Do you read comments?
For me the answer is: It depends.
I often read the comments on my favorite blogs.
The comments on blogs generally add value. Often there are debates breaking out around the issues the blogger has explored in his/her post. I like reading how people are reacting to the content and the multiple points of view people put forth.
The blogs I frequent also have a steady and reasonable amount of comments to sort through – sometimes 2 or 3 and other times dozens. But there are never so many comments that it feels overwhelming.
In this context, I’m a big fan of and a consumer of comments.
That said I rarely, if ever, read comments on mainstream media sites like the New York Times, Boston.com or CNN. The discourse is a cesspool and caters to the trolls. You only have to scroll through a few comments before it begins to turn toxic – racism, sexism, profanity, personal insults, rudeness, and ugly propaganda.
Even with the filters put up by many news outlets, the trolls have figured out creative shortcuts to circumvent them. There’s also the matter of having to sort through hundreds – sometimes thousands of comments.
If I ran a mainstream media site, I’d likely shutdown the comment section. The only alternative is what mainstream media sites have refused to do – hire a moderator and establish strict rules of protocol.
- Establish and publish rules for commenting – and enforce them.
- Forbid anonymous commenting. Use Facebook Connect as the login so people have to post as themselves. No more aliases.
- Moderate the comments. That means every comment goes into a queue to await approval by the blog or publication. Comments that don’t meet the criteria for civility get automatically deleted.
- Have the blog author or journalist (or at least a community manager) actually engage with the commenters. Isn’t that the point of allowing commenting in the first place? For engagement, debate and conversation? One of the primary reasons that commenting on blogs is so much better than on mainstream media sites is that the blog author is actively involved.
So what about you? Read comments? Avoid them? Do they add value to the online news sources you frequent?
Turning the Tables on Comment Sections via BigThink