Where Have All The Comments Gone?

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Years ago, the online design community was a thriving conversationalist — of sorts — through the comment sections across the community. It was through leaving meaningful comments that the thought-provoking ideas presented and discussed in a post were examined by others whose perspective and experiences may have provided them with a slightly different take.

The continued dissection and discussion of the topic expanded the dialog far beyond the initial post, challenging and redirecting ideas and allowing dialog to evolve; it showed a certain level of critical thinking from within the community. We still have sites1 that2 are3 design4 conversationalists5, but unfortunately they are rather exceptions. And it seems that the problem occurs not only in the design community, but in other areas6 as well.

Since those good old days, things have taken an unexpected turn. Comments are becoming less and less expansions on the ideas presented, and more and more just simple offerings of praise or agreement. Even in articles where solutions are being sought for problem areas within the field, numerous comments show acceptance of this need for action but offer no solution or approach; often, the comments also show that the ideas were not given much consideration by the reader.

This is certainly not indicative of every comment on every post out there across the blogosphere, or a generalization about the community — just an observation of an increasing trend. Once, posts would inspire active discussion and participation with such a wide range of opinions that the post would take on a whole new life. That phenomenon has faded.

What Is This Saying?

The rise of the less-than-conversational commenting can make it look like we are losing our capacity for critical thinking — at least, with regards to the topics being presented for discussion. It can sometimes feel like there are those who rush to throw their support behind the author of the post without considering what is being proposed. Even if you agree with what was said and wish to show your support, there are still ways to comment that indicate a more thoughtful approach.

Sometimes comments can also leave the impression that the commentator just skimmed through the headers and did not read the article in full. The sentiments left behind in such comments, though they may be honest, can impart a hollow feeling rather than the intended encouragement.

So, What Happened?

There is one important aspect of online content that we often tend to forget. With most posts (beyond those intended to offer inspiration and little else), the ideas presented are there to be examined and dissected; they are not the “final word” on the subject, but a perspective presented for consideration. They don’t have to be correct and they don’t have to be accepted “as is”. The current commenting attitude can effectively undercut any potential ongoing discussion that the author of the post set out to have. When, and why, did the dialog die? Perhaps if we can root out the cause, we can better address the problem.

1. It’s a Matter of Time

One obvious consideration is time. Our multiple daily online “obligations” can cause our time to be finely divided; we may opt to leave behind a quick sentiment because our RSS feeds are calling with dozens of other articles that we want to give our attention to; because we have e-mails to attend to; or because any number of time-consuming reasons keep us “running” the whole time we are online.

2. The Social Media Connection

Perhaps the rise of social media shares some blame for the devolving of critical commenting. People started using social media networks more frequently and offering follow-up thoughts mainly when they shared a post, usually limiting their comments to little or nothing; it became easier to simply share a post, rather than to actively formulate a meaningful follow-up comment to leave on the post itself. And as the path of least resistance is often the one traveled most, here we are.

3. Just a Visual Contribution

We also have to consider that for some of the blogosphere populous, commenting is more about visibility than actually contributing to the discussion. At times, the only purpose is to be “seen” on the website or to have their information linked to the website via the comment section — especially if they can be the absolute first to leave a comment. It does not really matter what the post is about; in fact, they may not have even read it. What’s often overseen in these cases is that links next to a meaningful comment are an indicator of author’s competence and as such much more useful and therefore much more valuable than simple link dropping.

As Content Creators, What Can We Do?

What can content creators do to generate more discussion and critical thinking among readers? Many of us are unwilling to adopt a focus on putting out content that does not promote critical thinking; we wish to keep challenging our readers and colleagues. We like to read content which gets us thinking and questioning, so in turn, we like to create the same type of content.

7
Photo credit: Ian Muttoo8

1. Maximize Engagement

Find creative ways to ensure that the content we are putting out is as engaging or interactive as possible. If you can involve your readers in the post, you are more apt to get them thinking about the ideas being presented. Ask them questions throughout the article to get them into an inquisitive state of mind, so that they may end up reading with a much more critical eye and have more comments to make.

2. Respond in a Timely Manner

Watch the comments that are coming in and reply to them within a day or so. This is not to say that we have to be available at a moment’s notice to respond to each comment; but if readers take the time to consider your ideas and to leave their thoughts, we need to take the time to reply. Most will check back in a day or two to see if you have responded, hoping to keep the discussion going; if we have not gotten back to them by then, they might write off the idea of continuing the dialog and move on.

3. Foster a Conversational Environment

Create an atmosphere that is conducive to dialog. If we are already asking questions to get responses and are responding back, we need to nurture the conversation by being approachable. If your ideas are challenged, you have done well; don’t let that make you feel defensive about your original points as that tone will come across in your replies and might degrade the discussion into a debate, with both sides becoming more entrenched.

4. Adapt the Discussion

If our audience is turning to social media networks with their thoughts and follow-ups, we might have to adjust our approach and adopt an “If you can’t beat them, join them” mentality by moving the conversation there — even if it leads away from the original post. We can then try to later steer the conversation back to the comment section attached to the original article or post.

