Read & Respond week 10 – Comment Culture

This week we’ll be talking about the people who talk about us (online): Commenters! Let’s get right into it with the worst of the worst: YouTube comments. Watch this seemingly harmless (and adorable) clip of President Obama calming a crying baby. Scroll down a hair to the top comments. Now take a deep breath and wade into the rest of the comment thread – try to get through a few pages, if you can. Yikes. Why does something like this seem so familiar?

Briggs this week talks about building a digital audience, but what do we do with that audience when it starts responding? A number of organizations – including YouTube – are toughening up on commenters. Popular Science actually shut OFF its comments. The first line of its announcements reads “Comments can be bad for science.” Harsh, or realistic?

Like them or not, reader interaction is part of mass communication today. Consider these two research fact sheets examining how reporters engage with uncivil commenters and potential differences in a “like” versus a “respect” button. There are clearly reasons to rethink anonymous comments, but on the other side of the “NymWars” (warning: Wikipedia source), we’ve got the argument that pseudonymous comments (e.g., BlogMastaB) actually tend to be better in quality! So what do you think? How important is it to connect individuals with their words?

Finally, there’s the question of identity. You might use the same name across 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?

ALSO: For class discussion on Tuesday, I’d like you to take a look through the blog and social media presence of our guest speaker, Marshal Carper (a former student in this class). You don’t need to respond to those here, but be prepared to discuss his work in class.

Remember to respond to these readings (including Briggs) in a comment to this post by noon on Monday, October 21. More importantly, come prepared to discuss these examples and, ideally, some of your own.

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34 Responses to Read & Respond week 10 – Comment Culture

  1. I found the readings for this week extremely intriguing for several reasons. Primarily because my research deals with social comparison theory, and that’s one of the main reasons people often choose anonymity. The YouTube example provided was interesting, but I wasn’t surprised when I read the comments. People are entitled to their own opinion, but many people share uneducated opinions on social media platforms, and many of them do so to prove a point that has nothing to do with the original content. One thing Briggs talked about in his chapter is how important it is to keep things in context. These comments are clearly taken out of the context of the video. Rather than criticism, many people see commenting as a way to exercise their first amendment right of freedom of speech, which is true; however, I personally get really annoyed when people post Facebook comments or status’, tweets, or YouTube comments on subjects they don’t fully understand or are knowledgeable about based on their own opinions or the opinions of others. I try to avoid this kind of commenting and posting myself, but I see it happen all the time. If I’m not completely knowledgeable on a subject, I completely avoid posting about it. If I want to know more, I go to an actual news source, not Facebook.

    I think in some cases shutting off comments can be realistic. However, building a digital audience is all about two-way communication and audience engagement. Briggs says comments are a key part of tracking your audience. Prohibiting comments almost shuts off this communication and reverts to traditional journalism. That’s not the way the market is headed. We have to embrace audience engagement and two-way communication. In some cases, it’s acceptable to shut off comments, for example, the presentation in class on Suri’s Burn Book where the author used Tumblr to avoid direct negative comments, was resourceful and probably necessary. In addition to the communication created through comments, some comments can be very helpful. The majority of comments will simply be opinions and probably bad ones at that, but a substantial comment can provide new story ideas, new story angles, story and network contacts and more. If you turn off comments, there’s never the chance you may receive community help. Also, Briggs says comments help you better understand your target audience—what they want and what they need; comments can create ideas for content. Overall Briggs makes the point that the audience is key when it comes to determining successful digital publishing. Everything is done with the audience in mind–writing, producing, publishing, content, tracking, and distribution. The audience is really the heart and soul of digital media.

    Finally, when it comes to the identity section of the readings, the first thing I immediately thought of was the show Catfish. While I think the people are literally some of the dumbest people on the planet, all opinions aside, these people are often tricked by others who alter their identity in some way to display a physical appearance and a personality of someone whom they are not. For whatever reason, people find it so easy to hide behind a keyboard. Many people are uncomfortable with their identity so they see the Internet as a way to be someone else. When it comes to commenting, I think people need to keep a consistent identity and it needs to be realistic. After all, commenting is essentially about making connections and creating conversations. You can’t really make connections with someone who is “fake” or has alternate identities. If someone has multiple identities how do you know they’re credible? And why do they want to use multiple identities if they’re trustworthy? Using other identities implies you have something to hide.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Great response. Integrating academic language is a balancing act (between informing and alienating your audience), but I’d be interested to see some notes on how social comparison theory shows up in your work. It’s another connection you’d be able to make, and it’s another way to allow your work to work for you.

