Too Much Free Time

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
comments, conversation, feedback, macworld, pcworld

Companies:
idg



MacWorld, PCWorld Kill Site Comments Because They 'Value And Welcome Feedback'

from the this-muzzle-shows-how-much-I-love-you dept

For a while now the trend du jour in online media is to not only block your readers from making news story comments, but to insult their intelligence by claiming this muzzling is driven by a deep-rooted love of community and conversation. NPR, for example, muted its entire readership because, it claimed, it "adored reader relationships." Reuters and Recode, in contrast, prevented their own users from speaking on site thanks to a never-ending dedication to "conversation." Motherboard similarly banned all on-site reader feedback because it greatly "values discussion."

There's a number of reasons to ban comments, but few if any have anything to do with giving a damn about your community. Most websites, writers and editors simply don't want to spend the time or money to moderate trolls or cultivate local community because it takes a little effort, and quality human discourse can't be monetized on a pie chart. Instead, it's easier and cheaper to simply outsource all public human interactivity to Facebook. In addition to being simpler, it avoids the added pitfalls of a public comment section where corrections to your story errors are posted a little too visibly.

Few outlets can actually admit any of this, so instead we get bizarre platitudes about how moving bi-directional website interactivity backward is some kind of ingenious media evolution. Case in point: IDG last week joined the fun and announced that all of its media outlets (Macworld, NetworkWorld, PCWorld, etc.) would be removing news comments moving forward. According to the company, this change is a reflection of IDG's ongoing commitment to feedback:
"At IDG, we’ve always valued and welcomed feedback from our readers, and that’s something that will never change. What is changing, however, is one facet of how we get your feedback.
Again, nothing quite says we "welcome feedback" like preventing all public, on-site feedback. Just like other news outlets, IDG insists that shoving interested community members over to social media is the same thing as retaining an on-site community:
"This change was made for a couple of important reasons. First, more and more of you are already communicating with us, and with one another, via social media, where our editors and reporters are posting content and interacting with readers throughout the day.

Second, while we’ve always valued comments, we’ve also had to deal with the reality of managing spam and policing inappropriate comments—comments that don’t reflect the professional nature of our audiences and diminish the value of community interaction. Moving the discussion to social media obviates those issues."
Well for one, this idea that managing spam and trolls is some kind of sisyphean impossibility is nonsense. You'll find countless websites (this one included) where spam and trolling is minimized and public interactivity is still protected (often by the community itself). In fact, some studies have suggested that just having website employees show up and give a damn can have a dramatic, positive impact on your local community. If you see consistent trolling and spamming in news comments it means somebody, somewhere doesn't give a shit. Pretending otherwise is a cop out your readership can see through.

This pretense that social media interactivity is the same as more niche on site conversation is also problematic. As feedback is offloaded to social media, we're seeing an overall reduction in transparency when it comes to news reader interaction. Many social media users exist in cordoned off areas where they only have a limited view of the conversation (protected Tweets, etc), which harms transparency. But that's the whole point for many editors: a return to the "letters to the editor" era where you get to control the conversation, even if it comes at the cost of users spending less time on your website.

All of that said, stand still so I can kick you repeatedly in the shin out of my deep-rooted love of your ability to walk.

Reader Comments

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  • identicon
    John Cressman, 22 Nov 2016 @ 12:08pm

    I welcome feedback

    I welcome all feedback... now SHUT UP!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2016 @ 12:37pm

      Re: I welcome feedback

      ...

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

      • icon
        TechDescartes (profile), 22 Nov 2016 @ 1:14pm

        Re: Re: I welcome feedback

        Never fear. At TechDirt, the feedback goes to 11.

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

        • icon
          art guerrilla (profile), 22 Nov 2016 @ 4:54pm

          Re: Re: Re: I welcome feedback

          i give techdirtia high marks for its comment policy, and overall inclusiveness and evenhandedness for even extreme positions such as yours truly is prone to pronouncing...
          *this* is how a democracy should look and feel: no holds barred, rollicking, roiling, bursting with energy; and yet also revolving around a general consensus which produces a type of group-wisdom... (sometimes)
          in any event, even the non-starters are welcome, the walts and such of the world provide a handy and useful foil to demonstrate the faults in their argumentation, and educate the like-thinking/non-thinking cohort to how their position is in furtherance of Empire, while the better option is to further freedom...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2016 @ 12:10pm

    Praphrase..

