Motherboard's Version Of 'Valuing Discussion' Involves No Longer Letting You Comment

from the we-like-you-better-wearing-this-muzzle,-ok? dept

Add Motherboard to the quickly growing list of news websites killing their comment section because they're so breathlessly in love with reader interaction and visitor conversation. Like The Verge, Recode, Popular Science, The Daily Beast and numerous other websites before it, Motherboard has decided that there's simply no value whatsoever to having a healthy, on-site local community. As such the website is shoving any and all reader interaction over to less transparent and noisier discourse avenues like Facebook, Twitter and e-mail because comments as a "medium" are inherently somehow unhealthy:
"We at Motherboard have decided to turn off our comments section, a decision we've debated for a year or more. What finally turned the tide was our belief that killing comments and focusing on other avenues of communication will foster smarter, more valuable discussion and criticism of our work. What percentage of comments on any site are valuable enough to be published on their own? One percent? Less? Based on the disparity in quality between emails we get and the average state of comments here and all over the web, I think the problem is a matter of the medium."
One, just because only some readers can be bothered to comment doesn't magically devalue the entire comment section, as many reader simply lurk. I'm a lurking reader quick to head to the comment section to see if there's anything a reporter may have overlooked, misunderstood, or missed entirely. Did that tech blogger screw up the Wi-Fi specs on device Y or battery size of gadget Z? Does anybody else think this story makes light of X or misinterprets Y? Does anybody else in here feel the way I do? As a writer I find comments similarly valuable, even if you sometimes have to dig through detritus.

And that's just it: news comments foster community, but they also provide transparency, accountability, and crowdsourced fact checking right below the article, and that's what many sites like least of all. They just won't admit it.

In contrast, Motherboard pretends that their reporting will become just that much better if it doesn't have to worry about pesky public reader interaction:
"Good comment sections exist, and social media can be just as abrasive an alternative. But for a growing site like ours, I think that our readers are best served by dedicating our resources to doing more reporting than attempting to police a comments section in the hopes of marginally increasing the number of useful comments. That doesn't offer any real value to other readers of the site, and we'd all wager that the scorched Earth nature of comments section just stifles real conversation."
Unlike other news websites, Motherboard at least admits that it doesn't want to spend the time and money to cultivate a thriving local community. Still, it's a bit disingenuous to suggest that weeding the troll comment garden comes at the cost of better reporting. In fact, some studies have shown that simply having a writer show up in the comment section and briefly treat site visitors like human beings raises the discourse bar dramatically. And as several websites have noted, having a healthy comment section pays dividends in the form of loyal visitors. By blocking comments, you're sending that community elsewhere (not that Techdirt minds -- Motherboard readers are welcome to comment here).

Motherboard seems to miss absolutely all of the benefits of on-site community, consistently coming back to this strange idea that as a "medium" comments are inherently flawed:
"Comment sections inspire quick, potent remarks, which too easily veer into being useless or worse. Sending an email knowing that a human will actually see it tends to foster thought, which is what we want.
Because nitwits never send barely coherent single-sentence idiot bile via e-mail, right? Comments are simply a blank slate input field. How is that a flawed "medium"? The flaw is it forces outlets to work just a little bit harder, and doesn't allow them to filter what gets said and heard. As such, Motherboard yearns to head back to the era of "letters to the editor," which it may or may not respond to or publish:
"So in addition to encouraging that you reach out to our reporters via email or social media, you can now also share your thoughts with editors via letters@motherboard.tv. Once a week or thereabouts we'll publish a digest of the most insightful letters we get."
Or hey, we might not. And that's the problem: when only outlet-approved voices are made public you've muted an entire avenue of news dialogue correction and thrown the baby out with the bathwater, all in a misguided belief that we should try and force the open Internet back into the Walter Cronkite era of audience interaction. Of course all of these news editors and authors are just so dumbstruck and dizzy with the idea of not having to interact with snotty critics anymore, they can't see the forest (news as a healthy, fluid public conversation) for the trees (bile-lobbing blowhards).

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  • identicon
    chris, 5 Oct 2015 @ 4:23pm

    Comments can be valuable, but...

    I think it depends on what you do with them and who your audience is. Andrew Sullivan at the daily dish featured reader emails front and center to fantastic effect, even (and often) when the writers disagreed with him.

