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Editorial: Why some people hate comments (and why we don't)

By dpreview staff on Aug 26, 2013 at 09:04 GMT

Barnaby Britton - Editor: dpreview.com

Mat Honan of Wired.com thinks the time has come to banish comments sections from web pages. Writing for Wired.com's Gadget Lab blog, Honan describes the 'collective delusion' among online publishers that comments are a necessary component of web content. Honan characterizes active comments moderation as 'a messy, frustrating and typically thankless affair that involves more time than most people have'.

I sympathize with this point of view. We've only allowed commenting on our content relatively recently, and in the case of full reviews, only in the past few weeks. And at first we had a tough time keeping up with the unwelcome comments - mostly spam - that appeared at the bottom of our articles. I don't know exactly where they come from, but there do seem to be armies of people in the world who are employed to sign up to sites like ours and post commercial spam in the comments until they either get bored or get banned. Nice work if you can get it, I imagine. 

DPReview admins can still see the spam, but you can't. How do we do it? Well that would be telling, but if you think that story is neat, check out this amazing deal two weeks ago my husband won $1 million...

And then of course there are the trolls. Anyone who comes to dpreview.com regularly and looks at the comments or reads our forums knows what I mean. The users that occasionally derail conversations with raving accusations of brand bias, attack other people for not knowing as much as they do, or criticize our content for not being good enough, fast enough (or long enough or strong enough, or the wrong color, etc.). 

Honan calls this 'digital graffiti on online real estate', and certainly, cleaning it up takes a degree of effort. I certainly don't agree with Digg CEO Andrew McLaughlin though, when he says that 'everyone who runs a commenting system ends up killing themselves or shooting up a post office', although I do have a few more gray hairs these days than I used to. 

All of us on the editorial team at DPReview have to reply to comments that most people would consider overly critical, offensive and sometimes very personal, but I wouldn't describe their authors universally as 'parasitic trolls'. Why not? Because pretty often, if a comment from one of our users gets me riled and I reply, more often than not they'll respond, apologizing for being hot-headed and thanking me for engaging with them. It doesn't happen every time, but surprisingly often, nonetheless. It's easy to cross the line when you're not sitting across a table from someone, and we've all done it. 

What I've learned about commenting, either by email, private message, public comments or forum posts, is that most people are pretty reasonable most of the time. And of the comments on dpreview articles, I'd characterize the majority of the discussions as pertinent and on the whole, constructive. There's always some mud-slinging of course, but that's where active moderation comes in.

Of course it's very hard not to take some of it personally. At the end of a long day, towards the end of a long week, I for one don't aways respond as well as I should to the more personal attacks that are directed towards us. But in general, if I take a deep breath and respond politely, offer explanations and ask for constructive suggestions, the fire goes out pretty quickly. Even if not, I'll certainly feel (and sleep) better. And although it's not always easy to follow, that's the advice I give to everyone that writes for the site.

So I don't think that comments sections should be banished - partly because I know there are ways of dealing with the truly suffocating stuff like commercial spam (without giving too much away, we've managed to pretty well hide it on dpreview.com) and I've been in this business long enough to know that a lot of conversations that start badly can still end well.

But I do agree with Mat Honan's final point: 

'If we want actual conversations, we have to acknowledge that those conversations are as important as anything else we publish.'

This is precisely why we continue to add new features to our forums, and if you read our weekly newsletter you'll have heard me banging on week after week about our system for creating your own articles. When we created the articles section of the site a couple of years ago, it was intended to do two things - mainly to allow us to post a more diverse range of content, spanning short reviews, technique articles, photography-related features and so on - but also, and no less importantly, to allow you to do it too. If you're a logged-in user and you've got something to say that's too long for a comments box or a forums post, why not write an article?

One of our priorities for the rest of this year and beyond is to get more comment on dpreview, to make the most of our readers' vast reserve of knowledge and experience and make our site a better resource for people who want to learn about photography. I want you to talk to one another, and continue to talk to us. Because the more you do, the less noise there will be. 

What do you think? Let us know in the... well, you get the idea. 

Source: Wired

Comments

Total comments: 288
123
Eleson
By Eleson (8 months ago)

I guess it boils down to if you want more or less involved visitors to your site.

