women. Okay, what are they? What is their sex?  Are they human, never mind American citizens?

“Nancy Pelosi’s party holds a staggering…”

Wow, when did Nancy Pelosi form her own party? I am going out on a limb here, but since I didn’t hear about that, and I pay closer attention to what happens in politics then the average person, and with young people, especially under thirty, being notorious for ignoring politics, this is meaningless because only the hard core political junkies would even know about Pelosi forming her own party, the sample is too small AND the reporter is obviously an anti-American Socialist.

The other thing Andrew, with AIDS and all, I am still very surprised you fell for it, because the obvious. Who, what sane person, is even thinking about politics, never mind identity, in late March and early April after an election and twenty months before the next one?

The GOP is in great shape, isn’t it? I have no idea why voters under thirty are abandoning it in droves.

Mon Mar 03, 2008 – 12:00PM


From time to time, the question of comments on the Dish comes up. I’ve never had them and when I’ve raised the issue, the emails have run strongly against adding them. On a personal level, I like finding the sharpest comments, editing and posting them myself; and my in-tray is among the most informed on the web. I should add that I’d keep doing this with or without comments and I sure hope you wouldn’t stop emailing me directly.

Still: many readers want comments, and now I have the Atlantic infrastructure to manage them, it’s a good time to revisit the question. Most other blogs have them; they give readers a place to write and vent and discuss. No one has to read them. The experience of reading the Dish would not be affected if you don’t like comments by a little extra spinach at the end of posts. I’d keep doing what I’ve always done – which is read your emails and post the best – but readers would also be able to comment spontaneously, without my filter. Some have criticized this blog for not having them, as if I’m scared or something. My only worry is personal, anti-gay or anti-HIV diatribes. But they’re out there anyway, I suppose, and tend to indict the emailer rather than yours truly. So what the hell?

So it occurred to me to leave it to you. It’s a simple poll question; I’ll post it every day this week, and close off voting at noon on Friday. You can vote any number of times, so those who care strongly about this – pro and con – can have their passions reflected. This blog has become as much about you as me over the years, and on a question like this, it seems appropriate to engage in a little direct democracy. Maybe I’ll regret it – but it’s your call. Let me know, if you care enough either way.


Mon Mar 03, 2008 – 05:27PM

A reader writes:

No. You don’t need them. See your own honest and chastened posts on bandwidth-saturation and obsessive-compulsive tendencies in blogging and blog consumption.

Comment threads can be revelatory (cf. the essential avalanche of scathing and incredulous responses to Sean Wilentz’s bizarre reverse-racism essay at The New Republic’s website). But more often they are blathering and toxic sumps. I like the lean, mean linear simplicity and lone-d.j. voice of The Daily Dish. Don’t open up rabbit holes along the excellent trail of breadcrumbs you’re already giving us.

“Lone DJ.” That metaphor has occurred to me recently, as blogging continues to evolve as a medium and as a profession. It is a little like DJing: you wrote your own tunes, but you’re always sampling others, and mixing it all up with the techno potentialities of the new media. Yep: DJing is a pretty good way to look at it. Oh, and don’t forget to vote. Latest results available here.

Tue Mar 04, 2008 – 12:02PM

The vote and the e-mails have overwhelmingly been against adding comments (check out the final tally here). Here’s the majority consensus:

Please do not add a comment section. I already spend way too much time reading your blog.  Some of my favorite posts begin with “a reader writes.”  Most comment sections are clogged with drivel, invective, or redundancy. I cherish your editorial control over what we get to read from other readers. The problem with the blogosphere is precisely this lack of editorial overview, whether in regard to fact checking, or relevancy.

Editorial control? On the internet? Actually, that has become an attraction almost, hasn’t it? In an auto-pilot, populist web, old-fashioned editors are almost chic at this point. I don’t want to be like the Washington State Republicans, but there doesn’t seem much point in keeping the polls open any longer. We’ve had 12,000 votes so far, and the proportion – 60 – 40 against – has barely budged in 24 hours. You decided: to silence yourselves. More feedback after the jump.

Another against comments:

When I first started reading your blog, I was curious as to why there were no comments. As I kept reading, I noticed that I was calmer than when reading blogs with comments. Here is my theory for why that is:

Upon reading a comment that I disagree with, my first thought is often something like “Who ever wrote that is a freakin’ idiot.” However, you are a known non-idiot and things you write that I disagree with are given time for reflection.

