Sep 24, 2013

Comments Suck (Exhibit #2784)

Sites reveal new commenting policies that are necessary because comments suck.

I’ve made no secret of my disdain for web comments. To be sure, there are sites out there that have thoughtful, reasonable conversations in their comments, and as a result, have developed something resembling a community. But by and large, I’d say that most comments are rather inane, in that they’re not bad, but they just don’t add much. And of course, there are those comments that are truly toxic, and drip with ignorance, racism, sexism, etc.

It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that Popular Science recently announced that they’re disabling comments by default on all new articles on their site:

A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to “debate” on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.

Suzanne LaBarre points out that it’s not like Popular Science is forgoing online discussion entirely; there are still plenty of ways to respond to them via social media and whatnot. But their decision allows the Popular Science website to maintain its focus and perspective without comments diluting what it is they’re trying to say — which I would argue is important, even if you disagree with what they’re saying. (If you think the word “diluting” is too strong here, consider some of the studies that LaBarre references.)

And then there’s YouTube, effectively the poster child for toxic online comments. Alas, they’re not removing comments altogether, but they are implementing a new system intended to keep things under control. Gone are chronological comments, and in their place will be a more dynamic system based on creator comments, YouTube celebrities, and your Google+ account (among other things). YouTube has posted more details here.

So that’s something. Or you can just do what I do, and block comments altogether, thereby saving yourself the headache of even seeing any of that crap in the first place.

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