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).

Filed Under: comments, community, conversation, discussion, journalism, motherboard
Companies: vice


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  1. 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.-

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