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The statement of the year

Posted by fabriziogiudici on July 3, 2010 at 2:04 PM PDT

We're still at 50% of the year, but I find this statement from Elliot's blog fantastic:

... adding a commenting facility to a website is like handing out marker pens to everyone who enters a public toilet. The results are obvious, and with very rare exceptions, don't really improve anything for anyone.

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So, comments are not valuable

So, comments are not valuable for this guy, therefore eliminating them will do... wait, what?! prevent bad things form happen, bad people from being born or simply let us sit in our comfy chairs without disputably valuable feedback? Fabrizio, would you like to make clear why you find Elliot's statement fantastic? I'd like to comment on his blog post, but since... you know :)

He he...

He he... My take is: it depends on the context. The good feedback happens when commenters are "naturally" selected from a good population. For instance, in technical blogs like those we're used to attend there are high chances people share a common background - a technical / scientific background that, BTW, gives a natural attitude toward positive discussions and to motivate commenting with the need to learn more.

On the contrary, I find public, general purpose websites opened to comments a real disaster. For instance, take newspapers - articles that are open to comments are usually an attraction pole of morons of all attitudes, people wanting to share their frustration, often completely unable to discuss, with a natural attitude towards insulting - and, to complete the public toilet scenario, they are often unable to write in they own mother tongue. One of the most depressing internet experiences I can think of.


Edited to add:

To complete the scenario: sometimes people are not hooligans and they don't insult people. But they are monumentally trivial. Consider the most typical comment on a public photography forum: "Ahh", "fantastic", "it's like a painting", etc. Completely useless words and this triviality often offends the beauty of the photo, even though it was not the intent of the commenter.

I find different comments

I find different comments valuable for different people. What you, as an author, can find useless or perceive negatively, others can find valuable. Let's use your example with public photo forum - comments like "Ahh" or "fantastic" simply express emotions. I don't see anything wrong with that. Being trivial, I don't usually start to describe nice woman with trigonometric equations and stuff. I just say "Wow" :) Comments are (besides spambots) written by people and give you a good overview of what kind of people visit your blog, homesite or website. I'm quite sure you know of Bill Venners and I've seen there quite some not-so-friendly discussions too. For me, I'm trying not to judge commenters. Clearly, I don't agree with Elliot's way how to treat your potential readers (people). It looks like he "knows" what the universe has for him :)

Apart from the fact that

Apart from the fact that there are richer ways to express emotions, let me say that 99% of times they are stereotypal comments rather than emotions. I've experienced this about ten years ago, when I was attending one of the first web communities about photography. At the time, it was clearly attended by pros, semi-pros and amateurs seriously committed. There were no "ahh" and such (or very few, and you could understand they were genuine), but very constructive criticism and discussions. Moreover, rather than casual exchanges, some specific relationships were arising among people and this gave a very useful and "human" kind of socialization. Those months have been really important for me as I learned lots of things. As the web, and that community, became more and more popular, and the number of subscribers climbed up very fast. I could perceive the lack of quality day by day, as the task of finding a meaningful comment was harder and harder as you had to crawl through tons of comments by people with vague ideas about serious photography; you could see that new subscribers were just imitating the style of comments that they found by lurking in the forum. Soon after, since there were a rating mechanism also related to comments, people started to exploit it and in the end the social value of that community, in my opinion, dropped enough so I abandoned it.

That's why I say that the implicit or explicit mechanism that filters attendees is important.

Hi, Some true words with one

Hi, Some true words with one little but important difference to a toilet. One of 100 comments contains valuable feedback and with every new post you get a fresh new white wall. So the smearing does not hurt you. Have fun, - Rossi