If you ever want to see the worst people in the world, just scroll down to the bottom of stories on CNN.com or Yahoo News. No matter what the subject of the article, the anonymous trolls will be there, spewing hate, racism, right- and left-wing political crazy talk, and the worst grammar and spelling on the Internet.
I was reading a story on CNN.com yesterday, in fact, about a 93-year-old WWII veteran who recreated his parachute jump in Normandy. A heartwarming, wonderful story, it only took a few comments before the hatred and trolling to begin. And it never ended; some 630 comments later, it's still so very ugly and unnecessary.
Of course, we’ve had comments on OnMilwaukee.com since about 2001; we call them "Talkbacks," and for some reason, our readers – minus a few – seem to be far more civil than the readers of the newspaper down the street at JSOnline. Even though we moderate our comments, we let most of the silly stuff slide. For the 87,439 posted, we’ve only declined 2,414 comments, mostly because they are libelous, profane, repetitive or wildly off topic.
Some publications have buried their readers’ comments, moving them off the page of the content. I get that – they don’t want the nonsense to tarnish otherwise good journalism; however, hiding the comments slightly is sort of a half-measure. I say either keep them or get rid of them.
Then, of course, there are the Facebook comments. Some of us publishers hoped that by using its system, which at least somewhat forces people to use their real identities, it would add a sense of civility to the discussion. We, for example, include FB comments alongside our internal system.
The result, unfortunately, has been similarly terrible stuff – and we lose the opportunity to really moderate those comments. And the business reality is that Facebook has deeply cut into our comment numbers. Before Zuck and Twitter, popular stories would get upwards of 100 comments; now those comments are being posted directly on Facebook and other social media tools. Their traffic comes from our traffic – but that ship has already sailed, and there’s no use complaining about it now.
Which makes me wonder if readers comments are doing more harm than good in 2014. Years ago, we said that they helped make media a conversation, not just a sermon. But if the vast majority are just furious, frothing whack jobs and mouth breathers, pounding on their keyboards, picking fights and throwing bombs, how is that helping?
Unfortunately, it may not really matter, since the holy grail is still the almighty page impression. Even though here, we’ve moved past that metric in some respects, that’s basically how all of us free, advertiser-supported Web sites make the lion's share of our revenue. Even if we hate the comments and the commenters, they generate a ton of free and easy traffic. Getting rid of them only hurts ourselves, even if it makes the reader experience more pleasant.
So, for us, for now, I guess we’ll keep them, because the OnMilwaukee.com readers aren’t yet like the other commenters I read on the Internet. Hopefully they never will be. But if they start trending in that direction, we might get have to rid of comments all together. Or think of something else.
Irony aside in this question, what do you think of readers comments? Should they stay or should they go?
The fact that blurando's comment was posted proves that almost everything is approved on this site. It is either the dumbest or most racist comment that I have seen in a while. Just based on that; I say stop the comments.
I also think many of these offensive comments are created and posted by the author him/herself to get people talking and to get them all worked up. And of course...some people are just DB's and like to see their comments posted and read.
While in agreement with your article, I would not stop comments. Racism is the driving, powerful force behind every decision made whether corporate, government, political or personal. Comments bring that fact into the light and that exposure is neccesary if there will ever be any hope of curing the sickness of racism.
4 comments about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published Dec. 17, 2014
Yesterday, I walked around Packard Avenue in Cudahy for the first time in a long time. I mean, I drive through or around Cudahy all the time, but yesterday was different. I stopped to smell the roses. Every real Milwaukeeans should pay a visit to downtown Cudahy every now and then. It's like a window into our past, and it's still alive and kicking today.
Published Dec. 11, 2014
We all had a good laugh when the word spilled that Scott Walker substituted "Molotov" for "Mazel Tov" in his Hanukkah letter to Frank Gimbel. But you know that Gov. Walker didn't write that letter, right? He didn't even sign it.
Published Dec. 2, 2014
Black Friday and Cyber Monday were good fun, but Giving Tuesday is all about giving back to our community. It's a relatively new concept, but several Milwaukee nonprofits participate, including Discovery World, UPAF and Pathfinders. One local organization, Penfield Children's Center, is making Giving Tuesday work through crowdsourcing.
Published Dec. 1, 2014
I'm going to beat the Milwaukee winter. I will not be cold again. I will laugh in the face of Snowmageddon. I will be toasty warm when the temperatures drop well below zero. Here's how.
Published Nov. 18, 2014
Take it for what its worth, but Playboy Magazine has Blue's Egg as one of its 101 best breakfasts in America (don't worry, the link is reasonably safe for work). The restaurant at 317 N. 76th St. came in 21st place out of 23 Midwest selections, just behind Mickie's Dairy Bar in Madison.
Published Nov. 11, 2014
Can you imagine how social media would've melted down exactly 101 years ago? Nov. 11, 2013 was the end of the "Big Blow," the "Freshwater Fury" or the "White Hurricane," a hurricane-force blizzard that killed more than 250 people and and destroyed 19 ships.
Published Oct. 28, 2014
I really didn't have any hope left after 25 days. As we entered the fourth week without our sweet, kind, missing cat, Jabie, I was beginning to come to peace with the reality that I'd never see her again. Then, yesterday, less than four blocks from home, a woman called my wife and said she had cajoled a black cat into her basement. My wife bolted home from work and immediately recognized Jabie coming up the stairs. Just to be sure, she took her to the closest vet to scan her microchip. And it came back as a match from Elmbrook Humane Society.
Published Oct. 22, 2014
Apple's new killer app, Apple Pay, may indeed someday change global commerce for good. That day isn't here yet, however. Three days after launch, my experiences with the NFC-based payment / tap to pay system show that Apple Pay is still very, very beta. At this point, you may find yourself using it barely at all.
Published Oct. 21, 2014
Mazen Muna, the owner of the Dogg Haus group of restaurants, shared his plans today to launch PhantomBar this spring at 780 N. Jefferson St. in Cathedral Square. The bar is under the umbrella of his new 12AM Management Group, which Muna says he founded to house "the new wave of businesses being added to the portfolio."
Published Oct. 16, 2014
Well before the Chinese eCommerce company Alibaba began making IPO rumblings in America, I was familiar with its offerings. I'd never bought anything from it ... until this month.