NPR’s decision to disable comments from their site is quite disappointing.
On face value, it’s understandable why NPR shut off comments. Most of them are simply flamers and trolls. Tech blogger Anthony Dean notes that some types of sites simply don’t receive quality comments. Whereas other sites do receive quality comments.
Thankfully, my sites haven’t seen that sort of attitude where people leave hateful comments. I see an immense value in comments on my sites and other sites like Anthony Dean’s blog. However, if a majority of the comments are spewed by hatred, the desire would be strong to simply shut them off. The publisher with a site that gets low-quality comments would look at other sites that get high-quality comments, and say, “man, this stinks that I’m getting bad comments, let’s just turn them off.”
The question is what should be done with sites that get low-quality comments? Shut them off entirely? Or endure the bad comments?
- If you are a fan of society with transparency, then you would want to have comments.
- If you believe in freedom of expression, then you would want to have comments.
Does it mean more work for the publisher? Yes, it does. If the publisher believes in enabling their readers, they would enable comments.
Without comments right under the blog post, there isn’t any sort of direct interaction. Yes, there’s Facebook and Twitter. However, those comments are on a third party, removed from the original article. The constant streams of Facebook and Twitter aren’t the best place for fostering ideas and growing yourself. You totally lose the context of what is uttered in Facebook or Twitter. Mike Caulfield explains:
In many ways the Stream is best seen through the lens of Bakhtin’s idea of the utterance. Bakhtin saw the utterance, the conversational turn of speech, as inextricably tied to context. To understand a statement you must go back to things before, you must find out what it was replying to, you must know the person who wrote it and their speech context. To understand your statement I must reconstruct your entire stream.
This is why I love comments on blogs. You have the entire original article. And then right under that article are the comments. The comments are read within the original context of the article. Remove comments on the article, put them on Facebook/Twitter; and you are left with context-less babble.
A blog without comments is like an island where nobody can speak except for the island owner. Sure, you can visit the island, but nobody is allowed to talk–at all. However, once you get back onto your boat, you can talk all you want. But talking on the island–forbidden.
Are you a publisher that broadcasts its message without listening to your readers? Or are you a publisher that enables your readers to be active participants?
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Clarification: the Mike Caulfield quote is actually in reference to wikis. Further on in his article, he writes about how blogs are really part of the stream. And he’s absolutely right. Read his entire article, it’s fascinating.
Although for the purposes of comparing blogs with Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, I would argue in terms of context that blogs are a better part of the stream than Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.