Forum, RIP. Comments, Perhaps.

We launched the Power Line Forum just in time for the 2006 election. Perhaps the results of that election cycle should have been taken as a sign. For a while the Forum thrived, but in the end, it was a victim of its own success. The burgeoning topics, threads and posts were far more than we could keep track of, let alone police. A lot of good dialogue took place there, but, like an untended garden, it also generated a considerable number of weeds. We finally decided that, much as we liked the idea of presiding over a gathering place for internet conservatives (and some liberals), we simply were not able to devote the necessary time to it. So, when a credit card glitch caused the site to go dark a week or two ago, we decided to let it slip quietly into the night. We still think that the right needs something like the Forum, but someone who has a lot more time to devote to it than we do will have to move the project forward.

In place of the Forum we are implementing, on a trial basis, comments on our main site. The system we’ve adopted is deliberately unobtrusive; you won’t see comments, let alone make one, unless you click on the “View Responses” button on a given post. Posts will be opened up for comments on an ad hoc basis; probably most will be open for comments, but some may not be. Comments are moderated, which means that they will appear only if one of us approves them. It’s possible that perfectly good comments may not appear for a while, simply because we are all otherwise occupied and we take a while to hit the “approve” button.

This is really the key point: our intention is to approve only those comments that we think will add to the site’s utility and to our readers’ enjoyment. So comments will need to be reasonably substantive; they don’t have to be marvels of erudition, but we don’t want comments to turn into a chat room. Comments don’t necessarily have to agree with our perspective; on the contrary, opposing views are welcome. But they must be expressed with civility–not an easy thing for today’s Left.

Most important, all comments must be submitted in the full name, first and last, of the person writing the comment. Anonymity is, in my opinion, the curse of the internet. We have no interest in reading commentary of any sort by anyone, left, right, or center, who doesn’t have the courage to put his own name behind what he has to say.

Can someone comment using a pseudonym? Probably. But only with the (false) representation that he is using his own name–the tribute that cowardice pays to courage. And, in any event, we will only approve civil comments, so what need is there for anonymity? I realize that a few comments under the usual sorts of internet “handles” have already been posted, but only because we had not yet announced the rules. From this point forward, no anonymous comments will be approved.

Our plan is to try this new comment system for a month and see how it works. We hope that our readers–perhaps the most high-quality of any readers on the web–will be moved to make contributions that add to the value of this site for everyone. We’ll evaluate that in 30 days. In the meantime, we hope you will enjoy our new comment function.

UPDATE: We’re serious about the “no anonymity” rule. That means, for example, “Fred Johnson,” not fpjohnson. A number of readers have spoken up for the value of anonymity. Those arguments are persuasive if you are satisfied with the current state of discourse on the web. A remarkable number of readers seem to believe that they will lose their jobs if they publicly voice conservative views. I’m skeptical that the country is really that far gone, but to the extent it is, there are thousands of places on the internet where you can post comments anonymously. This just isn’t one of them.

FURTHER UPDATE: You’ll register to post comments when you post your first one. Note that your username cannot contain spaces, so use an underscore. That is, instead of “John Doe,” use “John_Doe.”

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