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July 8, 2015 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Technology blog The Verge has decided to turn off their comment system "for a bit".

Nilay Patel, speaking for The Verge says, "We're going to call timeout for a while and turn comments off by default on all posts for the next few weeks. It's going to be a super chill summer."

Patel, you may remember, was recently the target of many negative comments himself after being called out by former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée on his Apple Watch review.

Daring Fireball's Jon Gruber points out a similar situation five years ago.
posted by fairmettle (89 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Never a bad idea.
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


We should try it around here for a few months. Just imagine how super chill it could be.
posted by signal at 11:35 AM on July 8, 2015 [32 favorites]


Are you paying attention, every single local newspaper website?
posted by bondcliff at 11:37 AM on July 8, 2015 [142 favorites]


Is that image from Zoids or Gamma World? I can't make up my mind.
posted by boo_radley at 11:37 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I saw a lot of commentary on this decision on twitter.
posted by smackfu at 11:38 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I hadn't see the wristband thing, but that certainly was a bit of a crazy Twitter meltdown by Patel, the "old white man" comments were really uncalled for. In any case, the official note mostly blames GamerGate, but the end of their announcement is a bit awkwardly written:

Comments will be back. There will always be another party. Freedom lasts forever.

....weird...
posted by blahblahblah at 11:40 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Anyone who blathers on about lack of comments being an infringement of their freedom needs slapping forever.
posted by Artw at 11:43 AM on July 8, 2015 [30 favorites]


I sort of wonder how the Verge/Polygon/Vox sites of the world are doing these days. The network seems to have started with the idea of "We're going to be different and do things better!" but there's not much evidence of that, they just seem to have been sucked into the lifestyle news vortex of a million other sites.

Also, the editorial voice of these sites is... odd. I can't quite put my finger on it but it seems to rub a lot of people the wrong way.
posted by selfnoise at 11:43 AM on July 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


Huh. I actually stopped checking the Verge after being bummed out by some commenters. Not that I thought it was their fault, it just depressed me and I avoided it.

I actually think it's a good idea.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:43 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I assume 'super chill' means he's trading in the studded leather for... macrame hemp? Puka shells? Friendship bracelet?
posted by box at 11:45 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: I actually think it's a good idea.
posted by Fizz at 11:48 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Anyone who blathers on about lack of comments being an infringement of their freedom needs slapping forever.

I invite you to peruse MetaTalk. Let the forever-slapping commence!
posted by MoonOrb at 11:48 AM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


the spiky bracelet thing is really confusing. he wears it because he doesn't want to be a suit-and-tie guy but he's wearing a suit and tie in that picture and criticizing the Milanese loop for presumably being too bourgeois or whatever ... uh what?
posted by ChuckRamone at 11:50 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Anyone who blathers on about lack of comments being an infringement of their freedom needs slapping forever.

If you want a vision of the future of internet comments, imagine a hand slapping a complaining face - forever.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:51 AM on July 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


Mic.com got rid of their comments about six months ago. Vox never bothered with them at all. Seems like a bit of trend.
posted by octothorpe at 11:53 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've found that when they put the comments in some place that's a click or two away, like Ars Technica does, I don't bother to go there and am generally a lot happier. Unless they do the "promoted" comments on the story page thing (also like Ars Technica does), in which case I'm all "how fucked up do the comments have to be if that one got promoted?" And I go and look and then it's just the same old shitville.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:53 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I invite you to peruse MetaTalk. Let the forever-slapping commence!

The oppressive regime of Herr Cortex and his junta will surely fall with our sustained MetaTalk campaign and our demands of free speech! Generalissimo Jessamyn has already been toppled by extended and numerous complaints of her misandric agenda! The nerve of her to demand that we don't call women by various obscene names!
posted by Talez at 11:54 AM on July 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


Thing is, comments on the internet, as bad as they seem, do serve a kind of purpose. If I go to youtube and look up some video that's supposed to be informational and the comments are disabled then that pricks up my suspicions since it comes off as if the video uploader is potentially hiding something which they don't wish to be revealed in the comments. So while disabling comments will prevent bad comments from appearing it will also prevent people from giving more info about the topic at hand or correcting misconceptions. Moderated comments are the best for newssites methinks, especially when there's an accessible unmoderated section that's accessible at will.
posted by I-baLL at 11:55 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh, also, because of the FPP I found out that Joshua Topolsky is no longer editor-in-chief of the Verge and now works for Bloomberg. I got into the Verge because of him as he always seemed really into what he was doing.
posted by I-baLL at 11:56 AM on July 8, 2015


If I go to youtube and look up some video that's supposed to be informational and the comments are disabled then that pricks up my suspicions since it comes off as if the video uploader is potentially hiding something which they don't wish to be revealed in the comments.