    Half the comments on vice properties are spam work at home ads, and the rest were never worth saving. The audience just isn't there--unlike at this site where commenters can usually be bothered to know what they're talking about.

    There's also research showing that for things like climate change news, idiotic or combative comments just make less-informed readers less likely to believe the article and draw any meaningful conclusions from it.

    Not every news site on the web has to be an uncensored free-for-all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:20pm

      Re: Comments can be valuable, but...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Whatever (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:21pm

      Re: Comments can be valuable, but...

      Alas, Chris, the problem at hand is the belief that everything has to be open for discussion. That means that everytime you say something, it must be open for whatever comments come not matter what.

      I tend to agree with you - it's often incompatible with the goals of a given site. Between the comment spam and off topic postings, most new comment sections are useless anyway. The costs and efforts required to police the comment sections are not small.

      Many sites runs wordpress as their backend for news sites. Let's just say that comments in wordpress are not only more difficult to moderate, but it is also an insanely popular and fixed input system, which comment spammers love. Opening a wordpress site to comments pretty much signs your life away if you intend to moderate the comments at all:

      http://wptavern.com/lessons-i-learned-moderating-comments-in-wordpress

      I actually think that comments at this point have reached a similar point that email reached a long time ago: The ratio of good to bad got so far out of hand, that people started to take steps to turn from an open system of "accept all mail" to whitelist solutions. That in many ways is the only way that email continues to survive.

      Finally, there is one other thing that news organizations face that most of the rest us won't have to deal with: Getting a Drudging. That happens when Drudge Report posts up a link with an outrageous headline (Libs Planning to Take Your Guns and Shoot You With them!), and then every conservative nutjob on the planet shows up to post obnoxious, poorly informed attacks on the site, the writer, and anyone who happens to agree in any way with that the site has posted. It has to be very discouraging for readers of a site to see their opinions trashed at every turn to satisfy someone else's agenda. There is a point where turning of the comments helps to stop this mindless war of words.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 6:46pm

        Re: Re: Comments can be valuable, but...

        the problem at hand is the belief that everything has to be open for discussion. That means that everytime you say something, it must be open for whatever comments come not matter what.
        Your logical ability is not showing here, sonny jim. Just because you allow something to be open to discussion, does not mean that it must be open for whatever comments come no matter what. Off topic can be pruned, full abuse can be pruned, incomprehensible ravings can be pruned.

        If you cannot defend your point of view, then you will naturally head towards blocking any contrary or alternative view. Any decent apologist can stand his/her ground.
        Between the comment spam and off topic postings, most new comment sections are useless anyway.
        I find that there are many off-topic posts that start very interesting discussions. Conversations between people never stay on-topic, they are dynamic. This is what facilitates the transfer of ideas and concepts and hopefully sharpens the mental abilities of those participating. Even those who have difficulty in stringing two syllables together can provide interesting insight at times. My 18 month old grandson is a case in point.
        then every conservative nutjob on the planet shows up to post obnoxious, poorly informed attacks on the site
        Pot calling kettle black.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Whatever (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 10:24pm

          Re: Re: Re: Comments can be valuable, but...

          "Just because you allow something to be open to discussion, does not mean that it must be open for whatever comments come no matter what. Off topic can be pruned, full abuse can be pruned, incomprehensible ravings can be pruned. "

          Read the rest of my comment. Often the efforts required to do so are way too much for a site to handle. It's a ton of work, and if it's not really adding value to the site, perhaps it's just not worth the costs and manpower to do so.

          "I find that there are many off-topic posts that start very interesting discussions. "

          Yes, that is true. However, many off topic posts also lead to bickering, flame wars, and out and out fights. The dicussions may be useful in a forum or on an opinion based site like Techdirt, but may not be appropriate on a news site. A news site full of bickering, name calling, and off topic posts may not encourage people to return.

          My point only is that open comments are not an absolute - they are not needed on every site, on every post, all the time.

          "Pot calling kettle black."

          Perfect description of your lightly concealed flame post. Carry on.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 6 Oct 2015 @ 1:13am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Comments can be valuable, but...

            Whatever!!!

