Science site scraps user commentsby Toby Manhire
Popular Science online ditches its comment threads - "a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them".
“As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide,” explains Online editor Suzanne LaBarre. “The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter.”
Comment sections had become a “grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them” – a culture in which “a politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics ... from evolution to the origins of climate change”.
While PopSci.com would continue to engage in conversations with readers on social media and through correspondence, they were no longer willing, writes LaBarre, to see the “the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine ... being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science”.
A brave move, and it will be fascinating to see if others follow suit.
For those sticking with comments, Michael Erard has offered “Four Ways to Improve the Culture of Commenting” at the New York Times.
In a nutshell:
1. Get your users to do the moderating, as a community;
2. Create a “Commenting weather systems”, so that the best comments are elevated, using reader feedback and syntactical analysis by algorithm;
3. Engender “connoisseurship”- including by the introduction of “a Pulitzer Prize or something similarly prestigious given to comment threads, with the award shared equally among the commenters, the moderators, the writer and the publication”;
4. Make comments searchable.
Would any of these things change comments? Maybe not all of them. But if the Web is about participation, we could enlist more of the off-line world’s tools to reward good participation — not just gripe about the bad actors.
New essays on New Zealand-born US artist Len Lye elevate him to the status of Australasia’s most notable 20th-century artist.Read more
For about a third of infertility cases in New Zealand, there is no obvious reason why seemingly fertile couples struggle to conceive.Read more
More than one million images from Rykenberg Photography, taken around Auckland, are now in the Auckland Libraries Collection. But who are the people?Read more
A Golden Bay man spending his first night in his new house says he woke to find his bed, walls and floor covered in hundreds of creepy crawlies.Read more
There's a growing movement to stop the amount of wasteful plastic that goes into our oceans, but what about the tiny bits we can hardly see?Read more
The inconvenience to chlorine refuseniks is tiny compared with the risk of more suffering and tragedy from another Havelock North-style contamination.Read more
Global warming's worst case scenario may not be as bad as previously thought, a new climate change study says.Read more