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Comment quality – the tide is turning?

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Saturday May 29, 2010 )

It seems some major sites are rethinking how they deal with user comments after increasing numbers of attention-seekers litter comment threads with, well, crap.

Last year I published an article called “Rethinking user comments” after getting sick and tired of seeing interesting discussions turn into link-drops, peppered with “me-tooers” degrade into slinging matches, off topic rants and generally aggressive behavior.

A recent article on NPR states that human behavior researchers have found when there is an environment where people are vying for attention, people know intuitively that it’s the nasty stuff that gets reactions.

A site I used to be associated with encouraged this sort of shock-jock stuff, thinking that “controversy” generated more visits and interactivity. I considered it just noise that scared reasonable people away leaving the site with a community of idiots… of which there are certainly no shortage of. I believed that over time, people would increasingly feel like I do and comment threads would be avoided at the first sign of ad-hominem attacks.

Some larger sites are understanding the difference between quality vs. quantity and are beginning to take a tighter rein in regard to user comments. NPR cites a couple of examples where software is being used to screen comments for inflammatory language, staff are becoming more involved in moderation or making the commenting process a little less anonymous.

I’d like to think that one day I could go back to perusing comment threads to see some valuable information added or a reasonable, civil debate on the information provided. This won’t happen while site owners continue to confuse freedom of speech with freedom from responsibility and accountability – which is just the worst form of anarchy.


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