            If I wanted to flame you sonny jim, I wouldn't just be highlighting the ignorance you so profoundly wear on your sleeve. But then I couldn't be bothered flaming you, so I'll just settle for correcting your ignorance.

            Further comments removed due to it being a pointless endeavour of explaining whatever.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 6 Oct 2015 @ 2:15am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Comments can be valuable, but...

              Funny how he whines about getting flamed, but just about every single post he makes is a thinly veiled insinuation about how ignorant or piratey he thinks everyone else is. It's pathetic.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 11:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: Comments can be valuable, but...

          I like how he posts anonymously, and at the same time insists that anonymity cannot be given to most people because of tyranny of majority or something.

          Whatever's shtick is to paint himself as the oppressed victim or martyr of society's scum while dressing himself up as some elite visionary of the creme de la creme, for which only privilege, not responsibility, must be given.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Whatever (profile), 6 Oct 2015 @ 6:57am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Comments can be valuable, but...

            I also get yours, which is try to paint me for what I am not. I am just a guy who's opinion may not match yours. That's all. Turning everything into a personal insult against me just proves that comment moderation here fails, as your open flames should have long ago been deleted.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 6 Oct 2015 @ 9:55pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Comments can be valuable, but...

              Funny you should mention this, because that's basically nearly every single post you make. Every single time you choose to disagree, you thinly veil an insinuation that everyone who disagrees with you is a pirate, doesn't think things through, or has criminal tendencies. You will go on about how the police can never be held accountable for anything because criminals are a thing so collateral damage is perfectly acceptable and can't be questioned. You will demand anonymity for yourself and pride your experiences above others, then regularly mock anyone else anonymous and demand personal information.

              For these topics, your point has been essentially little more than "Well, everyone else are clearly idiots. They deserve neither anonymity, nor the chance to speak their minds, and anyone else who disagrees with me is a prole." And then you proceed to whine about other posters here, complaining that people online would never repeat what they say away from the keyboard because they're uncouth sneaky bastards. Seriously, go do yourself a favor. Repeat your own opinion in public, loudly and proudly. Explain why you believe that collateral damage during no-knock police raids is acceptable, and why shooting unarmed citizens is a practice that must be defended because policemen might get hurt. Reveal your beliefs that only people who agree with what you say and have been filtered by an arbitrary system should be allowed the veil of anonymity. Go ahead, see how much support you'll muster.

              It's the same thing over and over again as another poster brought up in another topic. The idea that you might be at fault, or partially responsible for something you don't agree with, infuriates you to no end because you have such a ridiculously high opinion of yourself. The fact that you gaining the (very) occasional insightful vote during the rare instance when you're not a complete asswipe is proof that the system here works. It's nobody else's fault that you regularly squander away whatever goodwill you accrue by being a jerk.

              Right here, going through your post history, anyone can see how you litter yourself with self-important examples. Here's a quote I find particularly relevant in summarizing your shtick:

              >Try not to color the world with your personal issues

              >Insists on his definition of the world


              If you're so angry, why not go ahead and use Tor like a filthy pirate would and vote your comments insightful? You'd be following the footsteps of another regular spammer and troll who has equally nothing to contribute, so you'd be in good hands.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Whatever (profile), 7 Oct 2015 @ 9:20pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Comments can be valuable, but...

                Amazing personal attack, absolutely irrelevant to the discussion. Too bad people here aren't as fast to report your wildly off topic flames as they are others.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2015 @ 9:53pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Comments can be valuable, but...

                  On the contrary - judging you based on your known post history of lies and insults is absolutely relevant to whether any discussion with you can be taken seriously.

                  And what a surprise, you finish your droll whining with pledged support for spam and chicken noises over getting called out for your usual fibbing.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        techflaws (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 9:42pm

        Re: Re: Comments can be valuable, but...

        Alas, Chris, the problem at hand is the belief that everything has to be open for discussion

        If you think you can unleash your wisdom on the world (who did not ask for it), why should anyone be forbidden from commenting on your BS?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 4:26pm

    Again, for me, home IPA blocked so can only post by TOR, then all my comments "hidden", YOU are sheer flaming hypocrites.

    But it's all you can do since can't answer my substance. ... And then ol' reliable Gwiz writes "whut substance"?

