Read & Respond – Week 10

Welcome to comment culture! We’ve been posting plenty of comments of our own, so you’ve got some familiarity with the process. Briggs (chapter 11) this week talks about building a digital audience, but what do we do with that audience when it starts responding? Consider this story from the University of Missouri (my alma mater) about a professor-student altercation – after reading the story, what happens in the comments? Why does something like this seem so familiar?

Comments are a part of today’s news. Consider this story about a judge suing a newspaper for linking her name to her comments. Several news organizations are rethinking anonymous comments for exactly this reason – look at this discussion from Slate. On the one hand, individuals may expect a level of personal privacy when they register as commenters; on the other, a county judge is an elected official held to a definite standard. How ethical was it to connect her with her anonymous words?

Beyond expectation of privacy, to what extent should commenters be free to say what they like? Consider places like Youtube and Amazon, which boast some of the worst comments on the Internet (although Youtube has recently changed its policy); this video of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, for example, had comments disabled “since many of them were hateful and racist.” Take a look at Gawker’s comment policy, which requires commenters to audition and privileges the comments of “starred” commenters. Is this too restrictive, or do you think they’re on the right track?

There’s also the question of identity. All of you have your own usernames with which you post to different sites. You might use the same name at multiple sites (for example, I show up as either “Aaaaaargh” and “The Bob The” in most places I go), you might have different identities in different places, or you might be one of the dreaded unregistered users. Read this Jeff Jarvis post on the role of identity – it’s not as simple as we tend to treat it. The more you use a name, the more history that name develops, allowing those who’ve never met you in the flesh to nonetheless know something about you, or at least about your persona. Your online identity(s) may not be identical to who you are at home, but to what extent are you responsible for it?

Finally, an important message about trolls:

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-Vh80CYYrw]

What’s your identity (and do you only have one)? Are you a troll? How should comments run online – what would you like to see improved, and what should remain unregulated? Imagine a world where your group blog for this class is widely read (hey, it could happen) – how would you manage your comment section to freedom of speech with civility of discourse?

Remember to respond to these readings (including Briggs) in a comment to this post by noon on Monday, March 14. More importantly, come prepared to discuss these examples and, ideally, some of your own.

(Also, unrelated to comments, have a look at the #SWSWi tag this week. There’s a number of sessions you might benefit from vicariously participating in – check here for a useful list of highlights)

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23 Responses to Read & Respond – Week 10

  1. I am super stoked to tart using web analytics as a means to monitor my audience consumption of my blog, however, I don’t think it has quite the following to produce much meaningful information. I just hope that google analytics will work with my older version of wordpress. Anybody know? Anybody want to help me with upgrading my wordpress?

    Much of the Briggs chapter was painfully redundant, but I did learn some vocabulary that will no doubt be useful. I was especially surprised at my lack of knowledge about SEO considering it is the type of writing my mother does most often. I wish that Briggs had gone into more depth about Video SEO.

    Overall, I think I am learning better how to increase my human capital and listen to my audience. Now all I need is an audience.

    As far as how I feel about commenting and the like please refer to the worst day of my social media life and try to make sense of the madness.

    I think it is something that should be regulated in some degree depending on the venue and traffic a site gets. I don’t need to regulate my commenting because only my mom reads my blog (and only if I tell her to). However, I think having some ability to specify a level of credibility is good for more trafficked and important web sites like “beer and comics.”

    No I am not a troll and I would like nothing more than to figure out how to be the me I am in the flesh on-line because I like me. I am getting closer, but it is hard to sound like yourself when you are new to a new to a language.

  2. rdlwvufan says:

    First!

    Briggs makes some good points about finding ways to be proactive in getting a website discovered and read by a lot of people. It’s easy to just “hope for the best,” but starting a website and gaining a readership takes effort, just as starting and growing a business. If no one knows it exists, what good is it? Using a free program like Google Analytics makes sense. I mean, there’s no reason not to use it, since it is free after all. Once again, social media is the key to the future (and present) of online promotion. All of these little things (writing good headlines, using social networking sites, etc.) add up when it comes to finding an online audience and running a successful website.

    I read over half of the comments on the Missouri article, and it was fairly civil. It is moderated, so that is to be expected. Depending on who is reading the comments, the one guy, Ricky Gurley, is either an instigator who just wants to ruffle feathers, or he is presenting a reasonable argument for which no one seems to have a response to suit him. Personally, I felt what he asked was reasonable to a point, in that, people can quickly jump to conclusions about things about which they are not fully informed. However, like I said, it was moderated, so on another site, perhaps things get out of hand quickly.

    I think people can use anonymity to “escape” who they are in real life. I might be a passive, quiet person in real life, but I can be a 6-6, 300 pound tough guy when I’ve got my keyboard in hand. There’s no risk involved when assuming such a persona, so I think people are more willing to forgo sanity for the sake of making a point.

    I don’t think it was ethical to make the connection with the judge because, as the article stated, it was her daughter who apparently made the comments. Just as it wouldn’t be fair to jump my case if someone logged into my facebook account and started posting vitriolic comments, I think the paper jumped to a conclusion that maybe wasn’t warranted. If the presumption is anonymity, the paper can’t just change the rules when it feels like it. It clearly singled out this one person.

