Arstechnica is one of the reasons why I believe that there is a future for quality journalism online. Not only because they produce great copy but also because it is one of the few places on the Internet where I don’t want to start maiming myself when I accidentally stumble over the article comments. Ars talks about technology, sure, but there is more and more content on science and really great, well researched pieces on wedge topics (“wedgy” mostly in the US, but spreading) like climate change and evolution. In this article on the basic conceptual differences between studying weather and climate, I stumbled over a comment that I would like to (and probably will) frame and hang on my wall. User Andrei Juan writes:

Regarding the author’s remarks made in the first few paragraphs of the article about comments and commenters, it seems to me that the number of people who post comments to online articles is (perhaps to a lesser extent here on ArsTechnica) usually much larger than the number of people whose education — formal or not — allows them to understand the article well, let alone make meaningful comments.

This is, I think, but one manifestation of many people’s tendency to express themselves in many more situations than when they have something to express. Turned into habit, this leads to confusions like the one discussed by the article, which are IMO a natural outcome of situations in which people who barely passed their high school math and physics tests develop their own opinions (or parrot those of their peers) about topics like dynamic systems. Moreover, put this together with the openness of an online “debate” — which lures people into feeling welcome to discussions where they’re utterly out of their depth yet don’t realize it — and another interesting specimen appears: the person who’s opinionated without really having an opinion.

On soccer fields, we hear these people blowing in vuvuzelas; in the comment sections of online articles though, that option is unavailable, so they’re only left with (ab)using the “Leave a comment” option. Could we, perhaps, eliminate most meaningless comments by adding a button labeled “Blow a vuvuzela” next to the one that says “Leave a comment”?…

In that sense, the highly disturbing “like” and “retweet” buttons one can find on so many sites now may actually have the boon to prevent some people from posting a comment. Not the sophistication of Slashdot‘s karma based moderation system but potentially effective…

Post filed under miscellaneous, society oriented design.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tech support questions will not be answered. Please refer to the FAQ of the tool.