    So as public service I show what happens to dissent here. -- Click away in 3... aw, ya didn't even wait!

    By the way, how many clicks does it take, out of how many readers, and does an administrator okay the censoring? Be transparent, Techdirt!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 4:27pm

      Re: Again, for me, home IPA blocked so can only post by TOR, then all my comments

      I admit got right in that time! As rare.

      Now nothing to do but time how long until censored...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:34pm

        Re: Re: Again, for me, home IPA blocked so can only post by TOR, then all my comments

        Somehow I think your comment makes so little sense no one would be able to figure out a reason to report you. Congratulations.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 7:35pm

      Re: Again, for me, home IPA blocked so can only post by TOR, then all my comments "hidden", YOU are sheer flaming hypocrites.

      Yawn.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 11:55pm

      Re:

      Mimicking chicken noises and spamming inane insults like you do will never be considered substance by any reasonable person, no matter how much you wish it to be.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    pbryan (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 4:31pm

    Cost

    Managing an online community is expensive. You need to licence (or build) forum software, need to provide technical support to your users, perform moderation of content, perform security updates. I get the desire to just outsource to somewhere that appears to provide the forum for discussion, especially if it seems to be for free. If they can't demonstrate that it produces value for the host, dropping it will likely be the path that most take.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:46pm

      Re: Cost

      That's all well and good, but is too much to ask that they leave out the part about how it is for everyone's benefit?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:51pm

      Re: Cost

      The ability to make comments is almost always BUILT IN to content management systems as an essential part of the package. Almost all news websites use Wordpress. Wordpress comment systems are free and the costs to run them are only measured in the writers time and a small amount of server resources.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Glenn D. Jones (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 4:36pm

    Possible ulterior motives for ending comment sections -- gutting Section 230

    I suspect that this is actually a collusion amongst the mainstream media companies. It's all a lead-up to a so-called "notice-and-staydown" regime.

    That is, gutting Section 230. If enough sites lose their comments, then they'll feel (wrongly) that they don't need Section 230 anymore.

    And, by coincidence I'm sure, a celebrity gameshow champion writes an article calling for the end of Section 230. He claims it's in the name of protecting people from abuse.

    But read his Twitter feed, and notice that he spends more time talking about how the DMCA is apparently ineffective. And he links to the Trichordist to justify some points.

    Meanwhile, the usual suspects have recently been spreading talking points about the need for "takedown" to mean "staydown". And they've set up a website "takedownstaydown DOT org".

    And the TPP is in its final negotiating phase...

    Are you starting to see a pattern?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 7:15pm

      Re: Possible ulterior motives for ending comment sections -- gutting Section 230

      well, you just *can't* be too paranoid these days...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Jeremy2020 (profile), 6 Oct 2015 @ 8:05am

        Re: Re: Possible ulterior motives for ending comment sections -- gutting Section 230

        well, when a lot of the "paranoid" theories are turning out to be true...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Jeremy2020 (profile), 6 Oct 2015 @ 8:05am

        Re: Re: Possible ulterior motives for ending comment sections -- gutting Section 230

        well, when a lot of the "paranoid" theories are turning out to be true...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tom, 5 Oct 2015 @ 4:41pm

    I'm glad I can comment here

    so I can use my very first comment to commend Mr. Bode for his reference to The Wall.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:00pm

    1% of comments are valuable?

    You know, 65% of all stats are made up. This seems like one of them. Apparently the comments cannot measure up to their stellar reporting so they must be killed.

    I for one, enjoy reading comments, even at YouTube, maybe the lowest of all comments. Many are insightful, many are absolutely funny and yes many are bad. But I learn nearly as much from the comments as I do from the article.

    What I think is happening, is years ago where letters to the editor were the only way to interact with media, the media had control of the conversation. They were viewed as experts. Now the comments can prove that wrong within minutes. I think they long for the day where they can sit high on the mountain and dictate the "conversation".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:20pm

      Re: 1% of comments are valuable?