As Commentators, What Can We Do?

We cannot forget that we end up as both creator, and commentator, in our daily online lives — or at least, we should. Admittedly, having fallen victim to the social media networks, I now tend to comment less on blog posts than I did before. We have to fall back on that golden rule: treat others as we wish to be treated, and seek out other articles to read through and critically consider. When we don this hat, we need to take the responsibility seriously and give as good as we expect to get.

1. Offer Personal Highlights

Even when we are in complete agreement with a post and have nothing to expand on, we can still leave meaningful comments: we can always take the time to let the rest of those participating in the comment thread know what areas resonated with us. By highlighting what connected with us, you allow the author to get some insight into what is landing with the audience, and by default, what is not.

2. Be Constructive

Remain as constructive as possible so the conversation doesn’t get derailed. There is no use in belittling or insulting the points presented even if you disagree with them, especially if you are interested in actual dialog or in getting the author to rethink a position. This does assume that our intention, as readers, is to expand on the ideas presented; if we feel we cannot reasonably or respectfully contribute to the dialog, we should just move along without leaving any comment.

3. Read Fully Before Drawing Conclusions

If we are going to leave a comment, especially one that raises a point of contention, we need to fully read the post. If we are pressed for time and have a “Shoot first, ask questions later” attitude, we may skim through the post, get something out of context, and immediately jump down to the comment section to dispute it — forgetting that the rest of the article could contextualize the point, or even cover what we are about to comment on.

4. Ask Questions

Ask relevant questions about the points that were raised to instigate further discussion. When creating content ourselves, we often lean on queries to spark dialog and to get comments flowing; why not employ the same tactic when we are on the other side of the discussion? Even if all of the ideas in the post were expressed plainly enough, one can always ask follow-up questions. Again we want to keep the tone of our comments in mind, so that our inquiries stand a better chance of being well received and of getting answered.

5. Share Related Experiences

Contributing our own experiences can further the discussion and bring others into that portion of the continuing conversation, but only relevant contributions need apply: it is one thing to offer a story to really accentuate a point made in the article, but quite another to share a story that has nothing to do with the post.

In Conclusion

Many factors could have brought about this uncritical commenting trend, and there are many ways that we can combat diminishing dialog to spark critical thinking in our readers and encourage them to “see” what they read with inquisitive eyes. Most bloggers have no problem receiving praise for their posts, but when the readers are additionally provoked to think more about the topic and to leave a comment that carries on the discussion, the post evolves — a win for both the blogger and the readers.

…So, What Do You Think?

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://drawar.com/
  2. 2 http://www.getfinch.com/blog/
  3. 3 http://www.andyrutledge.com/
  4. 4 http://www.usabilitypost.com/
  5. 5 http://designinformer.com/
  6. 6 http://gizmodo.com/5687692/you-write-bias-journalism-and-i-read-derp
  7. 7 http://www.flickr.com/photos/imuttoo/2631466945/
  8. 8 http://www.flickr.com/photos/imuttoo/2631466945/

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Rob Bowen is a staff writer for Web Hosting Geeks and Top Web Hosting, a longtime freelance designer, and burgeoning videographer and filmmaker whose creative voice and works can be heard and found around the web.

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  1. 1

    I’ll break my no-commenting-on-Smashing-Magazine policy to give you my thoughts on this one.

    Simply put? It’s the nature of those comments that drives people away. Instead of being a place for continued discussion it’s become a parrot’s perch. Then, when people like me who tend to right more considered responses come along, we see a long list of jabbering comments that are nothing more than parroting and think, “Why should I bother getting involved in that nonsense? It’s not like anyone’s actually going to read my comment anyway.”

    And that’s where I am now, commenting in a considered way, on a venue where my comment will likely never actually be read.

    2
    • 52

      DesignByCommunistsRocks

      November 19, 2010 9:59 am

      But how can you “right” more considered responses? This comment alone puts yourself out. Why would we “butter” to “reed” you if “your” not more careful. Proof read is integral to design. So think again because it tells a lot about your commitment. And when someone actually read your comment – unlikely as it is, it eventually happen – you look like a fool.

      -1
  2. 103

    Now-a-days it is rare to find a non “50 techniques to do this” kind of article. And with the growing number of blogs (successful) doing this, its kind of repeating one list with different combinations. We rarely find a original jquery tutorial or css tutorial that would really help us.

    We see the same jquery sliders everywhere, and if one has no idea what to put they do a “psd layout” or “psd to xhtml/css or css3″ layout tut (an exclusion here, and you know who). Thats kind of escapist mentality. Please take this in a constructive manner. We respect you, and your 5 posts a week mag, but we really need some tutorials (yes throw us some earth-shattering jquery tut).

    After all “quality” is the god of all deeds.

    0
  3. 154

    I think an additional factor may be reading articles from smartphones. Personally I’m far less likely to comment just because text input is less convenient. This comment took a lot longer to enter than it would have at my desktop for example. Is this the same for everyone or am I just a smartphone noob?

