Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Communications The Internet

Have Online Comment Sections Become Specious? 429

Posted by samzenpus
from the if-you-don't-have-anything-nice-to-say dept.
christoofar writes "Gawker founder Nick Denton says online comments have proven themselves to be not worth the trouble, a waste of resources, and contribute nothing to online conversation or even capture the intelligence of readers. From the article: 'In the early days of the Internet, there was hope that the unprecedented tool for global communication would lead to thoughtful sharing and discussion on its most popular sites. A decade and a half later, the very idea is laughable, says [Denton]. "It didn't happen," said Denton, whose properties include the blogs Gawker, Jezebel, Gizmodo, io9 and Lifehacker. "It's a promise that has so not happened that people don't even have that ambition anymore. The idea of capturing the intelligence of the readership — that's a joke."'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Have Online Comment Sections Become Specious?

Comments Filter:
  • Use forums instead (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:26PM (#39327107)

    I think discussion sections work great in the small and medium scale special interest category. A number of smaller blogs I frequent, the comment section/side forum becomes a good area for discussion... and often times particularly good bits end up edited into the original post.

    I certainly think they work much better in small niche interest groups than on general news sites. When you have a small group of generally like minded people with a certain amount of pre-existing knowledge in the topic .. you get a good discussion. When you get the diverse public with dissimilar views and often a very surface understanding of the topic.. you get the type of shit we see on this guy’s collection of sites and on youtube and so on.

    I think at least part of the problem is that most comment sections are poorly designed and provide little ability for actual discussion. Many don’t have threaded replies, a simple feature that makes any comment section _way_ more useful in my opinion. You can’t really have much of a discussion if replies can’t easily be tied to each.

    Also sorting by most recent (descending) in conjunction with threaded comments (threads which have had a comment recently get bumped up) I think works well to keep people talking. Again, can’t have a discussion if you can’t even find the current discussion(s).

    On larger sites, I think the best approach is to have a forum on the side with topics linked to the post. This eliminated a lot of crap as there is slightly more effort in posting to a forum than posting to a comment section. Forum software is also generally much better equipped for real discussion than most comment systems.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:35PM (#39327293)

      I am of the opinion that Usenet was a lot more usable for this than any webforum I've ever come across. Split messages/threads view (with proper threading, none of this messages in chronological order within thread nonsense). Proper marking of read/ignored messages/threads. Snappy offline reading. Efficient plaintext presentation. Everything in one place instead of a bazillion differing forums and accounts.

      Usenet wasn't *that* bad considering it was next to unmoderated.

      • by gl4ss (559668) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:47PM (#39327517) Homepage Journal

        the point of the comments sections is to NOT offer you an easy content independent from view access at your own terms. the point is to draw views to the stories, with usenet the content is shown in whatever fashion the client is coded to show it in. it's just plain content.

        slashdot excels in that it's unmoderated in the sense that comments don't disappear into the void if a mod chooses so.

        but I find it no surprising at all that a guy running gawker media doesn't like comments sections - who the fuck would register there now?-D for gawker they brought a lot of loss.

        • by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Monday March 12, 2012 @02:54PM (#39329779)

          slashdot excels in that it's unmoderated in the sense that comments don't disappear into the void if a mod chooses so.

          It won't for long. Take a look at that little flag on the bottom right of every post and imagine what that means for us now.

          • by samzenpus (5) * Works for Slashdot on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:56AM (#39338203) Homepage Journal

            It means that I can more quickly mod down the most egregious trolls (GNAA, goatse.cx, that sort of thing), and ban spammer accounts that get reported. The abuse report it generates is really good at finding spammers, but is unfortunately filled with a lot of comments other readers don't like. This one for example. Contrary to some opinions we won't delete your comments or mod you down if we don't like your tone. You're perfectly free to have your opinion and express your views, (yes even the paranoid ones.) We like it that way.

            • by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @11:39AM (#39339369)

              Please understand my concern that this will be abused. How many times have Slashdotters been burned by other websites betraying their principles in one fashion or another?

              I understand that it is now used to assist in flagging posts for spam or trolling so accounts can be banned, but I have a difficult time seeing the necessity of it given the moderation system. As you've stated, it can be abused just as easily as the moderation system is abused. Couldn't a moderation of "-1, Spam" be added and essentially accomplish the same thing without making anyone feel uncomfortable?

              I'm sure to you it's a convenience thing for moderating a massive and complex comments section, but (to myself at least) a flag is a symbol that a post can be reported and eventually "disappeared". Until someone writes up a scraper tool to hunt Slashdot for dead PostIDs, we'll have to trust you guys and that's rarely worked out for the geek community.

              Since it was you that replied, though, I'm not remotely as worried as I once was. At least someone still gives a shit around here. Thanks samzenpus.

