This site… or blog if you prefer to call it.. is fast approaching its 7th year in existence. The podcast, soon to be on its 5th year. And even years before any of this, I edited my own little website on a long forgotten service called geocities, where I would write news commentary. And the one constant throughout all of this, besides my concern for the world and the fact that many of you were reading along even back then, has been a place for comments.
Comments on the internet, especially on published work (personal or otherwise), have long been the source of a lot of promises, praise, and condemnation. The idea that anyone can write what they think, be it an angry gut reaction or a well thought out respectful criticism, or of course the occasional praise… it can all be a part of what you see on the site and what the content producer has put out there. Its arguably the key ingredient of what makes a blog special. Arguably the future of this internet we’re all a part of. Despite many sites out there deciding against comments or having to turn them off eventually do to some extreme or minor problem that could relate to harassment, what some people call hate speech, or just general irritance…. still a huge amount of sites, this one included, have managed to chug on.. comments and all. Moreover I often think that my comments section is a good place, a mostly open and welcoming space where you can add to, comment on, or argue with something I’ve said or done. Some just use it to say hello or make me laugh… sometimes a very uplifting occurrence. Sometimes though, I’m bothered by a comment, by disrespect, or even by something I said without thinking something through. Still.. the comments section rolls on.
This was the topic on the most recent episode of On the Media (3rd segment in the show), questioning what good comments have done news sites and blogs, versus what difficulties they may have brought. As usual I could have though of some better voices to have included in this segment. Especially net natives and freedom fighters like my friend Tony Pierce of the LA Times and the Busblog, who could have told them the beauty and occasional horror of the comments section. I would have also told them to talk to my dear Bitch Phd, another seasoned veteran who has (what I would call) a very special relationship with a VERY active comments section.
I digress, I do recommend the latest edition of OTM specifically for the focus on comments. Even beloved/behated NPR voice Ira Glass tells of his experience.
Maybe you have your own take on news sites or blogs and how they manage comments. Or perhaps, about the comments on my site. If so, you know what to do…