Friday, December 30, 2005

The Collapse of Comments

Has anyone else noticed a worrying decline in the quality of commenting in the general blogosphere? It's not so much the long-established blogs with enough traffic to draw a serious comments thread, as these usually have enough of a community to be partly self-policing, but those blogs that have recently switched on comments who are worst affected. Juan Cole, for example, recently flipped the switch to let the public comment on Informed Comment, and the results are depressing. Bill Arkin's Early Warning, a rare example of a start-up high traffic blog, has much of the same trouble. A mixture of weird, paranoid lefty trolls demanding a more venomous assault on the global conspiracy in the characteristic US heartland-populist/Know-Nothing style and crazed wingnuts yelling in their own particular fashion, bizarrely obsessed with rape/sexual harassment language.

What's wrong with these fucking people? It's almost worth getting up a campaign to have sane bloggers make a point of posting to the threads worst affected in order to dilute the poison.


md said...

Not sure about anywhere else, but I had assumed the number of comments at Juan Cole's site were low because a) people are used to discussing his posts elsewhere and b) they leave me (at least) with the impulse not to comment unless I have something to add, query, etc. Not speaking Arabic or having time to pour over Middle-Eastern news reports myself, I end up not having much to say.

Of course, I have that impulse (or non-impulse) all over the place, so maybe it's just me.

Charlie Stross said...

It's depressing, but it's par for the internet.

When I first got on usenet, circa 1989, the level of debate was pretty high. Yes, there were idiots and flame wars -- but trolling was rare, spam hadn't been invented yet, and the unwashed masses hadn't even heard the thing existed yet. Today it's a cesspool, most of it almost completely useless.

Today, blogs are a widespread phenomenon with millions of people trying to do it. As it turns into a mass medium to compete with EastEnders, you get an influx of idiots. And the ones who feel compelled to post the most always seem to suffer from something uncannily like Tourette's syndrome (so I'd better shut up before I add to it).

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