One of the key aspects of the Web 2.0 movement is including user-created and user-generated content. Interactivity was a selling point for many websites and has been vital to the growth of huge social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. However, not all of these back-and-forth conversations between users online have been civil or worthwhile.
One of the worst places that these interactions between users take place is on the comments sections of news sites and other websites. Web 2.0 was all about creating a broad space for public discourse and encouraging it at every corner. This hasn’t turned out the way the original theorists thought it would, and Popular Science is one of the first websites to take a stand.
As Dietram A. Scheufele reports in the New Scientist, Popular Science “announced last month that it would no longer allow reader comments” on its website. The announcement sparked a great deal of debate in the online community as to whether this was a good decision or not.
One of the main issues with many comments sections on websites is that they are not capable of being moderated as well as say, a newspaper’s letters to the editor section. A lack of moderation online has in recent years (and very unfortunately) led to yelling, immature attacks, racism, and a variety of other unacceptable discourse.
Ultimately, Popular Science’s decision to remove its comments section has at the very least restarted a debate about the value of a comments section in the first place. Sure, there is a great deal of truth in the fact that more discourse helps the public, but when it’s vitriol and pointless, what help does it really offer to readers and participants in a discussion?
If you want to get a more in depth perspective on the issue, be sure to take a look at Dietram’s article. Perhaps there are other aspects and philosophies of the Web 2.0 movement that need to be re-examined. If a re-examination helps to improve the user experience on the web, it will be well worth the discussion.