This post talks about their purpose. What do you think about having comments, not having comments, the best way to moderate them and so on?
In my experience most comments on newspaper sites without moderation are cesspools.
But then I was thinking about this beautifully written and argued article, which I sadly think describes something that might not be the right reason why poor white women who dropped out of school have experienced such huge reductions in their life expectancy. The comments to the piece did point out the most likely real cause for this phenomenom: A cohort effect.
Squarelyrootedblog in the comments explains what might be going on:
I hate to say it since this is such a well-written and deeply-felt piece, but I think the central finding it is based on (like the paper it draws from) is mostly due to a cohort effect. From 1990 to 2008 the share of white women over 25 who completed high school went from 79% to around 88%. This means the group under study shrank by nearly half over those two decades. The reason is, essentially, that while the hs grad rate for white women stayed the same over those years, the oldest part of the cohort phased out into the next life - that older part having graduated in a time when hs graduation for women especially was less tethered to socioeconomic status. Basically, the patriarchal oppression of prior generations, which kept relatively higher socioeconmic status white women from completing hs, was fudging the stats, masking the difficult conditions of the bottom 10% from statistical view. Is it possible that things have gotten objectively worse for that bottom 10%? Sure. Do we know that from this data? No. The question we need to ask is "have conditions changed, for better or for worse, for a certain constant subset of the population over time?"
That is a useful comment, and the comments here (sparse as they may be) are also almost always useful. At the same time, the comments are a lot of work for the blogger and weeding out trollery etc. can be as unpleasant as disinfecting the garbage can.