Many blog readers don’t bother to read the comments; our readers are no exception. Which, while totally understandable, is kind of too bad because our posts often spark quite interesting discussions that go far beyond and greatly enrich the original post. Brian, Meg, and I really are far from the only ones with interesting things to say around here!
But just exhorting everyone to read the comments would be futile (if that would work, you’d all be reading the comments already!) So I’ve decided to try an experiment. Economist and long time blogger Brad DeLong does occasional posts called “hoisted from the comments”, where he takes what he thinks are particularly good comments and turns them into posts. I’m going to try the same thing. I hope this will encourage people to read the comments and perhaps even comment themselves. It also seems like a nice way to say thanks to our many excellent commenters. And it’s an easy way to put up “new” content during those periods when otherwise I wouldn’t have time to post anything at all.*
And while this does amount to “recycling”, my hope is that most readers won’t mind, because most don’t read the comments. Plus, in future posts I’ll make clear in the post title and intro what the “hoisted” comments are about, so if they sound familiar to you, you can easily skip reading the post.
So for the first one, I decided not to hoist particular comments, but particular comment threads, specifically off-topic ones. I don’t mind off-topic discussions in the comments as long as they’re productive. Often, the natural flow of the conversation in the comments is away from the topic of the post towards related but different topics. But off-topic comment threads seem particularly likely to be missed by readers. So without further ado, here are some of our best off-topic comment threads, all of which I recommend checking out:
- Margaret Kosmala, Brian, and I had a good discussion of when (if ever) to ask a colleague for a pre-submission review of a draft ms you’ve written. Starts here.
- Several commenters combined on a useful technical discussion about when and how to correct for spatial autocorrelation in species distribution modeling. Starts here.
- Margaret Kosmala kicked off an interesting discussion between me, Terry McGlynn, Jim Bouldin, Eric Larson, and others on the differences between “ecology” and “natural history”, the history of how they developed, whether ecology today “devalues” natural history, where one can publish “natural history” so it will be widely noticed, and more. Starts here.
- In the comments on a humorous post a while back, Florian Schneider and I had a brief serious discussion of body size “constraints” on food web structure. I argued that body size constraints appear far more common than they actually are because the systems in which they operate just happen to be the ones we’ve studied the most. I also pushed back against Florian’s suggestion that body size constraints are somehow “primary”, even in systems in which prey are larger than their predators. Starts here.
- And finally, in my recent post on alternative ways of filtering the rapidly-growing literature and deciding what to read, Carl Boettiger had a great comment suggesting that the issue eventually will become moot–because we’ll eventually have to give up on the idea of reading the literature at all! (“the whole idea of reading papers itself doesn’t scale indefinitely.”) Go here.
In the comments on this post, I’d welcome your feedback on this experiment.
*Being a good blogger is not mutually exclusive with being lazy. 😉