Or it's someone who dared to be female and didn't feel like getting threatened with rape and murder every 10 minutes.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:57 AM on July 8, 2015 [99 favorites]


The oppressive regime of Herr Cortex and his junta

Once you've imagined Josh in an aggressively futuristic military uniform, there's no going back. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to the slash-fiction forums.
posted by The Zeroth Law at 12:01 PM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


We all know this is just because a certain someone is still butthurt about the comments on his studded leather bracelet.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:01 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Huh. I actually stopped checking the Verge after being bummed out by some commenters. Not that I thought it was their fault, it just depressed me and I avoided it.

Pretty much all newsy sites are better if you avoid their comments. It's not the journalists fault their readers are asshats (well, sometimes it kind of is).

As a rule, only read comments on news sites if you want to get pissed off at humanity.
posted by el io at 12:04 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


There was nothing wrong with Letters To The Editor.
posted by Devonian at 12:04 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Once you've imagined Josh in an aggressively futuristic military uniform, there's no going back. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to the slash-fiction forums.

Don't forget about their head of intelligence, restless nomad. She's able to switch between perceptions of gender by using her real name to infiltrate traditionally misogynistic strongholds!
posted by Talez at 12:04 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


We should try it around here for a few months. Just imagine how super chill it could be.

If metafilter turned comments off, I would still visit every day. Lurker's paradise!
posted by grog at 12:06 PM on July 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Or it's someone who dared to be female and didn't feel like getting threatened with rape and murder every 10 minutes."

I meant if somebody puts up a video on how to fix a computer problem and it involves deleting System32 then they probably disabled comments for a reason.
posted by I-baLL at 12:07 PM on July 8, 2015


As a rule, only read comments on news sites if you want to get pissed off at humanity.

Yeah, I continue to be baffled as to why news sites think having comments at all is a good idea. It's the equivalent of having a "Letters to the Editor" section where zero curation is done, and literally every crackpot/racist/sexist/wtf rant sent in gets auto-published. Despite the state of newspapers, I feel like most editors would recognize that as a bad idea, and yet online is somehow different.

I have to assume it's some combination of wishful thinking regarding ad revenue, or cargo cult design.
posted by tocts at 12:08 PM on July 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


> If I go to youtube and look up some video that's supposed to be informational and the comments are disabled then that pricks up my suspicions since it comes off as if the video uploader is potentially hiding something which they don't wish to be revealed in the comments.

Or it's someone who dared to be female and didn't feel like getting threatened with rape and murder every 10 minutes.


Maybe the uploader is potentially hiding that they're not default white straight male, then.
posted by qcubed at 12:09 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


If metafilter turned comments off, I would still visit every day. Lurker's paradise!

There's a Coolio parody song locked somewhere in here...

They been spending most their lives living in the lurker's paradise
Clicked favorite once or twice living in the lurker's paradise

Maybe?
posted by Talez at 12:11 PM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


I meant if somebody puts up a video on how to fix a computer problem and it involves deleting System32 then they probably disabled comments for a reason.

In theory, sure, but in practice this doesn't really happen. Maybe you use a different YouTube than I do, but on the one I visit, when I see "Comments are disabled for this video", I can guess with about 99% certainty why, and it's not because the video is a trick or scam.

(Hint: it's because racists/misogynists/MRAs/etc)
posted by tocts at 12:14 PM on July 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


If you want a vision of the future, imagine a special snowflake overthinking a plate of beans - forever.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:14 PM on July 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


I avoid reading comments on pretty much every site like they were radioactive so I can only imagine what prompted this (NOT an invitation to provide examples).

Perhaps it's best to think of commenting as a grand experiment that failed. There's nothing wrong with failure if you learn something from it.
posted by tommasz at 12:19 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't get it. Where are the community managers and/or comment moderators in all of this?