So, no comments.

A known non-idiot? There are a few bloggers out there who would take issue with that. A reader in favor of comments argues:

It has always bothered me that you didn’t have comments on your blog and one of the reasons I can’t understand about the issue is this: if you enable comments people who don’t want to read them don’t have to and those that do want them will be able to read/participate ( in other words everyone will be happy).  If you don’t enable them, the people who don’t want to read them will be happy, but the people who want them won’t.  Enabling comments is a rare way in which you can make everyone happy without making anyone unhappy.  Despite being a fan of you and the daily dish, there are issues I disagree with or points in articles that I disagree with and it would be great for us, your readers, to interact with each other in a comments section.  The comments will certainly take on a life of their own and I would argue that a goodly portion of it wouldn’t necessarily interest you, but every day there would be a gem of a point in the comments section that would shine a new facet on some topic or another (for you…and for us) and without that gem, you might miss an important pov on something.

A reader’s counterargument to this argument:

Readers of your blog could opt to not read the comments section, but in truth we would rarely opt not to read them — on your blog or any other blog. Blog comments have the power to hammerlock one’s attention. I think, humans being highway rubberneckers,  we’d be impotent to resist looking over the rantings and counter-rantings that would make their way into your Comments Section. Not only would comments be an incredible drain on one’s time (especially if we check your blog several times a day from work), but it also exposes readers to the nasty underbelly of blogging. I like your blog because it is a civil outpost on the internet — not one stained by cursing, profane speech, or perhaps more importantly one person posting and posting and posting.

Another reader in favor:

Can you not just have people register and ban their account or IP from commenting if they break certain clear ground rules (anti-HIV, excessively and unnecessarily personal, etc.)  I think readers would get behind this, and it would be relatively easy to enforce.  I think people should be able to make personal comments if it entails calling you an “idiot” or “emotional” or whatever, but there is obviously some content which has no place on a civil website (e.g. HIV/faggot/barebacking comments which I’ve read elsewhere).  So I’m for comments, with conditions.  And if they prove impossible even with conditions, then you can always take them down. I think comments would only encourage debate and input;  I know I myself often do not email because I don’t want to take the time if I feel you are unlikely to read it (I have no way of knowing) and are even more unlikely to post it.  We’re busy people, your readers, and we don’t like to blow half an hour on an email that for all we know disappears into cyberspace.

Fri Oct 24, 2008 – 10:18AM

The Comments Issue

There are a lot of new Dish readers right now and I am getting more and more emails like this one:

Why is there not a comments option on your entries? Wait, scratch that, I have seen comments sections before and know how they can get. But maybe some policing or something? Dammit man, your readers are intelligent and deserve to talk with each other!

I’ve debated this on and off for years, but gave the readers the choice earlier this year. They voted overwhelmingly to keep the Dish comment-free. Maybe I’ll have another poll in a few months. My general views about blogging and reader interaction are in my new essay, “Why I Blog.” I find reading your emails, and editing them and posting them is a more civilized way of airing debate.

Sat Jan 24, 2009 – 02:18PM

Readers Write

A reader asks:

For the curious and relatively new among your readers (like me), could you tell us how many emails you get each day from readers, how many you read, how you select the ones you read, how you select the ones you respond to and/or publish?  Do you like getting emails? Are you glad we write you about what we’re thinking, even if you can’t respond?  Is it helpful, or just burdensome?  Is there something that readers like me, who yearn for more conversation at the Dish, can do to make our emailed thoughts helpful, and not burdensome?

The volume varies with the season. At the height of the campaign, we may have been getting over a thousand emails a day. It’s lighter on weekends. My current in-tray shows, LOL, 94,000 emails. That’s cumulative since the latest culling. It’s roughly 500 a day by my count. It is physically impossible to read them all, but I check them several times a day, respond to as many as I can and have learned over almost nine years how to scan them for helpful links or tips or arguments. Some email addresses I know by heart and also know they will contain wisdom or amusement. Others I just open at random like Christmas presents. Patrick then goes through as many as he can as well so we catch as much quality as we can.