    Commenters should be allowed to say what they want within reasonable standards of decency. Disagreeing with a comment should not prevent it from being posted, but using caustic language that incites feelings of misanthropy, misogyny, misandry, racism, bigotry, etc. have no place in a comments section. That is, unless this is what people are commenting on.

    I don’t have any real problem with Gawker’s commenting policy. While it can be difficult and tedious to get approved, if you’re someone who regularly peruses their sites, becoming a commenter is more likely to be valuable to you, and will be worth the process. Plus, you can still be anonymous, but comments are moderated, so you can’t be a total jackass.

    I think people are responsible for their online identities, at least to the point where they are responsible for what they make of it, which is pretty obvious. Beyond that, I don’t know what can be done to a person who isn’t “genuine” with their online identity (I thought I knew you!). Personally, I don’t think I am really any different online compared to my real life. When you’re dealing with people who (most of the time) you’ve never met IRL and never will, what you see is all you’ll get.

    13 seconds. That’s how far I made it into that video.

    My identity is generally who I really am. I don’t troll, but I do occasionally argue with people, though I only do so when I feel it’s justified. I think commenting should remain anonymous, but I like the idea of having to kind of “earn” it. Maybe not necessarily the way Gawker does it, but maybe a probationary period or something. Youtube is hopeless, of this I am convinced, but it’s okay, because it’s just commenting about videos. Only a small fraction of them have any real value, and they are the ones that are set up to not allow comments, as in the Martin Luther King video. I think many people who might have something valuable to add will be turned off by not being anonymous. Trolls might die off, too, but the gain/loss has to be evaluated.

    As for our blog, I think moderating is necessary to maintain civility. If it was booming, and people were constantly reading posts and commenting, it would be difficult to moderate, but at the very least, a person should need to have a first comment approved before being allowed to continue, although this presents its own problems. It’s better to be too restrictive than too lax, IMO.

  3. K.Wish. says:

    To answer your first question, the development of comments in the MU article is very frustrating to me. I feel bad for all parties involved, especially the assaulted professor and the writer of that article. Essentially, the evolution of those comments went from questioning the true guilt of the assailant, to questioning the actions of the professor, to defending the professor, then to criticizing the writer of the story. My brain hurts after reading that mess of tug-and-war! However, the interesting part of this is that some of the commenters did their own digging and found other articles about the subject and compared word usage and facts.

    In the Plain Dealer article, the lines of right and wrong are extremely thin. However, I think a great point was mentioned by the editor: “What if it ever came to light that someone using the e-mail of a sitting judge made comments on a public Web site about cases she was hearing, and we did not disclose it?” Goldberg said last month. “These are capital crimes and life-and-death issues for these defendants. I think not to disclose this would be a violation of our mission and damaging to our credibility as a news organization.”

    Although the comments were eventually linked to the judge’s daughter, I don’t think Saffold should sue because all that needed done was a retraction and follow up article on the topic. Maybe she needs to pay more attention to what her daughter is doing online. However, Plain Dealer should take responsibility in their comment policies and edit them if they aren’t going to follow their own rules. In the end, I do think it was ethical for them to connect her to the comments, although it ended up being her daughter. If it had been her, that would be a whole different ball game.

    Next, comment policies should really be tailored to the mission and goals of the web site. Gawker’s commenting policy reminds me of Deadspin’s technique of using awesome commenters only. This policy may be too stringent for web sites like Teen Magazine but are perfect for highly concentrated trade web sites. My point is, it really depends. Either way, it’s going to be controversial. I personally don’t see many issues with the way commenting policies work at the moment. For our group blog, I would moderate the comments and have guidelines for when comments are deleted. As long as guidelines are given and understandable, there shouldn’t be too much room for misunderstandings. However, the ease of commenting is an issue. I don’t think one should have to make an account to comment. It’s too time consuming and adds more clutter to individual email accounts. I think the Briggs reading ties in well with this topic because how well you track your viewership and promote your blog will dictate what kind of comments will be received and how many.

    The article on identity brings up interesting points. However, I believe you are absolutely responsible for what your online identity portrays and the repercussions of that identity. It’s true that we all have several identities, especially in American society. I think my identity varies across mediums: for Art Dish I have one voice while my Facebook account has a more personal identity.

  4. mountaineats says:

    Comment culture is truly astounding. I’m reminded of an article by Cracked, about amazingly sarcastic reviews of stupid Amazon products where they chronicled some really witty internet comments that seem, at first glance, sincere. While these are fun, they are not the norm. Most comments are sloppy, and do nothing to advance the conversation. These are the sort of comments we as students and journalists hope to avoid.

    That said, there are major advantages to the comment culture and the notion of the digital audience, given we have a minute amount of control over it. To do that, we develop our own platform- for example, a group blog- and continuously drive discussion towards the published articles. With wordpress, tracking and measuring is simple. And I suppose Bob sets our benchmarks for us in terms of the detailed assignments. I know the other members of my group have been doing great works with tagging their posts respectively, and I need to step it up. I guess the bottom line in furthering the brand is figuring out our web traffic demographics, though honestly our demo should be college students in West Virginia.