I'm not trying to be flippant. I speak from experience. I've served as a community manager and Social Media director for several brands during my career. I've lived through being #1 on Techmeme with everyone calling your mother unprintable names several times throughout my career. It's not easy, but it's not impossible. It just takes clearly-written and articulated policy as well as active moderation.

Every comment policy I've ever written has been very clear: say what you want as long as you don't threaten violence against a company representative or member of the community, don't reveal your personal information (for protection of both the individual and the company), and stay on-topic. And even if you "violate" these guidelines, we'll give you a multitude of warnings before considering banning you or deleting your comments. Simple. Nobody's taking away anyone's rights to say what they want. After all, you're still welcome to post on your own blog/Facebook page/Twitter profile/etc.

As long as you have clear comment policies in place, you as a community manager and comment moderator have every right to take the actions to protect your community. In fact, not doing so would be a dereliction of responsibility.
posted by zooropa at 12:20 PM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


imma do a post vc startup with gilded monies from reddit and blockchain hustlin to create comment sections with fake conversations between kittens and other adorable creatures. imma call it catversashunly
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:20 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't get it. Where are the community managers and/or comment moderators in all of this?

I honestly don't think most places want to actually pay for moderators/community managers, which is why those places turn so toxic so quickly.
posted by qcubed at 12:24 PM on July 8, 2015 [24 favorites]


That and they get overwhelmed easily. Or there's the volunteer model Reddit uses, but then you're either exploiting someone's goodwill or (worse) enabling a petty dictatorship if they go bad.
posted by Artw at 12:27 PM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


It just takes clearly-written and articulated policy as well as active moderation.

Unless you have a super-dedicated community (as with MeFi), that last bit costs money.
posted by Gelatin at 12:31 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


We're still dedicated to community, so our forums will remain open — in fact, we'll be doing more to promote great posts from the forums on our front page and on our social channels than ever before.
This strikes me as the right idea, and I'm curious how it'll turn out. Comments below articles invite soapboxing; forum threads invite conversation. Okay, they both have soapboxing, but article comments start from a sort of radio-host 'just you and me' dynamic, where the commenter is invited to respond, alone, to that writer who is so distant and invulnerable and very, very wrong and who should be punched with wordfists. Respond to a forum thread and the starting dynamic is closer to voices in a casual group: if nothing else, the responder is notionally just as vulnerable as the OP to scathing rejoinders.

'Course, I didn't even know the Verge had forums until recently.
posted by postcommunism at 12:32 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Our local newspaper turned off comments this past spring. Judging from the worst offenders who immediately flocked over to the subreddit about our city, you'd think the Whig Standard burned the Canadian flag on each person's lawn or something.
posted by Kitteh at 12:33 PM on July 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Thing is, comments on the internet, as bad as they seem, do serve a kind of purpose. If I go to youtube and look up some video that's supposed to be informational and the comments are disabled then that pricks up my suspicions since it comes off as if the video uploader is potentially hiding something which they don't wish to be revealed in the comments.
I-baLL

Late one night I was in that "tired but can't sleep" state and was watching a Youtube compilation of Groundskeeper Willy scenes. Glancing at the comments, I saw that they were filled with a long argument about whether black people are genetically not as capable of intelligence as whites. Like hundreds of comments going back and forth on this topic. This was not the first time I've seen stuff like that on the most random, innocuous videos.

Perhaps it's less people hiding things and more them getting fed up with the awful shit they've seen.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:36 PM on July 8, 2015 [17 favorites]


I doubt The Verge (or other news organizations) gain much from the comments. I never saw anyone say "oh hey this Verge comment really shines a lot of light on the matter at hand!" because really it's not a discussion site, it's not moderated well enough and the comments aren't visible enough or navigable enough.

I imagine if they wanted to really have great comments this would require more IT and community resources than the yields would support.

I think a bifurcation between "discussion" and "news" sites makes a lot of sense. Especially with fairly large sites like Twitter and Tumblr where conversations can dynamically emerge from a population that's more than just the people on the page and vexed enough to comment. Similarly, sites like Metafilter (which is generalist but has a certain culture) also exist and provide a much better environment for discussion (in large part because we develop a sense of social propriety).

