I’m increasingly annoyed by our commenting behavior on the web. There are those that take the time and effort to share thoughts, opinions, services and content with the world, and there are those, sitting on the sideline behind a screen doing nothing more than tearing the poster down with their attitudes.
I hate that. I really do. I used to love blogging, and the main reason for it was that anytime I wrote down some of my thoughts on where the web was going, people would respond with thoughtful responses, their own ideas, and bring this blog to a semi-live conversation on what we see and think about new technology.
I never really had a lot of commenting trolls and always loved the interaction that happened here. Lately I see a trend on the web, especially in tech blogs, but certainly not limited to them, where commenters are increasingly using their commenting capabilities to tear down a story, an author, or simply press their own points at the cost of the person that did his or her best to share.
As examples, TechCrunch and Hackernews are full of it. Every story published seems to contain a large amount of negative comments that really do not address the story at all (Unless the writer happens to be Paul Graham of course 😉 ).
Take a look at this story at HN that is at the top of the list now. Gruber is definitely an Apple fan, but his story is simple, contains a widespread observation and talks about following passion to become successful. Now look at the comments at Hacker News. It is a long list of people ranting about Gruber, his bias, the story, their own “better observations”, Android versus iOS, and you name it. I had to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the comment list to find rglover say something that was a positive contribution to the actual topic. That’s 1 in 74 comments.
Another example is Google releasing the full source code for Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich). A project that has probably cost them millions, uncountable hours, effort and expertise spend on crafting something for the community (and yes, they do want to make tons of money out of it, which is fine). You may not like Google, or every motive that they might have, but they have added more free value to the tech community and the world than ANY other company in the world. Now take another look at the comment over at HN. It isn’t about the possibly great things developers can do with that code base (I only wish iOS would be released this way). No, people are tearing down the effort and only talk about things that aren’t right.
Well, I have news for you. A perfect world doesn’t exist and until you yourself can release a mobile platform, open source, and on millions of devices, I suggest you show a little respect for the effort Google is putting into the mobile space. We are all educated people here, and a lot of the HN community is super smart and has outstanding coding abilities. But that doesn’t provide an excuse for some of the abuse I see.
It is so easy to write a disrespectful comment. Its done in a split second, and you can even do it anonymously. Compare that to the person writing out the blog post, taking the time, sometimes hours to carefully write down his story to share with the community. Think about the hours, or years he put into his project, learning, making mistake, prevailing and then sharing that awesome experience with all of us. And we tear down his story, mock his efforts, show we are better, in a split second, simply because we can?
Dear HN community. I love the stories published, I love to read about the unbelievable cool stuff so many smart people are working on, and I love the fact that you put in the extra mile to teach all of us something by sharing all of our experiences, despite all of the abuse that same community can provide. I have a lot of respect and understand the effort it takes. I am a developer/founder myself and I know that I can share a lot of valuable experiences and simply haven’t found enough time to do this all the time.
Let’s all pay back with a little respect to the author and focus on the story itself. Lets try to make sure that comments are actually contributing to a discussion. I honestly don’t care about your f*cking opinion. I am not asking you to agree or disagree with anything published. I just ask all of us to show a little respect to those that are taking the time to educate us through their learnings. Let’s contribute something meaningful instead.
Feel free to discuss this opinion here and at the HN comments 🙂
I agree with your observation on the level (or lack thereof) of comments on respectable websites (oops, was that an opinion? ;-). I also see people ranting about posts for no apparent reason.
You wrote: “We are all educated people here”. I doubt it, judging by the complete lack of quality in a lot of these comments. People start bashing an author for making an honest mistake, but they do so in a comment without proper use of capital letters and punctuation and in comments full of spelling mistakes.
I do not agree on you where you say you don’t care about the opinions of others. If someone can put up a proper argument about why they agree or disagree with what you have written down, then that contributes to the discussion. There can only be a discussion when there are opinions.
In response to your observation about the opinions of others. Of course I care about opinions too! Fully agree with you there. (I just don’t like those f*cking opinions 😉 )
I totally agree. Would you agree that this issue is bigger than the tech world? Look at so many comments in prime time or high profile websites, newspapers, television/radio broadcasts. There are usually not enough adjectives to describe how ‘stupid’ somebody is or his idea are. Often accompanied by an absence of knowledge or real interests to gain knowledge about the subject or the person who came up with an idea. Basically the whole democracy is influenced by this. Look what happens, especially around elections, by the people who are best positioned to give a good example, our representatives in parliaments. Am I making it too big now?
It definitely seems to be a trend in society and not just something the techies experience.
If you want to live in public and leverage the public platform that is the open internet by exercising your right to free speech, trolls are part of that mix. The fact that we both build and destroy our heroes (love the underdog, until they become huge then we cut them down), has nothing to do with the internet and everything to do with human nature. The better discussion isn’t lamenting that most comments are flippant, thoughtless, self-serving and rude, but looking at the commenting construct/platform itself. What incentives are built into these platforms that invite so many bad actors? Too many bloggers focus on their navel-gazing content and not on facilitating a proper discussion – that means both promoting and pruning commentary. HN doesn’t have the self-policing policy of say a SlashDot of old or a Gawker property today, nor does it have the embedded incentive that a Tumblr has where, if you want to troll, you are aggregating your troll behavior on your own page, forcing the world to see your negativity en-masse.
Not trying to solve anything here, but it’s a subject near and dear to my heart.
I couldn’t agree more. I recall the early days of Reddit when it was all early adopters and the signal to noise ratio was awesome. There must be a way to recreate that but to stop just short of the bozo explosion that comes with popularity.
“a lot of the HN community is super smart and has outstanding coding abilities”
We all like to think that about ourselves but let us be honest here, the comments seem to refute your statement. I’m sure that there are some awesome people on HN but do they spend all their time commenting on posts? Or is it just the people with an inflated sense of self esteem?
Yea, I agree. But I don’t care about your opinion. FU 😉