    Identity is an interesting topic, simply because the lack can lead to terrifying realities (read: Trolls). I know people who regularly trod the cesspools of the internet, and places like 4chan give me the jibblies. If you need an example of the danger of anonymous internet use, look up the anonymous message boards that have been shut down on account of child pornography. In Jarvis’ article, the idea of the Facebook identity comes up, and I welcome a day when our online identity is tied to an identity with some bearing in meatspace. The internet disgusts me sometimes in how disorganized it is, and maybe Facebook can clean it up.

    Finally, the more cynical I get, the more I like the gawker-style policy of comment auditioning. Though I for one welcome our spambot overlords (up to 400 spam comments on my personal blog! Whoo!) maybe it detracts from just trying to read a post. I’m just happy that most places have an option to turn commenting off. Hate to say it, but free speech seems more fit for reality.

  5. capnwinters says:

    First and foremost I take issue with the phrase “Google juice.” To quote Michael Bluth, “There’s gotta be a better way to say that.” And I think Briggs’ “If you build it, they will come” mentality is a lovely thought, but all of that SEO wizardry just strikes me as obtuse. One of my friends recently found my blog in some Google search results, so I must be getting the occasional straggler. I’m more concerned with the content than SEO, so I feel that Briggs backs me up in that department.

    I felt that it wasn’t ethical for cleveland.com to look up her email and connect her to it; yeah, it was there in the legal boilerplate, but come on, we don’t expect people to out our true identities online, legal or not.

    My personal experience with Gawker was disheartening. I happen to know a great deal about games, and thus felt that I could contribute to the discussion about gaming on the Kotaku site. Not so, apparently, as I was cut off at the knees when I attempted to do so. The starred commenting system is good in theory, but I wasn’t even granted commenting privileges at all. They lost a commenter with great knowledge of the topic due to the site’s inaccessibility.

    And as Aaaaaargh is to you, Capnwinters is to me, named for some fellow I met on Counter Strike once. I wish people would connect my online personas, as I generally do cool stuff online and it would only help to promote my blog / Twitter stuff.

    I’d like to imagine that in the case that if my blog blew up on the web, that I would be able to manually go through and examine my comments to see what people think. As it is, people have to go through WordPress to participate in the discussion, and that filter is good enough for me.

  6. With Briggs, as I have experienced myself, it sometimes feels like I am writing for no one. Like I am making a blog post for no one but myself. However, this is not true. If you type, they will come (eventually). Keep on it and there will be commenting and something to keep not only others involved with what you have to say, but it also keeps you more informed as well.

    The comments in the MU case got out of hand. As the graph puts it, a normal person when hidden with anonymity in a crowd turns into a completely different person. Usually a person no one really wants to be around.

    I am pretty certain that I am not that mean, trolling person. First of all, I rarely go on sites that I comment on anyway, and I personally feel that if you feel strongly enough about something that you want to comment on it, for goodness sake, use your internet identity (whether that identity is you, or a completely fake identity) but use something other than anon.

    People need to be able to voice their opinion, there is nothing wrong with that and blogging is used as a kind of public forum where people with similar interests can get together and discuss thing together, nicely. Again, just because someone may have different ideas than you does not give anyone a right to attack someone. It is just not nice. Yes, Youtube and Amazon have some pretty nasty comments out there and I think the fact that it has gotten more strict is a good thing. Yes, Gawker’s policies are harsh, but obviously they dealt with some pretty nasty stuff that made them think that this way is just the best way to handle situations.

    I used to think that people should be able to be anon if they really wanted to, but after seeing what can happen with that privilege, I do not think that it is for the greater good. If someone came onto my site and just started attacking people for no reason, I would probably have to be like all of those other big blogs and just have to block that person for awhile. If you cannot say something nice, don’t say anything at all right? You are always responsible for what you do, whether it is a more outspoken or stronger person than you really are in the flesh, but you are still absolutely responsible for that person.

  7. deepafadnis says:

    The first thing that comes to my mind after reading all the articles and Briggs chapter is the two way communication model. The very first thing you learn when you enter a communication school is the two way communication model – feedback and the ‘noise’. And everything that follows are ways to tackle this hindrance or noise. But this is not the case today. Established bloggers are creating blocks under the pretext of screening comments or maintaining editorial value. These are the same people who were complaining about public being too passive a few years back. Now with the evolution of the internet, people have finally opened up to the idea of discussing issues and voicing their opinions.

    Briggs talks about SEO and it was interesting to learn how this databases are built and used. The concept of ‘google juices’ sounded really awesome and funny at the same time. But it does set me thinking about the fact that these systems can be easily manipulated and hence cannot be the ultimate destination for our search. I found the audience tracking tools very interesting. Although my blog barely makes it anywhere, I would love to see what one of these tracker tools have to say about the 4 people that visit my blog everyday!

    Coming back to the articles, the MU student – professor fight was rather upsetting and in such cases sources should comment on articles directly. rather they should go through the journalist or send a written request to the news agency. That is just how certain process should work to maintain the quality of commenting and not engage into a virtual brawl.