    1
  4. 205

    Some of the reasons why i almost stopped commenting on blogs with many readers:

    -It is hard to follow a commentry or a conversation. I think comments were never made for discussions, hence the layout and ui doesn’t really support them.

    -A single comment is easily lost amongst more frequently commenting users

    -Haters gonna hate

    -I never know when somebody replied, i need to follow myself by hitting refresh all day long. That sucks bigtime.

    -It’s a waste of time to spend more than 5 seconds on a comment because the next 10 posters won’t do either. So my thoughts and energy will be pushed downards before anybody who might care will be able to read it.

    Let’s be honest – especially on blogs, comment systems suck ass. Why bother using them then?

    1
  5. 256

    Death to the comment

    November 19, 2010 8:59 am

    I would be so happy with CNN, AV Club and well, most sites, got rid of comments. Thank goodness Greasemonkey has scripts to block Youtube comments.

    0
  6. 307

    I think there are a few issues. One is that that there are so many ‘social’ outlets that it is getting more difficult to think deeply about a single topic and there is a not-so-new shift to thinking broadly about many. That also correlates to a problem with our industry as a whole where we are expected to be generalists in many cases, particularly with the state of the economy where we are expected to take on more and more. And I really don’t think blog commenting in general offers the best UI for discussion. There has to be a better way :-)

    0
  7. 358

    I don’t have time to read all the comments… which is usually why I don’t comment on sites like this, for fear of repeating something someone already said or simply adding virtual noise to the page.

    2 observations:

    I wonder if the shift in comment-quality/type mentioned in the article is a result of being spread too thin in the interwebs. As social networking sites have blown up in recent years, from the general ones like Facebook, to specific ones geared around topics, like Goodreads.com, people don’t have the time or emotional-resources to stay plugged in to so many “communities”. We just don’t have the time/energy to maintain ongoing virtual discussions. So if an article/blog-post intrigues us or seems helpful, we might take the few seconds to applaud it, but then need to move on, because even if it sparks further questions, we probably tuck it away to discuss later with people we have a stronger sense of community with. I will discuss an article on SM with co-workers in my creative agency far more likely than commenting on an article and coming back to participate in any form of conversation about it.

    Secondly, read Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman. He talks about television’s influence on culture, but died before this new wave of connectivity-via-the-Internet because such a cultural force. I’m very curious what he would have observed about the current state of relationships/community/critical-thinking in a world so easily distracted and consumed by 140 character counts. We’ve been a culture of consumers for a long time, but now we’ve even made community, information and dialogue something we consume—and we’re not very good about taking the time to “give back”, which results in less quality material in article comments.

    And the reality is… unless you email me a response, I will forget that I posted on this article and so my participation in the “conversation” will end as soon as I click “Post Comment”.

    We’re all just way too busy…

    2
  8. 409

    There are so many great comments here, I simply cannot get back to you all on an individual basis as I would like, and as I started out doing, but I will certainly be getting back down through there and replying to others later. Thanks again for all of the great follow-ups and insights!

    2
    • 460

      Perhaps that’s the problem with the development of discussion. Noone has time anymore to leave thoughtful comments. There seems no benefit to the user. This is especially true when the author disappears from the comment board and doesn’t reply to posts in a meaningful way. It’s like stating something thought provoking and then leaving the room. There needs to be follow up for a critical discussion to take place. Look at the board at the moment. You have taken some time and effort to reply to posters and acknowledge their contribution. Just like children, adults thrive on praise and attention.

      The other point is that it becomes very difficult to follow a thread of conversation on a board and becomes more difficult if the conversation branches in to multiple replies. Could you imagine this in real life? It would just be a wall of noise. This is where we get overloaded with information and we have to disseminate which is useful so we skip posts that are long.

      Keep comments concise and short. Bullet points if you have to and make sure the author has their say on the board. You started it after all.

      0
  9. 511

    Rob, really great article… It’s got my wheels spinning!

    I think that’s a part of the problem with comments of late, that the articles don’t shake us out of the ordinary.

    Our culture seems to be more focused on the how, rather than the why, of things. The more we focus on HOW to build a word-press template, HOW to keep your clients happy, HOW to use Twitter to grow your business, the less room there is for WHY. And if we aren’t asking why, conversations about How to do things are going to stay fairly shallow and to the point, with only minor variations in the opinions about the best method of accomplishing. If the article clearly gives us the best/right way to accomplish a task, presenting itself as an expert, there’s not much room for discussion, except in the rare instance when a different How solution worked for me, so I might offer that up to the conversation…

    Maybe content-creators need to start asking Why more often, instead of just giving How…? Or at the very least, realize that, after presenting a good How article, that there’s no logical need for much discussion in the comment section, by nature of the article contents.

    0
  10. 562

    DesignByCommunistsRocks

    November 19, 2010 9:50 am

    Superbly insightful comment Jim. This is the fifth time I am reading your comment and I am still learning from it. This really adds up to our design life, thanks.

    5
  11. 613

    I totally agree with this article and find myself rushing through and NOT commenting. I’m one of those people who wait to see a thread of comments that *inspires* me to comment vs. giving my feelings on a particular article.