  2. ebuchman5 says:

    I do believe commenting, overall, is a good thing, but recognizing there are serious issues and concerns from it need to be addressed. As with the YouTube video of President Obama quieting a crying baby, I think it’s a great idea for people to see the President out in a public setting (i.e.: not in the oval office talking with foreign dignitaries). “People are interested in people,” is one of the first lessons journalists are taught, but with the accessibility to technology and commenting, it seems as if people will use any medium they can to voice their opinions, which is why so many people were talking about Obama’s political philosophies on a video that has absolutely nothing to do with politics.

    Suzanne LaBarre’s article on why Popular Science has shut off their commenting abilities to their readers makes great sense, after reading her explanation. I work with a very prominent website affiliated with our university, and I know that I am constantly going through deleting negative comments and banning users from our Facebook pages for making excessively negative comments. For their purposes, Popular Science made a smart move, because I do think there’s a certain amount of management organizations/brands/people/whomever need to do to maintain their reputation, even if it is online, much like Jeff Jarvis mentions in his article.

    I tend to agree with Jarvis’ perspective on pseudonyms and anonymity on the internet. I’ve always used my real name (or something similar) when making a username, because I just don’t see much point in hiding myself. I feel that I should be able to back up my comment if I’m willing to make a comment on something to begin with. In general, people need to be more careful of what they’re posting on Facebook and other social media platforms, just because it can always be found! In my opinion, instead of having to defend ourselves as to why we posted something, we should never give people the need to ask the question “why?” to begin with. I would definitely say that ultimately, we’re still responsible for our online identity. Even if someone is maintaining two separate identities, they’re still responsible for the comments and content they choose to post. Choosing anonymity can often come across like you may be hiding something.

    Even online, accountability is important in the world of journalism. Commenting is a great way to open up two-way communication, but it also reminds me of that situation in kindergarten that always happens—when one kid gets the whole class in trouble, and the whole class lost recess privileges just because of that one kid. I think in order to get the most out of commenting, people need to be connected to their words (without a pseudonym for a username). I believe this allows the two-way communication to become more personal, and it adds a human-face to the discussion. This two-way communication is also important because of the sheer amount of content that is available on the internet today.

    Briggs discusses that comments are an easy way to track your audience, because organizations (or whomever) are able to listen to what their website viewers want and need, and they make for an easy way to track engagement. By knowing what content you audience is reading and enjoying the most, a website can become more tailored to what the audience wants, which is a smart way to keep viewers coming back.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Important point: “Even if someone is maintaining two separate identities, they’re still responsible for the comments and content they choose to post.” To understand these motivations better, could you make an argument for why it may be useful to extend anonymity to a particular person or class of people?

  3. samanthacart says:

    Just as the article on pseudonyms suggests, part of the wonder of the Internet is that you can be exactly who you want to be—even if that person has nothing in common with the real you. However, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as the research by the Engaging News Project, have found that when people use their real identities (or have a real person or reporter interacting with them digitally), the conversation and content is more fruitful versus the garbage comments that appear under almost every Youtube video. While I think that anonymity should be respected (and is useful in many situations), I find myself agreeing with Jeff Jarvis: it is easier to respect someone’s words and opinions if they are willing to put their real name behind them. Making a critical, uneducated or rude comment about someone from your made-up username is cowardly.

    Further, I think we are 100 percent responsible for our online identity(s). We create usernames and profiles for a variety of reasons, and as digital media users and publishers; ultimately we decide the content we put out there. Our online identities are an echo of who we are and can affect our futures. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find an employer in this day and age who is not going to look at your social media site while deciding whether to hire you or not.

    When I first started reading the article about Youtube teaming with Google+ to reformat their comment structure, the first thing I wondered was if it was a pseudo violation of free speech (even though I know that hate speech is not included in free speech). However, as I continued reading, I realized they are not forbidding anyone from posting, but simply prioritizing the comments using Google+ circles. I think it is a great idea to try to decrease people’s motives for posting the host of “racist, homophobic, sexist and down-right mean content” (techradar).

    However, as Bloggers we have to remember that our “livelihood” (or grade in this case) is a form of two-way communication that will only thrive by building a loyal audience. In his chapter on building a digital audience, Briggs notes that in a new model of journalism that includes new platforms such as blogs and social media, “what gets measured gets managed” (p. 294), making comments an essential part of the conversation.

    We can complain about rude, nonconstructive comments, but we also rely on people commenting on our blogs to grow our audience. This, I think, is a balancing act of (as a blogger) being able to respect constructive comments that we may not agree with, acknowledging that we will receive comments we don’t like, making the decision to remove or refuse comments that are nonconstructive or vile and making sure that we are not making our blog unapproachable to potential commentators.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      It’s a challenge, and your last paragraph in particular gets at that inclusion/exclusion balance: We want both quantity and quality, but especially at the start, it can be difficult to turn down the former in favor of the latter.

