After comments

Here’s my talk to Jeff Pulver’s 140Conf today on comments and interactivity, in which I argue that comments are an insult because they come only after media think they’re done creating a product, which they then allow the public to react to.

I defended comments on news sites for many years. But I think we have to move past them to true collaboration, which is more respectful and productive. There is no easy solution for civility, not identity or rating systems.

By coincidence, this appears at the same time that the New York Times publishes a story about the problems with comments, in which I suggest to the author — whose interview with me inspired my post — is often a matter of expectations: When we look at the internet as a medium, we expect it to look like media: packaged and clean. But when we realize that the internet is a place, like New York, then it’s less shocking to hear some bozo on a corner muttering “shit.”

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  • Interesting that there is a commercial for at the end of this video.

  • Wendell Dryden

    auto-start video? poor form.

  • Jeff, not sure this is what you had in mind, but I wrote this sometime back with a similar sentiment in mind:

  • I think ratings and identity are the way to go, but they have to be personalized. I don’t care what’s your name, but I do care what is your relation to me, my friends, and people I know. I don’t care that someone voted you up unless it’s someone who’s vote I care about.

  • Hey Jeff,

    Here are visual notes I created from your talk at 140 Characters.

    Always find your talks provocative and engaging.

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  • Gary Owens

    The best part of online newspaper articles are the comments, many of which show more knowledge of the subject than the underpaid author. Often CEOs and insiders will comment…showing a breadth of insight far beyond the author of the article.

    Anonymity is absolutely crucial for much of the best commentary. Crucial beyond measure. In fact, it needs to be as easy as it is on this site to comment. The Daily Telegraph wants you to register which will cut off the best commentary.

    Remember: CEOs and other busy people do not have the TIME to register to comment or remember stupid usernames for specific newspaper sites.

    Even when the new Facebook Instant Personalization stuff is working on newspaper sites….the best commenters, who will necessarily want to comment anonymously, will not be able to make use of that.

    So allowing instant anonymous comments is really the best way to get quality content added to the standard crap that underpaid journalists and bloggers produce. Just use a smart spam blocker that at least blocks out certain keywords.

    And I have no problems with the type of person who habitually comments about wasted taxpayer money. A spam blocker shouldn’t block comments that use the word taxpayer. ;-)

  • Gary Owens

    I might add that cogent comments by busy individuals (good comments are seldom coming from unemployed people in their mother’s basement) can go a very long way toward influencing journalists and bloggers in their future work. On top of that, one can influence the commentary of “regular” commenters on a blog or forum (dealing with an issue one finds important) by jumping in for a week or two and then going on with one’s life.

    Jeff Jarvis is super famous. But this important blog post now has only 9 comments above. And mine was one. This reflects the fact that what Jeff wrote about is a matter near and dear to me (the value of being able to freely comment everywhere without having to waste time registering).

    My passion about this issue got reflected while the sleepy tupor of most of the world on the subject did not. There is justice there.

    Meanwhile, nobody in the business world (as opposed to professional bloggers and journalists) with a brain larger than a walnut is going to want to associate their real name with their political views or even a potentially controversial comment about something.

    This is partly because businesspeople need to associate themselves with products and be neutral elsewhere.

    I won’t even comment with my real name about my reservations about Facebook’s new policies because I expect to do business with Facebook and simply do not need the potential headache of ticking them off with my real name…when my name is irrelevant to what I have to say.

    And, as brave as it would be for one person to use their real name in regard to prostate surgery, it would blow my mind to consider many people commenting on that issue with a real name (Insurance companies and potential dates use Google).

    The existence of the easy and anonymous commenting regime has reversed what, before that, was a seeming 40 year stretch of what I and many others perceived as a tyranny of the American 2 party system where only the extreme left and right political positions were taken into account by hacks who were paid to propagate a two-dimensional “world”.

    It was also 40+ years of mostly underpaid journalists foisting their worldviews (biases) on more highly paid businessperson readers.

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  • Miguel

    I can’t navigate the video…. I am not native english speaker and you speak very fast; problem… I cannot go back a few seconds to listen again to a phrase I could not understand… what a shame…

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