    I don’t have a lot of time. With the increasing popularity of blogs, I have 50 or so websites that I peer through each day, ontop of getting my daily work done. Keeping up with blogs has almost become a task rather than pleasure.

    I’d love to give a meaningful comment to each blog article that I read, but honestly, its just not possible.. :(

    0
  12. 664

    Catherine E. White

    November 19, 2010 10:27 am

    It takes more time to write thoughtfully than it does to read superficially. Frankly, I would rather be doing other things right now too. I certainly do not take it personally when my readers just read. Most blogs, tweets, and facebook posts, including mine, are a minor diversion from the rest of the day’s obligations, tasks, goals, and duties.

    People have better things to do in life – and to me, that seems like wonderful news! Maybe your readers have gone out for a walk, or are talking to their children, or making a tasty meal. Hurray for that!

    I spend most of my time encouraging people to make careful choices on how to spend their time. I hope nothing I write is viewed as all that important, and certainly not as important as the rest of my busy reader’s real life. Ironically, I often feel more successful when there are fewer comments. I do enjoy getting a thoughtful or cheerful comment, now and then, but that’s just to let me know that the reader still has a pulse, and that I should continue.

    0
  13. 715

    Perhaps this lack of useful comments could be linked to the rise of the use of comments in black hat seo techniques?

    An article I read recently was discussing this.

    0
  14. 766

    Years ago (~5 years) web design wasn’t as popular and neither were the amount of websites dedicated to web design.

    Nowadays, anyone with photoshop who knows a little html and designs “pretty things” calls themselves a web designer. 90% of these people are “fadsters’. Meaning they aren’t well-versed, thoughtful designers they just happen to know how make a web design prettier than the average person.

    These “fadsters” aren’t into the true, mental aspect of web design and really don’t have much thought to contribute to articles besides “ooh, thats cool” or “this sucks”. So, nothing very intelligible or thought-worthy that real web designers think about.

    1
  15. 817

    Hmmmm, running out of things to write about huh guys?

    I mean really, is it that big of a deal when people comment, that they don’t post this well thought-out 5 paragraph comment?

    0
  16. 868

    I totally put this down to the fact that everyone’s becoming more and more in a hury and more impatient than ever. We are always rushing around and at the end of the day we end up spending our spare time talking to our mates on that popular social network. It feels as if the visitor culture now days is to:

    1. Google It
    2. Visit it
    3. Skim It
    4. Press the back button
    5. rinse and repeat.

    Commenting requires effort and time which are 2 things no one has anymore these days. It’s a shame, but I feel it’s one of those things that requires more of a movement from a large number of people than a simple answer.

    “Why should I comment if I have no time and am too lazy?”

    Because if you don’t, no one will do the same on your site and online communication will become monopolised by those popular social networks.

    0
  17. 919

    I believe that the very content shown in the articles reflects the sort of posterior discussion.
    A debate can only take place on the ground of contents that we can agree or disagree with. If you do a showcase, you will get: “great, thanks!”. If you are supporting the end of world hungry, then you`ll get “Tottaly agree! Thanks!” (just an example of content that does not generate any kind of debate, because its common ground). In short, my point is that debates are grown in fine lines, where the standards are not minted and clear as water.
    That might denote 2 things: perhaps we are reaching some kind of common thinking in our community (what may be nice) or perhaps the exactly way round: we`re so lost in terms of a panoramic perspective of our certainties that we don`t know anymore how to stand in front of the frontier topics of our job.

    2
  18. 970

    Could it be that people are now learning that their comments have value? Some sites out there now provide a link back to the.comments last article as ‘payment’ and maybe this will encourage the time poor to join in.

    Ethics aside for a min of course.

    Sorry for typos, doing this on my phone!

    0
  19. 1021

    people don’t read long comment or all the comments in a section for the same reason why they just skim of the article. comment should be short and to the point.

    0
  20. 1072

    Perhaps there is a design solution to cut down on the repetitive “great post” comments. We’re used to “liking” things in Facebook; it’s a quick way to encourage and appreciate the poster. I note that Smashing has thumbs up and down attached to individual comments. What about adding this feature at the post level?

    0
  21. 1123

    Anonymous comments must die. For a community or site to get a real sense of who is commenting, it’s important to tie the commenter to a real profile. Notice also that (at present) there are 5 times as many retweets as comments. Advocacy and sharing are the new comments. I don’t have to add much to this story, but I think that it’s worth reading and I’ll let me friends and followers know.

    2
  22. 1174

    Comments are disappearing because [1] most sites require a tedious sign-up procedure, and [2] there is a plethora of comments, no one has time to read them, no one cares.

    -1
  23. 1225

    Are people just not simply keeping their own big ideas for use on their own blog. Perhaps a box on the comments where I can put a link to the article where I wrote about this subject could be useful?

    Altogether, interesting observation.

    It also seems that people have moved from forums to blogs, and I am busier so can afford to comment less.

