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this space reserved for idiots

At some point Time’s humor columnist, Joel Stein, transitioned to writing about more serious topics. Still funny (if you thought he was funny), but less fluffy. The March 18 issue (Sheryl Sandberg on the cover) is a good example. It’s not yet online that I can find, but there’s a not funny similar article, albeit with a different conclusion at the Guardian. Do online comments hurt – or aid – our understanding of science? Stein also refers to these numbers about the Guardian’s comment stats.

He makes a great point towards the end of the column about how adding comments affects Time’s reputation. Generally negative. I’ve noticed the same with several newspapers I read. Why do they have comment sections? As Joel says, about the only thing the comments discuss is “whether the President is a horrible communist or a terrific communist.” How does the newspaper gain from reserving a part of every page for idiots? Is the all important engagement metric aligned with what they want to optimize? I try not to read the comments, but sometimes scroll down into that region by accident, and then I’m stuck reading them. And then I generally close the tab because I realize I must be reading a newspaper written for morons, and somewhere out there is a better website, a website I should be reading. Are the people who comment really of higher value than the people the comments chase away?

Posted 23 Mar 2013 23:33 by tedu Updated: 23 Mar 2013 23:33