      Indeed. There just expressing a sentiment. That should be obvious, esp. when they follow up the statement by asking if the situation is even worse, "less", then what their saying.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:01pm

    There are also the legal issues. Websites can and have been sued for posts made by anonymous commenters. It's a potential headache some sites would rather not have to deal with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:26pm

      Re:

      Obviously, when you run a service, there is a rick someone may accuse you of wrongdoing, but this mostly comes from people who know nothing of the CDA.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:37pm

        Re: Re:

        Obviously, when you run a service, there is a risk someone may accuse you of wrongdoing, but this mostly comes from people who know nothing of the CDA.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:49pm

      Re:

      You can be sued for anything, anytime, anyplace.
      Be scared, be very scared.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:27pm

    Thank you Techdirt, for allowing my voice to be heard, Us peasants need venues like this where we can speak our minds anonymously ,freely on today's and future issues of our daily lives.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 5:58pm

    Am I missing something

    So I read this quote:
    ... our belief that killing comments and focusing on other avenues of communication will foster smarter, more valuable discussion and criticism of our work

    If they kill the comments section, how exactly will that foster smarter or more valuable discussion? I think it'll kill some of the conversation since some people don't want to create a Facebook or Twitter account just to post a comment and other people can't log into Facebook or Twitter (such as on a work computer). Plus, there are numerous other reasons why people may not want to post a comment through Facebook.

    Maybe the bigger issue is that sites don't want anonymous people criticizing them or pointing out flaws in the articles. This way, if someone criticizes, they have to log in with their real name on Facebook for the world to see. Many people are probably okay with this, but some may not be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Digitari, 5 Oct 2015 @ 6:52pm

    Freedom of speech...

    within limits. Every Tyrants dream.

    most times I read the comments section to see if a story is worth reading at all...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 9:28pm

      Re: Freedom of speech...

      "within limits" or, you know... The way it's worked in the US since the beginning. The US Bill of Rights isn't an anarchist's pact, nor is the Constitution a suicide pact. There are limits on what is considered protected under the First Amendment and always have been since 1791 (I hope you recognize that date). Many of the those that voted for the Alien and Sedition Acts also voted to enact the First Amendment in the US Bill of Rights. Educate yourself before you start spouting meaningless tropes about how any limiting to speech is always tyrannical. For example: sedition is generally not considered covered nor are threats of immediate harm nor exhortations to commit lawless or violent acts.

      As for reading the comments to see if an article is worth reading... you often let others think for you, is that it? How about.. you know, reading the article yourself to find out!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Digitari, 6 Oct 2015 @ 5:53am

        Re: Re: Freedom of speech...

        If the comment section is a lively discussion about the article, then the article is worth reading, if it's full of trolls, the article "might" be worth reading, if the comments section is just spam and off topic posts, it's not. No I do not let other people (like YOU, for example) think for me. It's people like yourself that has killed off comments sections. (if you do not get the gist, that is exactly the why of it)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Oct 2015 @ 7:35am

        Re: Re: Freedom of speech...

        Recognize the significance of the year 1791? Certainly do - that was the year Upper and Lower Canada were created by British legislation.

        Did anything else of significance happen that year?

        (Sorry, that was naughty, I just couldn't resist...)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    UIndy, 5 Oct 2015 @ 7:04pm

    Why is Techdirt continually reporting on this?

    We get it. Online sites are turning off comments. At this point, it's a trend, and your continual reporting of it is getting repetitive.

    You were wrong on the NYTimes and some other paywalls. WHy don't you report on that? Report on how you were wrong on how some paywalls actually provide value?

    YOu were wrong in that turning off some comment venues actually increases the viewers experience with a site. WHy not report on that?

    You don't really cover the points in which you aren't exactly right, do you? Seems like a circlejerk.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Digitari, 5 Oct 2015 @ 7:21pm

      Re: Why is Techdirt continually reporting on this?

      How nice it is of Techdirt to allow YOU to comment here. On some sites, your comment would have been removed, or "held for Moderation". Be thankful you can whine like a little bitch all you want here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 6 Oct 2015 @ 5:33am

      Re: Why is Techdirt continually reporting on this?

      "At this point, it's a trend, and your continual reporting of it is getting repetitive."

      I dunno, I think it's important to keep highlighting it since so many seem totally oblivious to the down side.

      How about I stop writing about it when news websites stop claiming they're muzzling their audience for the benefit of an open dialogue?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Whatever (profile), 6 Oct 2015 @ 7:01am

        Re: Re: Why is Techdirt continually reporting on this?