  4. trentcu says:

    It definitely seems that a perceived sense of anonymity greatly influences the content and nature of one’s online comments. As one of the links alluded to, if one is forced to directly attach his name to his comments, he would be far more likely to be cautious in terms of how his comments could be perceived along the often arbitrary, subjective and at times, downright absurd, lines of political correctness.

    I also found the assertion within one of the links suggesting that people tend to be less controversial and negative in their comments when the author of a blog or article actively participates in the comment section to be valid. Knowing that one may be confronted or countered by an online writer or author for his responses can function as a strong deterrent towards negative comments.

    In regards to the decision of Popular Science to ban comments entirely, it’s definitely their prerogative to do so, but I tend to wonder if they’re doing more harm than good to their online content by using contradictory and dissenting opinions as an excuse to disable the interactivity with their audience.

    As Briggs illustrates, interactivity with one’s online audience is becoming increasingly important for publishers of content in terms of gauging specifically what their respective audiences are interested in and how their prefer the content to be presented. By throwing the proverbial “baby out with the bath water,” Popular Science could potentially run the risk of losing the pulse of its audience as the media world becomes increasingly interactive.

    Overall, comments definitely hold the potential to dilute or alter the perception of the content they’re associated with, but they’re also indisputably becoming part of media itself. Restrictions on audience interaction may be necessary to certain extents, but in a digital world where the audience is increasingly expecting to be able to interact with the content they view, publishers run the risk of alienating readers by being too restrictive.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Interesting discussion on PS. I’m curious as to your thoughts on that first sentence, that comments can be bad for science. Is science a protected class (with regards to expression)? I’m thinking of all those past instances where scientists and innovators were persecuted, even killed, for advances that threatened to overturn the way things were. Even though they were found correct year later, that doesn’t mean a lot when you’re dead. Unlike democracy, is the voice of the public a harm to good science?

      • trentcu says:

        It’s my understanding that there is relatively little in science that is absolute and not subject to revision. Under that assumption, it would seem that public discussion is healthy for science.

        The extreme measures PS took seem to imply that they see a strong distinction between valid and invalid debate, and they observed too much of the latter in their comment sections, altering reader perception of their content.

        That assessment may be justified, as I sincerely doubt that there were many qualified physicists or biologists contributing to the comment sections.

  5. iamoore says:

    I found the Briggs chapter for this week very informative. I especially found the Track Your Audience section of the chapter very helpful. After reading this I know no how to more effectively monitor how many people come to read my blog as well as how long they are staying. I also found the explanation of search engine optimization very helpful. I now know that you will be placed higher in google search results if your web headline contains search keywords that also appear several times in the story. With all the competeion among news sources, being easily searched is very beneficial because people often get their news from searching. Good sources understand this and are at the top of the lists for news searches. Anytime I search for a story in the news, I always see CNN, CBS News, and other news giants as the top pages.

    I am not at all surprised with the ridiculous comments that are on the video of President Obama with the baby, in my opinion Youtube has become a place where people simply now watch a video and then argue about completely unrelated ideas. One top comment is “I know right! Almost as magical as bombing kids with drones in the middle east!’ This video has absolutely nothing to do with the United State’s policy on the use of drones in combat, however somehow this person believes it is necessary to share on this video and others have given it up-votes. I also completely agree with the penny arcade picture. When people have a voice that can anonymously be shared with millions of people they act like they never would in real life. In real life people can be held accountable for the terrible and pointless things they say, however, on the internet they have the courage that only the knowledge that nothing is going to happen you can give.

    I believe the shutting down of comments by popular science is harsh but necessary. There are people who now are unable to comment intelligently to important news, and this is because of the abuse of the technology by the less intelligent people who simply find it amusing to demean and belittle others anonymously on the web.

    I found the engaging news project article stating that it is 15% less likely to uncivil comments on a post where journalists respond to the comments. I believe this may have something to do with the fact that people then feel like there is an official person in there, similar to when kids behave better when their principal is in the room. They see the reporter as a figure of authority and may act more civilly. I think its very interesting that the wording of something can change the way people interact with it. By changing the button from like to respect they were able to get more clicks. I find this fascinating that maybe people may take these buttons for the same idea so differently.

    I believe that anonymous comments are simply just breeding grounds for unintelligent comments that are useless to the discussion. When someone puts their name on something they are subconsciously making the statement that they are willing to personally stand behind what they have said. When you use a name online you should be willing to have people understand something about yourself.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      We’ll do a little SEO exercise in class this week, one I’ve seen used at newspapers like the Oregonian to write their heds. I just submitted some research for publication and had to go through this as well: Authors are strongly advised to include SEO-friendly terms in their title and abstract (one-paragraph summary of the research) in order to draw more hits.