I love the emails. It’s wondrous to me how much time and effort people put into them when they know they will get no recognition – but that anonymity also brings out more honesty and passion. People write because they feel strongly about something and that comes across. It takes work – but when people say we have no comments section it isn’t entirely true. We have a highly edited comments section and one that we try hard to keep cogent and critical of our own work.

And then there are times when I’m sick like the last few days when the emails of fun and cheer and encouragment really make my day. None of this is burdensome. I feel immensely lucky to have found a readership this smart and knowledgeable and wise. It’s like our own private Wikipedia back here. So keep ‘em coming – photos, quips, quotes and brutal take-downs.

Mon Feb 09, 2009 – 04:51PM

What Can Blogging Do?

Alan Jacobs on blogging’s limits:

A blog-with-comments is a piss-poor place to debate matters like the existence of God. It’s not even a good place to debate whether Obama’s stimulus bill is likely to be successful. Blogs just don’t do complexity and nuance – which, I think, is why they’re so popular. As everyone knows, the less complex and nuanced the positions on a blog are, the more comments it gets. This is an Iron-Clad Law of the Internet. Blog posts are just too short to deal with the Big Issues, and too likely to be fired off in short order, with minimal reflection and no pre-post feedback from wiser and cooler heads. Andrew Sullivan may think this is a good thing, but I’m not inclined to agree. And of course comments are usually even worse than posts in these respects. Some wonderful conversations happen in blog comment threads, but they happen in spite of the architecture, not because of it. The architecture is fighting thoughtfulness with all its might.

But that’s why this blog tries to air debate by reading and editing the smartest reader contributions and trying to moderate them a little to provoke and advance or clarify the conversation. No one’s going to resolve these questions today any more than at any previous point in human history. But I worry about these questions being relegated to professional theologians or free-for-all comments section spats. A little dorm room conversation in one’s later years is worth doing – and blogs, if they’re edited and curated well, can help.

Thu May 07, 2009 – 06:57PM

The Buddhists Write In

A reader writes:

Yet another comment about the theology of Buddhism from someone who’s “read a few books.”  I promise I will quit spamming you with takes on Buddhism, but this one is really uninformed, and demands a last response:

“The second and most disturbing flaw, in my opinion, is that Buddhism essentially blames victims for their circumstances (karma).”

This is a common and understandable misreading of the law of karma.  But it’s a huge misreading.

For Buddhists, as long as we’re trapped in cyclic existence (the wheel of reincarnation, known as samsara), we suffer.  The particular nature of our suffering differs, but there’s not better or worse suffering.  Everyone who’s trapped in samsara suffers.  For people who misunderstand the point, they look at a starving child and compare her to a wealthy American and draw a conclusion about who is being “punished” by karma.  For the Buddhist, both are suffering.  One of the central ways Buddhists engender compassion is to recognize this and try to see that all beings are trying to get past their own suffering.  Your reader has the point exactly backward.

Again, your readers may eschew Buddhism for any reason they wish without provoking a peep from me.  But presenting their reasons as legitimate representations of what we believe and practice isn’t doing the discussion any favors.

Another reader adds:

I’m growing increasingly anxious as you roll out this new thread on Buddhism because so few of your critics are actual Buddhists.  This isn’t a problem when discussing the behavior of Buddhists or the influence of Buddhism on the world, or any number of external comments about the religion.  But to refer to non-Buddhists as the source of information about the theology is troubling.

If you’re going to discuss the theology, it needs to be from the perspective of the religion, not according to beliefs assigned from without.  (As a former student of religion and a Buddhist, this is a matter of scholarly integrity as well as a personal issue to me.)  In the most recent comment, the reader writes: “I’m tempted to think that these strenuously- and minutely-argued responses are the product of an understandable, if unfortunate, insecurity about the truth or worth of the foundations of the beliefs people choose to build their lives around, but in the end that’s not really for me to say.”

What about those of us who object to your original posts as being theologically inaccurate?  This isn’t insecurity, it’s a desire to have the theology presented as Buddhist doctrine, not a post-facto non-Buddhist critique of it.

To repeat my critique of the original post: Buddhists do not teach detachment to ordinary life.  The teaching is to use the practices of Buddhism to slowly wean yourself from the attachment to causes of suffering.  For Buddhists, this means our attachment to those unwholesome activities that cause us to suffer.  “Ordinary life,” that is, the direct experience of the present moment, is actually the state Buddhists wish to live.  The practice of Buddhism involves meditations to cultivate joy, compassion, kindness, and equanimity–surely some of the building blocks to happiness.  There is nothing detached about serious practitioners.