A local conventional TV news station recently disabled all comments and I think it was a good decision. Even the regional subreddit is a better platform for discussion than they were.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 12:36 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


While you can't beat decent human community management, it's seems surprising how little technical innovation there has actually been in trying to improve the quality of comments. Gawker seem to have been the only ones to have put any effort into this in recent years, though not getting very far for a lot of money spent.

As part of my job doing collaboration software we did some experiments in this area and thought maybe it would be applicable to consumer Internet sites too. However, nobody we talked to was interested at the time in spending any money on managing user content. Now those same people are probably happy just to hand it over to Facebook as a problem for them. I'd still love to build something that does it better though.
posted by kerplunk at 12:36 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I honestly don't think most places want to actually pay for moderators/community managers, which is why those places turn so toxic so quickly.

Ah! You hit the nail on the head. Media sites (and brands) want all the benefits of a passionate, dedicated community but don't want to shell out the resources necessary to maintain it.

[disgusted] It always comes back to money, doesn't it? [/disgusted]
posted by zooropa at 12:36 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Newspaper comments are not about conversation, they are about getting people involved in huge fights that end up giving the newspaper lots of ad impressions.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 12:37 PM on July 8, 2015 [22 favorites]


I sort of wonder how the Verge/Polygon/Vox sites of the world are doing these days. The network seems to have started with the idea of "We're going to be different and do things better!" but there's not much evidence of that, they just seem to have been sucked into the lifestyle news vortex of a million other sites.

Also, the editorial voice of these sites is... odd. I can't quite put my finger on it but it seems to rub a lot of people the wrong way.


I get the impression that Grantland, which has sort of ended up in a similar place from a different starting place, is regarded as a prestigious white elephant by ESPN/Disney. Honestly, I'm just not sure there's a way to make the money work out for these sites in terms of what they bring in vs. what talented journalists/subject experts/columnists deserve to be paid. To pick another example from a third field, The Dissolve just went bust, presumably also because it's a hard time to make a buck by writing on the Internet.
posted by Copronymus at 12:43 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Newspaper comments are not about conversation, they are about getting people involved in huge fights that end up giving the newspaper lots of ad impressions.

I'm not going to say that isn't part of the thought process (it may well be), but I suspect that if it is, it doesn't actually work out that way. I'm not saying ad networks have never made a mistake, but we're a good 10-15 years beyond the point where the average ad network was unsophisticated enough to not understand the value (or lack thereof) of those kinds of impressions. In the late '90s to early '00s, you could see discussion forums getting a lot of money off impressions, but as far as I know the networks have long since re-priced (and re-focused on click-through, etc) to the point where just getting people to reload a page arguing with each other isn't going to do much for you.

(Granted, not my area of expertise, just something I lived through as a user of various discussion forums; others in the industry may have better details)
posted by tocts at 12:50 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


The oppressive regime of Herr Cortex

This is blowing it way out of proportion. I actually shaved my herr off a few years ago and wear it much shorter these days.
posted by cortex at 12:52 PM on July 8, 2015 [27 favorites]


I submit a positive comments story, and from YouTube even.

It's been really hot here, to the point that the upholstery in my car was burning my back through my shirt. So, I did the smart thing and bought a sunscreen! It's one of those that comes packaged round, and when you unbind it it pops out into two rectangular shades. Awesome!

My car was a little less oven-like the first day I used it, which was great. But when I went to try to collapse the thing, I couldn't get it folded up in anything other than a wad. The instructions on the (single*) tag on the sunshade itself were unintelligible. I'd already thrown away the packaging, but I went digging through the trash for it only to discover that the instructions there were no better. I tried logic instead of instructions -- because I'm actually pretty handy with things like this -- but I couldn't get the damn thing folded up. So, I resorted to YouTube, and problem solved.

The comments on that video could have gone very, very badly, but they're mostly pretty awesome.

Car cooler? Check. Faith in humanity restored? A little.

* Mine didn't have thumb tags!
posted by mudpuppie at 1:00 PM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


While you can't beat decent human community management, it's seems surprising how little technical innovation there has actually been in trying to improve the quality of comments. Gawker seem to have been the only ones to have put any effort into this in recent years, though not getting very far for a lot of money spent.