        It may actually increase the dialog, at least in one direction. CNN as an example has disabled comments on many posts (almost all) because every post turned into a flame war between the "libtards" and the "tea baggers" (and other names, much worse). CNN's back and forth dialog may have ceased, but the value of their writing remains, now unblemished by senseless flaming that followed each item before.

        What I am hoping is that these news sites can find a better way to engage people. That may mean offered longer form "op-ed" space or having better twitter and facebook discussions about the news. Losing the comments altogether is a steep price, but the overwhelming amount of negativity, hatred, and outright fighting wasn't advancing the dialog at all. Moving it to Facebook, as an example, may in fact be improving the dialog, just not in a way you are as comfortable with.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Ninja (profile), 6 Oct 2015 @ 8:27am

          Re: Re: Re: Why is Techdirt continually reporting on this?

          Weirdly Techdirt seems to be ok with all these downsides. We've seen plenty of threads kind of being poisoned by trolls, including you, and yet there's no real downside as it resulted in some pretty nice discussions. The difference between TD and CNN is that TD actually analyzes what they are talking about and provide points of view. Maybe this is what built a somewhat civilized comments section. But it works. Maybe these sites that are shutting down the comments just weren't doing it right.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 6 Oct 2015 @ 5:47pm

          Re: Re: Re: Why is Techdirt continually reporting on this?

          If you don't like how a website runs things you could always - I don't know, leave? Like you always threaten to do when you throw another tantrum?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 7:53pm

    They seem to desire to go the way of traditional news media. Remove the interactivity in this age when they should be embracing it and people have little reason to use your site over anyone else.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    athe, 5 Oct 2015 @ 8:00pm

    Depending on the type of article...

    I will sometimes dive into the comments to get other peoples opinions before the article itself. This usually relates to reviews on items I'm interested in purchasing. For the most part, I find the impartial comments of previous purchasers to be more helpful in me making a final decision.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    kallethen, 5 Oct 2015 @ 8:25pm

    I would love to see a site give an honest reason for killing comments. Just go ahead and flat out admit it.

    "We're getting rid of comments because we the troll posts."

    That would earn my respect much more than the flimsy reasons they toss out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    CanadianByChoice (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 8:30pm

    Why I read comments

    Often, after reading a post, there are items in it that I'm unclear about, don't understand or don't agree with. My first step is to read the comments.
    Most of the time, whatever I was having an issue with is already there; I don't tend to bring it up again. Sometimes I just have a quip of my own to toss in - and sometimes I get things wrong, only to then to be corrected by other commenters - something I appreciate very much; they clarify my confusion in an incidental way.
    I even look forward to comments from the not-so-friendly troll with a hate-on for Mike - I want to see if he's managed a new level of idiocy (spoiler: usually... yes, todays was a head-scratcher of a let down).
    Sometimes - no offence to the writers here at TechDirt - the comments are the best part of the post!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    lars626 (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 9:06pm

    I quit counting the number of so-called news sites that I have stopped reading because they shutdown comments. Worse are the ones that require the use of a 'verified' Facebook ID. Verified means that I had to volunteer my phone number so they could resell it to a 'business associate'. My giving it up lets them ignore the do not call list. Slimy weasels.

    Yes, I avoid sites where the noise level is too high, but usually there was nothing there in the first place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2015 @ 9:07pm

    To be fair to the websites changing their policies on reader comments, I've read the given reasons why they stopped doing so and many of them are NOT saying they are doing it to further reader conversation and interactions. They are doing it because their comments sections have become toxic cesspools that add little if anything to any conversation at all to their employee generated content, and their staff is tired of dealing with the crap. (The argument whether it's journalism or not is immaterial at this point). When your comments section are filled with trollish and infantile posts, spam, totally off topic rants, and acrimonious recriminations, it's pretty easy to decide to jettison the whole rotten mess. It's not a "free speech" issue, it's a "we won't support this behavior any more with our resources" issue. I foresee this becoming a trend on more websites, and I've noticed it starting to happen on big name news organization sites as well where some new articles are being posted without comments activated while others still have comment sections. With the problem of misogynists, trolls, and other hate mongers dominating these privately funded semi-public forums, I can't blame a single organization jettisoning the crap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 6 Oct 2015 @ 5:34am

      Re:

      "To be fair to the websites changing their policies on reader comments, I've read the given reasons why they stopped doing so and many of them are NOT saying they are doing it to further reader conversation and interactions."