  6. kevinmduvall says:

    Online comments are helpful in some important ways. As Briggs mentions, generations of news editors had little information about what their audiences liked and disliked due to the relative difficulty of interacting with readers. Basically, these editors told readers what they wanted instead of asking. Comments allow a wide sample of people (not just those who are invested/bored enough to send letters to the editor) to give real feedback. Unfortunately, as the Penny Arcade comic says, the anonymity of the Internet allows people to say whatever they want, and it’s easy for people to cave into the temptation to abuse this anonymity.

    I applaud YouTube for cracking down on its comments sections and Popular Science for deleting its. Even though commenting has its upsides (As Briggs discusses, audiences want two-way communication with organizations, so outlets that allow commenting will likely be more popular), it does not serve the interest of facilitating good discussion for comments sections to devolve into hate speech and trolling. Some, like many of the commenters on the Kotaku article, argue that limiting comments stifles free speech, but free speech also dictates that the owners of these sites can run their sites the way they want. Besides, the Internet is a big place, so there are more platforms for people to make racial slurs about the president if they really want.

    I don’t think making people use their real names is the solution to the problem of anonymity abuse, though. As the Disqus infographic suggests, pseudonyms can help intelligent commenters improve their comments because they allow users to remove personal ties from posts without sacrificing personalities. Similarly, Jarvis talks about how pseudonyms allow people to have a break from overexposure online. If people feel more secure in their online interactions because they enjoy using alternate identities, then they will probably make more frequent and substantive comments. Jarvis’s conclusion of “be yourself” is a bit idealistic, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind when commenting. Pseudonyms allow people to remove some degree of their “real” identities from online comments (as well as protecting their personal security to some extent), but maintaining elements of oneself keeps the comments more authentic, even if the identity behind them is a mystery.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      I ask this same question in a previous comment, but do you think there’s anything special about science communication that might provide more grounds for stifling comments? We like to treat all communication as dwelling within the same tent, yet science communication is by its nature in the realm of the elite (although the “popular” part certainly isn’t). Is public comment really bad for science in a different way than other institutions?

  7. After reading over the readings this week, I was surprised at how much research had been put into commenters and their interactions with each other. The Internet is a wide open space where we can almost do anything we want. In terms of online media, it does bring up some concern. While traditional forms of print news are changing and the idea of gatekeeping is virtually gone, it brings up concern of immediate discussions online. We should also acknowledge that even with print media, there were still discussions, disagreements, agreements and opinions. Now, we are seeing that behavior all over the Internet. The issue is how its being done, “who’s” discussing and how they’re being monitored.

    With YouTube and Google+ prioritizing the efficiency of their comments, to commenting with site visitors, there have been ways of managing negative, useless comments. It also has a lot to do with perception. In the study with a “respect” button, a “recommend” button and the classic “like” button, it really made people click on things differently. The study states, for example, that people would still click the respect button even if they disagreed with its content. This makes for a less objective like or dislike, but more of a mature discussion based interaction.

    What was more interesting was the use of anonymous commenters vs pseudonyms vs nymwars vs real identities. Originally, I would think that this study would prove that anonymous and pseudonym users did not contribute too much to the conversation. In reality, pseudonyms contribute the most to online discussion. Whether people think they can speak more freely with a different name or they think their identity is being protected in some way, it’s the truth.

    This stems into the use of one identity vs multiple. For me, I generally have kept the same names. They all revolve around my name and the use of my middle initial, “B”. So, “NatalieB,” “NatalieBee,” or “Nataliehoneybee”. It’s more fluid and establishes my internet persona. For awhile, I ran my own blog with my own Twitter. I made sure the names were the same to create consistency. Otherwise, how would I expect myself to stick out from anyone else? Consistency is very, very important in ANY business. Your internet persona, especially in our case, is business. Consistency keeps people coming back and keeps people engaged. We come into class every Tuesday and Thursday at 11:30 ready to listen to you speak about social media. On Monday, it honestly would throw me off. As humans, we adapt to consistency. Briggs even states ways to see how often people come to our blogs, how long they stay, etc. We can begin to find trends, and we can learn to work with them. As for as our online persona, how are we not completely responsible for it? We choose to make ourselves out to be who we want, and that is what we’ve become.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Glad to see you addressing that like vs. respect study (it’s been a little neglected thus far). It’s strange how such a simple reframing can change interaction. Along these lines, I’m curious what you think about the idea of “dislike” buttons. I can say I’m personally opposed to them for the very same idea: It reframes discussion into a for/against paradigm rather than an interested/uninterested one, opening up the potential for a much more hostile Web. That said, I won’t deny there’s plenty of times I’d like to “dislike” something, but probably still wouldn’t – there’s only so many bridges to burn before you find yourself on an island, after all…

  8. Knowing your audience and tailoring to your audience are obviously very important in today’s media-plagued world. Comments are just one way of analyzing the audience. I think it’s a good thing that YouTube is going to crack down on commenters (especially YouTube’s commenters… yeesh.) However, I think Popular Science is taking it too far. Not allowing any comments takes away from the idea of two-way communication.