0 upvotes
Peter G
By Peter G (8 months ago)

DPR comment areas/forums are quite civilized in comparison to many sites.

Active moderation helps a great deal.

But there is one other huge factor that I have observed over the years. Many of the sites that suffer with terrible comment sections bring much of it on themselves.

In desperation for page hits they post click-bait/link-bait and I would say downright flame-bait stories and headlines. They do this in hopes that they story will be picked up around the web and draw big traffic. Sadly, this tactic often works. But the traffic it draws is often angry about the flame-bait story and is just looking for a fight, so the comment section turns into a Troll-Brawl.

Wired is no stranger to the is tactic IMO.

Thankfully I have never seen DRR do this. Readers come for the solid reviews and editorial content.

Thanks for staying on the high ground, and thanks for keeping comments.

2 upvotes
dale thorn
By dale thorn (8 months ago)

One particular type of troll that's never mentioned is the insider who creates a dummy account to bait and attack an unpopular user the forum would like to ban. Sometimes an established member can be recruited for this type of task, but then again the established member may be a long-standing dummy account anyway. Lots of chicanery goes on in erstwhile "user" comments, mostly to promote product, and then some to plug the inevitable leaks.

0 upvotes
mapgraphs
By mapgraphs (8 months ago)

Comments are a mixed blessing. Message boards usually go through cycles of activity that sees the more thoughtful participants wandering off to more lucrative pickings for one reason or another.

Comments create traffic, traffic can drive revenue and comments have an entertainment value. However, advertisers realize more click-throughs do not equal more sales. The longer term effect can be that participants stop reading the full article and just skim the Conclusion part of Reviews, and then wallow in the comments.

So, you may have more eyes, they may not be reading what you’re writing though. Or buying anything. As a business model, noise doesn’t really sell.

The downside perhaps is, if the site becomes known as the Photo Mud Slinging site, the buyers may move on.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
maksa
By maksa (8 months ago)

Please hide comments by default. Sometimes they take more than 95 % of the page height.

1 upvote
DFPanno
By DFPanno (8 months ago)

The problem that modern media has is that they no longer control the narrative.

(And yes it is a narrative)

I find it interesting to see which articles the NYT allows comments on and those that it doesn't.

All publishers can get it wrong, sometimes by accident, sometimes, on purpose.

Open comments give the readers the ability to protect each other when it is called for.

Mr. Honan's desire to see that eliminated is very suspect.

With regard to DPR; I'm here for the comments.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
2 upvotes
tabloid
By tabloid (8 months ago)

The truth is that all forums attract mentally deranged people.

Forums are the only place where unbalanced people can vent their venom, and get a reaction from normal people who don't know what hit them.

Its seems to be worst with children, who sometimes take their own lives, when they don't know how to handle the hatred which is directed at them.

In my opinion there should be tough censorship.

0 upvotes
NewForce
By NewForce (8 months ago)

OK DPR, can I/we Samsung NX300 NX camera system users know,

1. What was the real reason DPR have not review this fantastically reviewed/reported Samsung NX300 camera by others, including TIPA and EISA?

2. If DPR did not get this NX300 camera from Samsung as review sample, will DPR review it if NX300 user's willing to T-Loan the camera to DPR?

I/we need to know the true reason to why, not some general way of DPR turning down the request reply.

Millions thanks in advance. :-)

Comment edited 58 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
Hugo808
By Hugo808 (8 months ago)

Why do you need *another* review if you are already sure that it's a fantastic camera?

Do you really need DPRs approval before you can feel good about something you've spent money on? A fine compliment for the site if it is.

But what happens if they dislike it? Do you throw it away or spend forever railing against them in the comments section. They should publish an article about what they think of this sort of behaviour....

Comment edited 38 seconds after posting
5 upvotes
NewForce
By NewForce (8 months ago)

It's called "Opinion". More "Opinion" are always welcome.

No offence, I'm still awaiting for the an answer DIRECTLY from DPR Editorial board, if you don't mind.

1 upvote
abortabort
By abortabort (8 months ago)

They will review cameras that appeal to the largest audience. Simple as that. DPRs reviews are some of the most detailed and in-depth - this costs a lot of time with limited resources. There are only a few hard-core NX fans (that moan constantly on these boards about the lack of reviews).