    0
  24. 1276

    Back then your choices were 1. Start a blog (how? why?) or comment on one. Now people “comment” when they link to a piece on Twitter or Facebook, or reblog themselves on Tumblr.

    Commenting hasn’t gone away, the need for dedicated “comment” sections has just diminished. The new system is better, get with the program grampa!

    (see? Commenters are mean trolls anyway.)

    0
  25. 1327

    There`s another thing: comments are supposed to be read. And then someone comment on it so on. That`s how a debate is created. But it seams to me that nobody really cares about what another fella has written. Thats not very motivating. It`s actually frustrating. Why would I waste my time, one might think. Would he be wrong? Not so sure.

    2
  26. 1378

    I think the issue is an inadequate call to action. If you want comments and label the response section “comments” just like every other site out there that is exactly what you’ll receive. Why not title the response section “Discuss”, “Critique”, or “Feedback”? I think these stronger calls to action would garner more meaningful responses.

    0
  27. 1429

    People have a conclusion after several years of web community life: For all of your thought and input, only a handful will read what you have to say, and the one person that responds is an arrogant jerk who just has to tell you how wrong you are.

    Most people would rather do something more edifying. Not me, apparently.

    2
  28. 1480

    Here is a question: For the article reader, what is the point of Comments? Some use Comments (or Like, etc.) to let the author know their work is appreciated so that (hopefully) they will write more articles the reader will like. Some use Comments to ask questions/get more information (and they want the author to participate.) Some use Comments to add their own spin on something in an article. Some just use Comments to advertise. Some use Social app Comments/Share to alert online friends to an interesting article.

    But what is the point of Comments from the point of view of the author? As an author, I’m looking for some affirmation that what I’ve posted was helpful/useful and if not, why not. I *like* getting feedback and questions. It motivates me and improves my writing and it often gives me ideas for future articles. Sometimes a negative comment that is thoughtful is more useful than a positive comment that just says, “good job” or “I agree.” The latter might make me feel good now, but the first helps me with future articles.

    I agree with the previous comments that suggest that maybe the Comment format on sites could be improved to encourage the type of Comments needed/wanted by both the author and reader.

    0
  29. 1531

    Well, I do appreciate thoughtful comments. I can learn just as much from people responding as I do from the article. Oftentimes, if I don’t see anything interesting being said, I choose to stay out of the uninspiring conversations. At the same time, not every topic can warrant a lot of deep discussion. Sometimes, I like the comments better than the article.

    0
  30. 1582

    Have people realized the emptiness of trading pixels instead of having real face to face conversations? Or maybe they’re more worried about losing their job in this economy than they were a few years ago.

    -1
  31. 1633

    One main barrier I’ve found to commenting, especially on this website, is the unreliability of the website itself. If you spend 10 minutes writing up thoughtful and, hopefully, useful response only to have it disappear when the website fails to load after hitting the “Post Comment” button, it makes you a lot less likely to try and post again. Especially with something more than “eh, you suck”.

    This is why I read articles in Google Reader and rarely click through to the website itself. Too often the effort of commenting isn’t worth it. Hell, first impressions are made in the first 15-30 seconds of viewing a website: if that 15-30 seconds is of a spinning wheel while it decides to load (or not) then the value of coming to the site to comment is reduced.

    Fix the reliability of the site and you might find people are more likely to respond thoughtfully.

    Most other sites have other issues: such as refusing to moderate the trolls or allowing insulting language to devalue the discussion. One thing I can’t stand is authors who put content out there but refuse to take an interest in the comments section.

    0
  32. 1684

    It’s not the passage of time – it’s the natural progression of any website. Whenever a site gets big enough, that means that enough of the audience is no longer a collection of professionals (the original intention) and instead a muck of fanboys, tweens, and idiots. I’m not saying that the former two are part of the last one – just that none of them tend to add as much to a discussion as people shoulder deep in the subject on a daily basis.

    It’s a big problem with SmashingMagazine, but there are plenty of new sites out there fostering conversation in the design community. Many time these sites are started by some friends who are talking with each other and after a few years they grow so big that the audience becomes watered down. At that point a new, more elite site forms, and the cycle starts again.

    0
  33. 1735

    Although this has been touched on already, I think there is a connection to the mismatch between what we experience face-to-face, and what we see visually on blogs. When people are in a discussion, it would very unnatural for everyone to take a number and offer their comments in turn. It can be hard to see how your comments add value when they are one in a long line of others. Perhaps a better ways can be found to visually organize the comments sections of blogs, something that is more organic?

    0
  34. 1786

    Mohnish Thallavajhula

    November 20, 2010 12:19 am

    I totally agree with the author of this blog. I’ve seen a drop in the comments on many websites. This is mainly because of the “Like” substitution. People are growing lazier day by day thanks to the growing technology. I liked this post. Kudos.

    0
  35. 1837

    A major cause for the demise of the conversations in comments is the sterilization of the web.

    Many a frustrated, power hungry moderator will delete comments and disallow conversations because they are off topic or even offensive to others.

    If we cannot have discussions about offensive or sensitive topics (like race relations, the use of the word nigger among both blacks and whites, what anchor babies are or even about gay pride parades) then where will we EVER have these conversations?