    I thought the part about anonymous users vs. users who put their name/screen name out there was very interesting. It can definitely be a way to hide, at least from a future employer, friend, etc. In my case, I haven’t kept a consistent screen name across all social media. On my Twitter account I go by Emmy Cotter, which no one ever calls me. I just keep it that way hoping none of my (incredibly) annoying relatives will find me, but I still own up to the identity. It’s still something I wouldn’t mind future employers seeing.

    I had a related “annoying commenter” situation in my last blog post–someone nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. It was basically a chain email that now wants me to nominate 15 other bloggers and write seven facts about myself. Sure, it isn’t from a spambot, and sure, it isn’t harmful like a lot of YouTube comments, but it isn’t useful and I don’t really want it on my site.

    The good news is there are other ways of getting feedback other than comments. I am especially interested in Google Analytics, discussed in Briggs’. It’s something I’ve never used before, but it seems extremely useful. I hope this is something we will be trying out this year!

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Interesting personal case study with Emmy vs. Emily – I had been wondering about that! The fact is we’re all in identity management, even if we use our real names, because we can never show EVERYTHING. Regarding Popular Science, I’ll ask you the same question I’ve asked others: Is science, which can proof for fundamental social change the public is not yet ready to understand, let alone embrace, a special class when it comes to expression? True, we’re not killing astronomers anymore, but conversations about climate change would suggest there’s still quite a bit of controversy around subjects we don’t fully understand.

      • I see what you’re saying–scientific blogs are more absolute, concrete, like a text book. Science is its own group in a way, yes, but that is a group that thrives on asking questions and learning more, which makes me think they should have kept comments. Although comments might not add that much to the conversation data-wise, the scientific community typically is driven by asking questions and wanting more.

  9. ryanfadus says:

    The example on Penny Arcade is more common than ever nowadays. Since people can use a false persona and be whoever they want to be. On the internet, anybody can be anyone they want and they can also say anything they want. Whether it is on Youtube videos or forums, people who don’t use any variation of their name can say whatever they want on the comments section. The internet really allows people to do anything they want as well as say anything they want.

    When you setup a video, a forum or a post one of the most important things that can be considered with it is the comments section. While most comments may present new ideas or give feedback, there will be others that won’t be as helpful and instead just point out the negatives of whatever you have setup. In the Briggs’ reading he suggests setting guidelines for readers in order to keep whatever you have made professional. Briggs talks about how The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have set rules in place for their writers who post things online. In the Times they say not to write anything on any personal page that wouldn’t be posted in the newspaper. The Wall Street Journal says not have family and friends defend your work.

    By having these rules in place it allows for the writers to keep my professional pages and keeps them from running into problems with people looking to harass them. The Times’ rule seems to work since mostly it is about connecting with their audience and not keeping it about them. This also has them keep it professional and not go off on random tangents that could get them in trouble. The Journal has a very good rule too, since family and friends will usually defend your work. However, this could be a problem since the work may not be top notch and when other people begin to notice it, you may ignore their advice which may be good. Instead, you listen to the people you know and they may not have any idea what they are talking about.

    With the Popular Science article, I believe they are being realistic with that sentence. People are always going to try to disprove something, while others will try to defend it. This creates arguments which usually lead to threats and personal attacks to the people on each side. By shutting them off the website does not have to worry about this and it allows their site to keep it somewhat professional. Popular Science also isn’t the only site to do this, some Youtube videos even have their comments section disabled, probably to avoid this same problem.

    When it comes to commenters who just post negative and obscene comments, most of them do it just to get a rise out of people. However, this can cause problems for them since if a writer for example, recognizes them from other places as well then this can cause problems for the commenter. If that writer happens to meet that person in real life, they may be able to figure out who it is just by the conversation they have with them. It is important to connect commenters to their words, especially when it comes to finding a job. Most employers won’t hire someone who gets into fights online or who posts obscene comments.

    When a commenter continues to use the same name over again on different sites, it is only a matter of time before people begin to recognize it. There are both good and bad things that go along with using the same name. For starters, if you contribute to posts or videos and actually give good feedback then people will associate you with being professional and having good ideas to advance the conversation. However, if you comment just to cause trouble then this is when arguments start and people won’t take you seriously and just ignore what you say. You have a responsibility to keep it somewhat professional and to provide good feedback to the work you are viewing.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Regarding Popular Science, you note “People are always going to try to disprove something, while others will try to defend it.” With that in mind, do they have a good case for ending comments on a science-oriented site? After all, this is the domain of trained, educated elites; is this tendency counterproductive when it’s carried about by non-scientist non-elites?

