The Verge Shuts Down News Comments To Help 'Build Relationships'

from the ill-communication dept

Oh, the poor, lowly comments section. These days, you can’t turn a corner without the comment section being blamed for the death of civility, falling gold prices, and the general, entropic heat malaise of the universe. If you haven’t noticed, there’s a bit of a trend in the news industry afoot wherein you kill off the comment section, mindlessly shove your community over to Facebook if they want to comment, then proudly proclaim you’re doing this not because you’re too lazy or cheap to moderate, but because you’re really just super passionate about improving online conversation. It’s kind of a thing.

The Verge seems to be the latest news outlet to join the trend, co-founder Nilay Patel informing readers this week that the website will be shutting down the site’s comment section because the Internet has just gotten too kooky to concentrate. Like other comment section killers, The Verge rather proudly proclaims that this move is part of an effort to build better relationships:

“What we’ve found lately is that the tone of our comments (and some of our commenters) is getting a little too aggressive and negative ? a change that feels like it started with GamerGate and has steadily gotten worse ever since. It’s hard for us to do our best work in that environment, and it’s even harder for our staff to hang out with our audience and build the relationships that led to us having a great community in the first place.”

Nothing quite says “building relationships” like removing the ability for your readers to publicly speak to you. Meanwhile, if you can’t do your “best work” because a few obnoxious trolls can’t stop pooping in your comment section, maybe don’t read the comments until you’re done working? As we noted when Reuters, ReCode, Vox and everybody else killed comments in the noble pursuit of high planes of communication, by closing comments down you’re sending a clear message to your community and lifeblood that their input doesn’t matter.

And as some (whoa, the irony) Verge commenters point out, killing comments (as is done at Verge sister site Vox.com) doesn’t do much for the local flora and fauna, either:

To The Verge’s credit they’ll still allow forum posts and indicate the comments will return eventually, but the pretense that we’re building a better community by putting a collective bag over said community’s head never seems to get tired. As numerous sites have illustrated, it doesn’t take much work to create a more civil, less-batshit comment section. Some do it with minimal moderation. Others, like us at Techdirt, try to create better incentives for good comments and encourage a strong and vocal community, rather than seeing comments as some sort of “task” to be “dealt” with. Hopefully The Verge’s comment vacation is a step toward that direction, and not toward a permanent community comment vacation.

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Comments on “The Verge Shuts Down News Comments To Help 'Build Relationships'”

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74 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

'Community', right...

I’m sure the Verge’s move here, much like every other site that’s eliminated the comments section, is all about ‘building up a community’, and has absolutely nothing to do with commentors calling out crap in the articles and pointing out where and when they get things wrong.

Nope, it’s all about building a thriving community by eliminating it altogether, clearly.

thejynxed (profile) says:

Oh Verge...

Yep, was going to say that myself – they’ve been BTFO on their own articles for journalistic mistakes (like asserting opinion as fact) so many times by their readers that they’ve now decided to close the comment section entirely.

TBH, I stopped visiting that site ages ago due to such nonsense, and I don’t foresee them maintaining readership levels by doing this, either.

anonymous Dutch coward says:

comments and comments

comment quality has a lot to do with the site. some youtube sites (as a whole youtube doesn’t have the best commenters to put it mildly) have excellent comments and a great community, but within the same topic you can have a site with kindergarten quality. personally, i read ars technica for a big part for the comments. to see if the commenters notice flaws in the piece or to find out if they add there expertise. killing the comment section is suicide, if you have that kind of quality.

as3DF2 says:

Re: comments and comments

Agreed. I only read The Guardian because they have a reasonable comment policy (but not as good as TD).

But it would seem that poorer quality publications have a strong disincentive on comments because:

1) Their content attracts immature fools that turn the comment section into a cesspool.
2) Their content inspires people to attack them for being incorrect, misleading etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

This trend is so annoying. I’ve learned which sites don’t have comment sections and avoid their articles, even if it’s a topic I’m interested in.

