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We knew when we ran a photo on last week's cover of actress Gigi DeLizza about to taste an oyster that we might get some reaction from people concerned about objectification and exploitation (of a lovely woman, not oysters—but you never know). We did get a few reactions—right where we love to see them, in the comments section at the bottom of the www.indyweek.com version of the story. "I dearly despise the commodification and sexual objectification of women," said one commenter, "but I love oysters."

Since we began accepting comments at the end of last year, we've had hundreds of people take the time to write their reactions to everything from news stories to theater reviews, restaurant listings to concert recaps, legislative analyses to wine columns. We held off accepting online comments for a while, fearful they'd become nasty and need constant monitoring. But that hasn't been the case. While we still keep track of what people are saying to make sure it remains polite, we've rarely had to remove a comment. Instead, they've made for lively, intelligent and illuminating discussions. For instance:

  • Lisa Sorg's preview of immigration issues facing the General Assembly set off a debate about the group Americans for Legal Immigration. "On the surface, it appears ALIPAC is a good cause, but in reality there is a 'dark side' to ALIPAC, and I believe many supporters there are motivated more by xenophobia and race than the actual problem of illegal immigration," one commenter said. "I am Latino and I'm a proud American and a proud supporter of William Gheen and ALIPAC," wrote another.

  • Byron Woods' review of the N.C. Dance Festival sparked criticism of the critic. "As audience members of this past weekend's NCDF performance, we would appreciate it, Mr. Woods, if you would refrain from speaking for all of us regarding our interpretation of the evening's events," wrote one dance fan. Woods responded: "A critic who loves their art form writes to either start a conversation or add something useful to a conversation already in progress. Looks like my review of the N.C. Dance Festival did just that."

  • John Hammond's analysis of the corporatization of UNC and UNC Health Care drew a slew of comments, mostly favorable. "I am so glad someone had the courage to write this article," read one. "From the days of doctors who went to your house to treat you, medicine has shifted from being a service to the sick to serving those who practice the profession."
  • And people used comments to point out when we made mistakes and when we missed the boat: We got lots of suggestions for concerts we missed in our recap of 2006's best music shows—the Avett Brothers, Old Ceremony, Alejandro Escovedo, Silver Jews and the Subdudes.

    And we're still waiting to hear from you (and the Friends of the Oysters).

    More by Richard Hart

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