It was somewhat as I expected: comment moderation harms discussion, but it is necessary when people are so eager to troll. The ultimate problem is what I had in my title: popularity. Smaller blogs just aren't worth trolling; there isn't an audience for them. And they are easier to moderate after the fact, without cries of "censorship!" because unless the blogger is afraid of dissent, only two types of posts get deleted: trolls and idiots who are so stupid they look just like trolls. These tend to be the ones screaming about censorship because their post calling the blogger a fag got deleted.
I came across this comment which matched my own feelings.
I'm not sure you need to switch from one extreme to another. My own preference was for the time where you required people to log in to comment, but didn't pre-moderate them (feel free to post-moderate).
The trouble with pre-moderation is that it breaks the flow of conversation. The other anti-spam measures seem fine to me, as they don't do that.
For me, the important thing is not to draw the conclusion: "I've shown that zero moderation doesn't work, therefore I must have maximum control". A middle ground is fine.
This also made me think that perhaps there can still be discussion in the middle of the trolls and spam. As I look over the comments so far, there are still worthwhile ones. Also some spam, some trolling, some demands that Tobold turn back on moderation.
Too loop back around, why wouldn't Tobold just have a captcha to catch spammers and delete trolls? I'm not going to believe it's because of cries of censorship, since moderation before posting is arguably more conducive to censorship because there's no record of the post ever. Also as I've interpreted his past statements, he doesn't care if we complain, it's his blog. I think the real reason is time, and it related directly to popularity. It would simply take too much time to delete every troll. If I had trolls, I could delete them without spending much time. If I had dozens of comments on every single thread with sometimes multiple threads in a day, well that's not going to be worth the effort anymore. It goes back around to the popularity: too many comments, too many trolls.
As the day has gone on, I've actually been surprised at how few trolls there have been. Certainly a lot, but I didn't feel like they took over. I suggested a new rule though: Responding in any way to trolls is encouraging them and would result in the post being deleted. With how things turned out, nuking a few posts might do the trick.
In conclusion: too bad for him. Serves him right for writing a diverse array of interesting posts over the years. Maybe next time you'll be dull and hard to read, noob!