    Rhetoric, the art of trying to win arguments by twisting the language beyond breaking point.

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

  • icon
    Oninoshiko (profile), 22 Nov 2016 @ 12:17pm

    Maybe they mean in the sense of a OpAmp wired as a Schmitt Trigger?

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

  • icon
    AricTheRed (profile), 22 Nov 2016 @ 12:20pm

    "First, more and more of you are already communicating with us, and with one another, via social media,..."

    No, I'm not, and I'm not gonna.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Nov 2016 @ 8:34am

      Re:

      Yep, same here. And what's more, I just get pissed off when I read an article at a site and scroll down to check out comments and they aren't there! They are really just training me to avoid their sites.

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

  • icon
    TimK (profile), 22 Nov 2016 @ 12:27pm

    What I don't understand is, how these online "news-type" organizations plan to survive by driving away views? Want to comment on an article on our site? Oh, go to a third party service and let them make money off of our audience. They can't be that blind can they?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2016 @ 12:41pm

    Doesn't seem worth it

    That's all well and good if you have a facebook account. But what do I do if I never made one? After seeing the stupid cash-grabbing games and near constant mal-ware laden banners from my wife's facebook I never saw the upside of facebook. I'm not about to make one just to comment on a news article.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2016 @ 1:44pm

      Re: Doesn't seem worth it

      I've always kept my entire family off Facebook: the cons vastly outweigh the pros.

      That said, you can do just as well commenting on articles on Reddit, which is where the article authors usually grab their information in the first place, anyways. If you want to comment on an article on some site, just post it to Reddit and then add your comment. Rest assured that the website will get lots of feedback as a result :)

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2016 @ 2:19pm

      Re: Doesn't seem worth it

      The answer is staring you in the face! Just use the Techdirt comment threads to post anything you would like to share with the world. If you're lucky, the responses will appear in the funniest/most insightful column at the end of the week.

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

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 25 Nov 2016 @ 10:34am

        Re: Re: Doesn't seem worth it

        Just use the Techdirt comment threads to post anything you would like to share with the world.

        No, don't. We don't need random off-topic news stories posted to the comment threads here. If you want to submit something for Techdirt to cover, use the submit story form, but don't just post it to some other story because that web site doesn't allow comments.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Nov 2016 @ 3:40am

      Re: Doesn't seem worth it

      Similar to sites that use discus for comments.
      With Facebook (& real name rules) then you are (I assume - I do not use FB either!) flagging yourself specifically to a comment, instead of being anonymous (be it AC or some made up name on this site).
      Discus at least allows any random username, but I do not like the tracking implications on using same discus account on multiple web sites, so sites using discus are a no go too (plus the discus JS cripples low spec ancient pc)

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

  • identicon
    Christenson, 22 Nov 2016 @ 1:08pm

    Echo Chamber Support from Ad-paid Sites

    Ad-supported sites want people to see exactly the content that confirms everything they already know; happy readers don't get mad at advertisers. Moving comments to Facebook outsources the problem of creating individual echo chambers!

    And, dear Techdirt readers, I have no interest in pictures of you and your friends outside of what you have to say about what's on Techdirt!

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

  • icon
    SirWired (profile), 22 Nov 2016 @ 1:16pm

    Commenters aren't a big deal for most sites

    At the time NPR dropped comments, commenters made up all of 0.06% of their readership. Virtually any effort at all doesn't really make sense if they are that small of a fraction of the userbase. It'd make about as much sense as making sure your new website worked well with Windows Phone and Blackberries.

    I'm not saying all sites are like NPR, but for them it was a perfectly rational choice.

