Anyone who reads comments sections following news articles surely will have noticed the rotten wealth of trolls and other idiots who inhabit such forums. I thought about Brossard and Scheufele's piece again today when I read a post by Dan Conover at Xark: "Why I shut down comments". The post reflects on how blog communities have changed since the early days of blogging in 2005. This timeframe has coincided with the growth of social media of other types, such as Facebook and Twitter, which have given many people a closed community for sharing comments and perspectives with like-minded folks. Conover observes that the trolls and spam are more persistent, causing a rapid degradation of the value of comment sections of many blogs.
This isn't of course universal. Many blogs continue to have rich and varied comment sections with their posts, and some (like mine) never had any comments at all. What I find more interesting is this passage:
I believed then, as I believe now, that the ability to comment and share across horizontal, informal networks is the killer app for the 21st century.
Which sounds nice.
Unfortunately, newspaper and other traditional-media websites, for all their hand-wringing concerns about libel and civility circa 2005, are typically the worst offenders when it comes to building quality comment cultures. We've taught users bad habits and turned comment sections into troll ghettos.