As much as I appreciate Jonah Peretti's post today, I still think it's imperative we get open comments up as soon as possible.
To understand why I say that, do a simple Google or MSN search on any of the authors here and you'll find a link to this alternative Huff Post site -- the whole point of which is to provide commentary on our blog -- before you'll find a link to the Huff Post itself. As I understand it, this means that there are more internet links to the alternative site than there are to us. Not exactly the sort of thing that blogging dreams are made of.
Again, I understand the reasons for the delay on this: as Jonah says,
"We are also exploring options for using ... comments on the group blog but want a solution that avoids the common pitfalls: spam, personal attacks, and off-topic remarks."
The problem is that those pitfalls are, as mentioned, common. Neither Drum nor Yglesias nor any of the other big blogs have evolved a technology to avoid them either. Yet they put open comments up anyway, because the credibility gained by doing so more than balances out the occasional digressive or vitriolic comment.
Which brings me to my final point: credibility and commercialism. The only reason I can think of that we're waiting to provide open comments until the 'personal attacks' problem is solved is that this page is hoping, eventually, to gain commercial sponsors. The fear as I understand it is that advertisers will be hesitant to market on a site if the site itself contains a platform in which the advertiser could conceivably be trashed. For specific products -- such as, say, a newly released book -- this isn't a huge deal; critical reviews are part and parcel of the publishing industry, which probably explains why book ads currently drive a fair share of blogging revenue. But for advertisers seeking to develop or maintain a brand name -- which, especially given Google's recent announcement, is where on-line advertising seems to be headed -- that kind of uncontrollable element is anathema.
Nonetheless, I say go ahead and open up the page. Fretting about advertising possibilities should be a secondary concern to getting as many people as possible to visit the page. And when it comes to the blogosphere, the only way to increase visitors is to increase credibility, since other blogs will only link to you if they perceive you as credible. For this site especially, credibility is a function of two factors: a) the quality of the blogging itself; b) the openness of the platform.
Perhaps later I'll get into the quality issue, but for now suffice it to say that openning up comments is the easiest thing we can do to increase our credibility and readership. If ads are what we're worried about, we ought not forget that we need viewers -- and incoming blog links -- first.