It’s worth noting an additional blindness non-Buddhists, particularly those raised in Christian countries, have about their own understanding of religion. Christianity is a belief-based religion.  To Christians, asking someone what they believe is tantamount to inquiring about the religion.  But Buddhism is practice-based.  In Buddhism, wisdom does not arise from belief, but from meditation, where insight is actually non-cognitive.  To a Buddhist, belief is often the obstacle, not the source of release.

Please consider posting comments from Buddhists–even those supportive of the initial critique.  Their views will be more meaningful.

One more:

I have been a loyal reader and follower of your blog for quite a few years now (I was an impulsive reader of The Daily Dish), but I believe that time is coming to an end.

The ridiculousness of how this whole discussion about Buddhism on your website has been moderated by you and your team has become very insulting and hurtful. I feel that in this particular situation your site is done a disservice by not having an actual comments section where readers can freely read comments and share with others. Instead your site picks and chooses those responses that you deem fit to print, and thereby exercises total control of the conversation. The tone that you have chosen, evident from the reader responses you have posted, has come across as completely insensitive and downright disrespectful towards the Buddhist tradition and those who identify with it. Post after post of criticism and opinion, but very little knowledge or direct experience.

I enjoy a good challenging debate, but when the content is moderated and filtered through someone’s agenda, that’s not really a debate. It’s a message.

In the past you have had discussions framed around general religious belief versus atheism. These conversations have been intriguing and challenging, and always with a general feeling of even-handedness. But I have never seen you blatantly smear one religion specifically and for no apparent reason. To my knowledge there was nothing newsworthy about your post “Up From Buddhism.” It wasn’t even timely.

Mon May 31, 2010 – 08:44AM

Dishness, Explained

A reader writes:

This is why I love your blog.  You start by relating an anecdote about an angry Sarah Palin, and by the end of the discussion, you have me buying Robert Frost collections on Amazon.  The input from readers around the world with incredible knowledge and perspective give every subject such complexity and richness.  And the curated emails are 1000% better than any strand of repetitive, anonymous comments.

Please stick with this format forever!

We will. It’s simple really. Instead of a computer algorithm and message boards, we have emails and we read them and edit them and try to make it all connect together. This has evolved as the Dish has grown and matured. And with each improvisation, we find new challenges. One thing we hope to do soon is to find a place on the page where you can easily read entire threads from beginning to end. We’re very close to adding new staffers to help us do this.

What it really means is that this is your blog as much as ours. From Window Views to personal tales and theological and spiritual discussion, the content on this blog is now increasingly generated by you and filtered through the pre-frontal cortex of me and the sous-chefs.

Wed Oct 20, 2010 – 01:40PM

Email Of The Day

A reader writes:

Blogs that don’t allow comments can’t end entries with Discuss.

Touché. But all that means is that we will scour the in-tray for the most penetrating rebuttals and comments and print them. A little patience, s’il vous plait.

Wed Aug 03, 2011 – 01:37PM

Home News

As we mentioned last week, the Dish is getting Twittery (a special thanks to Brian Ries and Chelsie Gosk for their help). A few years ago, the Twitter account @dailydish was launched by an unknown fan of the blog, and its automated feed has churned out thousands of posts since. Last week we asked Twitter to close that account because of copyright and branding concerns (i.e. we are no longer at the Atlantic and have since dropped “Daily” from our name), but we have now replaced @dailydish with a sleeker auto-feed: @dishfeed. So click on this link if you’d like to keep up with every Dish post via Twitter. We have also created a curated feed called @sullydish, which contains only the Dish posts that have extended arguments from yours truly. Think of it as a more expansive version of the Recent Keepers feature. You can follow that feed here. We’ve also created an official Dish page on Facebook.

Go to this link and “Like” the page if you’re interested in keeping up with content we post there. (Here is the RSS feed if you prefer that method.) We plan to use our Facebook page primarily as a way to stoke discussion of Dish posts and give readers a way to talk to each other directly. Think of it as an off-blog comments section. (For readers unfamiliar with our case against comments, read here.)

Like everything at the Dish, we are starting simple and adjusting as we go along. Feedback from readers is always welcome.

