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Recently in the sister blog

This one’s probably the most important: Republicans on track to retain control of House in 2014

And I like this one for the headline: Impact factor 911 is a joke

Here are the others:

Press releases make for fishy statistics

Why is the Motley Fool hyping Netflix?

Our health-care system is like Coca Cola

Obama takes big bucks from telecoms, ramps up national security state

I have mixed feelings about the move of the Monkey Cage blog to the Washington Post. I’ve been told we get many more readers, but the the comments have declined in number and in quality. It used to be that posting at the Monkey Cage felt like “blogging”: I’d post something there and look at the comments. It was a political science community with many participants from outside the field. Posting at the new blog is more like writing for the newspaper: it’s a broadcast without real feedback. This all makes me realize how much I appreciate the commenters here. Just as I blog for free, out of a sense of service to the profession and the community, you comment for free and add so much. Thank you.

P.S. Also this: Ziblets and flurps


  1. Dave says:

    How has the comment quality changed since moving to the Post?

  2. John Mashey says:

    Comments on newspaper sites are often unmoderated, which leads to Gresham’s Law as applied to the Internet:
    bad comments drive out good, as serious people get tired. The same thing happened with many USENET groups years ago.

    To retain quality comments, there must be good moderation which takes time by a good moderation team, but so far, the tools are really nowhere near as good as they should be, one reason I’ve refused to run a blog.
    The tools really could be a lot better.

    • Rahul says:

      Andrew doesn’t moderate too aggressively here (I assume) but the overall quality seems quite good.

      • Dave says:

        I think the problem is that main stream media is written at an eighth grade level and covers a wide range of news, so they attract broad audiences. Commenters on relatively challenging stand alone blogs like The Monkey Cage have self-selected; they have sought out challenging material. But when you throw it on the Washington Post, the riffraff sees it, and they don’t quite understand the nuance or they may not have an interest in social science research. In this case, when you are writing about politics, it will still elicit a passionate response from unsophisticated readers. It seems like any time an interesting blog with a good community gets thrown onto the Post or Times, the community aspect of it dies.

      • Andrew says:


        I don’t moderate at all here! All I do is get rid of the spam. If there is a really really hateful comment I will delete it, but I think this has happened only once or twice in all the years and thousands of comments we’ve received.

        • Rahul says:

          Ok, that’s what I thought but I wasn’t sure.

        • John Mashey says:

          I think it likely there are many more theses and papers )psychology, sociology, political science) about online behavior, but anecdotally:

          1) If a newsgroup or blog is of interest to a relatively narrow group of people, it is fine.

          2) If it becomes more widely visible, unless it is tightly moderated, sooner or later, it will get overrun, and the more knowledgeable folks depart. Life is short and signal-to-noise ratios matter.

          3) Generally, if it is clear that someone *will* moderate away junk, or send it to a a borehole, after a while, the frequency lessens, at least by the commenters familiar with it. (New ones always come along though.) In ~3 years, that has averaged slightly more than one/day. Andrew is lucky to not only be an expert, but not have a bunch of people claiming that Bayesians are a global cabal perpetrating a hoax, and “proving” that by showing they all compute standard deviations incorrectly (or something like that.) Sadly, climate experts (like Gavin Schmidt, who does much of the moderation at Real Climate, and is a well-published and award-winning scientist at NASA GISS), sees the equivalent quite often.

          The same issue occurs in letters to editors, as per LA Times and facts.
          Anyway, given anything at all contentious in a newspaper blog, it would be a lot of work to moderate.

          • Rahul says:

            Re #1 it’s probably not much fun being a troll if you can’t get a decent chunk of replies…..

            One alternative to moderation is a voting system I guess. Not a naive one but one like StackExchange.

            • John Mashey says:

              Yes, although one has to be careful with voting systems, as they can be gameable.
              The fundamental issue is that in the real world, people usually assess others’ reputations from direct experience or other cues, whereas the online equivalent is still nascent. People are experimenting in various ways. StackExhange’s look pretty decent. Others are indeed naive … to the point where someone stating a simple, relevant fact that contradicts the blog’s dominant worldview .. .can get hammered flat by down votes.

              I don’t know if this si till true, but a while back at Amazon, one could see:
              1) Book published.
              2) Someone posted a factual review, showing the book was filled with anti-science nonsense.
              3) People commented on the review, defending the book and challenging him.
              4) When he replied to each comment, they voted each answer down fast enough to hide it.

              To some extent, reputational systems might learn from Google page ranks, but all this depends on identity management, tricky. Again, many papers to be written. Hopefully social scientsts are hooking up withe computer scientists to do more.

          • Andrew says:


            Amusingly (or, more precisely, irritatingly), we just had sock-puppet spam on another one of our threads (see here) and it indeed wasted a lot of people’s time. We almost never get this on the blog here. Really annoying.

  3. David Chudzicki says:

    The end of “Republicans on track…” asks “Would 52 percent of the popular vote be enough for the Republicans to keep their House majority?”

    Googling the question just happened to land me back at The Monkey Cage (I guess it’s a good blog!) where an analysis suggests that Democrats only need to win the popular vote by 5% to win the House.


  4. Jon M says:

    Just going to add my complaints about New Monkey Cage. The comments are much worse, the RSS feed doesn’t work (which is the main way I read) and the paywall still seems to pop up on the articles even though they said that was going to be disabled for the first year.

    I still read a few of the articles but it’s often more effort than it’s worth now. Bring back Monkey Cage Classic.

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