Where did Comments go?

We’re trying Comments via Email for a couple of weeks. Details?

Comments via Email: It worked for this guy…

Longtime readers know that we’ve long struggled to keep a vibrant, engaged blog community going in our comments forum. Success has been mixed.

Over time, I’ve come to accept that the twin goals of having an open conversation and sustaining high standards are always going to be in tension with each other. There isn’t ever going to be a simple solution to the problem. It’s just a matter of trial and error…so consider this a trial.

This new approach may or may not work for Caracas Chronicles. It’s based on the one on Andrew Sullivan’s compulsively readable alpha-blog, The Daily Dish.

Sullivan’s solution to the comments problem is radical: his blog doesn’t have a traditional comments section at all. But that doesn’t mean he’s shut the door to reader interaction. Just the opposite! Reader input is constantly featured on The Daily Dish, and right on the main page. If you have an opinion on something he’s written, you write him an email – and if your message moves the conversation forward, he’ll post it, anonymously, right on his main page.

The result? Fewer, better comments.

Sullivan goes out of his way to give dissenters – even harshly vituperative ones – space on his blog. “Threads” develop as various readers chime in on the issues he raises. It makes for one of the most satisfying blogs out there – an addictive read as far as I’m concerned, and one with second-to-none standards of debate.

Now, the reason it works is probably because Sullivan has millions of readers: he’s buried knee-deep in email, and at least one of his readers is bound to be a world expert on whatever topic he’s picked out that day.

But in its own way and on its own scale, Caracas Chronicles also now acts as a clearinghouse for people with special expertise on Venezuela. So even though this community numbers in the thousands rather than the millions, the model may still be viable here.

So consider this a trial. For the next week or two, we’re going to turn off comments on each new post. If you want to comment, send an email to CaracasChronicles@gmail.com.

The best ones will turn up here.

Hate the idea? Tell me why…in an email!