I believe the kids call it an “open thread”

Having dealt with a relentless stream of feedback from deranged right wingers since back before most people had ever heard of this thing called the internet, I’ve always been ambivalent at best about opening this site up to comments. Still, a lot of you non-deranged-right-wing types keep bringing the possibility up. I remain of two minds — my suspicion is that it could easily be way more trouble than it’s worth, that riding herd on trolls and spam and the rest of it might just end up being one more tedious chore in my life, serving only to increase the psychic weight of this website, which already feels like an anchor around my neck a lot of the time.

Nonetheless, I guess it’s time for a little experiment. So I’m going to open up a comments thread for this post only, to see what you all think. Convince me I’m wrong. Or right. Or whatever. Go to town.

… wow, that’s quite the outpouring of responses, and I thank you. I’ll need to take some time to digest it all. Not this morning, unfortunately — I’ve got a somewhat tight deadline today. But I want to leave this thread open a bit longer here and throw out a specific question. At least one commenter suggests that allowing comments increases traffic, which brings us to the eternal mystery of site stats. According to Site Meter, which seems to be pretty much the general standard to which we all synchronize, this site seems to hold steady at about 12,000-15,000 visits a day (with a sharp dropoff on the weekends, which leads me to suspect that many of you naughty boys and girls are reading this site during the workweek when you’re supposed to be doing something else entirely.) So — do comments really increase traffic, and if so why? I mean, do you really get more new readers, or do you just get the same readers checking in more times throughout the day? If Blog X, with comments, has 50,000 readers a day, does it really have 50,000 unique readers a day, or 25,000 readers checking in twice a day? Or 5,000 readers checking in ten times a day to see what’s being said in the comments section? (Or one really obsessive reader checking in 50,000 times a day?) A blogger with much higher traffic than mine once admitted to me, somewhat furtively, that any visitor who waits at least an hour between visits counts as a new unique visitor. Any tech-savvy types out there who can confirm or deny or elaborate?

Update — closing comments now. I think there’s plenty of food for thought for now. Thanks all.