Atwood's Discourse is trying to do something like this, although I haven't really heard much about how it's doing. It seems like the problem is that the only thing we've found that works well is sustained, intense human moderation, and that's not something that is easy to mimic programmatically. Plus, like everyone's mentioned, almost no one really wants to pay for that, or deal with the blowback of strict moderation. I don't think even human moderation scales very well, though. It works here, where other walls block bad comments, or at a place like the Toast, where a huge thread is 200-300 comments, but look at something like Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog; the Golden Horde was a great community from 2009-2012 or so, but once he got popular enough, even with assistance and heavy-handed moderation the comments consistently got out of hand, to the point where Coates just turns them off now on every post.
posted by protocoach at 1:19 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well moderated discussions with intelligent people are a service worth paying for and a great driver for traffic. Oft spammed, troll infested whinge-fests full of assholes just detract from your brand.
posted by humanfont at 1:23 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh my god mudpuppie that kid is adorable.
posted by chococat at 1:27 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Aside to mods/poster: "John" Gruber, not Jon Gruber. Unless thatsthejoke.gif)
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:29 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Seattle TV station I follow most closely moved its comments to Facebook earlier this year. What a delight! I never go to Facebook, so I'm not bothered by the idio -- er, assho--umm, sorry, people in the comments section.

Though I do miss them a little. It was a great place to feel superior.
posted by lhauser at 1:40 PM on July 8, 2015


We all know this is just because a certain someone is still butthurt about the comments on his studded leather bracelet.

Not only that, but trying to not-so-subtly link people poking fun at a wristband to Gamergaters is pretty shitty. Anyway, the tech reviews on Verge became so laughably bad I gave up reading the site a while ago. Comments didn't improve the relatively low quality of the content, and their absence won't change that, either.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:48 PM on July 8, 2015


Not Zoids, Dino Riders
posted by nfultz at 2:15 PM on July 8, 2015


Yeah, I read a story like this and all I get from it is that they're too stingy or poor to pay for moderation and/or filtering. They don't/can't hire people, nor implement the software features. It's nothing to do with people in general, because there's nothing new in the level of vitriol and idiocy, it has everything to do with how much the site wants to engage with its readers now that we have the technology and tools available to do so.
posted by rhizome at 2:38 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Are you paying attention, every single local newspaper website?

I've paid for the Kindle edition of newspapers that post all their content for free online simply for the lack of comments.

(Yes, you might say, "Just don't read them," but the way many newspaper websites are designed, if you're paging down through the article it's easy to accidentally skim a few comments before you realize what you're doing and if those comments are sufficiently WTF enough then you're sucked in for hours that you'll never get back.)
posted by Jacqueline at 2:46 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Paging Seth Godin. Seth Godin, Y U no have comments?
posted by infini at 3:01 PM on July 8, 2015


But, so, yeah, I think the cargo cult nature of the thing is a big part of why you see un- or undermoderated comment sections all over the place, with their predictable terrible results. It's really easy to take for granted the idea of a vibrant and engaged commenting community if you haven't actually learned practical lessons about how such a thing does and doesn't come about, and I suspect that where the decision making comes from on most commercial sites with comment sections is someone who doesn't have community management experience.

They're not aiming to build a bad comment section. They just don't know enough to know that they don't know enough. They think of it as an item on the list, not as a whole great big complicated system in its own right. And then they end up with...a comment section on the internet, and generally it turns out it's either quiet or its terrible or its both.

When that doesn't happen—when you actually get a tight group of thoughtful, engaged people establishing community norms—it's because the people showing up to the conversation showed up looking for the conversation. Cohesive, thoughtful internet discussion spaces don't happen because randos see a comment box, they happen because people with an existing enthusiasm for discussion find a space built for that discussion, and find, or if it doesn't exist yet, lay the foundation of, the kind of community they're actively looking for.

Treated as some sort of commodity, some thing that you just tack on to a website, the question shouldn't be why are so many comment sections so bad. It should be: why would you expect most of them to be good?

You don't holler at patch of dirt for not spontaneously becoming a garden. You roll up your sleeves, and till the fuck out of that soil, and weed, and seed, and water, and nurse. You tend it, and you tend it carefully. If your back doesn't hurt at the end of the day, you're probably not growing much.

