While I agree that comments are generally viewers “sounding off” and not a discussion, comments are the same and at the same time far different than forums, wikis, or videos.
All of them can have a lot of drivel. As the sayings go, “because you can doesn’t mean you should”, and “best to keep opinions to yourself and look a fool, rather than open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”
But the lure of the Internet is simple: traditional media is very much one-sided. No one cares what Joe Blow’s opinion is on TV, and that much is made very clear, just as long as they can push content in front of him to manipulate their opinion (Entertainment programs, Advertising, Network News, etc.) for whatever reason.
If Joe Blow wants to do “hit and run” opinion, comments are that realm. Fire off, unload your ills, and never read the page again. And online, you can do just that. Even if you thoughts aren’t “well-read” or show that you’re an “expert” on the subject. (And no one is an expert on everything, despite what forum trolls tell you.)
Forums and Wikis are not as inundated as comments are with hit-and-run posts: in forums, the communities are typically self-selecting, and people reply to the comments left with what’s appropriate to their ‘conversation’. If you’re not adding to it, you’re ignored, or at the worst moderated if people aren’t interested in what you’re saying. Crowd-centric communities do manage to bring in other posters and ostracise those with nothing useful to say. (But for every success story, there’s an abomination, like 4chan, or the World of Warcraft forum.)
I think the best example of crowd-based work is the simple Wiki. They have another feature neither forums or comments have: reversion. If someone hasn’t read Godwin’s Law and does a hit-and-run edit calling Mel Gibson a Nazi sympathesizer in Wikipedia (which he may be, but let’s say that it’s not sourced in any relevant news and not appropriate to add to an encyclopedia), an editor can, in a timely manner simply revert the edit to the prior content, sans Nazi. While there’s errors abound in Wikipedia, it’s managed to keep most of the encyclopedia free of every other word containing references to body parts and sex acts.
As for videos, I feel the prior comment covered that well enough. Sink or swim. Good content is shared, bad or average content is ignored, but so long as everyone gets their 15 minutes, right?
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