              (Please don't aim the Geeknet Orbital Ion Cannon [slashdot.org] at me... my roof is leaking enough as it is.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by residieu (577863)
        I fondly remember the old-school Usenet readers and their laughable warning that my post could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars as it is copied and sent around the world.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:37PM (#39327329)

      Here's the problem: I just want to comment. Don't like it, flag it, and moderation can remove it. I don't want to register for user account, to have my information stored on a server, possibly sold to marketing companies. I recall one site even wants phone verified accounts? Sorry no thanks, even if the comment was important, I suppose the site will have to do without

      Not just tech sites, though. Many local, national, and world news sites want a user account, some blogs want a user account, every forum already wants a user account, and I don't want the hassle of having to manage all those accounts, to have different passwords for all of those accounts, and for many sites--not to be able to permanantly delete my account when I'm done using it.

      • by Anrego (830717) * on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:42PM (#39327427)

        I don't want the hassle of having to manage all those accounts

        Some kind of single sign in system would be great for this reason. Unfortunately all the sites with enough critical mass to make it happen, I don't want to have much to do with (facebook I won't touch, google I am gradually becoming less trusting of, microsoft.. forget it!).

        • by bhtooefr (649901) <bhtooefr.bhtooefr@org> on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:47PM (#39327503) Homepage Journal

          There's always OpenID, and becoming your own provider.

          • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:07PM (#39327799) Homepage
            Or even OpenID with the delegate feature. Get your own domain name, or set up a URL on a friend's domain name, and just post a page that delegates to some other open ID provider. That way if the OpenID provider gets hacked, disappears, or just needs to be replaced for whatever reason, you don't have to change your credentials at every web site. Plus it's easier to set up than being your own OpenID provider. It's the same reason I strongly discourage people from using their ISP or even things like Google/Yahoo/Hotmail for their email address. If for whatever reason they disappear, have unfavourable terms, or whatever the problem, you end up having to change your email address. The safest solution right now seems to be to have your own domain name. You can always switch hosting providers, switch registrars, and you almost never lose your domain name (somebody will probably point out a case where it's happened, expiry dates, name stolen, etc...).
          • by vlm (69642) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:16PM (#39327947)

            There's always OpenID, and becoming your own provider.

            I looked into that years ago, and back then, everyone wanted to be an openid provider to anyone else, but no one wanted to accept openid from anyone other than themselves. Has the scene changed any, over the years?

        • by ArhcAngel (247594)
          Isn't that what DISQUS [disqus.com] is for?
          • by SQLGuru (980662) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:19PM (#39328025) Journal

            Disqus doesn't have good notification about follow up (replies, etc.) I don't want that stuff in my mailbox (and signed up with my spam account that I never check) and there's no easy way to see it. Slashdot, I can go to my account page and see what my comments were rated, how many replies, etc. Even Gawker products show me a little number in the upper corner.

            When Engadget switched over to DISQUS, my participation there went down drastically. I still skim the headlines, but I almost never click the "read more" link and certainly don't read the comments. I like the comments at Gizmodo and Slashdot because I glean more info from them than I would from reading the article......I have the comments unfiltered, but I know how to skip over the worthless comments (but would miss the as-yet-unmoderated good stuff if I didn't).

      • by jeffmeden (135043) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:20PM (#39328035) Homepage Journal

        You may like and prefer that, but it turns out that no one else wants to even see (much less have to mod) 500 posts of your bullshit anonymous trolling. I say "your" because in this context anyone who is anonymous is basically the same shitty asshole of a person, and in "free/open" comment sections from Kalamazoo to Cucamonga the anons turn a thread into a 5 mile long shit fest before you can even blink.

        After trying to make sense of my local news outlets' comment sections for about a week, I realized how downright amazing Slashdot is (no, I am not being sarcastic) because the moderation system is effective enough to not make the comment section completely useless (only mostly useless.) Slashdot's mod system does require a dedicated and reliable userbase though, something most podunk local newspaper web sites don't have so I get that it is just not scalable.

        Small comment/forum operators have basically all begun turning their back on anonymous offerings for this very reason. The anonymity of the internet means you can shit in the pool and get away with it, and it turns out that enough people are gross as hell and actually enjoy doing just that.

        • by Compaqt (1758360) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:38PM (#39328407) Homepage

          People like to complain about /., but the fact is, even 1-rated comments are much better than many/most sites, certainly including Gawker, wonkette.com, and HuffPo.

          Agree or disagree with a comment, it's rarely just pure bile.

        • by Pausanias (681077) <{pausaniasx} {at} {gmail.com}> on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:12PM (#39331625)

          The really amazing thing is how nobody else has adopted Slashdot's commenting system. It was a brilliant invention 15 years ago and still no takers?

          I mean, come on, it's not that hard. Assign random mod points to people, and more mod points to people who have been modded up. You don't need to work in the whole Karma thing, or work in the nuances of "Interesting, insightful" etc. Just have thumbs up/thumbs down allocated randomly in proportion to total number of thumbs ups posted (plus a few extra random ones to make the system work).

        • by WuphonsReach (684551) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:36PM (#39331981)
          You may like and prefer that, but it turns out that no one else wants to even see (much less have to mod) 500 posts of your bullshit anonymous trolling. I say "your" because in this context anyone who is anonymous is basically the same shitty asshole of a person, and in "free/open" comment sections from Kalamazoo to Cucamonga the anons turn a thread into a 5 mile long shit fest before you can even blink.