  10. frostedtsaar says:

    An audience is just about the most important part of a journalist’s toolbox. People say that everyone is a publisher nowadays, which makes the line between audience and writer much less clear. The danger comes when the audience is so loud that it drowns out the publishers’ message. Everyone has a voice, which is a good thing, but most discussions turn into an echo chamber of self-gratification. Either that or debasing mud-slinging. Sites like YouTube and Popular Science’s only option is to limit people’s voice or face complete madness in the comments.

    There is, of course, another side to it. The Disqus post about “pseudonymous comments” being better in quality is something that I’ve observed – admittedly much less than the idiotic comments. Sometimes when I am researching a topic, the comment section will be just as, if not more, informative than the article itself. As Briggs notes, comments can be used to tell one a lot about one’s readers, and a vocal audience means that one can make one’s writing better; almost like getting free editors from every walk of life.

    Identity on the web is getting more important as well. I suppose it’s only natural that with a society where everyone is a publisher, everyone needs to also be PR representatives, something that Jeff Jarvis alludes to. In the early days of the web, when I was younger, I thought I needed a different username for every site I visited, that they were something like passwords. As I’ve grown into the web culture, it’s clear that the best strategy is to find your username and stick with it; to cultivate your online identity.

    It’s not enough anymore to just be on the internet. You have to be a part of the internet. And hopefully you don’t turn into a “Total Fuckwad” as a result.

  11. acampb22 says:

    I think it’s important for the audience to be able to participate in the conversation with comments. Comments are important in getting to know what type of audience you have and what posts or topics are most popular with that audience.
    When people are allowed to participate it can often lead to interesting debates, conversations, and can bring more to the original topic. However, comments can also be used as a forum for insults, bad language, and other ridiculous topics that have nothing to do with the original work. I find this to be especially true for YouTube videos. Like the Obama video, there are many videos with comments that basically tear the subject of the video apart. Using comments in this manor is completely unnecessary and useless. It is because of these commentators that I agree with the idea of monitoring comments and restricting inappropriate comments. If the comments don’t bring something constructive to the table then they shouldn’t exist at all.

    As far as Internet identity goes, if a person is actually adding constructively to the conversation then it doesn’t matter if they are commenting anonymously or pseudonymously. For those that continue to comment negative or inappropriate thoughts under these identities, eventually they will get a reputation whether these are their real identities or not. Even under false identities, “serial haters” will eventually be recognized and may be forced to take responsibility by fellow commentators. Even then, anyone commenting under a false identity should realize they lack credibility and will not be taken very seriously.

  12. zvoreh says:

    Before this class my exposure to comments on web sites such as YouTube and Tumblr, so my opinion of them were not the best, but now my opinion is not completly changed although I do see advantages.
    My understanding of the readings shows there are pros and cons to the use of pseudonyms. The pros are that they allow a person to post freely and voice an opinion that they may be afraid or embarrassed to voice. On the other han this can also be a con because there is no accountability for commentors.
    I also believe a completly anonymous comment sections or message boards, like those on 4chan can create a lot of bad or inapropriate comments.
    I feel that the best way to encurage good commenting is to have a set of rules set for how people can comment, this allows you to minimize bad commenting while also placeing some responsibiliy on self censorship. I feel that this allows a community of commentors to undestand what is and isn’t accepted and give them the opportunity to report commentsthat break these rules, reducing reducing the amount of bad commenting.

  13. karleapack says:

    I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t ever watched YouTube videos then scrolled down through many comments, seeming to be entranced by the outright stupidity and randomness of some of them. The video clip of Obama calming the baby down didn’t have a thing to do with anything political, but showed that he’s a real person, too. He’s a father, and still has the magic touch. While scrolling through some of the comments on that sweet of a video clip, my mouth dropped several times—ignorance.

    Knowing your audience is such a huge part of any type of journalism. In this week’s Brigg’s chapter, he gives us numerous pointers on how to build an audience, while tracking, measuring, and adapting to it in the best way possible. Comments from readers are a given for any post online and add to the conversation, though at times, can get extremely out of hand and off topic rather quickly. Using The Engaging News Project’s terms, I “respect” and “like” that YouTube and other sites are beginning to take steps towards filtering out hateful, spiteful, and just downright rude comments from their pages. I can understand why other sites want to shut off all commenting abilities to prevent such chaos, but I’m not sure if that’s the answer to the problem. Building an audience is all about engaging in conversation with others, and is key to building a positive reputation for you and your writing skills. Allowing people to comment on posts can often lead to meaningful debates and can easily give the authors a chance to “discover news stories and provide more context” for their journalism.

