Monday, September 30, 2013

On online comments

Popular Science
Popular Science (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was having a hard time commenting on Robertson's "comments" post (oh the irony) so I decided to make my own thread. It seems to me that online comments, especially anonymous comments, are proof that marketplace of ideas has failed. As proved by Popular Science, who shut down their comments because they distracted from the discussion of science, claiming that, "even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader's perception of a story, recent research suggests." This shows that truth does not always win. In fact, it's so overshadowed by bullshit that publications like Popular Science are taking away their marketplace of ideas entirely. Milton weeps.
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....J.Michael Robertson said...

Yah, good post. So we have an ethical question, though the ethics of it lies with the publisher of the item that drew out the comments. What do you do about useless abusive comments? The 'easy' answer is to moderate them. But that is labor intensive and suddenly we are talking about the Price of Truth - why invest precious resources stepping on trolls? I have read that one possible solution - let's call it a palliative - is to require all commenters to register, thus reducing their anonymity. But I've see plenty of comments from registered folk on whom you can backtrack. As I said, good post, since one of the alleged charms of the Net is that you are interactive with your readers and draw on their crowd-sourced wisdom.

Scarlette said...

I think the beauty behind anonymity is being able to not have the fear of being judged or punished for voicing your opinions you normally wouldnt feel safe to say in public. The only issue is today people feel way too comfortable behind their computer screens. People now post things they normally wouldnt say in a real life situation. The computers anonymity gives them strength and courage to say things (and most time crude and hurtful) to people without suffering the consequences. I feel as if virtual personality disorders have devloped online. People are one way in person - following their social ethical codes while online they are a complete other person where all rules - social and not- are complrtely out the window.

Haley Zaremba said...

I agree. I think there is a beauty to anonymity, which makes it sad that it's so often abused. But I think that online interaction, especially anonymous online interaction, is not only allowing people to hide, but allowing them to totally disconnect from human empathy and choose to imagine that the person they're lashing out at does not experience real, harmful consequences. Out of sight, out of mind.
That's a little off-track, but I think it's an unfortunate consequence of the internet age.
So does Louis C.K.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

And a good comment thread. I like the idea of online "virtual personality disorders." I can imagine commenters who for various reasons - retaliation from employers or crazy neighbors? - need to be anonymous. But anonymity certainly seems to bring the worst in a great many people, thus defeating, as HZ said, the idea that there is a marketplace of ideas in which the good ones prevail. I wonder how many online publications have effective mechanisms for allowing a free flow of ideas while weeding out the trolls and mud wrestlers?

Yes, it would make a term paper.