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Ralph Haygood

Ralph Haygood

I'm an entrepreneur and scientist. As an entrepreneur, I founded CardVine. As a scientist, I study evolution, ecology, genetics, and genomics. Learn more about me at http://ralphhaygood.com/.

On The End Of Comments

@Reginal T. Squirge: Wonkette has had a lively commenter community for ten years or so now. Some of its current members go way back, too, despite the site's passing through three different owners and a bunch of different editors. It's had ups and downs, but I don't think any of the downs have been very severe. Heavy moderation is crucial. Occasionally, the editors let in a troll, so the regular commenters can enjoy kicking him around for awhile, but only very occasionally.

Posted on April 15, 2014 at 7:59 pm 0

On Should You Tweet?

Some day, when people look back on this era with bemusement, hardly anything will bemuse them more than Twitter. The technology amounts to broadcast telegraphy, a bizarre hybrid of the modern and the archaic. The users are, as noted, mostly "brands, and people who believe themselves to be brands," but if everybody's selling, who's buying? The company has survived for years and even managed to go public without coming anywhere near profitability. I snark, but only a little. Twitter really is amazing.

Posted on April 15, 2014 at 7:04 pm 0

On The End Of Comments

Comments can be wonderful, but unless your site is very niche-y, you *must* moderate. A sizable minority of the Internet-having public is vicious idiots unable to comprehend or unwilling to accept the norms of civil discourse. (Really, I think we knew this before the Internet. It was clear to me in grade school.) There are also paid shills and trolls. Unless you're willing and able to stomp on them mercilessly, these savages will verbally defecate all over your comment threads.

As an example of what's possible, consider Wonkette. It publishes highly political, highly "partisan" (i.e., generally on the side of decency and intelligence) posts that are read by thousands of people, yet its comment threads are a joy to read, despite the fact that almost nobody comments under his real name. Some of the regular commenters - the Wonketteers - have been at it for many years (e.g., Say It With Wookies), and I believe they've contributed substantially to the site's success. Certainly, they're a big reason why I've kept visiting the site. The key is crushingly heavy moderation. There's a running joke among the commenters that "Wonkette does not allow comments," because, as the site advises, "[I]f you are a new commenter, your comment may never appear. This is probably because we hate you."

That's how it's done. No doubt it's a major pain for the editors. But if Wonkette can do it, so can any other site. I think it's just a question of whether the value good comment threads add to the site is worth the effort it takes to maintain them. For many sites, of course, the answer is no.

Posted on April 15, 2014 at 6:30 pm 0

On The Lone Protester At The Pulitzer Announcement

I hope the NSA is paying him. I'd hate to think he's shilling for them out of mere jingoism. After all, they're rolling in money - our tax dollars at work! - so there's no reason for their shills to go unpaid.

Posted on April 15, 2014 at 9:25 am 0

On How Bookstores Survive

In Chapel Hill, NC, The Bookshop of Chapel Hill survives partly by having two charming cats, who spend much of their time lounging in the front window.

This post and its comments leave little doubt that the most important factor in bookstore survival in this Amazon-ravaged era is cats.

Posted on April 14, 2014 at 5:38 pm 0

On Everything Is Based On Fraud And Deceit And In The End A Handful Of Rich People Will Be Holding On To The Only Things Of Value Left While The Rest Of Us Dance Sexy On Command For Crumbs In The Shanty Towns Outside Their Golden Gates

This morning, I did something I rarely do anymore: I sat and listened to a venture capitalist talk for about 15 minutes. It was at a rather weird conference where most of the speakers were less bullshitty. This guy - it was, naturally, a guy - talked with great animation and enthusiasm about...nothing, really, but with a steady undercurrent of avarice. I'll spare you the details, which I can barely remember anyway. It was a stream of clichés studded with vaguely Thomas Friedman-esque pseudo-contrarianism. Much of it wasn't so much wrong as too fuzzy and suffused with dubious assumptions to admit evaluation. In other words, it was pretty much what I heard from a bunch of other such guys a few years ago. It's a high-concept con game, no less so for the fact that many VCs at least half-believe their own patter.

Posted on April 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm 1

On Tom Lehrer, American Hero

"inexplicable departure": Oh, I really don't think it's inexplicable. For anyone who sees the world as clearly as Tom Lehrer, celebrityhood is hardly appealing, and for anyone as intelligent as Tom Lehrer, there are happier ways to make a living, such as teaching math and musical theater in Santa Cruz.

"His entire body of work topped out at 37 songs.": Yes, it's like the oeuvre of Maurice Ravel: small (compared to, say, Bach, Beethoven, or Brahms) but practically perfect, nearly every piece a masterpiece.

Posted on April 10, 2014 at 6:16 pm 0

On Is America's Love Affair With Living In Its Automobiles Coming To An End?

"how do we help the unhoused": that's "help" them on over to East Palo Alto, presumably, where "the help" live.

Posted on April 9, 2014 at 2:04 pm 0

On State Corrupt

In other words, it's a bipartisan cesspool. The coziness of certain Democratic "leaders" with Big Chicken is at least as nauseating as Big Chicken himself.

Posted on April 7, 2014 at 4:02 pm 0

On The Internet's Birthday Again

In the biopic, he will be played by Jack Nicholson in full "About Schmidt" mode, only more decrepit and hopeless.

Posted on April 7, 2014 at 3:22 pm 0