This is a tough post to write but it’s a long time coming…Sometime back in 2008, in an attempt to keep the comment threads associated with individual posts on topic, we began running an Open Thread post every day. The theory was that the OT would be a place where people who wanted to discuss anything off-topic could go and do just that. It was also an attempt to accommodate the site’s most active commenters who, quite wonderfully, had begun to forge quite meaningful online and offline relationships. As time has gone on though, the Open Thread has become both more insider-y and, often, more toxic than we had initially envisioned. We hear frequently from readers bemoaning the negativity, profanity and clubbiness on the Open Thread and stories of other long-time readers who have all but abandoned the site because of the tone set by the Open Thread. So we’re stopping it.

The decision is made difficult only by the fact that many of the participants, some of whom we’ve come to know personally, are some of the most longstanding and loyal readers of the site. Most of them are wonderful, interesting people but we agree with the critics who say that the Open Thread culture has become at best exclusionary and at worst offensive and inhospitable. There is no reason why a small group of people needs to carry on its discourse on a stage in front of a couple of hundred thousand people every month. There are ample social media platforms that are more appropriate and, frankly, better equipped technologically for this type, and size, of discussion. To that end, we have created an Open Thread page on Facebook that all are welcome to visit.

Going forward there will be no Open Thread on the blog and we will be actively monitoring the other comment threads and forum posts to ensure that they stay (relatively) on topic and respectful. Repeated attempts to highjack any of these discussions will result in users being banned from the site. If you have not already noticed, the new commenting system, while not perfect, does enable readers to flag comments and posts that are inappropriate so please feel free to alert us that way if a thread starts going off-track or a commenter starts acting inappropriately.

We hope that this will be an important step towards cultivating a more welcoming sense of online community that every person who visits the site will feel comfortable partaking in. We hope that we can get back to a time when discussions focused on old houses, neighborhood news and Brooklyn quality of life issues. If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines for a while, we hope you’ll come back into the fold and contribute your two cents.