    Jarvis’ article provided was so interesting to me and dug so much deeper than I would have been able to on my own. Although, after reading his awesome post, I’m still torn with the whole identity question. I believe that putting a face to the name is important and, like the studies showed, creates a more positive and fair commenting environment. Though, on the other side, someone might be scared to go against the grain to voice their opinions, and may feel like commenting as an anonymous user will make it easier. It’s a tough problem to take a side on, but I do think that pseudo identities should be permitted, as long as they are adding to the conversation in a respectful manor, and is exactly why I agree with filtering comments. In the end I took some valuable information away from Jarvis’ post: it all comes down to managing your inner, real selves, and your outer, show selves. Another great takeaway point is to be yourself to improve your reputation—very important.

  14. I do not necessarily believe that there is much wrong with having multiple identities online. On the other hand, I enjoyed reading the post by Jeff Jarvis. He brings up a lot of logical points as to why one identity online can help bring transparency to the Internet.

    We need to change the way we think about the information that we put on the Internet. Sure, it is totally understandable for an employer to not hire/fire you if you’re caught on an I’m Shmacked video burning a couch on Grant Street – that’s because you’re breaking the law. Why would any logical person fire an employee (who is of age) for a picture of him or her drinking a beer…. unless you’re like…. President Obama or something – but even he has pictures of himself drinking beer on the Internet.

    In my opinion, almost everything is ok in moderation. Being silly and having fun outside of work should be expected. I think it is ok to display this on the Internet. In addition, I think that being open about who you are and inviting this transparency will help to reduce the amount of harsh, cruel and downright inappropriate commentators because their name is attached to their comment.

    For now, I don’t think much is changing, and the comments seem as disturbing as ever. That may not be good for a site like Youtube, but newsrooms can at least appreciate the fact that readers are trying to interact. On the other hand, maybe newsrooms don’t have to rely so much on comments to know what readers like and don’t like. According to Briggs, we can use other tools like search engine optimization, pageviews, Google Analytics and more. It seems like the digital age would make life easier for a journalist, but maybe not so much. Not only does a journalist have to continue to write appealing content, but they also have to know how to promote that on the Internet and beat out those many, many competitors.

    On a final note, I have always been especially intrigued by SEO. I’ve practiced a little with it and Google Analytics in a past internship, and it is exciting to see results. The whole idea of it can seem pretty simple at first, but I wasn’t surprised when reading Briggs that some companies hire people to do their SEO for them.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      We’ll talk about SEO a bit this week and next in class. Can you give me an example of a case where having multiple online identities is a benefit? A problem?

      • A good example is the Suri Burn Book. She acts as a 6-year-old who comments on celebrity children. She reaches her audience that way. She also has her own online presence apart from her role as Suri.

        Bad situations can arise from multiple identities online as well, Catfish (MTV show) being the perfect example. You can deceitfully build a relationship with someone based almost completely on lies.

  15. ryanglaspell says:

    Commenting serves two extremes: as an interactive, audience building mechanism; and as a hate and ignorance-spewing free for all about anything related or not. What makes comments great is the same thing that makes them unbearable, people can practically say whatever they want! There is a balance to it, though. The steps Google are taking seem to be in the right direction. Don’t give the lewd, hot-air commenters as much of an immediate voice. It’s not that it is so restricting, as much as rearranging the mechanics for posting and viewing discussion. Limiting the presence of “NymWars” and attention seekers can bring back the wholesomeness of comments, we just have to figure out how.

    Unlike verbal speech and individual online thoughts, which are so vehemently fought to protect in most cases, comments are under another person’s domain. When crazy comments show up you can either let them be, restrict comments, or modify how comments are posted and viewed. I think comments need to exist.

    The thing that stuck out most about Briggs’ chapter was the usefulness of analytics in determining what does or doesn’t work. He discusses multiple ways about tracking page traffic, and popularity of certain posts. An incentive to read a post is knowing that you can offer your own insight. By taking away that outlet, it won’t necessarily wholly deprive the community of the will to read, but people may be less enthusiastic about engaging with the content. Much like the “respect” vs “like” buttons, which I find to be a great idea, the audience needs to be taken into account. What will suit the readers best? A “respect” or “like” button? An open comment thread or no comments? If that need is assessed then the bigger picture can be analyzed, which is, what do readers want to read?