Many of the sites that still have comments make them hard to find. They’ll sandwich the Expand Comments button between advertising sections.

What happens when everyone abandons Facebook? What happens when thirty years down the road students are writing articles for a class about an event that occurs today and there’s less material to work with because the comments are lost?

A lack of comments tells me that they want to return to the good old days of one-way information transmission newspapers where the only “comments” are staff-selected letters to the editor.

Anonymous Coward says:

Was a time when everyone from newspapers to magazines wanted online involvement from the community because they needed bucks and the way to that was to get the community buying by being involved.

So now that journalism has slipped a few pegs by firing folks, these same places now want to run for cover. The circle has turned 360 and it now appears they want less involvement and less readers. Good luck with that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s about anonymity isn’t it? Facebook makes you identifiable. People generally don’t want their mothers/wives/friends knowing that they think girls deserve to be raped, or the holocaust didn’t happen, or that they call people out as cunts 3 times an hour.
you see? The worst things won’t get said.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

GamerGate started about ethics in games journalism. There are more succinct explanations out there but basically something went viral and major games news websites went dark on the issue, deleted comments, forum posts, ect. As we all know, this just fueled the fire and it blew up from there.

GamerGate shed light on the incestuous relationship between publishers and video game journalism. This screws with the gravy train and that couldn’t be tolerated. Just look up ‘GameJournoPros’ to see the level collusion going on.

The problem here is that this obviously is not relegated to games journalism but journalism as a whole. In my opinion this fact is why Gamergate was vilified from the start. The whole harassment thing is a great way to put someone on the defensive and re-frame the conversation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“GamerGate started about ethics in games journalism.”

Yeah, because the start of GamerGate was an online rant by a jealous ex-boyfriend that falsely implicated an unethical relationship between his game designer ex and a game journalist who had never reviewed one of her games. That makes sense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

GamerGate put words on a trend thats been poisoning journalism for quite some time.
Like when CNN’s journalists get ’embedded’ with troops at the front and becomes a front for the Pentagon media machine.
Or when journalists become sock puppets for political factions in exchange for career-promoting ‘access’.
The details of GamerGate per se did not matter. The issue it raised did.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Bullshit. Game journalism is only an issue because (some) gamers take it seriously. They could be arguing over whether Krieg or Gaige is the better BL2 expansion character and it would have the same lack of significance in the real world.

The people who listen to reviews and hype are guilty of promoting that type of journalism with their eyes and their ad clicks. If they want some kind of reform, misogynist rants and rape and death threats are not the way to go about it. Boycott the game media instead.

Journalists getting embedded with troops or repeating government propaganda as fact actually affect people’s lives. Game journalism is a consumer issue for man-children who rely on groupthink and rumor to tell them what entertainment media to purchase. There’s a significant difference there.

Anon says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Get off your high horse.
Game journalism is taken seriously because people are interested. If you don’t care, troll somewhere else.

You are building a big straw man.
Keep deflecting serious criticism with “misogynistic rants, rape and death threats”. This is the reason GamerGate still is a thing. Everyone arguing against it uses these fallacious arguments …

It really shows your character that you need to resort to name calling when talking about game enthusiasts.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“fallacious arguments” – I saw those rants and threats with my own eyes, there is nothing fallacious about them. You’re going to say ‘but they weren’t made by gamers’, and maybe that’s true – they were made from the side of the gamers though. They were real.

A question. How could anyone be surprised or offended that a field of journalism based around a multi billion dollar industry has kickbacks and freebies and junkets and drugs. That’s the one part thats never made sense.
Boy gets his heart broken and spills it on the internet – makes sense (stupid, but makes sense). 4-chan hates girls -makes sense. (again, stupid).
But the “oh my god they’re on the make, that’s unethical”, I could never buy it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Your argument goes both ways. Gamergaters were doxxed, threatened, fired, ddos’d, ect. You don’t hear anyone talk about this much.

