A common journalistic trick is to play Devil's Advocate, to adopt the point of view that generally opposes the more common consensus, if that isn't an oxymoron. To play the contrary card, the Yin to everyone else's Yang, one's Tweedle Dum to their Tweedle Dee. The idea is perhaps to inflame and to incense one's readers, to stimulate the proverbial "Man on the Clapham omnibus" or his Antipodean relative the "Man on the Bourke Street tram". In the modern vernacular I imagine we are to refer not to such a gent but to "cosmopolitan, non-denominational, classless individual of undetermined gender choosing public transport as an ethical and environmentally aware alternative to the relatively large carbon footprint, (or carbon tracks, should that be?) of a private vehicle".

To stimulate said individual to do what? Write a letter "to the Editor" of one's publication, of course! Back in the day, the apparently glorious era of print newspapers, that is, such missives were generally the only point of contact between editors and their readers, except if they sued or were accepting cheques in plain Manila envelopes behind closed doors. Today, there is not an outlet, print, television, radio...online, that does not provide its readers, viewers, and listeners with an almost instantaneous access point to the author of any given column, op-ed or other piece via a comment form, Twitter feed, Facebook page or other such forum, than actually demand those readers, viewers, listeners to interact. The endless call from the voices, to "do get in touch via email", to "send us your photos and videos of the unfolding tragedy" to "tweet us" are almost constant.

Ironically, if I am to take the contrary stance in suggesting that all this interaction must be brought to a rapid and succinct conclusion forthwith, then the very nature of this "Comment" piece may be hoist by its own petard, to repeat a well-worn cliché used by many a Devil's Advocate in recognizing such an irony and admitting defeat. Nevertheless, in the wake of an endless stream of malicious or just plain ignorant trolls, a flood of spam, and an endless stream of inane "me too", "first" and "nice" comments on many a blog the world over, several outlets have indeed issued a cease and desist on the whole of their readership and locked up their servers so that no more need they attempt to manage the flood.

Me too. Ahem. I have shut off the comment threads on my personal website. There were plugins and server settings available to prevent spam comments but they often leak through the filters and then require manual blacklisting while genuine comments were occasionally blocked by a well-meaning app and so would require fishing from the spam trap and resurrecting as a legitimate comment. It is hard to know whether this has had a positive or a negative effect on the website, traffic fluctuates on search engine algorithmic whim as it is. There were, rather bizarrely, a few people who emailed to tell me they couldn't comment, as if I didn't know, but I do keep communication channels wide open on Twitter and other social media. It's not that I don't want a conversation.

It will be interesting to see whether this Materials Today "Comment" generates an aggrieved response, it is, I must admit, slightly off-topic, but that is often the nature of being a bit devilish. Anyway, if you have any strong feelings about it, you could always write a letter to the editor.

David Bradley blogs at http://www.sciencebase.com and tweets @sciencebase, he is author of the popular science book "Deceived Wisdom".