    Civilization will not get more civil by sweeping difficult conversations under the HTML.

    Among the worst of these are “news” organization sites. Take 11Alive for instance… On 11Alive there have been a few articles in the past couple of weeks about a young man named Bobby Tillman who was beaten to death at a “house party” in Atlanta.

    The story goes that a couple of “females” got into a fight – then some guys at the party said they were gonna jump the next male that walked by. Bobby Tillman happened to be that man, and he was kicked until a broken rib punctured his heart and he died.

    Finding this to be difficult to believe (that 4 people would just decide to beat down the next random person that walked up) I went looking for answers.

    In one of the pictures widely circulated of Bobby (he looks to be wearing a tux – it is a head shot), his eyebrows looked as if they had been cut. So, knowing that this can mean nothing at all (some do it for a sense of style) and that it also represents gang affiliations, I simply asked a question.

    After expressing my outrage at those responsible for Bobby’s death, I asked if Bobby might have been in a gang – because of the eyebrow cuts.

    The moderator killed the thread and deleted my post. I was respectful to the family, but I wanted to know if gang affiliation had anything to do with this senseless killing – so we know where to start in preventing more like it. Not gonna happen at 11Alive.com.

    So, if we cannot have difficult conversations, and dig to the root of sensitive and important issues, there is really no need for the conversations at all. Just read the news, listen to s few soundbites (that were probably taken out of context), look at the pretty pictures and move on…letting the world go to hell in a hand basket.

    11Alive is not the only place this happens. Ask a sensitive question on Gizmodo or Lifehacker and you can be banned. Question a moderator or comment on the intelligence of a story writer and you will get banned.

    It’s like Barney Fife is back from the dead and moderating the life out of conversation on the web.

    I don’t know what online conversations are like in China – but I don’t think we are that far from finding out – on some sites we already have found out.

    1
  36. 1888

    Is it not that there are to many places where commeting is possible. The decline in quality is also stemming from the lack of moderation. Many sites don’t have moderation at all and there is just a mechanism of signaling. So even the most useles comments stay on as long as there are no insults and treads in it. Posters possibly also think it is their right to be published despite not contributing/reflecting on/to the original post.

    1
  37. 1939

    As a content creator (more than 100 sites, 99% WordPress) I am wondering for years why the comment functions are among the most neglected functions in WordPress.

    With every version I am excited (an disappointed after), that there will be the slightest improvement…

    * Comment paging just does not work (can’t remember, if it ever did since it’s introduction)
    * Comment threading does not really work either
    * If I have hundreds of comments I am not able to tell from the backend which ones I already answered (there used to be plugins with many bugs), at the moment I found one doing the job namely “Response Tracker”
    * If a post has more comments (I mean hundreds), the comment list turns a mess (due to the lack of paging) and it’s difficult to comment and to answer (depending on browser, comments just disappear)

    Yes, there used to be plugins now and then addressing one of the problems, but either did they interfere with others or they worked for some subversions only.

    So, MY problem is not a lack of comments but a lack of technical support for the comment functions. And I don’t understand this, as commenting was the heart of blogging from the beginning…

    My 5c from Austria,
    eliZZZa

    0
    • 1990

      LOL @ whining nerds

      November 20, 2010 6:56 am

      Over 100 sites, really? Get a life. Maybe you should leave the house more (who am I kidding, leave it at least once a month for a walk) and get some real friends because that social network of yours, these guys aren’t your friends. What kind of person wonders about comment neglect on WordPress, you need help.

      -3
      • 2041

        ??? My goodness, this is my job! I have a very rich real life and a lot of clients (and real life friends btw) running own and client sites. Managing comments (if you take community building seriously) is a pest, due to lack of technical solutions. Running a lot of community sites, yes, I am the person that wonders why the most popular blog system is neglecting comment functions. And yes I need help – from programmers I pay for to fill the missing comment handling functions…

        Kind regards,
        eliZZZa

        1
  38. 2092

    I tend to agree with Allen who commented earlier. Comments are just that, comments. I generally like reading comments as much as a post but don’t expect them all to be deep and thought provoking. I do think it’s good ask questions in your post and try get better quality comments, but I don’t mind if there are a few short ones here and there. Sometimes I’m happy to know someone read my post, even if they just skimmed it.

    0
  39. 2143

    reading comments are a serious waste of time and often make me upset –

    i could add something intelligent to this topic and share my thoughts – but – who cares? i save my energy and prefer talking to real people. comments are a waste of time.

    -4
  40. 2194

    For a blog author, it is valuable when somebody posts “thanks, this saved my life”, or “nice article! bookmarked!”. A positive feedback loop. To the readers of such a comment, it is quite useless, much like most Twitter posts.

    Most sites struggle with the many readers, few commenters problem. It has always been this way, yet the problem is getting bigger, because:

    – Well, like you said, there are more sites yet not more time. The time spent per site is therefore getting smaller
    – The discussion surrounding your article may also be taken elsewhere, on the social networks, reddit, digg, etc.
    – It is getting harder to manage your comments across sites. When I post somewhere, I typically have to remember it and check back if somebody responded.