      I've been studying this pretty closely and I've yet to see one website be totally honest about this and not, in some form, try to claim that muzzling their audience opens up broader conversational opportunities.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 5 Oct 2015 @ 9:19pm

    Two insults for the price of one

    What really gets me is that the excuses for why a given site is removing the comments section is both insult and lie at the same time. Gutting comments does not 'foster better communication' any more than cutting down a forest 'fosters appreciation of trees', so that's a lie. The insult come into play when they assume that their (hopefully ex-readers) are too stupid to realize that they are being lied to.

    "We don't care to listen to you any more, and we're firmly of the opinion that you're stupid enough to buy into the excuse that blocking you from commenting on our stories is meant to increase communication and discussion."

    They can remove the comments sections if they care to, whether because they get tired of reader comments showing how and when they're wrong, or simply because they can't be bothered to do even a bit of moderating, but when they lie about their reasons, then they need to be called out on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 6 Oct 2015 @ 4:34am

      Re: Two insults for the price of one

      THANK YOU. Lots of good points here in the comments, but most missing the point.

      It's NOT that the comments sections are vanishing, it's the idiotic "reasons" being given for it.

      I was going to say that if you don't want to deal with a comments section (and I suspect that's the real reason), just say so.

      BUT... if they're pushing "comments" to third party platforms out of their direct control (such as facebook), paranoia pushes me to wonder if it's not so that they can take legal action against "bad comments".

      Either way, don't urinate on my leg and tell me it's raining.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 6 Oct 2015 @ 6:44am

        Re: Re: Two insults for the price of one

        Good point. Mind you, with attacks on websites for third party activity (reader comments) becoming more commonplace, this may well be an effort to avoid liability.

        It might be the case that they're not merely too cheap to moderate their comments sections properly.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Oct 2015 @ 1:51am

    I've found a number of comment sections to be more informative than the actual article was for various reasons so I find that if a site I visited regularly shuts them off for stupid reasons like this then I end up going back there very rarely after that. I have yet to see one of them care one bit about the comments made on facebook or twitter before or after shutting off the comments on their own sites so I never buy that excuse from them. In fact one site I used to go to shut down their comments and forum encouraging people to go to their facebook page instead and then they pretty much killed peoples ability to comment on facebook as well by deleting most comments then stepping it up to blocking and banning users that commented there, anything critical of them or just anything they had no desire to answer. There was nothing vulgar, obscene or trollish with 90% of the comments and people they did that to on facebook.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Kenpachi (profile), 6 Oct 2015 @ 3:40am

    Mark my words: ArsTechnica is next, give it a few months...

    It's been so sad indeed seeing the decline of such an amazing tech & science news website. I've registered there a long time ago.

    I could never express in words how much I've learned over the years not only with amazing articles, but ESPECIALLY through invaluable input from thousands and thousands of regular users with hardcore knowledge of the subject matter at issue in each of them.

    But quite some time ago they started trying really hard to push this toxic ideology of a pseudo-feminist agenda, (watch especially from minute 49:55 on-wards for a primer and in it's entirety for a complete and condensed fact-filled crash course on journalistic/moral and ethical corruption) and with disinformation tactics, and they have been relentless in this push...

    And when the vast majority of readers point out their factual errors, fallacies, and flagrant bias, they just "moderate" those comments (read censorship) and flat out block them.

    They just seem to not give a fuck about the Ars community any more. That may be the only website I will really regret not going back ever again, if and when they pull the plug on the comment section... I'm really fed up as it is with what the site as a whole as come to.

    But the amount of knowledge and "agnostic" resources one gets just by reading the comments and compiling hundreds of links that the community selflessly contribute day in and day out, on every single article... that website has amassed a treasure trove of intellectual capital, I really wish they would value it so much more...

    But this seems to be the sad state of affairs... just push a fundamentalist ideology and bury the head on the sand... lalalalallala we don't hear!! lalallalalaa

    For what it's worth, this is their last sorry attempt at pushing the same already a-million-times-over debunked narrative...