And if that sounds like a lot of work, that's okay. Nobody has to be a gardener, and nobody has to have a garden. But if a garden is what you actually want, and not just some dirt that keeps kicking up shitty weeds, that's what it takes. You do the work. Or you hire gardeners who know how.
posted by cortex at 3:26 PM on July 8, 2015 [25 favorites]


I've always wondered how fast and effective news site moderation would be using only 3 deletion criteria: obvious personal attacks, no responding to other comments (at all), and someone already said that.

You'd be clicking delete like a bad video game. Then cut off the thread after 24 hours.
posted by ctmf at 3:28 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Late one night I was in that "tired but can't sleep" state and was watching a Youtube compilation of Groundskeeper Willy scenes. Glancing at the comments, I saw that they were filled with a long argument about whether black people are genetically not as capable of intelligence as whites. Like hundreds of comments going back and forth on this topic. This was not the first time I've seen stuff like that on the most random, innocuous videos."

Heh, yeah, I probably should've pointed out that when comments are on I almost never read them for these exact reasons.
posted by I-baLL at 3:40 PM on July 8, 2015


Up with this sort of thing.
posted by brundlefly at 3:44 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]






 
posted by double block and bleed at 4:07 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've always wondered how fast and effective news site moderation would be using only 3 deletion criteria: obvious personal attacks, no responding to other comments (at all), and someone already said that.

Sites where comments work don't just work because of the moderators removing bad comment. I'm not sure how Matt got his kernel of users because I didn't start reading until about six months after MeFi started and didn't join until a year or so later. But by 2000, there was already an established "this is how a MeFite" behaves going in threads, even when Matt had to slap quonsar down AGAIN.

And that has a powerful effect on new people, when they see that they're getting deleted because they're behaving differently. They often just go away but some get the clue and start behaving, and they become actual members of the community.

In other words, you need to prune the weeds, true -- but you need to till the soil as well. A good community attracts more good community members just as much as a bad one attracts bad ones.

Encouraging and protecting the good members is just as important as removing the bad ones. And while there are times that we've failed at that, in general, sites like ours do that far better than others, which is why, in general, we in fact can have nice things.

Usually.
posted by eriko at 4:08 PM on July 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


One of the few places other than MeFi that I go on the web (that is not a closed or semi-closed community, like MefightClub) specifically for the comments is the AV Club. There's plenty of bad and dumb in the threads, of course, like anywhere (even Metafilter), but they seem to have gotten it at least semi-right there, which is rare.

I wonder if that's down to moderation, or a long-established site culture, or the Discus mod tools, or what combination of factors. It's an interesting thing.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:23 PM on July 8, 2015


That's true and I feel the same way about MeFi. But I don't think news sites are going for the same thing. I don't think they even want a community of regulars interacting with each other, really. It seems more like a "letters to the editor" page where people feel like they could respond to the article.

Where they made the mistake, I think, is in deciding that they didn't have to be selective. On a letters to the editor page, there is only so much paper. Not so with a web page. But just because you can print every letter doesn't mean anyone would want to read them.
posted by ctmf at 4:24 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe a moderation queue where there was an understanding that only a handful of well-written comments were going to get approved for every story would be more labor-effective for the moderator.
posted by ctmf at 4:29 PM on July 8, 2015


Other than MeFi, the only site I comment at frequently is Birth.Movies.Death. (formerly Badass Digest). The moderation seems pretty light-handed, so I think the quality of the comments is more affected by the quality of the content than anything else. There are lots of smart, funny film nerds there.
posted by brundlefly at 4:52 PM on July 8, 2015


Metafilter: They just don't know enough to know that they don't know enough.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:41 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


The most shocking thing about online comments is that at first, I assumed that all the garbage comments could be attributed to online anonymity.

Then, Facebook came, and then newspapers started integrating Facebook, putting a face and a name on every single comment people left. And the comments were still garbage. Maybe even worse than before.
posted by ymgve at 5:52 PM on July 8, 2015 [17 favorites]


There is a certain irony in users of a website driven by user comments vehemently agreeing with another website removing user comments.

Comments are what makes internet internet .. otherwise, its just a glorified VOD.

Even if comments are bad, they reveal something about the audience. Hell, asshole comments let me know who assholes are.