    I hate this trend, because a good community can make comments more valuable then the actual article. A fine example of this can be found at Jeff Atwood’s blog:

    http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/

    He writes a lot of informative, opinionated articles, yet the true value is in the comments. There are a LOT of smart people there, and if you read the article + comments, you have studied the subject from every possible angle.

    You cannot help losing comments due to people having less time per site or taking the discussion out of your site. Yet, you can improve the comments happening here. It starts with content. SM used to be solely about “the 50 zillion best free wordpress templates”. A title that attracts attention and is SEO-effective, yet attracts an audience of hobbyists, juniors and freeloading developers. You then get the quality of the comments you deserve…useless. Lately, SM has been producing better, more unique and insightful content, and slowly the balance moves in the right direction.

    In other words, if you opt for maximum traffic and content for the masses, you get dumbed down comments, youtube-style. If you focus, produce unique content and insightful articles that truly help developers (instead of teaching them how to steal instead of think), you get smarter comments.

    0
  41. 2245

    LOL @ whining nerds

    November 20, 2010 6:53 am

    Who cares, all this whining. Comments come in three types:

    a) I love it (insert any sycophantic drivel)

    b) I disagree, this is the worst ever (insert any other self-important drivel

    c) Look at my page (insert random pathetic self-promoting link)

    That’s it. I hope one day turning off comments will be the new ‘trend’, since that is all you follow. ‘Do as the others’, GTFOH.

    -2
    • 2296

      @ LOL @ whining nerds

      If you hate comments so much why are you here posting comments? I’m not sure if it’s an attention thing or what, but if you don’t like the site there’s other places you can go.

      1
  42. 2347

    I’m going to praise the post, first of all, as this is a really relevant topic and I totally agree that the quality of comments has been diminishing. Of course it is not true across the spectrum, some comments are really great but the overall “matter” lacks.

    As you have validly said it may also be lack of time and too much content on the Internet and we have got only limited amount of time at our hand. Engagement and all is fine (you see such tips in every other blog post) but as commentors we shouldn’t always rush to present “our two cents”. We should only talk when we really have something to say, when we can constructively contribute and take forward the idea presented in the blog post.

    Commenting is important and this indicates a thriving community around a blog so definitely comments must be taken seriously both by the publishers and those who leave their comments.

    0
  43. 2398

    The average Smashing Magazine article is so long with links to other websites that I typically loose interest about 3 screens down knowing there are about 40 more examples/links on the page.

    1
  44. 2449

    Most messages are left on blogs nowadays because the commenter can leave a link to their website – enven though it is obvious they haven’t read the entire post.

    They comment merely to be able to advertise their site.

    0
  45. 2500

    It’s partially the dead sea effect (first google result: http://brucefwebster.com/2008/04/11/the-wetware-crisis-the-dead-sea-effect/ )

    Basically, the more commenters you have posting inane drivel, the less likely I am to respond. There’s a lot of people out there who are just wrong on the internet (see: http://xkcd.com/386/ ) and it’s very easy to fall into the trap of trying to educate them. Which never works out well.

    The best example of this is the debate over whether webdesigners should learn html/css. Ignore the actual debate, but specifically the analogy that an architect doesn’t need to know anything about actually building a house. That’s just jaw dropping ignorance there. It’s off putting to anyone who has even an inkling of that field. Those people who may have had quality well reasoned posts are now gone.

    It’s really easy to quickly lose people from the conversation in this manner. Especially the less well written, or the more inane, the comments are. It’s getting to the point that I actually can not comprehend the posts on some more mainstream sites. As much as it was probably a joke ‘How is babby formed’ is actually indicative of many comments on some sites. The more frustrated I get with comments on one site, the less likely I am to even bother with them on another site.

    After having a good think about it, I believe the best option is agressive moderation of inane comments so only quality posts remain. Maybe not deleting them, but perhaps collapsing them so they take minimal room, and you’d need to click a ‘read more’ link to read the whole comment. Assuming it’s more than half a sentence of course.

    I don’t want anyone thinking I’m saying we need perfect grammar or speeling on the internet. I do wish we could get rid of these unsubstantial comments that amount to ‘me too’ at the very least.

    0
  46. 2551

    Ok, so i read half the comments on this “Way to Cool” topic, not that i am not interested i’m just loosing my patience here, because every comment touches a sensitive point in my “perfect society, revolution must” sick brain of mine, either that or the song i’m listening with atom bomb era video, anyway; I agree with the idea of “investigating” the lack of interest or time or whatever one has not to give quality comments on a post.
    Be careful, i’m gonna get rough and it will be a long one (if my post ain’t gonna make it on the board i understand).

    Let’s begin our full overview on the situation.

    Assuming that our society is accelerating it’s way to self destruction (witch it is, just look around) and everyone is overwhelmed with consumer items and “buy this or buy that” virus commercials, it’s obvious that the ordinary user of the internet “can’t” more of a WONT sit around and read other comments (i’m guessing that the mentality on that is “1 or 2 comments are enough”) to give useful ones in turn, because they need to buy not to read.

