Of the 151 blogs I read, I only visit the comment section in 4 of them (plus my friends’ blogs): MR, Crooked Timber, slashdot and Volokh Conspiracy. Its so often the case that comments degenerate into name calling or its the case that one or two crackpots dominate the whole discussion. The signal to noise ratio is just too low. What makes for the exceptions?
Tyler Cowen does a great job of encouraging good discussions. MR’s book symposium on Farewell to Alms is a good example. Almost every post teases readers to contribute and to contribute in positive ways.
Crooked Timber is just a case of the commentators (on average) being much higher quality than the contributors (on average).
I’ve written about slashdot threads before. The community is huge and the moderating system rocks. Each post produces hundreds of comments and if you wait an hour or two, you’re guaranteed a dozen or so high quality comments by really knowledgeable people.
The Volokh Conspiracy has high quality contributors (I read every word Eugene Volokh and Orin Kerr write there), but the magic is they write for a highly specialized audience (lawyers). Reading their threads is like listening in on a partner’s meeting at a law firm or a latter-day constitutional convention.
So, anyway Greg Mankiw’s comments won’t be missed.
Please feel free to comment.