          The real story is that the news sites are not willing to pay to moderate / police their comments. Which requires a lot more work then simply tossing up a "comment" form protected by some brain-dead captcha or requiring people to register.

          If you don't moderate your forums / comment threads, then you will get the garbage of society. If you want a higher class of posts, then you had damned well better moderate in such a way that brings about that result.
    • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:37PM (#39327331)

      I think at least part of the problem is that most comment sections are poorly designed and provide little ability for actual discussion

      You said what I was thinking. (1) I enjoy reading replies to news articles and am disappointed by those that don't allow comments. (2) The problem is not comments sections, but poor programming by those who create them. You CAN have a worthwhile discussion on news articles if the replies are treated as separate posts & replies are directly beneath them (something that has existed since the earliest days on 80s-era Usenet).

      Comment sections like those on youtube and many news sites that just dump the posts on the screen haphazardly are an example of laziness by the programmer(s).

    • by vlm (69642) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:40PM (#39327377)

      When you have a small group of generally like minded people with a certain amount of pre-existing knowledge in the topic .. you get a good discussion.

      Examples: thehousingbubbleblog.com bbs.homeshopmachinist.net zerohedge.com

      When you get the diverse public with dissimilar views and often a very surface understanding of the topic.. you get the type of shit we see on this guy’s collection of sites and on youtube and so on.

      Examples: instructables.com "Every freaking website for a local newspaper I've ever seen that is exclusively populated by paid political astroturfers sniping at each other"

      • by glodime (1015179)

        you get a good discussion.

        Examples: zerohedge.com

        If by good discussion you mean rantings about the most implausible future events, yes.

    • by MysteriousPreacher (702266) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:56PM (#39327635) Journal

      I think discussion sections work great in the small and medium scale special interest category. A number of smaller blogs I frequent, the comment section/side forum becomes a good area for discussion... and often times particularly good bits end up edited into the original post.

      This! The only places where I've found genuinely interesting and thought provoking comments is on sites with a focus specific enough to attract a certain crowd of people. Unfortunately though with such places it's difficult to avoid it becoming an intellectual circle jerk.

      I never read YouTube viewer comments. Nowhere else have I encountered such a graphic example of what happens when everyone is handed a bullhorn and invited to comment on anything that comes to mind.

    • by stanlyb (1839382)
      The idea is laughable not because of the readers, but because of the censorship. Yes, yes, i know, if don't censor the F$$$ words, you could be sued, or at least all the comments could tend to be insults only, but as with the normal conversation f2f, these kind of persons are very fast ignored and banned by the readers themselves. Even Aristotel used to say that when you dialogue (argue), everything is allowed. Except killing each other....maybe....
      • by makomk (752139)

        Yeah, the Gawker properties tend to censor any comment that's even remotely critical of the original article - and when, as inevitably happens, the original article is a bunch of dubious bullcrap the best discussion usually happens as a result of such comments. You're not going to get much value from the comments section if you systematically delete all the interesting comments.

  • obviously (Score:5, Funny)

    by kaizendojo (956951) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:26PM (#39327109)
    Just look below this post..
    • Re:obviously (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:27PM (#39327137)

      You may not have been inclusive enough.

    • by Frederic54 (3788) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:27PM (#39327143) Journal
      The idea of capturing the intelligence of the readership — that's a joke

      Being on /. for 13 years, I agree :)

      Heck, even with usenet early 90s it was flamewars and trolls
    • Re:obviously (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jcreus (2547928) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:29PM (#39327169)
      Slashdot, it must be said, continues to be a great source of insightful comments (a thing which is becoming extinct on the Internet lately). I think it can be put down to its great moderation system others lack, and the audience (you know, when we speak we usually know about the topic). It has grown in popularity and thus in spamming, but, again, it's filtered out. Congrats to the Slashdot team and community for making this happen. In fact, recently I read Slashdot basically for its comments. They give so much additional information/jokes/etc. to the original stories.
      • by Spad (470073) <slashdot@sp[ ]co.uk ['ad.' in gap]> on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:34PM (#39327267) Homepage

        Well, nobody reads Slashdot for the poorly edited summaries or week-old stories, do they?

      • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:37PM (#39327319) Homepage

        Slashdot's moderation system is the worst out there - except for all the rest.

      • Re:obviously (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:44PM (#39327463)

        I disagree that it's the moderation system (which often punishes people for "wrongthought" such as not liking Apple or Google). I think the superiority of Slashdot is the threading, which makes it easy to jump from topic-to-topic and read in a coherent manner. It's not a mess of confusing posts like Youtube and Facebook and other sites often resemble.

        • Re:obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jcreus (2547928) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:47PM (#39327515)
          Maybe the fact stories do not have like or dislike buttons so that people can say "314 people like Microsoft" or "21 people work for Apple"?
          • by vlm (69642) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:32PM (#39328279)

            Maybe the fact stories do not have like or dislike buttons so that people can say "314 people like Microsoft" or "21 people work for Apple"?

            For pointless numerology we have our UID wars. Obviously as a 5 digit UID, my posts are going to be more insightful than your 7 digit UID post (hint hint mods you know what to click here).