    Working on Matt’s comment and the first notes on the subjects of those links (thanks for those link’s also) I will give my personal opinion, witch is that the internet is not for everybody, i am sick of those “warm hearted folks” that say the internet is for everyone.
    NO IT ISN’T FOR EVERYONE.
    Argument: give someone something that they don’t know how it works or fully understand it’s true power and just tell them “Use it” without any indication of it’s true use and a way to use it. He/she WILL break it or at least it will not function properly when it’s returned.

    Same thing apply’s here. All (i will try to restrain myself from vulgar talk) have entered in the world of the internet and try to learn as much as possible and move to the next great thing, add that to the titanic amount of information flooding our brains from our consumer based society and hidden subliminal messaging witch in turn creates a state of panic that we as a part of society will not contribute with anything if we will not give some kind of info on some lame (gotta remember no vulgarities) topic.

    That said, the problem is simple to find but at its foundation very complex and a simple solution for it may be around here somewhere. We, as a community that knows the inside and are aware of how it works/must work/wont do can sit around all day and try to find solutions but we are not aware of something – even if we don’t want to believe that our society is evolving at full power the truth begs to differ and it’s not just me here, i’m telling them as i see them and none can argue with me here.

    Something just appeared giving me more fuel to put juggernaut ideas (yep, fire up your google fingers for that) in this comment (read a few more comments :P ). I totally agree with Jim Hubbard. Another thing this society lacks is self criticism, let me explain.

    In a society where money is power, any form of power being the ultimate state in a person’s life (that’s how kids are taught nowadays) and none are losers their last winners, how can a child build his spirit and conceive a critic eye or self for that matter, how can you make a constructive critic about something if you have no idea of what a critic is.

    If you cannot criticize yourself how can you evolve and fix your bad habits. Nowadays you cannot or it’s not polite to say about somebody that he’s fat or ugly or anything inappropriate. **ck inappropriate and polite how those a kid build character if they don’t know when they lose an when they win.

    Yes my dear I could go on bragging about these “normal and common” things but I will stop and go tell a kid hes fat, hope i’m getting 15 years for that.

    A last thought before i go maybe i’ll make you think for a change in this final hour.

    We are living in a society where major corporations and governments leave people stupid, unaware of many things so they can do their business, thus people can no longer give constructive critic or take part in a discussion because their belief’s are not their’s anymore their society’s.

    If society does not want them to say vulgar words in public (initially i wanted to put them here but i ain’t sabotaging this comment) or nigger or fat people ….(very very heavy words on the fat people subject) and anything like that, how can any of you have expectations on intelligent or helpful (be it critic or not) comments.

    And with that thought in mind i “rest my case”.

    0
  47. 2602

    First, I gotta say; I love this community, because they so actively berate people (by negative karma) who feel name-calling or childish non-sensical comments do anything to help someone else out.

    One of my pet peeves are poorly named threads in forums. If someone chooses to use the search and then comes across a topic titled “Need some help”, how the heck do they know if it’ll relate to what they’re looking for? People need to think before they type!

    On topic to the post, I couldn’t agree more. We as consumers of knowledge need to restrict our responses to constructive measures (which can be negative, they just need to be constructively negative). We’re all here to share our knowledge, and in just how it is important for commentors to question what we state before we say it, so too must the article writer!

    I’ve seen one too many articles (won’t mention where) which begs the question “Why did you even write this?” Sometimes, I see articles where the author must have just wanted to nitpick at the smallest, most unimportant of things, for no more purpose than to simply say it.

    0
  48. 2653

    This significant decrease is probably due to the lack of competence of those involved. Or intention not to offer free and so easy ideas that could be innovative, different and interesting.
    By now anyone who writes articles, books, and then sells them, maybe making a fortune. Or become luminaries with the ideas of others who can not aspire to so precisely because they are of a lower level.
    “Well, use your brain, instead of using other people’s resources to their advantage.”
    Of course, you are visual content, but “you” as member of society, network or not, how much authority you have in relation to “common” user? So much so that the proper contribution made public until someone does not do his undeniable property?
    Maybe that’s fear, due to the absence of dialogue in this regard, the indifference of an answer. Because on one hand there is the authority and the other is not.
    The visual contents?
    Maybe it’s the game that changes direction, users now have until recently without a voice, to make plunder of resources. You like the site, accused this shot. As long as were the others to suffer, was fine … is not very correct this behavior.
    Unfortunately you can not decide whether a contribution is innovative, unusual, opening new paths. Who could really be a proper supervisor for both parties?
    Obviously this is only a theory, spread from any browser. What perplexes me is that maybe it is called stupid or useless, until a luminary does not write a book that supports. As has already happened.

    0
  49. 2704

    Kind of funny, that this blogpost is filled with critic and long comments :p “no smashingmagazine, we are not one of these! we are not!”

    0
  50. 2755

    We’ll see within 5-10 years.
    Or it could be this: we want to hide.

    0

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