Who did this? Logically we could assume ‘the other side’, but this is false because there is absolutely no way to know who did what.

Your argument fails the test, and again you fail to recognize the issue at hand: ethics in journalism. The problem with attacking journalism’s gravy train is that they control the narrative and have and will use that to their advantage.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

You fail to differentiate game “journalism” from real journalism (Hint: Game “journalism” is and always has been advertising and public relations, dating back to the heyday of Nintendo Power, even if its by a third party selling eyeballs and ad clicks to advertisers).

Adults reading the modern equivalent of Nintendo Power and throwing a fit over an overhyped and irrelevant issue is significantly different than the narratives controlled by the actual media. The real media sways votes and influences politics and perceptions of wars and welfare and poverty and crime.

The worst scenario with unethical game journalism is that you spent $80 on a pre-order because you believed what a reviewer said about the game instead of waiting to see what other gamers said about it after it was released.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Sorry. Defending GamerGate is likely defending the Confederate flag or the “traditional definition of marriage.” Regardless of whether anything you say has merit, you’re standing on the wrong side of history. If there’s anything actually serious and mature behind GamerGate, it needs to disconnect from the movement to be taken seriously by anyone else. Just using the term in a positive way is indicative of a lack of self-awareness. It’s like someone dressing in blackface and expecting to be taken seriously when discussing racial issues.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

REGARDLESS OF whether anything you say has MERIT, you’re standing on the wrong side of history.

DO YOU EVEN READ WHAT YOU ARE WRITING?
You are unable to discuss VALID IDEAS because of opposing viewpoints?

If there’s anything actually serious and mature behind GamerGate, it needs to disconnect from the movement to be taken seriously by anyone else.

How much do you even know about GamerGate?
Do you understand how a hashtag works?
Have you ever been to the subreddit /r/KotakuInAction?
Are you aware of the Harassment Patrol, an initiative to combat harassment happening on the hashtag.
Are you aware that there is NO coordinated harassment by GamerGate, but rather a few idiots (often called trolls).
Are you aware that most harassment reported by the press is happening by “egg accounts” with literally NO CONNECTION TO GAMERGATE (the most prominent one would be the death threats against Brianna Wu by DeathToBrianna). But hey, GamerGate did it, we don’t need proof.

But I like your way of thinking. This way I won’t need to engage with feminists, because of #KillAllMen.

Just using the term in a positive way is indicative of a lack of self-awareness.

I can assure you that most are pretty self-aware and are able to discuss ideas not labels.

It’s like someone dressing in blackface and expecting to be taken seriously when discussing racial issues.

Please stop oppressing all those #transnigger out there…
But then again, I can see people incapable of discussing ideas.

Another Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

You are funny… You keep insisting on the no true scot falacy. Gamergate by the numbers was not about ethics in game journalism, was that 10% of the itneractions? probably less.

Most of it was discussion about abuse, and dishing out abuse. It was a trolls’ paradise.

You are saying: that is not what gamergate meant! The meaning is completely different, here let me explain. But that’s not how it works, the meaning is given by those who use it and hear it. And the meaning you are trying to give gamergate is lost on the noise, your defense of it places you on the same side of the trolls, your “there vitims on the other side too” sound weak because everybody “knows” the biggest victims of gamergate were girls with public exposure and relationship to games. You lost the battle for the meaning of gamergate, an just as the nazis corrupted the swastika, #gamergate now means abuse, threats and the worst of the gaming world, disguised as “ethics in gaming journalism”.

Leave it, learn the lesson, and next time, denounce the trolls that take your meaning and tranform it into something else. It isn’t the first time a symbol represents somehting different from it’s original meaning. And on gamergate, the “original meaning” is already corrupted, since it started as a rant with false accusations from an ex-boyfriend.