        • Re:obviously (Score:5, Interesting)

          by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:34PM (#39328331) Homepage

          Yep, I think the main reasons why Slashdot works:

          * proper threads, allowing in depth discussion
          * a very large limit on maximum post size
          * all posts on a single page, so no flipping through webpages needed
          * a large line width that makes it easy to skim over content quickly

          I think the moderation system is important as well, as it provides some incentive for good posts, while punishing bad ones. But ultimately it's really the usability that matters. If you have a system that makes it hard to read and write interesting discussion, no moderation system can fix that. That said, bad moderation system can do some harm, as they turn things into a popularity contest. The ability to have highly voted post on top on Youtube for example has basically turned into a game, it doesn't lead to interest post being promoted, but in people writing jokes specifically targeted at that spot. The front page of Reddit is also dominated by memes, cat images and other mostly useless stuff, as it is simply much easier to up-vote a short joke then a long article.

        • Re:obviously (Score:4, Interesting)

          by quacking duck (607555) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:35PM (#39328363)

          Unlike most like/unlike, agree/disagree systems, a registered user does not always have moderation powers, and when they do it's limited to 5 or 15 points.

          Like any system there are flaws and room for improvement, but there's a lot to like about the /. mod system and why I keep coming back here. I haven't seen a discussion system that comes even close, if you happen to know of one I'll check it out.

          On another site I recently tried injecting some reasonable points into a story that had been hijacked by political comments, and non-registered trolls and flamers (all of whom were fundamentalist right-wing zealots) called me every name in the book and then some, and sneered at my attempts to keep things civil. The only reply that was remotely intelligent came from a registered user, even though we disagreed with each other.

      • Honestly, if the overlords of Slashdot want to monetize the site, the best way to do it would probably be to develop the commenting/moderation code into a standalone product/Widget/add-on service (a la Disqus) and sell it to big blog-hosting companies...Wordpress, Blogger, etc would probably real cashmoney for such a service...
      • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:52PM (#39327587)

        Slashdot, it must be said, continues to be a great source of insightful comments

        Me too!

      • Re:obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:08PM (#39327815)

        Slashdot, it must be said, continues to be a great source of insightful comments (a thing which is becoming extinct on the Internet lately). I think it can be put down to its great moderation system...

        I'm sorry, but I really cannot agree on either point of this comment. Though we do have far fewer youtube'esque comments here, we have a mountain of comments attempting to bait the word 'Insightful' next to their names. For example, every cell phone article for YEARS always had several "I just want a phone that's just a phone!" comments, nearly always modded up. That's just one example. Now we have a massive Smartphone OS war going on where people chuck phrases like "walled garden" around. Any time there's a story about some technology, there's a big race to point out the big obvious downside, often to the tune of 'what could possibly go wrong'. I mean, really, I've seen "Life will find a way!" posted here several times in the last year. Now we're quoting Jeff Goldblum! We have people trying to be funny, that overlords joke still won't die. We have people being contrarian, afterall a nerd that's hard to impress is an impressive nerd indeed.

        I could keep going, but the big annoyance I see with Slashdot's moderation is the sheer repetition of comments. Somebody occasionally makes a good comment, it gets modded up, then we see that comment repeated over and over and over again, modded up over here and over there. I don't consider that a 'great source of insightful comments', I see a game everybody plays to earn points. There is way too much posing going on.

        And, yes, I'm one of the jerks that does this. How else would I post at +2?

        • Re:obviously (Score:4, Interesting)

          by preaction (1526109) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:21PM (#39328065)

          The slashdot moderation is a meritocratic method to increase the signal:noise ratio for the lowest common denominator, not to only show you the opinions you agree with. So perhaps the problem is, on the whole, people who have nothing useful to say can't bring themselves to say nothing at all. I believe this could be applied to TFA as well.

          The entire Internet is just lonely voices screaming in the void.

          • Re:obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

            by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Monday March 12, 2012 @02:16PM (#39329119)

            The slashdot moderation is a meritocratic method to increase the signal:noise ratio for the lowest common denominator, not to only show you the opinions you agree with.

            Bullshit. Popular opinion is what gets modded up around here. That's what happens when you randomly give badges and guns to people, but don't provide a means to keep them honest. Again, Slashdot's comment section is a game, not a forum for intelligent discussion. If it were the latter, the phrase "RTFA" wouldn't be all that popular.

            I did give Slashdot's moderation policies a roast here, but I will say something on their behalf: I think it's great that Slashdot doesn't let you edit your post after the fact. I've been burned by this a few times, but it has made me more aware of what I post.

            If asked what I'd do to fix it, I'd only make one simple change: Moderators would have to be trained. That, in my view, would make all the difference.

        • by Daetrin (576516)

          I could keep going, but the big annoyance I see with Slashdot's moderation is the sheer repetition of comments. Somebody occasionally makes a good comment, it gets modded up, then we see that comment repeated over and over and over again, modded up over here and over there. I don't consider that a 'great source of insightful comments', I see a game everybody plays to earn points. There is way too much posing going on.

          And that still makes it better than just about every other comment system out there, since even the posing has to adhere to some level of quality in order to get promoted.

          And, yes, I'm one of the jerks that does this. How else would I post at +2?