    Websites have access to their user stats, and know how much comments cost them. You don't. Yeah, it'd be nice if they'd just say "comments are more trouble than they are worth", but most of us are capable of reading between those particular lines.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2016 @ 1:25pm

      Re: Commenters aren't a big deal for most sites

      That's true of almost any online forum. Even in places where the entirety of the content is just user comments, most users don't actually post any comments, but a lot user may read the comments. I'd like to see how they determined how many people were reading comments but not posting.

      Lurkers gonna lurk.

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

    • identicon
      wiserabbit, 22 Nov 2016 @ 1:55pm

      Re: Commenters aren't a big deal for most sites

      i admit it. i lurk.

      and lately i've found myself delisting news type sites that do not have comments from my normal daily reading list. in the communities where there is a community, you usually find a lot more details and links on the facets of the story which help to put things into perspective. it is also enlightening to learn how others are reading the same story.

      and, no, i'm not going to another platform to do that just because managing a community is hard for you. period. life is hard. suck it up.

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 22 Nov 2016 @ 4:44pm

      Re: Commenters aren't a big deal for most sites

      At the time NPR dropped comments, commenters made up all of 0.06% of their readership.

      Which is a meaningless metric.

      If it's 0.06% of their sponsor clicks, their donation dollars, their returning users who read articles for more than 8 seconds, etc., then sure, okay. But that's not the same thing as the number of people who visit a site.

      Commenters are likelier to be more dedicated and enthusiastic than just plain old readers; they're, by definition, more engaged. If a news site can't turn that into value, then I think it's the news site's fault, not the commenters'.

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

  • identicon
    michael, 22 Nov 2016 @ 1:23pm

    online feedback is useless

    There was a long-ago time when mostly smart people were online, and online comments were valuable sources of information. That time has long-since passed.

    A cursory look at past TechDirt comments is all the proof necessary.

    Online comments serve no purpose other than:
    1) creating the illusion of inclusion, when no one really cares what you have to say, and
    2) a laugh every now and then.

    And yes, this comment is just as useless as all the others.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2016 @ 1:27pm

      Re: online feedback is useless

      I disagree. Techdirt comments very regularly include important updates to the story at hand and the other comments here are far above the quality you find in many other places. And just because you don't find them valuable doesn't mean others don't.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2016 @ 3:48pm

        Re: Re: online feedback is useless

        While I almost never comment despite being a longtime reader (mostly because I read on mobile, and typing on mobile is a PITA), I like to read the comments here for reason you've stated. However, I have to say that in the days leading to the US election, the quality of comments considerably deteriorated. This was in no way the writers' fault, who insisted repeatedly that they wanted to focus on the important issues suitable for their coverage, but the persistently partisan commenters who think criticizing what a person does automagically equals criticizing their very personhood or that it must mean you support "the other team."

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

        • identicon
          Thad, 22 Nov 2016 @ 4:47pm

          Re: Re: Re: online feedback is useless

          Seems to be dying down, at least, though any article mentioning the election or the President-elect seems to kick the hornet's nest right back up. I don't expect the partisan arguments will ever truly go away, but I sure hope they die down in the coming months.

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

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 23 Nov 2016 @ 1:17am

        Re: Re: online feedback is useless

        That. Some comments take things up a notch and could as well be articles themselves containing even useful links and further reading tips. Of course I value the articles TD writers produce themselves but the awesome comments are part of what keeps me here.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Nov 2016 @ 8:38am

      Re: online feedback is useless

      Sorry michael, but you are wrong. Even your comment about how useless comments are was not useless. You contributed to the conversation, albeit in a minor "Devil's advocate" sort of way.

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

  • identicon
    That Guy, 22 Nov 2016 @ 1:26pm

    Sometimes a cigar is just... a way to boost Facebook stats?

    Could it be that some publishers are just trying (however foolishly) to drive their Facebook stats?

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

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 22 Nov 2016 @ 2:15pm

      Re: Sometimes a cigar is just... a way to boost Facebook stats?

      That's what I thought too. I don't use FB so it's not an option for me.

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

  • icon
    geddy2112 (profile), 22 Nov 2016 @ 1:30pm

    i love you......

    ......that's why I had to kill you.