    The issue of anonymity (or pseudonymity) within comments is tough to figure out. Being able to post without revealing your true identity (sound like a superhero) may be inviting to share your thoughts without fear of personal attacks as a repercussion. But not displaying who you are also makes it a lot easier to spam and troll. If I may class-hop and offer Aristotle’s Golden Mean principle, the answer lies in the middle between complete, unaccountable anonymity and highly connected and broadcasted true identity.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      You talk about “bring[ing] back the wholesomeness of comments” – do you think they were every really that wholesome? I’m reminded of an anonymous call-in page in my tiny hometown newspaper, which was regularly filled with hateful, specious, accusatory swill (though never profanity because heaven forbid). Has there been a change, or does the medium just make it more apparent?

      • ryanglaspell says:

        You raise a good point. I think there always has been, and always will be that group of muck-mouthed readers that’ll raise a fist to anything said. But I think before it wasn’t as easy to publish your opinion. The anonymous call-ins and letters to the editor required more effort than sitting boldly behind a keyboard. So, I think the medium IS the reason it’s more apparent. The idea that completely wholesome media discussion once existed may have been naively hopeful on my part, but to modify the means by which people comment now could reinstate a more composed conversation.

  16. Ilyssa Miroshnik says:

    While I believe it is important to connect individuals with their words in face-to-face interactions, I don’t believe it is necessary for all online interactions and opinions to be linked to an individual. Anonymity is a valuable feature of the Internet the audience has the option to use. Reader interaction is often facilitated through information that wouldn’t otherwise be provided had the option of anonymity not been provided. I do agree there are comments that may not be necessary because of anonymous users, but the Internet is the medium where we don’t get to decide if things are stupid, or tasteless. I do believe with the use of other online features to accomplish the intent of communication platforms, user communication can improve.
    It is important not to disallow comments at all. With no room for feedback, the audience may feel their opinions are not heard. This could reflect negatively for any organization. Many times ideas and opinions are formed in the comment section of any video, article or photo that spark more ideas, and learning. To turn off this feature for Internet users is like limiting the capabilities of the Internet.
    With the use of comment and feedback control through other tactics, like added buttons for feedback, or mediators and responders that make the audience feel heard, organizations can increase the effectiveness of their comment section. Often times spam plagues the comment section of a YouTube video, but there are filters in place to prevent comments like these from remaining. Some websites even have a feature where if a comment is “disliked” enough times it is no longer viewable. I think that there shouldn’t be limitations that can completely erase a comment, however I do agree with certain features like the Respect, and mediator tactics.
    While in some instances name identification is an important part of the communication process, on the Internet it is not always a necessity. This should be embraced and taken advantage of. I see anonymity as an opportunity for those who may not feel comfortable otherwise to spread information. People should be responsible for their online identity to ensure no one gets hurt physically, emotionally and financially. Anonymity should be seen as an opportunity and it should always be used responsibly.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      I want to be sure I’m understanding you when you write “It is important not to disallow comments at all.” Do you mean comments should ALWAYS be allowed, or that comments should never be COMPLETELY blocked?

  17. dkrotz says:

    Having a blog, I believe one of the main things to do is to interact with the readers. Although I don’t exactly have a following on my blog for this class, I am a frequent commenter on a blog involving my favorite baseball team. The guy who runs the blog will post information about the team or about the game that day, and the commenters will take the conversation from there. However, it is interesting that the majority opinion of those on the blog will in a sense drive away those with differing opinions. The guy running the blog is also very effective when he interacts with commenters. Being a frequent commenter on the site, it seems as though it’s grown as its own little community with the other people who also frequently comment. It’s grown from just talking about baseball to becoming interest in each other’s lives.

    I agree completely with the research provided by the Engaging News Project on both studies examined for this week’s response. I believe that a site becomes better with reader/writer interactions and it can keep the discussion going better than even just a single blog post could provide. I also think that having a “respect” option on a commenting site would be beneficial to everyone. Although, there will always be trolls, the majority of people commenting on a blog or article or whatever medium it is are doing so because they want to voice their opinion and discuss it with others.

    Having the ability to have more than one identity, I believe, gives people the motivation to voice their opinions when they might otherwise have been uncomfortable doing so. I think that commenters can use this ability to their advantage because it offers a way for them to express what they believe and not reveal any personal information. However, I do think that this anonymity must be used cautiously and individuals should not abuse that ability.

    Briggs discusses tracking your audience as a journalist. He uses the example that, “editors theorized about what the audience wanted, based on anecdotal feedback, phone calls, eventually e-mails and maybe letters to the editor.” Having the ability to interact with the audience and readers of the blog via comments offers this same opportunity, but just in a much quicker fashion. It allows the conversation to continue past just one article or post or even past one comment. It also gives people the ability to discuss what they believe with others. While some can use the ability of commenting in the wrong way, those who are truly passionate about what is being talked about can use it to further the conversation.

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