A website which removes commenting capability or doesn't want its users to comment is turning an bi-directional interactive medium into a unidirectional sermon

Its such a shame that Verge is unable/unwilling to moderate comments and decided to take the easy, stupid way out.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 8:47 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is a certain irony in users of a website driven by user comments vehemently agreeing with another website removing user comments. [...] A website which removes commenting capability or doesn't want its users to comment is turning an bi-directional interactive medium into a unidirectional sermon

No, it's letting the website be whatever it wants to be. Right tool for the right job. MetaFilter is not CNN, and neither one is the Emergency Broadcast System. Some applications make sense for comments and two-way communication, some don't.

I like how with Twitter, the DOT in my area can let anyone report a traffic problem. That doesn't mean I want to read a bunch of dumbfuck conspiracy theories about how it got that way on the DOT's twitter feed.
posted by ctmf at 8:57 PM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Comments are what makes internet internet .. otherwise, its just a glorified VOD.

Good thing nobody is arguing that there should be no comments on the internet, then.

Comments on the internet are great -- when they're happening within actual communities, hopefully built from the ground up with some sort of community ethos, moderation, etc. But what most newspapers do is nothing at all like that. Instead, it's basically an anonymous wall beneath each article with an invitation for people to smear their shit all over it. You could close down pretty much every newspaper comments section, and nothing of value would be lost.

I suppose in summary: media producers should stick to producing media. If it's worth talking about, it will be talked about -- hopefully on discussion-focused sites that actually have the time and the inclination to foster discussions that aren't 90% racist/sexist/"obama is a secret jew muslim space nazi who perpetrated 911 with the help of the mole people" shit-flinging.
posted by tocts at 11:26 PM on July 8, 2015


naked capitalism: Announcing Site Policy Change
We’ve been inundated by new readers, which would normally be gratifying. However, the overwhelming majority of newbies seem to regard Naked Capitalism as a chat board and appear not to have read our Policies section. Even with the generous assistance over the years by many long-standing commentors in helping us in this effort, it’s costing us too much in scarce site resources to manage this influx, particularly since many of these newbies seem to regard commenting as a right, and not a privilege.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:39 AM on July 9, 2015


Cohesive, thoughtful internet discussion spaces don't happen because randos see a comment box

*looks for edit window*
posted by infini at 4:54 AM on July 9, 2015


particularly since many of these newbies seem to regard commenting as a right, and not a privilege.

This world view is what I find fascinating mostly because I don't totally get it or the thought process behind it. The 'taking away comments is taking our free speech, freedom, it's censorship' people. Some people seem to get beyond incensed about not being able to comment and have reactions that just make little sense to me.

Is it more an American thing because of the general culture of belief around free speech? Just a general human thing of feeling important and want to be heard? Am I correct in observing that this sort of thing seems to come more from males then females so there is a gendered component?

Anyone have any insights?
posted by Jalliah at 4:54 AM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Twitter is the African MetaFilter.

Partially moderated, primarily by peer pressure.
posted by infini at 4:54 AM on July 9, 2015


Some people seem to get beyond incensed about not being able to comment and have reactions that just make little sense to me.

Mostly it's just shit flingers seeking to maximize the area onto which they can fling shit.
posted by Artw at 4:59 AM on July 9, 2015


"Twitter is the African MetaFilter.

Partially moderated, primarily by peer pressure.
"

Wait, Twitter is moderated?
posted by I-baLL at 5:34 AM on July 9, 2015


It's not online commenting, exactly, but League Of Legends has been working on improving community behavior and trying to decrease abusive chat, and they claim it's working: "Doing Something About the ‘Impossible Problem’ of Abuse in Online Games"
To deliver meaningful consequences, we had to focus on the speed and clarity of feedback. At Riot, we built a system called the “Tribunal,” which automatically created “case files” of behaviors that players reported as unacceptable in the community. The system allowed players to review game data and chat logs and vote on whether the behaviors were okay or not. (Later this year, the system will also create positive “case files” so players can vote on the full spectrum of behaviors). These cases were public, so players could see and discuss the behaviors, and the results were inspiring. The vast majority of online citizens were against hate speech of all kinds; in fact, in North America, homophobic slurs were the most rejected phrases in the English language.

It turns out that people just need a voice, a way to enact change.

[...]

