“Today, I would like to discuss with our community the recent decline in both quality and civility in our front page news discussions/comments. While I remain proud of our community discussions on articles, and while I acknowledge that they are far superior to the status quo online, things have taken a turn for the worse in recent months.”
I caught that paragraph in my RSS feed a few hours ago, part of an article that Ken Fisher of Ars Technica posted. A similar topic wandered in an out of Andrew’s blog, about whether comments should be moderated. I always wonder how devolving civility or haters affect the community, especially whether it puts off potential commenters, although I agree that allowing comments sans moderation is better in principle.
There’s also the aspect of anonyous commenting, which doesn’t appear to be an issue with Ars Technica crowd, although there may be a good number of aliases. Don Tapscott wrote a while back that Anonymity is a double-edged sword, because studies have shown that people take ethical liberties when they assume no one is watching. (I also liked Tapscott’s post because I get a buck from a friend every time someone refers to the dogs on the Internet.) Tapscott included this interesting quote from New York Times deputy managing editor Jonathon Landman: “There is no constitutional right to have your comments published. And
certainly if it’s abusive or stupid or something, well then, what’s the
point, why is that a good thing?”
Landman continued, “The challenge is to create an environment in which the right kind of people want to participate… Wikipedia has done a miraculous job of preserving standards in a collaborative way, and to me the great accomplishment of Wikipedia is not so much that it gets a lot of people to participate. That’s actually relatively easy. It’s that it’s able to enforce clear set of accepted standards and that it’s able to get the community to enforce those standards.”
There’s also interesting research about recognition in online communities, suggesting that quality of participation is much higher when people identify themselves.
What do y’all think? Moderate or not? Anonymity or not? Or is there something in between that works? And what about context — should it be different depending on where or for what purposes the commenting is for?