          I dunno, you could do like i do. Try to post things that you personally believe or think are funny. Try not to insult other people (at least unless they insult you first =) Try not to repeat things that have already been said in the conversation unless you have something new to add. And then just sit back and watch the mod points slowly

  • by pr0nbot (313417) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:29PM (#39327167)

    Of course, he is correct. Most slashdot users only RTFA, right?

  • by jbrandv (96371) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:29PM (#39327173)

    The idea of capturing the intelligence of the readership was correct! The only problem was the intelligence of the readership...

    • I agree that's part of the problem. Take the fact that he's the guy who founded Gawker. So you post a story on Gawker about how Jon Hamm Hates Kim Kardashian, and you wonder, "Why am I not getting the most elite brilliant comments in response?" Even sites like CNN are full of trash. How can you be surprised that your comments are ignorant flamebait with no dignity when they're in response to stories that are ignorant flamebait with no dignity?

      But also, honestly, if there were an interesting story on CNN, I wouldn't want to bother commenting on it on CNN. I'd wait until it got posted someplace like Slashdot, and then I'd comment there. It's a better audience for my comments, and there's a better moderation system.

      But there's more to it than just that-- Slashdot is *where I have my discussions*. If I post on a million different web sites, I can't keep track of who I'm talking to and who has responded to my comment. Even if the people on cnn.com were great and their discussion system was great, I wouldn't really want to post comments on Gawker *and* CNN *and* MSNBC *and* wherever else an interesting story pops up. I'd rather wait until the story shows up on an aggregation service I'm used to, and then comment there. The consistency of having one site (or a couple) to engage in discussions is part of what makes it work.

      So essentially, I agree that comments may be a waste of time on Gawker and CNN. It's better to assume that there will be news aggregation and discussion sites (like Slashdot) and people can go there for discussion.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:31PM (#39327201) Journal
    It's the "information superhighway" and, just like a physical superhighway, everything is impersonal. Somebody cuts you off and drives slow in front of you and you mutter an oath under your breath. Because you don't see a mother and her newborn, you see a big hunk of metal. There is no community on the pavement of the interstates, it's basically every person for themselves. On the highway, discourse is one-way and usually pretty foul. If they had budged in front of you in the supermarket, you might say "pardon me but I'm in line" or just let it go and imagine her life to be a lot more hectic with a newborn. I surmise that bumper stickers are an actual attempt to let someone know you belong to their community -- although with my luck it's always some conservative with a Ken Cuccinelli bumper sticker reminding me of how much I absolutely loathe living in The South (but I digress).

    Similarly, sites without a community are going to have absolute crap for comments. These aren't people trying to establish a reputation in a community. They don't want to help people or take time to share their views and vision. They have something to say -- could be negative or positive -- and they will say it with little disregard for others. It will be curt, it will be one sided and it will most likely be harsh. Communities are as rare on the "information superhighway" as they are on the real highways of America. Very few parts of the country have people willing to let you in and rarely you might feel an affinity with another person driving your preferred make or model of car or displaying your bumper sticker for your preferred asshole ... er ... politician. Discourse doesn't happen without community. Community is protected by moderation (usually which affects visibility). And communities seem to thrive or have a feedback effect when discourse is strong, respectful and healthy. Gawker, Jezebel, Gizmodo, io9 and Lifehacker have none of the above -- and if they have moderation it is heavy handed deletionary censorship. So all they get is drive-by shootings or white panel vans with painted over windows offering free candy.

    Side note: if you've read this far, you've already exhibited a mild disposition towards a community as I don't think this post (in its entirety) would be read by anyone on the aforementioned sites. If those sites don't establish anything they are doomed to have specious comments.
  • I don't agree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by leptonhead (791323) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:32PM (#39327231)
    Denton's opinion tell us a lot about the kind of web site he visits. The internet is a heterogenous place, and this is reflected in the quality of comments posted to various online forums, just like it is in the quality of the content posted by web site editors (CNN.com is throwing stones in glass houses posting an article like this). Look at a web site like Lambda The Ultimate. The quality of posts there is often on par with peer-reviewed journal articles. The Haskell subreddit also often has incredibly valuable discussions, all provided for free by the readers themselves.
  • by wjousts (1529427) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:33PM (#39327239)
    ....film at 11.
  • by dlenmn (145080) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:33PM (#39327243) Homepage

    This online comment has proven itself to be not worth the trouble, is a waste of resources, and contributes nothing to this online conversation or even captures the intelligence of readers.

  • by ronocdh (906309) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:33PM (#39327255)

    Nick Denton is an idiot. He runs Gawker Media, which is itself a joke of a syndication network. He hires wannabe journalists and gives them bags of cash to bribe industry insiders into leaking stories so he can put them on his blogs. Of course the comments sections on Gawker Media sites are stupid. He also dismisses the politically charged and logically sound comments on Jezebel, which I wouldn't call the epitome of intelligent discourse on the internet, but it's definitely heads and shoulders above anything else hosted by Gawker.

    Look at the comments on this Ars Technica piece [arstechnica.com]: all topical and useful. Look at this comment thread [reddit.com] (particularly this one [reddit.com]! one of the most helpful comments I've ever read) about someone learning how to program in Perl.

