This Week in the Journal of Previously Solved Problems

Over at the Scholarly Kitchen, Kent Anderson complains about the uselessness of comments on journals:

Comments in online scientific journals have been notoriously poor — either too much material of uneven quality or too little discussion to amount to a hill of beans. All too often, commenting has to be shut down because internecine and tiresome debates break out, creating more noise than signal. The best comments are scholarly, and borrow extensively from the form of letters to the editor.

After more than a decade and millions of blogs, it seems one main lesson practitioners are learning — myself included — is that dreams of what we would call “post-publication peer-review” need to be reimagined. Not only is commenting failing overall, but communicators striving for a high standard are reinventing the wheel of invited experts to help improve materials.”

Two days earlier, Jam Macdonald reduces this to a previously solved problem:

The solution is Strong, Human, Moderation. Instead of this guy [Nick Denton], who clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing, they should have gotten Miss Teresa [Nielsen Hayden], the inventor of disemvoweling.

One might also point to very successful online scientific comment sections, such as Terry Tao’s blog or this exceptional example from the n-Category Cafe, and I’m sure there are others. Regardless, the point is: Q. E. Frickin’ D., as they say.

2 thoughts on “This Week in the Journal of Previously Solved Problems

  1. Yep. Here’s a depressing exercise:

    1) Go to the “news” section of Nature or Science Magazine
    2) Search for articles containing “LHC”
    3) Count the comments by crackpots saying “they’ll never find the Higgs, I proved its nonexistence on my Web page, also Einstein was wrong” or the equivalent.

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