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Utility of Web Comments


Gawker Media founder Nick Denton recently made a statement about on-line comment sections, “The idea of capturing the intelligence of the readership — that’s a joke.” In his speech at SXSW, Denton discussed the failures of the Internet to achieve the Utopia of collective, constructive commenting to the point that most people simply ignore them altogether. While smaller sites are able to thematically maintain a semblance of comment quality, observation on blogs hosted by Gawker provided evidence that with growth comes riff-raff that requires attentive moderation to control. In the case of mainstream media, spam reduction and anti-trolling are too time consuming to be worth the effort considering the limited value add from the accepted comments.

OmniNerd has certainly seen crests and troughs within its commenting over time. Many of the features implemented over time reflect controls discussed by Denton – moderation, voting, etc. Is there still any value to open forum based comments on the Internet?

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What's wrong with ON? by Occams

While smaller sites are able to thematically maintain a semblance of comment quality, observation on blogs hosted by Gawker provided evidence that with growth comes riff-raff that requires attentive moderation to control.

Omninerd seems to be having the opposite problem – lack of comments, even from trolls, and rif raff anonymii I think that the frequency (if not the quality) of commenting on Omninerd has fallen so low that the site is almost dead. That is sad because it was a really great site a few years ago. Perhaps those of us who are still here should do some brainstorming to try to find a solution.

I think we desperately need more diversity of interest and opinion. We need some way of introducing controversial topics that will challenge conventional thinking. Perhaps we could somehow automatically identify the most nerdy issues in the news each week and contrast opinions being expressed in the media.

We need to get back some our star commentators from the past: willy waddel, Lorddilly and many others. The loss of our conservative commentators has left us with nothing to rail against. Why did they go? If that represents some kind of victory for our liberal thinkers then it is a hollow one.

We should note that and move on. The best subjects have been the ones we try to avoid in polite society: religion, politics, and sex. Other subjects that drew some passionate debates included racism; quirky science and technological development;, military affairs; and even computer security.

The model of waiting for a member to contribute an interesting article which we can all then debate is not working. I think we need more permission to discuss anything without first having to write sensibly on the subject. The emphasis has been on having evidence before making claims, and perhaps this is too inhibiting. We should welcome half assed opinion rants, especially if they seem to represent views that are prolific in our society. If we go that way then we probably need some rules or conventions to prevent people who cannot defend their views from becoming too quickly humiliated.

I think we need more humour, satire, and good-natured criticism. Furthermore we need a better way of encouraging interesting contriobutions: The existing points system is not working and no one ever really understood the ranking system.

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Omninerd nostalgia by Jackson

I always thought the point of inline comments was for the reader to feel superior to all of the crazy ideas that always appear in the comments sections of major sites. Omninerd rarely had that effect (with the exception of the periodic Scientology barrages and arguments about climate change). Can’t really decide why I stopped posting and commenting here.

Facebook has taken up a large part of my arguing til I’m blue in the face, but it is ultimately unsatisfying. People there don’t set a very high bar for argumentation.

I credit Omninerd, in large part, (particularly scottb and starm_ of old) for my transition from never-say-die orthodox Christian conservative to the skeptical and much more nuanced liberal I’ve become. The arguments I read here were frequently heavily supported and clearly stated and people, from time to time, even accepted the argument of their adversary. Not often, mind you. But it happened. {waves hand}

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