    In TFA, Denton says:

    Give other commenters more power to "up-vote" or "down-vote" posts? "We don't really believe in the democratic process of decision-making when it comes to discussion," Denton said.

    What a prick. Of course he doesn't believe in the democratic power of anything, because he's authoritarian, narrow-minded, grossly incompetent as a "journalist"—and deplorable as an editor, too—and all Gawker media sites (I'd entertain a counterargument defending Jezebel) operate on one rule: feed the trolls. Not all the examples of good comments I gave above have user-moderation systems in place, but the ones that don't just have good content that attracts good readers. Nick wouldn't know anything about that.

  • by hierofalcon (1233282) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:34PM (#39327259)
    Cole's Axiom sums it up. The sum of the intelligence on the planet is a constant; the population is growing.
    • Re:Cole's Axiom (Score:4, Informative)

      by MisterMidi (1119653) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:37PM (#39328387) Homepage
      If you actually believe that, guess on which side of the bell curve you are... Fact: the average IQ is 100. Fact: IQ tests have to be adjusted because scores increase by roughly 3 points a decade (the Flynn effect); we are actually becoming more intelligent. Fact: the world population has more than doubled in the last 30 years. If Cole was right, we'd all have less than half the intelligence of 30 years ago. Conclusion: it's bullshit.
  • by BaronHethorSamedi (970820) <thebaronsamedi@gmail.com> on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:35PM (#39327289)
    Maybe Gawker, et al, need to come to grips with the terrifying possibility that online comments absolutely do capture the intelligence of the readership.
    • by vlm (69642) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:58PM (#39327657)

      Maybe Gawker, et al, need to come to grips with the terrifying possibility that online comments absolutely do capture the intelligence of the readership.

      Strongly agreed. I'd never visited any of the listed sites. Hmm, wonder why? Well OK I'll go look today for the first time, I'm going in cold, no preconceived assumptions about content or quality or anything. Just here's a list of URLs and here's my first 10 second introduction to each site.

      www.gawker.com - > title is "Todays gossip is tomorrows news" except its yesterdays news about afghanistan gunman. Then there's just flim flam trash filler like "Your Morning Cry: Dad Comes Home From Afghanistan and Surprises His Daughter" and "The Perfect New York Times Magazine ‘Lives’ Essay" Who reads this mental chewing gum, and how intelligent can their commentary be?

      www.jezebel.com -> title is "Celebrity sex and fashion for women" well that explains why I never went there, although I should enjoy the second topic. Lets examine the deep intellectual discourse of the site. Hmm... "Bobbi Kristina Is Lovingly Haunted by the Ghost of Whitney Houston", OK BZZZZT next!

      www.gizmodo.com -> "the gadget guide". OK sounds interesting, maybe I'll like it, but the field is absolutely flooded with astroturf gadget news/blogs so I donno if I need another. Lets scan the gadget guide's headlines "The Plaid Shirt: Rebellion, Grunge and a Touch Flamboyance" "Taco Bell Doritos Locos Taco Lightning Review: Love and Vomit (Updated)" "Faux Loko: The DIY Drink I Shouldn't Be Telling You About" WTF is this and how is any of it gadget? Maybe the word gadget has changed in my old age, from interesting expensive luxury in my youth, to boring stuff that sucks in my old age. Let me know when they redefine "nerd" because if it gets changed to mean male pr0n star its going to be awkward if you don't warn me first.

      I lost interest about there. Does the list of URLs get any better? Did anyone else do field research like I did?

      Its kind of like putting up a pr0n site exclusively containing pics of sheep rear views (I'm talking species Ovis Aries not sheep as in psychologically, like, American Women) and THEN noticing your audience is nothing but weirdos, and finally publicly complaining that "The Internet is full of nothing but weirdos". No, sir, try posting something other than pictures of sheep behinds and get back to us, OK?

      • by hey! (33014) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:05PM (#39331533) Homepage Journal

        If you want a disturbing example of an effective comment system, look at the neo-Nazi forum Stormfront.

        Stormfront is a logical consequence of the big promise of the Internet, to allow people in small and sometimes unpopular groups to reach out to others like them across the globe and form *virtual* communities. This necessarily includes groups we might not consider *deserving*.

        I did some research on Stormfront for a satire I was writing in set in the 1930s, and it was quite useful because the ideas, even the same sources of information used by the respectable racists of the 30s are still alive there. But Stormfront is not what you'd expect. You have the obvious heavy-breathing nut-cases, but they're consistently upbraided by voices of pseudo-reason. It's not they disagree in the least on things like the racial inferiority of blacks or Asians, or the wickedness of Jews, it's that they object to expressing these beliefs in a manner that reveals the hatred and ignorance behind them.

        What they do at Stormfront is train commenters to sound more reasonable; to take people stuck in isolated fringe groups like the KKK or the neo-Nazis and equip them the rhetorical tools to pursue their agenda in more mainstream political groups. I suspect this may be quite an influential radicalizing force in some near-mainstream groups. Nothing encourages people to give pursue otherwise taboo ideas is the presence of other people who've already taken the plunge. This is a double-edged sword.

