It’s time for “that” article. I guess I avoided the subject because I wanted some more time to think about it, but the time is at hand. I guess I wanted to avoid the subject, because this is just going to be an opinion in the sea of many opinions. There are no facts I can offer, only my experience that isn’t going to sway anyone’s opinion. Whatever you feel about the subject you are probably going to feel the same way.
The ”it” subject, as you might be asking, is commenting.
So why even write about it? Because as I have seen already, and thinking ahead, I am seeing a movement to discredit comment sections. My opinion falls into the camp of whether you like them or not, comments are fundamental to the internet. Removing opinion from the Internet, is like removing text from the page of a book. This is what information exchange is all about. I find that even when I don’t feel like commenting, having the comment section adds something to the article and lets me see people’s opinions to a situation. This is especially true when it comes to news, as I have found out information that had been left out of the article is often filled in by commenter s. That is the point of the Internet, freedom of information and not one-sidedness.
I find for those, particularly older, find this concept foreign. I get that, those that grew up in the generation of morning newspapers and six o’clock nightly newscasts are going to find many voices scary. Now I know this isn’t all, but for most having to think is a scary concept. It is also a choice, and for those that do not like choice find many voices hard to grasp. Again, I understand, I had a Father who likes the comfort of a schedule. Coming home from work, the extra thought power is not welcome; there are those that want to read the works of others. It sounds condescending, but that is not my point, I understand the thought process that says I want to read a book and not write one.
However, because of the nature of commenting, the thought and work that goes into even the simplest of comments, it tends to lead toward response and thought. Especially being that most comments are written as opinions, which lead the mind to respond back in some manner. Going back to the generational differences one has to understand the cultural changes to understand the push back on commenting, and open forms of opinion and debate. Many of the older generations were raised and lived in a society where news was not questioned, because it was brought from a “trusted” source. Because of presentation, someone could be trusted. As I said before everyone has a bias and agenda. In addition, this is true of any generation at any time in history. No matter how trusted the source their bias and agendas will slip into the conversation, whether intentional or not.
Because of the change from small communities to the global community, we find that information is more transparent than ever. And this fact scares people. For any given news story there are multitudes of voices, and each view shows a different vantage that was not present in the other. This is what scares some, the fact that it takes work to find truth. Being able to put trust, and the revelation that trust was misspent in the past creates distrust. Some embrace, others ignore, and some run screaming from this fact. In addition, this fact is also true for commenting, now once was only thought in someone’s head can be read by all. All of a sudden, what was a thought inside the head is now bared for all to see.
And then what of the negatives, that of the troll and such. Let’s face a reality that few want to admit, the negatives you find online also live in real life. I sometimes wonder if people have ever heard of pranks.
Then there is the argument of anonymity, and this one is the most contentious point to commenting. Again looking at real life, we see that the same things that happen online, happen in real life. One point that gets lost is that while some will hide behind anonymity to post hate or prank, some do because they need the protection. And they both have an equal point to the debate. If we didn’t have the protection of anonymity some of the information that has been important to revolution and change, would not be happen like they have. Think what would happen if we had no whistleblower protection laws. And then there is the question of freedom of speech, because we don’t like some speech, does this mean we must cover up some of it because we don’t like what we hear? If the Internet is about information and openness of information, is not censoring and shielding opinion against the principle of the Internet?
However, even beyond that, when outed for crudeness and wrongness, people tend to show they do not care.
Something that has always perplexed me is the fact, that when you have the technology to take care of a perceived problem, few times do we take advantage of it. One of the reasons many online sites do not like comments is because the money and time it takes to police the community. Many CMS (Content Management Software) software packages have built in features that allow filtering, or holding of comments that match criteria set up by the software. Some will be quick to say this is a cost in itself, but I never understood that when many free, open source solutions exist. This blog which is running on WordPress, includes many filtering solutions that keeps comments in line, WordPress is free. I do understand that commercial outfits will not want to use for open source software for control reasons. Then the question comes down to whether you want to encourage community participation or discourage it.
I admit this is not an easy subject to tackle, and I know one that makes the issue harder is the fact that we are a more connected world. More people who never had their voice heard before are now finding the power of being heard now. This is also the growing pains of a world in change, some will welcome and embrace, while others wish for their world of sameness. It’s going to be an interesting ride regardless.