You just don’t stand a chance trying to reclame such a hatefull event as something good.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So this is a good reason to censor discussion about the topic? They censored it because it reflected bad on someone in their ‘in’ crowd. They got called out on it and went on to Streisand the whole thing.

Again, good diversion from the actual topic at hand: ethics in journalism. Funny how you don’t even acknowledge that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I never defended the decision for anyone to use GamerGate as an excuse to shutdown comments permanently. I was simply pointing out the false narrative about GamerGate being about ethics in game journalism.

I disagree, however, with the idea that they shutdown GamerGate discussions because it reflected poorly on them. GamerGate was a troll’s paradise. It was an excuse to go apeshit with angry rants on topics completely unrelated to game journalism. It was the Orwellian two minutes hate that lasted for months.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Gamergate started because of censorship, it’s the Streisand effect in full swing. Who was doing the censoring? Games media. What is this about again? Ethics in journalism! This started about a stupid spat that opened the window on some minor corruption – their censorship is what blew this up.

Anything can be a trolls paradise – all that matters is how creative the troll is. I’ll concede, however, not much creativity was needed to troll Gamergate which is why I think it was as bad as it was.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

You’ve got your chicken and egg in the wrong order. People started shutting down Gamergate “discussions”/rants/threats/trolling after Gamergate had already started. Find me an online account of Gamergate that shows censorship happening before Gamergate was a thing. Why would anyone censor something that doesn’t yet exist?

“Because these discussions often featured harassment of Quinn and others, threatening assault, rape, murder, doxing, and the planning and coordination of such threats, a number websites blocked users, removed posts, and created rules to prevent the discussion of such activities.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamergate_controversy#Gamergate_hashtag

As I said before, if there were any serious, legitimate criticism to be leveled by Gamergaters in the area of ethics in game journalism (as if that’s really a significant topic to get butthurt over), they poisoned the well for anyone to bother listening to them because of their vicious ad hominems and harassment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

There are more succinct explanations out there but basically something went viral and major games news websites went dark on the issue, deleted comments, forum posts, ect

…explanations out there but basically something went viral…

…something…

Now why would you choose to omit what that “something” is? I mean, it must have been some kind of expose blowing the lid off the corruption of triple A developers strong-arming reviewers and getting them fired for not stepping into line, and definitely not some cringe-worthy teenage-level rant from an angry dude about an ex-girlfriend full of demonstrably false accusations intended to sic a horde of lonely 4channers on a “feminazi” in an attempt to ruin her life. Right?

But, please, expound on this so-called “something.” I’m on the edge of my seat.

Loki says:

I’m sure the increasingly “aggressive and negative” tone of comments these days has nothing to do with people increasingly realizing they no longer have any real voice in much of anything anymore.

Further stifling people’s expression clearly seems like an ideal way to put people’s concerns and dissatisfaction to rest.

Anonymous Coward says:

Techdirt does comments brilliantly.

I think it’s due to the insightful and funny buttons and the weekly recap on the results. It promotes considered responses and recognises merit in the two categories while at the same time drawing eyes back to the original articles for the interested.

Genius.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The downside of that though is it promotes groupthink. People try too hard to say what they think the hive mind will find funny/insightfull. Then the weekly award ceremony is like a little circle-jerk for the lucky few whose predictability gets rewarded.

(I notice you’ve had a scratch behind the ears and been given the first word, good boy, your sycophancy has not gone unnoticed)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

What’s your point? Would you rather contrary comments were marked funny and insightful, on the mere basis that they are contrary? Endless spam messages, insults and insinuations about piracy the users may or may not have committed?

That’s what qualifies as insightful for you?

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’ve had insightful votes for tellin’ it like it is. I’ve also had no insightful votes for tellin’ it like it is. It’s the community that decides whether the comment is insightful or not.

I give insightful votes all the time for posts I consider insightful. They don’t always get the lightbulb and I’m not sure how many votes it takes to give them one. The point is…

…you’re full of crap.