  • by pezpunk (205653) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:36PM (#39327299) Homepage

    fivethirtyeight and other specialized blogs can often have worthwhile discussion taking place in the comments section. slashdot itself of course has a long history of being as much a place for discussion as it is for anything else.

    however, in places where the comments section is ancillary to the main purpose of the site (primary-source news sites such as cnn, video sites, etc) seem to contain the most dire comments sections.

    here is the truth: there is no single activity in which a man can engage more thoroughly disaffecting of the human soul than the reading of youtube comments.

  • Who speaks? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LoudMusic (199347) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:36PM (#39327305)

    The ignorant are often more outspoken than the intelligent.

  • How quaint... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jklappenbach (824031) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:36PM (#39327309) Journal
    A comment forum commenting on comments about comments.
  • Gawker? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dragon of the Pants (913545) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:38PM (#39327343) Homepage
    So wait, they interviewed a guy from Gawker/Gizmodo as evidence? Their fucking articles are complete shit in the first place, let alone their comments section. That's like citing Fox News as evidence that all TV is terrible and does not work as a communication method.
  • by deadline (14171) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:38PM (#39327351) Homepage
    quod erat demonstrandum
  • by Winkletron (2591303) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:40PM (#39327387)
    Such a statement assumes that intelligence exists in the first place. Comments sections can work. But, as soon as a sufficiently large audience shows up, it devolves into cesspool of ridiculous, poorly thought through, extreme opinions, and personal attacks. *Insert something racist/homophobic/sexist/generally hateful here*
  • He has a point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zouden (232738) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:40PM (#39327395)

    Comments on blogs and news articles (and youtube videos of course) are almost entirely worthless. Almost no one puts thought into their comments, even when it's attached to a well-thought out article. They don't "capture the intelligence of readers", rather they capture the unintelligence. Another example is twitter. Choose a trending topic, read some of the tweets, and weep for humanity.

    On the other hand, forums can be extremely valuable. I'd class Slashdot into that category, even though technically these are still comments on news articles. Forums can be excellent at capturing the intelligence, wisdom or experience of its members. Some examples that come to mind are Whirlpool or XDA-Dev. Of course you still get ill-thought out nonsense, but the format encourages continued participation in the discussion, rather than blogs where people write some bullshit and then move on to the next story.

  • Still useful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:41PM (#39327407)

    The only thing that keeps me going to my local newspaper's site is the anonymous comment section. While there are some crazy and trolling comments, the anonymous nature of the system leads people to post more provocative points of view (and possibly even more honest opinions, but in any case, many opposing viewpoints are posted and discussed). Sure, there are sometimes personal attacks, but overall it's interesting to read opinions from other local people. There's a minimal moderating system where abusive comments can be reported (and sometimes that system itself is abused by people that want to get rid of opposing viewpoints), as well as a thumbs-up/thumbs-down system.

    When another semi-local paper switched to a non-anonymous facebook commenting system, the usefulness of the comments went way down. (as did some of the more extreme views, but I don't mind reading those extreme views, or even wading through a number of useless "first post!" comments if it means getting more interesting comments).

  • Implementation (Score:4, Informative)

    by travdaddy (527149) <travo.linuxmail@org> on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:43PM (#39327445)
    Look at the comments on a random story here at Slashdot, and then look at the comments on a random story at CNN or Fox News or, if you dare, YouTube.

    There is a right way to do comments and there is wrong way to do comments. In my mind, "moderation" is key. Slashdot has a well thought-out moderation system and the others have absolutely zero moderation, at best a "Like" button.

    Forums with dedicated moderators often have excellent discussion/comments as well.
    • Re:Implementation (Score:4, Interesting)

      by asylumx (881307) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:27PM (#39328189)
      I'm very surprised that you overlooked an obvious difference between the sites you named: On Slashdot, you tend to have an audience with some kind of common ground, some common level of basic understanding in logical thought. On Fox News & CNN, for example, you have "everyone who can get on the internet." which, these days, is not a very high barrier of entry and that barrier only tends to be money, not intellect. Don't get me wrong, the moderation system helps, but it's far from the whole reason Slashdot works better than others.

      Also, please note that I didn't state that everyone on Slashdot is smart, nor did I state that reading Slashdot makes you smart. All I said is that a site like Slashdot is likely to attract smarter readers.
  • by wynterwynd (265580) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:52PM (#39327585)

    I'm quite sure Nick Denton doesn't like user comments. Gawker doesn't like opinions that they weren't paid to show on their site. And they REALLY hate it when you tell them their site redesign was awful, or that time-sloting Kotaku was a moronic idea. And they have just about the worst commenting system out there.

    All bitching about Gawker sites aside, their comment system was truly abysmal. Anyone can comment, but if you don't create an account your comment goes into a deep hole for potential approval by an unknown entity on the 5th of Never. Then if you make an account, your comment will show but it won't show by default unless it's been "featured" by having a starred member promote it at whim or reply to it. And if you're VERY lucky and catch an author on a good day and agree completely with him, you might even get elevated to a star of your own. And then you get some kind of moderation power, assuming you don't get it removed for not kissing Gawker's ass enough. And before you say it, yes I have a star and no it hasn't been removed (at least until an editor reads this, I suppose).