Tue Dec 20, 2011 – 01:55PM

Dish Readers: Who Are You? Ctd

Dish Readers: Who Are You?

The reaction to our reader-driven survey has been overwhelming – responses are steadily approaching the one million mark. Even if you’ve already participated, there are likely new questions from readers waiting for you above, so check it out. For those of you seeing the survey for the first time, we explain it here. A reader writes:

I think the reason you’re getting so many responses is that your software (Urtak?) is the best I’ve ever seen. I get one or two surveys per week from companies I do business with and ignore nearly all of them, because I’m tired of being asked ridiculously complicated questions about what is important to me (always with way more dynamic range than is necessary, like from 1 to 10 when probably “not at all”, “a little”, or “a lot” would be enough). The yes/no format is refreshing.

Urtak’s engaging and easy-to-use interface is why we are allowing the number of questions to reach 50 and beyond. Such a large number of questions on a typical survey would be overwhelming to answer all at once, especially multiple choice. More on Urtak’s approach to polling here. There are more reasons it works for us:

Comment boards are a terrible place. Anonymous users tear apart authors and each other. … Urtak, one of the 12 summer TechStars NYC startups, thinks it has a solution. Instead of comments, Urtak wants users to leave and answer questions. Founder Marc Lizoain says he’s seen user engagement with comment boards increase 70% when publishers use Urtak. … “Rather than having 10 or 20 comments on an article, we’re seeing hundreds of people answer questions,” says Lizoain.  “Questions help direct online discussions.”

More from Lizoain here. I’ve been absorbing the data and was surprised in a few ways. More later. But three quarters of a million individual responses to questions? It’s the best Christmas present a blogger could ask for. And we’ll be thinking of using Urtak some more in the future.

Fri Mar 16, 2012 – 11:11AM

The Trouble With Comments

Dan O’Connor blasts what blog comment sections have become:

It is time, I think, for us to accept that disabling or deleting idiot comments is no more anti-democratic or elitist than refusing to engage with a person harrassing you on the street. Just because everyone is allowed to have their say, it does not follow that the bilge they say is worth listening to. I love the internet. I love social media. And the only way we will save them from themselves is by accepting that, more often than not, comments are rubbish.

Gawker is implementing a new comment system to deal with the problem. Recent Dish on a wildly successful comment section here. We’re sticking with posting the best and most informative of your emails. For the Dish, reader input plays a key role in airing debates and discovering facts from readers with deep knowledge of the subjects at hand. There is a way, in other words, to create a web space where readers add and don’t detract from the experience.

It’s called editing.

Sat May 05, 2012 – 09:45AM

The Feedback Firehose

Julian Sanchez notes that any “commenter on politics or public affairs whose audience reaches a certain size gets a level of feedback – via email, Twitter, blog posts and comments – that would have been unthinkable for any but the few most prominent public intellectuals a generation ago.” Er, yes. You should check out our in-tray. His worry about this development:

If the type and volume of criticism we find online were experienced in person, we’d probably think we were witnessing some kind of EST/Maoist reeducation session designed to break down the psyche so it could be rebuilt from scratch. The only way not to find this overwhelming and demoralized over any protracted period of time is to adopt a reflexive attitude that these are not real people whose opinions matter in any way. Which, indeed, seems to be a pretty widespread attitude. Scan the comments at one of the more partisan political blogs and you get a clear sense that the other side consists not so much of people with different ideas, but an inscrutable alien species. I think it’s self-evident that this is an unhealthy development in a democracy, but it may be a coping strategy that our media ecosystem is forcing on us – at least until we find a better one.

I have a better one. Scrap comments sections, and add serious editors to filter the smartest emails both in favor of the blogger’s view and against. Yes, you need to develop the thickest of skins. But a thick skin isn’t the same as epistemic closure. Or it doesn’t need to be.

Wed Jan 02, 2013 – 02:10PM

Dish Independence: Your Questions

A reader asks:

Congratulations on the move forward! I’ve already registered for a Dish membership ($25), but I’ve got one question: will RSS feeds work with the meter and the new site? That’s my primary method of delivery for all online reading, and it will be difficult to keep up reading yall without it.