JMT says:

Re: Re: Re:

“The downside of that though is it promotes groupthink. People try too hard to say what they think the hive mind will find funny/insightfull.”

I’m not sure who that’s more insulting too, the commenters you accuse of pandering for votes or the readers you accuse of being too dumb to make an informed judgement call on a comment. Suffice to say I think you’re completely wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The problem with that logic is that you can’t distinguish between things said sincerely, things said sincerely but also due to groupthink, or things said only due to groupthink because motivations are usually indiscernible (except those of the trolls).

I write what I sincerely believe here and sometimes I get funny or insightful votes and sometimes I don’t. I don’t mind disagreeing with others on some points and I don’t change my perspective just because a different viewpoint appears to be the dominant one here.

I’m also an anonymous coward. How do you distinguish me from anyone else? How exactly do you reliably quantify groupthink?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

^edit

Not many sites can say that
I dont mean that harshly to 40% of the sites in question, some of you guys and gals are good guys and gals doing good things, just, sometimes, you need that extra quality…..top of the range amateur quality, not that proffesionalism we cant have a comment section, smiley willeys, toe the line type of quality……crap

Anonymous Coward says:

I still read sites without comments, but I obsessively read Techdirt due to their open comment section.

I give Techdirt major respect for putting up with comments. It must be tough sometimes as an author. If I wrote for Techdirt, I wouldn’t be able to read the comments on my own news articles. I don’t handle criticism well and my blood pressure would rise too much.

Some authors just need to learn to stay out of the comment section for their own articles if they can’t handle it. Problem solved.

Violynne (profile) says:

What we’ve found lately is that the tone of our comments (and some of our commenters) is getting a little too aggressive and negative…

This, readers, is a classic case of denial. What The Verge really meant to say was this:

“At The Verge, we’ve noticed more negative commentary regarding our news stories, and how readers are mislead by titles and are greeted with less-than-stellar reporting.

Since we can’t stand constructive criticism regarding how we try to generate more ad revenue (please be sure to Like us!), we’re basically going to tell our readers to shut the hell up.”

Congratulations, The Verge. You will do precisely the opposite of what you intended to do.

As a veteran, here’s a response I’d like to share with you when people sometimes asked why I volunteered to face death: “I may not like what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Enter Corporate America to kill the very definition of the word “freedom”.

Anonymous Coward says:

I love comments myself

I see a lot of wild comments, weird comments, mean comments and insane comments on articles and videos and I love it. Many times their are commenters who are very schooled on the subject and provide further insights. Other times there are comments that really make you think. Yet other times the comments point out major holes or flaws with the article or video. And other times they provide lots of humor. Yea, you have to sift through the junk, but a YouTube channel w/o comments just feels lifeless. I actually wonder how long a channel would last with no comments.

Anonymous Coward says:

I _was_ a huge fan of The Verge...

… but quite a lot of my fandom was because of the comments section.

Now, not so much – I spend less time on the site in favor of other sites.

I’m actually not sure what they meant by the comments being ‘bad’ – I personally did not see that, internet comment forums are always a bit extremist and The Verge was way, way better than most places (like YouTube, which I still read).

John85851 (profile) says:

Problems with moving comments to Facebook

There a few problems with moving a site’s comments to Facebook:

1) By tying into Facebook, the site is blocking any comments from people who won’t or can’t get a Facebook account.

2) Yes, there are a lot of people who won’t comment on a site because the comment is tied to their Facebook account… for good and bad. It probably won’t stop the worst comments since those kinds of people don’t care what everyone else on Facebook things about them.
Instead, this affects the people who try to keep a civilized account at Facebook and who may not want their friends to know that they’re posting a critique of a “My Little Pony” comic book.

3) And like some other posters are saying, what happens when people move to another site, such as how people moved from Friendster to MySpace to Facebook?
Or should all the sites switch to yet another comment platform?

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