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Posts Tagged ‘commenting’

Was 2013 the Year Anonymity Died on the Internet?

Even without all the revelations of digital government spying coming out of leaked documents from Edward Snowden, 2013 will likely go down in the books as a tipping point away from the old online adage: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

This week, after hinting at it earlier this year, the online behemoth Huffington Post turned off anonymous user comments. Now, unless you apply for a special exception, your comments will be tied to your Facebook identity. (There’s a whole other discussion about Facebook names not being verified, but the idea is most people won’t go through the trouble of creating a whole new fake account, and it will at least make you stop and think for a minute — unless of course your username and avatars on the Internet are actually your dog because some people are into that.)

Aside from Huffington Post, other major players took a step away from online trolls this year. YouTube, home of perhaps one of the most notorious spam and vitriol-filled comment sections, moved toward an identity-based (aka: Google+) user-relevant comment section in November. Popular Science dropped comments altogether in September!

Many other news publishers jumped on the no-anonymous-commenting train that had started to gain steam in recent years this year. Already some big publishers, like Gannett, made the switch away from free-for-all comment section to those tied to social media accounts, which in theory are less anonymous. But this year even smaller communities, such as Gwinnett, Ga., and other bigger papers, such as the Sacramento Bee, made the switch.

That’s not to say there isn’t a case to be made for anonymity, but as anyone who has published anything on the Internet or had anything about them published on the Internet can attest, sometimes people are are just mean for the sake of being mean. Even with their names attached, people are still inexplicably cruel sometimes, but at least they do it publicly. In general, on news sites where comments are now tied to identities, it does seem to have elevated, if only somewhat, the level of discourse. That’s important because those comments can actually influence how people feel about the stories they read.

To be sure, other publishers have tried various methods to tame trolling comments without dropping them altogether or outing commenters’ identities. UC Berkeley has a good summary of some of the ideas and milestones in news site comment section adaptation.

What do you think? Have we reached the tipping point at which some day our kids or kids’ kids will look back on early online comments sections with awe in the same way we now marvel that the Internet used to move at 14kbps and basic computers once took up a whole room?

Tell us in the comments below, where yeah, for now, you don’t have to actually use your real name — but you probably shouldn’t be a jerk anyway.

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Should We Do Away With the Comment Section?

Once upon a time, I believed comment sections were content, too. And on some sites, I liked to read them. But now, Gawker is putting native advertisements in them and I think we should just do away with them. Yes, just get rid of the comment section.

It’s actually a very interesting move. Gawker sites have a huge, vocal following. There’s no reason they shouldn’t monetize that by putting Bill Nye in the Gizmodo comments.

There are actually very few online pubs and blogs that have good comment sections. Most online comments are not useful and often just plain old mean. I cheered when the Huffington Post announced it was no longer letting users comment anonymously. But if you take away the anonymity, maybe it’s best just to do away with them all together. It’s becoming more and more of a hassle — create an account, sign up for the newsletter, add an avatar — to comment anyway.

I used to believe that comment sections were a sign that the internet (back when it was called ‘the net’)was democratic  and a place for the open exchange of ideas. But now it’s about fighting with a troll about politics, or writing tangents to news stories that you should just post to a blog. You know, be productive, ‘own what you think.’

I feel like the comment sections should be the most authentic part of the webpage. But if even they are sponsored and –coming soon, right? — focused on going viral? Get rid of them altogether.

If you have something to say in response to a story or want to laud a writer – take it to Twitter. Write an email. Get your own blog. Just don’t do it in the comments.

Gawker’s Kinja Platform: Please Don’t Make Me Blog for You

It finally happened. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a bit of a Gawker groupie and I’ve been waiting for the rollout of Kinja on all of their sites. Not because I am an avid commenter (that requires more dedication than I can give), but because I wanted to see how it was going to work from the sidelines. I have mixed feelings.

 1) Mobile Layouts 

I know that everyone keeps saying that mobile is the future, and it is, of course. Fine. But I still don’t know how I’m supposed to work on a tablet. The old Gawker layout was optimized for a desktop experience, with the main blog post and a scroll down menu of new and trending posts. You could pick and choose, hop around the site before getting back to whatever you were avoiding before you came to Gawker in the first place.

The new Kinja layout is clean, sleek and modern. Everything you want a digital experience to be — except that you have to scroll around too much. I find myself reading many of the blurbs without actually clicking on a story. And when you do click into a story, that’s it. You have to work to browse. 

On a tablet, the Kinja reading experience makes more sense. Video and ads and posts all come together in one, non-annoying, continuous roll. My reaction to reading the new Gawker on my laptop is the first time I ever felt old. And why can’t you Tweet single posts? What’s the deal, Denton?   Read more

Facebook Comments Come To Mobile Devices

Facebook Comments, which have become a favorite third-party commenting tool of publishers, now work on mobile devices, Facebook said in a blog post on Wednesday.

The integration is automatic. If a website has the comment box implemented, the mobile version of Facebook comments will automatically display for users on mobile devices.

“The Comments Box for mobile is the latest update to the plugin to make commenting more social and authentic, improve the quality of conversations online, and drive traffic and engagement to media sites,” Facebook wrote in the post. Read more

Some Gannett Papers Test Facebook Comments, Ban Anonymous Posts

Peter Steiner's New Yorker cartoon from 1993.

The old adage, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog,” may hold less true soon, at least on some newspaper sites. Gannett Blog reports that some of the large chain’s U.S. papers are moving to force commenters to use their Facebook accounts to post comments instead of stand behind their anonymous user names.

This is, apparently, being tested in two Gannett markets:

  • Fort Myers News-Press: “When I am out in the community I can always count on one question: Why do you allow people to be anonymous when they comment online? Starting later this week we won’t on the stories that appear online. We will be one of two newspapers in our company to test Facebook comments. We will test it for 60 days and evaluate the results.”
  • Des Moines Register: “Starting late Wednesday, Facebook comments will replace our existing commenting system. You will have to have a Facebook account to comment, which will eliminate use of anonymous screen names.”

Read more