    There is no system for obtaining or losing a star that I can tell aside from author/editor whim. There are no obvious rules for promoting comments. There are no guidelines given if you get a star. The community guidelines are open to potentially abusive interpretation that doesn't always reflect the clear intent. The entire thing is a mystery box that panders to Gawker and censors anything they don't like.

    The system here at /. is much more orderly, I can eliminate all the chum comments just by browsing at +1 or +2. And moderation is clearly defined and passed around in time to everyone who joins the club. We have freedom to post, clear self-policing, and even reward consistent quality. Plus, you get similar article quality and policing of content (with its own slant, but then that's what communities are all about).

    I do think Reddit has probably the most pure and free-form overall model for generating, filtering, and promoting user-generated content, but the quality mileage does vary and there's practically no fact-checking. Something like a "front page" with editor-approved threads might help the mainstream web surfers more easily accept it.

    I just wish I didn't find Gizmodo/Kotaku articles as entertaining as I do. They do bring me bite-sized news with entertaining content and more often than not are teh funny. I can't stand Nick Denton though - he's a greedy shithead whoring out the integrity of his editors/writers with every ad-article, bad design, and site-wrapper he shoves down their throats.

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:59PM (#39327673) Homepage Journal

    Most comment systems are badly implemented. The builders implement whatever they think would work, and when it fails they throw up their hands and say "it can't work". Their main purpose isn't the commentary, so they have no incentive to make a good system.

    Slashdot, on the other hand, directly relies on commentary. As a result, they have gone through several rounds of "we need to make this better". The current system is now robust and useful.

    For example, many sites allow anyone to add commentary to a story. With no filtering, these tend to fill up with noise posts. Beyond the typical spamming, random users simply don't add much to the conversation. Agreement/disagreement with the points made, anecdotal evidence, "me too" posts, and so on. Lots of well-meaning posts with no substance.

    Many sites require an admin to approve the comments. The admins tend to only allow comments which are favorable to a particular viewpoint. Posts which support the article, amplify or extend the central ideas - all well and good, but generally uninformative. You don't get a lot of contrast from Fox News, for instance.

    Slashdot has the best of both worlds - the cream floats to the top. An insightful post will be modded up for all to see, while the noise gets relegated to the dungeons of +0 Troll.

    Furthermore, since Slashdot itself isn't doing the moderation (with one notable exception [slashdot.org]), well written opposing viewpoints get modded up and stay there.

    Reading Slashdot is, dare I say it, a mind expanding experience. It's a great way to get exposed to alternative viewpoints and learn their logical strengths and fallacies. It's much more enlightening than any of the mainstream newspapers.

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:00PM (#39327699)

    ... Intelligence captures you!

  • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:02PM (#39327715)

    For a good laugh, read the comments on any newspapers online editions.. especially any political comment (yeah, xkcd got that right: http://xkcd.com/1019/ [xkcd.com] )

    I have submitted some ideas to our local paper, and got a brush off.. but the anonymous nature, plus people thinking others are WRONG and have to be corrected seem to make it all pretty much unreadable..

    Simple fixes to make an online story's comments normal again:
    1 - Limit the times a person can comment on the same story in a 24 hour period.. I have seen too many times, when there are pages and pages of comments in online newspapers where 4 people are calling each other idiots.. Yes, they have a freedom of speech, but everyone else gets drowned out....
    2 - make it very easy to see all posts made by a person... hey, that makes finding astro-turfers really, really easy..
    3 - maybe make it slightly less anonymous.. possibly post the first 3 octets of the ip address or something.. People start being nicer when they know they are being watched... (hence the spots for camera's ever 12 feet in wal-mart's ceiling)

  • by Shotgun (30919) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:06PM (#39327781)

    From the mid 70s to the mid 80s, America was in the thralls of a love affair with a little two way radios that would let you talk with people a few miles away, while remaining mostly anonymous. You created a "handle", and learned to speak the language. The fad got so popular, movies were created around it. Eventually, the fad died out when people finally got tired of talking to other people without ever saying anything.

    Sound familiar?

  • by msobkow (48369) on Monday March 12, 2012 @01:25PM (#39328145) Homepage Journal

    Slashdot is populated by intelligent, educated engineers and programmers for the most part. Yet even here there are specious and flawed arguments, knee-jerk reactions, dogmatic dictators, and all the other ills of society.

    Yet I wouldn't want Slashdot to go away (obviously), and I wouldn't want the comments at newspaper sites and such to go away, either. There are some people who stick to discussing the article at hand and it's impacts, and for those few worthwhile comments, we'll just have to put up with the trolls, bigots, racists, and the rest of the trash.

    The biggest advantage of the Comments sections is that anyone and everyone can have a say, whereas only a very few can have their rebuttal published as a Letter to the Editor.

    You may not read the comments, but I do. Taking away that thread of discussion because it didn't work out the way some had hoped would be censorship for no other reason than "I don't like what's being said."

Wasn't there something about a PASCAL programmer knowing the value of everything and the Wirth of nothing?

Working...