Fear not – our RSS feed won’t be affected by the meter. Another:

Congratulations on the new adventure, we will definitely join the team! However, I could not figure out whether a subscription can be purchased for a couple with multiple machines or whether we need a separate account for each individual.  Any info on that?

You will be able to use your username/password for multiple devices, given that many Dishheads read the blog at work and at home, as well as mobile devices. Another reader:

Please consider allowing comments in the paid site. There will be far fewer “trolls” in that environment.

No plans for a comments section, but we will put it up for a vote again in due course. In the past, readers have overwhelmingly preferred our curated reader emails rather than often raucous comments sections.

One final point which may have gotten lost. There is no paywall. No one coming to the Dish home-page will ever be stopped. All links to individual posts will be outside the meter and as free after we launch as they are now. We have no intention of cutting ourselves off from the blogosphere we love and need. And vice-versa. The only meter arrives at the “Read On” posts, whose full text you have to be a member to read.

And, by the way, we are currently overwhelmed by the massive response. We’ll report back as soon as we can firm up the precise numbers. But the level of support so far is pretty staggering. We can’t thank you enough. Stay tuned …

Wed Jan 02, 2013 – 04:09PM

A reader quotes a previous one:

“Please consider allowing comments in the paid site.” NO! NEVER! PLEASE! In general, I HATE comment sections; they so often turn into cesspools, despite everyone’s good intentions.  But your “curated comment section” is one of the best things about your blog. I’ve already signed up for the paid site, but if I get wind that there will be an open comment section, I’ll probably try to get my money back.

Another reader reminds us that “if people want comments, they can go to the Dish Facebook page and comment there till their heart’s content – and I don’t have to see it.” Another:

Delighted to see you striking out on your own.  I think it’s high time.  I pay for the NYT, the FT, and the Economist, and I think your move is another signal of the quality differentiating itself.  I wouldn’t pay for just any newspaper, and I wouldn’t pay for just any blog.  But you’ve set yourself apart.

That begs a separate question, though.  If we give enough, would you all consider setting aside the resources to build dedicated apps/web apps for your subscribers?  I’d love to have a clean, specially designed iPhone/iPad interface, and with the web apps the NYT and FT are now using, you wouldn’t need to go through Apple (and for that matter, you could probably do a pretty easy port to Android).

Apps – or at least a customized mobile version for the home-page – are definitely forthcoming, once we get our footing with the new Dish. Another reader:

Have you ever thought of a limited merchandise offering? I can’t be the only one who’d love to have an official DishHead teeshirt or ball cap. It would be fun to recognize each other at the local coffee shop.

Merchandise is very much on our radar. Back in December 2010 we launched some limited edition t-shirts (the ones featured in our staff photo). We are holding off on any subsequent merch until we have stabilized with the new transition, but stay tuned. Another reader dissents:

If you are going to start off on your own, start off right. Don’t go for that $19.99 crap; be honest and direct and ask for $20.00.

I have just finished law school and have to last until I can take the bar in February. My only income is some money from my Dad; I have to make my savings last. I don’t even pay for the local Sacramento Bee, but I sent in my twenty and wish you the best.

We are immensely grateful. Join him in subscribing to an independent, ad-free Dish here.

Fri Feb 01, 2013 – 01:25PM

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A reader writes:

Just got paid. Picked up an LP, my bi-weekly 1/8 of dank, my weekend ales, and I proudly sent $20 for my Dish subscription. I’m gonna’ be a happy man.

P.S. please, please, please, for the love of Marklar, don’t add a comments section.

Wed Feb 06, 2013 – 11:31AM

The “Old” vs. “New” Media Debate

Jay Rosen does his best at mediating it. First, the things that “disaffected newsroom ‘traditionalists’” get right:

You cannot cut your way to the future. The term content is a barbarism that bit by bit devalues what journalists do. Pure aggregation is parasitic on original reporting. Untended, online comment sections have become sewers, protectorates for the deranged, depraved and deluded. That we have fewer eyes on power, fewer journalists at the capital or city hall watching what goes on, almost guarantees that there will be more corruption. Bloggers and citizen journalists cannot fill the gap.