As a result of these governance systems changing online cultural norms, incidences of homophobia, sexism and racism in League of Legends have fallen to a combined 2 percent of all games. Verbal abuse has dropped by more than 40 percent, and 91.6 percent of negative players change their act and never commit another offense after just one reported penalty.

These results have inspired us, because we realize that this isn’t an impossible problem after all.

In the office, I still have a copy of a letter a boy wrote me after receiving in-game feedback from his peers about his usage of racial slurs: “Dr. Lyte, this is the first time someone told me that you should not say the ‘N’ word online. I am sorry and I will never say it again.” I remember forwarding this letter to the entire team, because this was the moment we realized that we had started a journey that would end beyond games.
posted by jjwiseman at 7:46 AM on July 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


i've been reading naked capitalism for awhile, and it's a shame they had to turn off the comments. a lot of the content there is fairly technical and i don't have enough background to evaluate it without some back and forth from different views. i'm just a guy on the internet though, and the demographic they are looking to have a conversation with is very much not that.
posted by lescour at 8:55 AM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


what most newspapers do is nothing at all like that. Instead, it's basically an anonymous wall beneath each article with an invitation for people to smear their shit all over it. You could close down pretty much every newspaper comments section, and nothing of value would be lost.

Indeed, whatever worthwhile comments might happen to get posted are lost in an avalanche of hateful drivel anyway, and won't get read -- at least, not by me, because DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS.

And as this other thread indicates, measures of site traffic are getting sophisticated enough to discount refresh-monkeying a comment thread.

So yeah. Shut 'em all down.
posted by Gelatin at 9:07 AM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jalliah: "Some people seem to get beyond incensed about not being able to comment and have reactions that just make little sense to me."

I think its about the perceived power imbalance.

Being able to spread your thoughts and communicate to a large group is a form of power. When people see that their ability to do so is unavailable, they get agitated. They conflate this lack of power with scenarios where someone is actively preventing them from speaking.

Of course, if you are used to feeling powerless, the likelihood that you will be responding to a power imbalance is lower . Thats why you might notice women or other minorities who usually dont have that power being less vocal about restrictions on that power.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 9:07 AM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wait, Twitter is moderated?

No, the chatter is, by the community. Sorry for the lack of clarity in that rushed grammatically ambiguous sentence.

And some times there is oversight but by unseen unknowns.
posted by infini at 1:05 PM on July 9, 2015


Are you paying attention, every single local newspaper website?

Or any media site at all almost. I've pleaded with CBC.ca to turn off their comments: whenever I read them, I am ashamed for my species.
posted by anothermug at 7:57 PM on July 9, 2015




Interesting article, jjwiseman, e.g.:
the vast majority of negative behavior (which ranges from trash talk to non-extreme but still generally offensive language) did not originate from the persistently negative online citizens; in fact, 87 percent of online toxicity came from the neutral and positive citizens just having a bad day here or there.

[... ] surprisingly, there was no link between age and toxicity in online societies.
I'm skeptical of the longterm viability of the automatic consequence system, though:
In League of Legends, we’re now able to deliver feedback to players in near-real-time. Every single time a player “reports” another player in the game for a negative act, it informs the machine-learning system. Every time a player “honors” another player in the game for a positive act, it also trains the machine-learning system. As soon as we detect these behaviors in-game, we can deliver the appropriate consequence, whether it is a customized penalty or an incentive.
Seems vulnerable to the exact sort of twitter mobbing and reddit brigading that's already a problem, which loops it back around to fostering decent communities. But then, there also seems to be something of a human moderation element, which makes it sound more like the sort of tool other platforms could use -- although it would be particularly tricky to implement on large platforms like reddit where voting already changes content: in LoL, the community reporting framework sits on top of the game; it reddit, upvoting/downvoting is the game and is not a reliable indicator of bad behavior. (Like as not, the person who objects to "the most rejected phrases in the English language" is the one the community rallies against.)

Also would do nothing for newspaper comment sections if it relies on persistent identity. Even if people leave comments with facebook, the format still implies that anything you say is a fire-and-forget.

Do comments under facebooks SSO get crossposted to the person's facebook timeline?
posted by postcommunism at 5:07 AM on July 10, 2015


i basically only come here to read comments anymore, i barely ever even click the links to the articles in the post
posted by tehloki at 11:56 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


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