    However, the Gawker commenting policy is too stringent and does not speak very well about the blogger. It comes across as arrogant. I agree that comments posted on the blog should be screened for obscenity, profanity or racial remarks, but you cannot threaten your these people and expect honest opinions. You are obviously picking the ones that speak well of you and ignoring the ones that have a valid but opposing opinion. People who comment are not editorially sound, but they do have an opinion and many a times, more sound than the editor sitting in the comforts of his office. You cannot expect a comment that meets your editorial requirements from people who live a not so newsy life.

    The popular saying that says ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ is so outdated! People don’t want restrictions today, specially not after you’ve opened up the whole world in front of them. You have to train your reader to comment tastefully not terrorize them. Anonymous commenting should be allowed. Screen it if you like, but anonymous commenting can bring a lot of issues that would otherwise be buried away. It’s like in the case of Wikileaks. We know the reports posted on wikileaks were real, but we don’t know who posted them. All that noise about detecting the source for these documents buried the real controversies which would have cost a lot of people their jobs. Diversion, almost always works.

    And finally, Briggs talks about using all the possible social media tools to publicize your blog and reach your audiences. well, our group blog has been trying to do that and we’ve been quite successful so far. Week 2 is quite exciting as well.

  8. lindsaycobb says:

    I think Briggs is right about the whole write it and people will read it… but I don’t like waiting… its discouraging. Sometimes when Briggs writes I feel like he sounds so sure, but then I apply it to my social media experiences and I wonder how in the world Briggs can get away with some of his “crazy” advice! I am really starting to like my blog, and I hope Briggs is right, that people will start to like it as well. Until then, I read it ha and try to stay positive! (Also, as a little side note, blogging has improved my writing I think… especially posting everyday for a month, so that is an added bonus that I get- no readers needed!)

    If (when!) my blog is widely read I would see how commenting went before I tried to regulate it. My doesn’t really attract controversial conversation. Most people don’t go looking for a fight in conversations about Habitat for Humanity… but if I did get some haters I would start moderating by having people approved to be commenters I suppose…. but I really wouldn’t want to have to do that. Plus, despite my criticisms of social media, I think discourse is important. I don’t want to silence anyone who is adding to the volunteer community conversation… even if I don’t agree with them.

    Out of all the articles you gave us I thought the MU article was the most telling of this weeks topic. Ricky Gurley is an ass. At first i thought he had a perfectly good point… he just kinda called out the gray areas of the article. very quickly though, he just starts getting mean and unnecessary. I think he is the kind of person who doesn’t rely on anonymity to speak his mind online (obviously- he has his name out in the open and even signs some of his comments too). I think, anonymous or not, people like using the internet as a forum to argue. Some people argue issues that are more important, and some find random articles about an altercation at a University and just go from there. I think the long comment rolls under not very important articles (not to say the MU article wasn’t important, I just don’t think it warranted so much angst) are just a result of people being annoyed and able to share their opinion. Comment allow for the conversation that we so often discuss. If I read that article in a paper I could turn to the person next to me and say “well how do we know if she warned him before she took the drink?” and the person would either agree, disagree, or be oblivious to the article and that would be the end of it. So, even though I think comments on these articles turn into something rather childish it does add to the overall conversation that the internet provides us.

    I think anonymity is very important in commenting… but probably not for the same reason as most, and I definitely didn’t see it in any of these articles. The judge thought she should have remained anonymous (to that I say, she is in the pubic eye and should have watched herself… tough, but true), many people say anonymity causes trolls, also sites argue they have to have some way of monitoring commenters. While all these reasons are valid, I think anonymity should remain if for no other reason than to keep people from becoming completely dependent on virtual communication. If we could have completely open conversations everywhere on the web, people wouldn’t get tired of not knowing who they were speaking with or responding to. As you already know Dr. Britten, there are a lot of things I dislike about social media because I think it causes us to be physically antisocial. I think anonymity is one of the few things keeping us from defaulting to total reliance on the internet and chat room type situations.

    Lastly, I don’t know if I completely understand what a troll is. The wikipedia article kept saying, “a troll isn’t this” or “a troll isn’t that.” I guess we can’t give trolls a definite definition, but that ginger certainly does not like them. If people made fun of my gingerness online I would be upset too! However, not caring enough about anonymous commenters/pointless opinions of strangers I have to say I don’t think I would ever make a video illustrating how angry I was. His video had my dying in the library though.
    I am proud to say I am not a troll- I only give my opinion when it is worth my time. Trolls ad to the general distrust of the internet by outsiders, newcomers, and those overly sensitive people- for instance, our ginger friend!