I agree, unless we can find an economic model that can build up blogs’ staffs so they can begin to hire reporters. Then we may be onto something. That’s one of our long term goals here at the Dish – but we can only get there if you become a member and help. The subscribe button – hint, hint – is at the top right hand corner of the page. But the “traditionalists” get a lot of things wrong, too:

Listening to demand is smart journalism, so is giving people what they have no way to demand because they don’t know about it yet. If you are good at one, the other goes better. Do what you do best and link to the rest isn’t a slogan, it’s your only hope for comprehensive coverage. … In the aggregate, the users know more than you do about most things. They are in many more places than you can be. They also help distribute your stuff. Therefore talking with them is basic to your job.

The latter seems under-valued to me – and partly because of comments sections’ signal to noise ratio. Hence our decision to spend a great deal of time and attention on our email in-tray, and to integrate your knowledge of the world into the Dish’s content.

Thu Feb 07, 2013 – 03:59PM

Dissent Of The Day

A reader quotes another:

“So this is dorky, but I got a weird rush of pride and community upon signing into the Dish on my devices and seeing that light blue Subscriber block appear atop the screen.” This is one reason I will never join. It is sad that this person or any person thinks that reading the Dish makes her a part of a community. I could never be a member of anything where people were so sad. It might be different if you took comments, but how can someone passively and anonymously eating the meal you serve (made up mostly of other people’s work, by the way) make one a member of a community? But you do promote that idea, don’t you?

I have liked this site less and less since you went to memberships. I feel about as negative towards you as I did back in the early Bush years where you were promoting the idea of a new pro-war party of young patriots called the “Eagles.” Putting up all those positive reviews and the dollar totals like this is some kind of cheesy telethon. I can’t tell how cynical you are about your marketing tactics. I would respect you more if you were cynical, but I’m afraid you actually believe that you are providing some kind of community and are something more valuable than just a daily best of the web on a two-week delay with an overlay of Oprah-level spirituality.

We’ve been airing reader reactions, positive and negative, because we are a community. Why else would so many people send us links or write emails like yours or send in their window views or vote for awards and so on if they were not part of a community? Why would they care? And when a million or so people have visited a site every month for years, it is not unreasonable to assume that many are the same people. I call that a community. And you are welcome to be a part of it, harsh criticism and all. Yes, letting our readers know how this experiment is going may be seen as marketing. But it’s also called transparency, and we promised it.

Another reader spells out why we don’t have a comments section and why readers have repeatedly voted one down:

I subscribed last week in prep for this week’s launch. Very happy with all aspects of the site so far. I almost sent a support email for the embedded links (they were not opening in new tab in the first day), but guessed correctly thatothers would make that suggestion – love it.

photo (16)I love this community, which is why I subscribed. I have NEVER subscribed to anything on the Internet (except anti-virus software). One of the biggest reasons that this is the first site I visit and why I subscribed is for the lack of a comments section. As Jay Rosen so eloquently put it (and I would not have seen this quote if not for the Dish): “Untended, online comment sections have become sewers, protectorates for the deranged, depraved and deluded.”

I am thrilled to make a small contribution to your staff, which does the hard work of finding the best comments (possibly the best part of Dish) and the best thinking across the net! I have done IT contracting and I am more than happy to pay for your team’s efforts each day. I wish more people understood that actual, hard work is how sites get built, software gets built and the net would collapse without it. We should all be willing to pay for that hard work!

Another sent the above image earlier this week and wrote:

This was taken on January 7 in my hospital room after a successful 5-hour surgery that day.  I’m doing great and this pictures show’s how lucky I am to have people who love me and access to the best medical care and generous health insurance to cover most of the 70K in bills from surgery/one night stay, pathology etc.  So I’m really happy to be able to support the Dish!  It’s my favorite “coffee break.”

Update from a reader:

I’m tempted to subscribe, but the lack of a comment section holds me back. The ability to comment in real time in a public forum was one of the things that drew me to online news and commentary and away from the printed newspaper years ago.

I’m perplexed by your readership’s hostility to a comment section. I haven’t run across a website yet that requires anyone to read comments, but every now and again I feel the need to add my two cents. If some of your readers don’t like comments, let them skip over them. Are comment sections a cesspool? Sure, sometimes. And sometimes they’re perceptive, and sometimes they’re more entertaining than the article they’re attached to. And sometimes the allow me, the reader, to point out a glaring error or omission in a public forum in real time.

Want my 20 bucks? Allow me to add my two cents from time to time.

Two cents for 20 bucks is a great exchange rate.