    PLEASE Read the comment section there, 99% of readers are politely telling them that they are not buying the shit they are trying to sell, with well reasoned counter-arguments and facts... and all we get in return is a half-ass response from "some editor", yet the article's title and the subtitle remain untouched!

    Adding insult to injury, this last article (as well as many previous ones) are concocted and featured under the SCIENTIFIC METHOD/SCIENCE & EXPLORATION section!!

    They are a disgrace to the scientific method and to science in general with this flagrant ideology pushing and lame practices, a hundred face-palms do not cut it...

    Anyway, maybe you guys can do something, I've seen many times that you cross-reference some of their articles and vice-versa, maybe you can talk to some higher-ups @ Ars before it's to late, they do not seem to care that they relabeled themselves "The Titanic-a" and with every piece of made-up hateful propaganda, with every comment they censor and block, with any piece of feedback they get telling them they are on the wrong path and they ignore, they keep rearranging chairs...

    In closing, taking the world wide web as a whole, that community and the one that comments here at TechDirt, are the only ones I would really miss if they ever go under.

    Sorry about a really long rant, but it's really sad for me to have been a front row witness to the decline in journalism standards of some of the most prestigious websites out there, Ars, the Guardian, Motherboard/Vice, those you mentioned and others.

    Keep up the good work here, I salute you from Argentina.-

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Oct 2015 @ 5:46am

      Re: Mark my words: ArsTechnica is next, give it a few months...

      I used to have them bookmarked until their reporting started going off the rails. I now look at them maybe once a week and only read 1 in 20 or 30 of their articles. I read the local rag more often than I read Ars Technica now, which I find amusing as there is little of interest in the local rag.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 6 Oct 2015 @ 6:04am

    Doesn't make sense

    That doesn't offer any real value to other readers of the site, and we'd all wager that the scorched Earth nature of comments section just stifles real conversation.


    Right, because nothing will increase the value of comments to other site readers like making commenting impossible.

    No, Facebook, Twitter, etc. aren't even close to substitutions for a comment section for a bunch of reasons, starting with the fact that lots of people don't use those services and as a result are just locked out completely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Oct 2015 @ 7:47am

    You know, there is a potential technical solution to this problem, if it is a problem... Also maybe an entrepreneurial opportunity.

    It would be possible to create "shadow" comment sections for websites that do not possess (or close) comment sections. You could browse them by entering the website URL into a suitable browser page (heck, it could even embed the article being commented on, a la stumbleUpon). Or browser plugins could be created that would expose a button to take you to the shadow comments for the website your looking at... There are many solutions if someone were willing to host shadow comments.

    This would then take control completely away from those who want to abuse it.

    Of course it would also spawn numerous lawsuits, and sometimes permit outrageous behaviour, as well as combating private censorship. Them's the breaks, you get the bad with the good, usually.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Guy Shuffles, 6 Oct 2015 @ 9:31am

    Would you like to have your receipt?

    These days it is all about appearances, scripted Q&A, evasion, and predation, with hardly a thought for genuine social interaction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zor, 7 Oct 2015 @ 2:28am

    Russia

    Why does nato seem so afraid of russia. Or are they just so big they are slow to respond. What a time to bomb a hospital!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2015 @ 9:44am

    You write like someone who has never seen the true nightmarish reality of a comment section.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    BB King, 12 Oct 2015 @ 7:39am

    I hate this trend towards websites removing their comments. Motherboard is incorrect, comments are largely relevant and useful, and because I am a functioning adult I can ignore trolls. I like to read comment debates, and thoughts from informed people. I can`t fathom their reasoning.

    Removing the comments changes the entire nature of a site; the presented opinion piece is now actually a fact piece, the authors opinion is not up for debate anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bunchheang, 7 Feb 2016 @ 11:09pm

    Social Network

    I like this www.qoosi.com

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    corners, 27 Feb 2016 @ 8:52pm

    any alternatives to motherboard? I was really turned off when this did this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2016 @ 10:07pm

    nice post

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PCB Prototype Assembly Services, 16 May 2017 @ 11:06am

    PCB Prototype Assembly Services

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    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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