  9. tonicekada says:

    After reading the story about the professor who took the students drink away, the comments seemed angry. They were definitely written with an attitude. I also noticed that it seemed like the comments were immediately angry. You know what I mean? It did not take much time for the tension to build up (esp. with that Ricky kid) and for the comments to get heated. It does seem familiar to me because I have seen it almost everywhere I have ever read some sort of controversial article. It’s too easy to be angry and give off attitude when you are hiding behind a computer and all you have to do it type.
    I also noticed that some of the students were complaining that their comments got deleted. This was because they did not use their real name. I think this is a good strategy to keep people from posting whatever they want. If people will know who you are, you are less likely to say something rash.
    I can understand both sides of the argument. Welcoming anonymity allows people to contribute to the conversation easily. It gives everyone and equal right to comment. It can be beneficial and help someone out with some good information, and anonymous comments can contribute to new ideas and perspectives. But I do not agree with them. Yes, the internet is not guarenteed to provide privacy, and that was never a promise, but anonymous comments lead to more trouble than their beneficial worth. You can receive beneficial comments from people who identify themselvs just as easily.
    I think that a lot of the people who leave comments anonymously do not consider what they are doing when the say things that could be offensive. For example, I recently got an intership (yay me!) with the Herald Standard newspaper out in Uniontown, Pa. While I was out to lunch with the Editor he was telling me about the problem with anonymous comments. He told me about this story that was printed in the paper about a baby who died in a house fire, while the mother survived and made her way outside. A citizen used an anonymous name to comment on the story saying that the mother was on drugs and couldn’t even save her own infant! That’s crazy! Not to mention entirely hurtful to the mother, who had actually been taking a nap when the fire occured. When she woke up, she was disoriented and only after she had realized the baby was still inside she tried to fight her way back in. This man who left the comment caused a great deal of chaos. People were calling and complaining about the comment all day. In my opinion, comments like that make a newspaper look bad, and what’s worse, the editor cannot always get to them immediately. Restricting to commentors to use their real name will not only most likely prevent vulgar comments, but it will also allow the editors to spend less time moderating comments, and more time writing the news!

  10. tonicekada says:

    By the way, the man who left that awful comment…he was a troll. haha. But unfortunately there are a lot of those out there. They are damaging to journalists and journalism because they have the power to make stories or news agencies look bad.

    • K.Wish. says:

      I sometimes find trolls to be very hilarious. You all should look for them on Facebook group or event pages that are likely to have some controversy. They often make really student names up and make comments just to make people upset. May not be right, but it’s amusing.

  11. Shannon Teets says:

    While reading comments can be entertaining, I am always reminding myself to take each one with a grain of salt. Generally, you would think that to comment on something, one would perceive themselves to be if not be an ex pert, at least have a solid understanding of what they’re criticizing or making a comment about, however, it has been my experience that this is in no way near always being the case. Those who leave comments are often motivated to do so by their strong opinions and after reading the MU article and its following of comments, I’m starting to think some people have way too much time on their hands and just like to instigate arguments (no matter how outrageous) for fun. One thing I found interesting was the comment at the beginning that pointed out some of the articles “loose ends”, this made me realize that maybe comments do have a higher purpose. Intelligent readers can use them as a clever way to challenge the author’s credibility. That being said the majority of the MU article comments took on a life of their own and contributed nothing of significant value to the issue and story at hand.

    As for the judge, anonymous or not, I feel she was in no position to be publically commenting on anything related to cases she was hearing, period. As a judge, she should have recognized this as being wrong and considered the consequences of being caught before she posted. There is no guarantee that what you post on the internet will be kept private, everyone knows that! There are even public advertising campaigns during Saturday morning cartoons letting kids know to think before they post, maybe this judge should have seen them as well. To me, the newspaper was just upholding their obligation to be a “watchdog for the public” by exposing the corruption of the commenting judge.

    Gawkers commenting policy seems a little restrictive, but I think they’ve got a good idea. The only problem I can see with regulating comments in this manner is the potential to create bias. For example, “We only approve the comments we love”, if someone has an opinion that the moderator doesn’t agree with, how likely is their comment to be approved? I feel their whole process on becoming a commenter is outstanding. It trims away the fat so to speak, and keeps that person (as seen in the MU article) just commenting to create chaos out of the equation.

    I’d like to think that my internet identity is similar to my real life personality. If I have something valuable to say, I will make an effort to have it heard, otherwise, I just smile and nod and stay out of it. I am a very un-confrontational person, I don’t like to step on people toes whether it be face to face or online. I will say that I’d find it easier to call someone out for false information over the internet rather than in person, and I’ve done this before. Regardless of what I’m commenting on or correcting, one thing’s for sure, I am not a troll, I won’t post something unless there is undeniable evidence to support my claims, furthermore, I don’t have the energy to sit around trolling, I’d rather take a nap.

  12. ewadd986 says:

    The MU story is a classic example of everything that is wrong about commenting connected with news stories. I myself feel that commenting is great, it allows people to talk and discuss issues in a public forum and I’m all for it. However, forums are usually the only civil places to have such discussions where administrators can heavily moderate. The MU story is an example of what happens on most news sites; people running their mouths about their stone cold opinion and attacking others for theirs.
    It is my opinion that commenter’s can say anything they like. While what they might be saying is most of the time pointless drivel and sometimes like in the MLK case very hateful, there is freedom of speech in this country. My problem lies with the websites and the way they run their commenting sections. I think that moderation is pretty much the only way to go if you want to run a reputable site. I like the idea gawker has to audition to comment but that seems like it’s asking a little too much. However, it is their site and I agree with their decision to do whatever they see fits best for their site as far as comments go due to the number of trolls on the internet.
    Trolls are one of the worst things to happen to the internet. I used to post at a draft website forum when I was younger because I was absolutely obsessed with the Redskins in the draft and I wanted to voice my opinion to other fans. I stopped posting when the number of trolls on the website became too much. These are the people who have no business being in a conversation, essentially they are the annoying person who buts into your private conversation with inane garbage. They lurk and read and then just out of nowhere pop in with their biased commenting only to attack and belittle people. Most sites try to do a good job of banning these people from posting but there are so many ways to get around it by just making a new name that it can’t be stopped. Maybe if they were to do something with IP addresses?
    The Briggs reading this week was good from a motivational standpoint. The famous adage turned around to if you write it they will come. I feel like what Andrea said that sometimes I feel as if I’m writing for only myself and that can be really discouraging. While yes we are doing this for a grade, sometimes that’s all it seems like. It sometimes becomes more like busy work than actually posting how you feel when you know you have certain deadlines and that nobody is really going to ever read this. But I have noticed that when I do an in-depth post with some good content that I inevitably have more people coming to my site the next couple of days. So I definitely agree with Briggs that people will start to like what you have to say. While my followers may be few and far between right now, if I keep up the better content laden stories than I know that my followers can only go up.

  13. awieders says:

    Comment culture over the internet can take form in many different ways, and a lot of it depends on the host site. The Missouri article included a lot of well thought out posts, and rarely did we see any logical fallacies coming from the commenters. In short, it was a good back and forth discussion with few personal attacks.

    One website that I use for connecting with other football junkies is Football’s Future. The commenting on the website is interesting because it acts as both a draft website and a forum for football junkies. The commenting usually comes from extremely intelligent football fans who want to look intelligent to their peers. Rarely would there be a situation where a post or comment wasn’t well thought out.

    But then there are trolls. Usually, on a forum, you can’t avoid them. On a forum like that, they show up in droves because of the high passions that go into football. In this case, trolls were usually posters who wanted to incite anger in another team’s fans. The site was heavily moderated though. Trolls were almost always caught, but moderators were forced to use a special private forum to determine whether or not something constituted as trolling and/or a general rules violation.

    I think that a lot of people say things on the internet that they wouldn’t dare say in public, and I think that if you are unwilling to say it out loud then you shouldn’t be willing to say it on the internet either. I have no problem with moderators and rules. People want their websites and forums to look professional, but they can often be dragged down by stupid comments and trolls.

    I actually agree with Briggs…if you right it they will come. I have been using the publicize feature on Facebook and Twitter, and the more blog posts I churn out, the more readers I find I have. It amazed me that I get sometimes as many as 50 views in one day for a blog that is so fledgling and new. People are looking for something to read in there cubicles after all.

  14. bostonkid124 says:

    It looks like I’m not the only one who feels like I’m blogging for myself and occasionally my roommates. Briggs is right in the aspect that when you right you have to stay patient and you have to have the right content and have quality writing. It isn’t much fun knowing that all the time spent writing and trying to come up with idea’s doesn’t translate into gaining more readers. It’s weird because with my blog I started off getting a good amount of views (I was near 45-60 views daily) but its gradually fallen. This might be a sign that people don’t like my writing or don’t find my story angles that interesting. Regardless I have to find a way to spice things up and get my readers back.
    The case about the professor and student at Missouri was pretty ridiculous. I actually side with the professor on this issue, even though I know if I was the student I would pissed off too (but not to the point of pushing the teacher and needing to be restrained). Going through the comments was an adventure as even kids from the class that witnessed the event were commenting on it. The comment took a lot of twists and turns as the argument changed a couple times.
    I have a few identities, my most common one is bostonkid124. I used to have a couple more in middle school as I would try to find the “new, cool” username or screen-name or what have you. I’m all over the internet on various sites and wish that I could just link all my usernames and accounts (although there are severe repercussions if somebody hacks my account), that way people can know bostonkid124 is me and not some other person. To answer the troll question, absolutely not! I hate trolls and the Youtube link was hilarious- yet somewhat dramatic. On my youtube account I’ve had people trolling and comment calling me names and this and that, I don’t let it bother me because I know I’m never going to see these people and their negative useless opinions don’t matter…
    This leads to my next point about comments. At least on my personal blog I wouldn’t allow any verbal abuse toward other commentors, if they want to take a shot at me, BRING IT. I feel like I have a similar opinion with Jeff Jarvis. If you want to say something, don’t hide as anonymous, say it. Everybody in this world has different opinions so I’m not going to be one to fight over it, but I’d like to have a civil argument. I would like to see improvements in spam, I hate going through comments and seeing spam and useless comments like “1st!” I don’t care that you were the first one to comment on this… congrats haha. I think the negative comments should stay, to a certain degree, if you want to oppose somebody respectfully –great, but if you’re going to cuss and call people names, there is no need for that. Just make your point and get on with life.
    For the group blog, I would regulate it just as I said in the previous paragraph. I would allow people to argue or bicker in a respectful manner. It might be harder the bigger the blog gets but I feel like my readers and I don’t need to dumb ourselves down to the level of incompetent people that want to swear just so they look tough.