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

  • identicon
    bob, 22 Nov 2016 @ 1:51pm

    kick you in the shins

    The last paragraph instantly reminded me of a Calvin and Hobbes comic where Calvin and Susie play doctor: http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/2010/11/21/

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2016 @ 2:46pm

    Line in the sandpit

    We have now drawn a line on the line so you don't have to read below the line anymore.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Nov 2016 @ 5:47pm

    Thanks to the new and improved Troll Buster 2.3: Almost 5.7% accurate!

    Second, while we’ve always valued comments, we’ve also had to deal with the reality of managing spam and policing inappropriate comments—comments that don’t reflect the professional nature of our audiences and diminish the value of community interaction. Moving the discussion to social media obviates those issues."

    Because of course someone spamming and/or posting troll comments on their 'main' site isn't going to be the kind of person to do the exact same thing on their FB page.

    Really, if a site doesn't want to keep up their comment section because it's too much work to do so, fine, admit that and close the comment section. Blatantly lying about how you're silencing your readers because you 'value their opinions just so very much' is just insulting, a slap to the face of anyone who frequents the sites by making it clear that the ones running it think that their readers are a bunch of gullible idiots.

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

    • identicon
      professional, 23 Nov 2016 @ 12:35am

      Re: Thanks to the new and improved Troll Buster 2.3: Almost 5.7% accurate!

      i am a professional and dont like not being called a professioanl. so only call me a professional and i will comment as a professional. i am the most serious commentator professional on the planet. so take heed of my comments as they are professional.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 25 Nov 2016 @ 10:40am

      Re: Thanks to the new and improved Troll Buster 2.3: Almost 5.7% accurate!

      Moving the discussion to social media obviates those issues.

      Yeah am I missing something or is that an extremely dumb thing to say? Are we to read "obviates those issues" as "makes those issues someone else's problem"? Because I imagine that's what they're really going for, though I'm not sure it achieves even that goal.

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

  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 23 Nov 2016 @ 12:47am

    We value your opinion, now shut the fuck up and click on our shady clickbait ads.

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

  • identicon
    Quick Brown Fox, 23 Nov 2016 @ 8:58am

    Consumerist

    The Consumerist, an online blog owned by Consumer Reports, got rid of comments some time ago, but not many folks seem to notice.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 25 Nov 2016 @ 10:40am

      Re: Consumerist

      The Consumerist, an online blog owned by Consumer Reports, got rid of comments some time ago, but not many folks seem to notice.

      How would we know? It's not as though they can post a comment on consumerist about it.

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

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 23 Nov 2016 @ 11:40am

    No one is going to be surprised by this. Most of the comments on PC World are usually "This article is an ad!" or "This wasn't worth my time!"

    Truth be told, just like their old paper counterparts, these sites should just shut down. Whatever "value" they once had has been long gone.

    No one will miss them when they're gone.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Nov 2016 @ 12:07pm

    We don't want anyone who is smart enough to avoid facebook to be posting comments on articles we write.

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

  • icon
    TRX (profile), 23 Nov 2016 @ 1:17pm

    Back in the 1980s many vendors of computer software and hardware ran BBSs with information, software patches or updates, discussion boards, etc.

    Compuserve, and later AOL, courted the more successful companies heavily, persuading them to close their public-access support sites in favor of using their pay services. The companies got a kickback based on traffic to their forums, and they didn't have to pay their own people to run them. Such a deal!

    I've seen a several companies that I *used to* deal with go to Facebook-only for all support. I expect the same thing is happening there.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Nov 2016 @ 7:55am

    I've been seeing this trend of getting rid of comments for a while now. I do have to say, it saves me a lot of time as now I'm not spending time reading comments. Facebook is not a real replacement. Not even close.

    Once the comments are removed from a site, I start to care less and less about even visiting the site. I no longer have any investment in it.

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

  • identicon
    buyinstfollowers, 30 Jan 2017 @ 2:29am

    Instagram

    This media is very popular and used by millions of people.

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

  • identicon
    komal, 8 Mar 2017 @ 1:50am

    This is a very nice

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


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