I read this humorous article this week in Time magazine by Technoculture columnist Lev Grossman, which wonders whether reader comments on web articles and blog posts add or subtract value from the content they are attached to. Heres a somewhat harsh but exemplary bit of it:
A random example: on June 11, a user called way21337 uploaded a video to YouTube. Its titled My new gerbil, and it shows, in fact, a black-and-white gerbil snuffling around cutely in somebodys hand. It is 11 seconds long. By press time, it had acquired 102 comments. Lets take a look! They begin with NewTyhuss, who writes, sweet! Things start going south with comment No. 4: id hit it. (Good one, ZRace67!) After a week, were down to eldergod: why dont u shove that gerbil up yur *&% and quit posting stupid videos. bwalhof writes, kill yourself. fast. And so on.
Ultimately, Grossman shares in the lament in response to this kind of commentary and hopes that the standards of real world, offline politeness will win the day. I hope hes right, but I think that the more pessimistic view, that a kind of communal game in which whoever is cleverest and pushes the most buttons wins is under way is what keeps many companies from opening up their online content to user comments.
Any comments from you? bwalhof, are you out there?