  15. aarongeiger says:

    Yes, I’m late. I don’t care. I had the following post ready to go last night, and got consumed all day at work. I’mma still posting it anyway:

    I must say that this topic should be used at the beginning of the semester, because it’s brilliant. It’s one thing to think about a subject we like to write about, but it’s a completely different beast to cultivate an identity or a strategy. Briggs should also move Chapter 11 to the lead-off batting position. Why? When we build our websites and then learn the hard way that the cult of identity is the most important part of the process, it’s almost at a point where we want to jump ship and start over. Briggs talks about building the connecting points that foster community building, like Search Engine Optimization, analytics, comment-tracking, etc. These things, combined with an identity or Web presence, can be powerful tools that make or break you.

    Personally, I resent that I had to watch that YouTube video. I hate YouTube. I try to stay far away from it, unless it’s a sanitized, little window that doesn’t take me to the comments or channels or whatever it is that all of these snide, spoiled kids do. That part of humanity is rotten to the core, and I hope it goes away soon. If people want to stop bullying, then they should shut down all of the anonymous comments and let people be accountable for their actions. Yes, I sound like an old man. Sue me. I’ll smack every one of these little brats if you let me.

    That being said, as the owner of my own little pocket of the web, aka my blog, I’ve been debating heavily about whether or not to try to get people to engage in comments. Yes, lively discussion helps to attract and keep readers, but the wrong kind of discussion can drive people away, or attract the wrong kind of crowd. I’ve noticed that several different newspaper websites seem to have a “trash” element when they allow anonymous comments. The trolls come out in force when they see that they can say what they want without repercussions. I firmly believe that when the users are a certain type of person, then they tend to bring the quality of the newspaper down. If you have a lot of trolls on the website, then why would any self-respecting journalist want to write for such a rag? I’d jump ship to something a little more respectable, personally.

    My identity is not much different than my real-life self. On Facebook I’m truly who I am, with the exception that I untag myself from naughty or violent videos old friends want to somehow associate me with: “Hey, Geiger, getta loada THIS! hAR har snort harr!” I also untag myself from photos that show me with more than my double chin. Triple chins = untag. Me in a swimming pool with the sun making my pale chest look like a solar flare erupting from a polar bear? Untag. People writing pro-Glenn Beck stuff on my wall? Delete. But other than that, I keep myself me. On my website, I try to keep my voice and identity a little more clever than I actually am. Maybe if people think I’m creative or witty, then they’ll like me more. Not really. I’m kidding. I like what I do, and I try to convey that. I’m more interested in building a community of similar or somewhat like-minded people: responsible, witty, engaging, thoughtful, weird, quirky, and hopeful. Sexy? Okay. Trollish? Nope, I don’t want you.

    I haven’t had any problems or issues yet, but then again, I get far more users reading the material than you can tell by just looking at the comments or “likes.” Analytics tells me so. So does Awstats.

    One of my comments that I turned into the prof yesterday involved a dialogue I had with a blogger on her popular site. She said it took her 2-3 years of mad writing (and she’s pretty good) and networking before she hit the “tipping” point that flooded her site with hundreds, if not thousands, of regular users (and about 25 comments on average per post). So I identify with “bostonkid” and his sentiments above. It takes a combination of many different aspects in order to make a blog successful. But it also takes dogged determination and patience.

  16. Keri Gero says:

    I think it’s kind of sad that people are abusing their freedom of speech, and using it to just post vulgar and hurtful comments. I’ve been trying to think of a way in which people would still be allowed to post their opinions, but in a tasteful manner. Maybe if sites only allowed those 18+ to be able to post comments–that would at least eliminate some of the more annoying comments you see that are clearly posted by 14 year olds. I would say that an easy fix would be just moderating comments, because that’s a pretty easy task for our group blogs, but I suppose once you get to a globally known site like you-tube, which is getting thousands of comments daily, then that task might not be so easy.

    And as for identity, 10 years ago your internet identity might have been totally anonymous (heck maybe even 5 years ago) but with today’s technology nothing you do on the internet is privet anymore. The biggest problem with this I think, is potential employers, companies today have the ability to track all of your actions on the internet, even things set as privet, and based on what they dig up, they make an assumption about the person you are even without having met you. So I think the technology today might give some people an incentive to moderate what they say and do on the internet because people do make assumptions about the type of person you are based on what they’ve read that you’ve written. My internet identity isn’t much different than who I am in person.

    I think everyone’s entitled to their own opinion and I realize that not everyone is going to have the same opinion as I do, so any comments that I get that aren’t positive (haven’t got any yet so maybe that’s a good sign!) will be taken with a grain of salt, and if nothing else will just be constructive criticism. I personally would never post/comment anything negative (in a hateful manner) because that’s just no who I am, if anything, if I disagree with someone’s post the most I’m going to do is play devil’s advocate to try to get them to see my point of view.

    But if my blog became the next big web sensation to the point where I couldn’t manually moderate the comments, I’d have to do something like have red-flag words already set up and receive an email whenever a comment comes through with one or more of the flagged words…that might be a way to moderate unwanted comments? I guess we’ll see, if my blog/website ever makes it big!

  17. CoreyCP says:

    Oops, my first missed Read and Respond. Partial credit please?

    Any who, as usual Briggs covers all the basics and even details some of the finer points of increasing your viewership/readership like the section on using links and increasing hits through search engines like Google or Bing! and the more techie programs like Google Analytics (I know Rodney already mentioned this). I honestly had never heard of Google Analytics until a few weeks ago and it’s pretty awesome, the different levels of tracking your blog/website usage and exposure is simply mind-boggling. I like how some of things Briggs brings up are similar to advice I heard from a successful blogging friend of mine, particularly the parts about headlines and content like Top 10 lists and maximizing your ideas while minimizing your writing.

    Now onto the comments. The Plains Dealer story is just really strange to me considering it includes a sitting judge who comments on her own cases. That story alone should raise awareness across the country that judges and people in power are capable of affecting public opinion and the media while hiding behind the invisibility that is the comment section of websites and news outlets. After reading the disclaimer and user agreement from the website, it looks like a pretty clean cut case that the judge is going down. Sure she didn’t know they would take her email address down, but what she fails to understand is that they didn’t report the fact she was commenting on these columns because of her comments about a Plains Dealer employee or family member, but because she is a judge commenting on news stories pertaining to cases she is currently presiding over…a blatant no-no in the world of judicial law.

    As for the Missouri story, I find it interesting that in the beginning of the comment conversation nearly all the posters were using their own names…yet as the words turned sour and the comments became less intelligent and more uncivil, people began using anonymity to attack one another. It’s really not surprising though, nearly every sports oriented website has comment sections that feature users who are completely covered in anonymity because the majority of the comments don’t encourage discussion but rather enable hate and trolling.

    Gawker’s comment policy is kind of stupid to me because I couldn’t post on their sponsored sights until I was “accepted.” Why make people wait around, if their first few posts don’t include profanity or are reported as spam, set them loose!

    And finally in regards to the Jeff Jarvis “internet identity” post. I agree with him to an extent but I also disagree. I like his ideas about transparency and the whole if you don’t shun me for my raunchy photos then I will hold my tongue for yours…but there is also a time and place to post photos and comments and not all of them can magically be appropriate due to “open mindedness.” A lot of Jarvis’s post is pretty naive thinking, especially considering the quip about bosses drinking beer at one time. Sure they did, but you don’t see them posting up photos from their frat kegger in ’72 do you?

  18. Murphy says:

    God, who knew commenting would become such an issue online?

    I’m torn when it comes to this issue. On one hand, I think that a large part of the beauty of the internet as a medium is that it is such a conversation, sometimes a very large conversation, the likes of which is pretty much impossible to replicate with any other medium. To promote this, don’t we need to allow commenting, unrestricted?

    I don’t know if anyone else has been following this, but Chris Poole gave his keynote address at SXSW the other day, and said some really interesting things about anonymity. He maintains that being allowed to remain anonymous online fosters creativity, that forcing people to identify themselves stifles expression, because they are forced to link themselves to whatever they’re saying. I think he’s probably right, and I think that’s very important. We should probably be trying to foster creativity in this new environment.

    Of course, it’s worth noting that Chris Poole is the founder of 4chan, one of the darker corners of the internet – all the posts are completely anonymous by default and it certainly lives up to what Aaron said about drawing out the “trash”. But it’s also kind of great in a way: it’s where LOLCats came from!

    And so it seems reasonable that, at least in some venues, we should limit commenting, at least partially. I was an intern at the Daily Mail in Charleston last summer when they decided to begin requiring registration and moderating their comments. For them,I think it had just come to a point where they couldn’t keep a lid on all the inappropriate stuff that kept popping up up in the comments section. Several times a day someone would be yelling across the newsroom that someone had used some really derogatory term in a comment, and then it would be taken down. Their new system seems to have worked, so far. There are a lot less really negative comments now, but there area lot less comments as a whole, it seems. So is that really a positive thing? I’m not completely sure.

    I was a little surprised looking at the story from the University of Missouri, because usually comments are disables, or something happens, before the comments devolve into that. But at the same time, I feel like I know a lot more about that event after reading the comments section than I did after just reading the article.

    I like that places like Gawker are trying to find a more novel approach to commenting, but sometimes I think they’re missing the point, that it really is as cut and dry as it seems at first – either you really, really restrict commenting, or you just let it all go wild, and perhaps, eventually, to hell.

    As far as identify goes, I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot lately. It seems so important, but so difficult to maintain. I like to be able to put on different faces based on whoever I’m dealing with at any given time. The internet is becoming so all-encompassing that I feel like I can’t do that online now. Last week I started working on an application for ONA and saw that it asked for my twitter handle. Of course, I immediately panicked, and proceeded to go back through two years of tweets in search of anything inappropriate that could hurt my odds of getting accepted. There wasn’t anything, because I don’t really say inappropriate things on twitter, to be honest, but it still made me second guess the way I’d been handling myself online for so long, wishing I’d been more professional and less conversational, or something. Either way, I’ll still include my twitter username on that application, because it seems better to have some identity than none at all.

    Better to be a doof who identifies themselves than a troll. And maybe I’m trolling now, but I must say, that kid was nuts. Or a complete genius, I’m not completely sure. The entire thing was a little too meta for my comprehension.

  19. Murphy says:

    I have absolutely no idea what that identified me as Murphy. Who is Murphy?

    This is Shay, for the record.

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