They haven't reviewed a lot of cameras, you are just singling out one model because it is your preferred brand / camera. They also haven't reviewed the DP Merrill's, which would be a far more interesting read anyway.

Don't like what DPR review? Find someone else who does the reviews you want (hint you already have).

1 upvote
b craw
By b craw (8 months ago)

NewForce: Perhaps good inquires but certainly having no relation to the topic of "comments".

0 upvotes
NewForce
By NewForce (8 months ago)

b craw: You're right, perhaps I'm a little itchy mouth lately and just taking 'the' opportunity to ask in extra.

Seriously, I have never take in DPR reivew as my preference of buying any of my camera and lenses.

Also, I didn't even consider to join DPR since I came to knew it more than 10 years ago, until recent months and it's just for fun. And my fun for being here in DPR is getting disminishing too.

Think I better spend my precious time shooting more pictures instead of typing here to some 'Ladies Man 217'.

Comment edited 37 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
h2k
By h2k (8 months ago)

I enjoy reading a few comment from experts and fellow aficionados, but then i often am disappointed when i open the comments section to, say, a review of a new Canon DSLR.

The key for me is to sort by "most popular". Then i get some interesting and entertaining comments and comments-on-comments first. I read first three to six and then... i quickly leave.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
micahmedia
By micahmedia (8 months ago)

Comments sections are free attention. They are user generated content. If the authors don't create content that engages the users, the other users will be sure to.

Are you sure you wouldn't rather spend your time creating engaging content, than babysitting?

Yeah, I'm sure higher volume of comments will do wonders for quality. Bring on the shít show.

Came for the objective reviews, stayed for the abuse?

No, I find myself removing comment sections with adblock more and more these days. Haven't done that here. Yet. I'm having trouble finding a reason not too though.

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (8 months ago)

Comments on articles is a big part of the attraction, sometimes the biggest part, trolls and all. Theoretically, you can stop them, but then traffic will fall significantly, and a rare web site can live through it these days.

1 upvote
D1N0
By D1N0 (8 months ago)

The main problem is anonymity. If you know your mother might also be reading the comments you make, or your employer or your wife/girlfriend, then maybe you would behave a little better. Anonymous names and Avatars make it possible to turn internet reaction pages into an outlet for all kinds of crap. The interaction between commenters only enhances that.

0 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (8 months ago)

I'd rather see what people really think than all the PC nonsense.

9 upvotes
micahmedia
By micahmedia (8 months ago)

Yeah, trying to ban "curse" words is ineffective büllshít. The commenters on the internet already act like children. Slapping their wrists for "swearing" only adds to that effect.

0 upvotes
D1N0
By D1N0 (8 months ago)

Yeah sure, when i would use my real name i'd say that canon eos-m is a pretty nifty camera....

0 upvotes
daddyo
By daddyo (8 months ago)

To D1N0,
I fully agree with you. Many people love internet forums for the same reason they love costume parties. They can carry on in an unrestrained fashion, and no one knows who the idiot is behind the mask.

To micahmedia,
Cursing is nothing more that verbal litter. And just like litterers, people who regularly engage in it have zero regard for whether it is offensive to others. We have littering laws to protect innocent people from having their environment turned into a trash heap. Forum curse word censorship is reasonable and necessary.

2 upvotes
deleted-13120401
By deleted-13120401 (8 months ago)

Only extremes ever get noticed in comments. Moderate, balanced and informative comments get relatively ignored. Maybe a 'wow, thanks!' and some likes.

So you can see why people start raving and waving their hands around. They get positive reinforcement.

I'm sure many people are writing PhD thesis on these (which, ironically, will probably only get a few comments)

1 upvote
micahmedia
By micahmedia (8 months ago)

...welcome to my world.

0 upvotes
Pixelpop
By Pixelpop (8 months ago)

"Just the facts, ma'am" - Joe Friday
Even Editorial opinions need to be muted.

1 upvote
agentul
By agentul (8 months ago)

Leica and Hasselblad approve this message.

0 upvotes
udris
By udris (8 months ago)

A typical fishing article, fishing for controversy thus catching new readers

Matt Honan probably read every comment under his article .......... I am sure he would have been disappointed if it was ignored or everyone agreed.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Abrak
By Abrak (8 months ago)

I guess I am not convinced. DPR claims to be adding new features and to be responding and engaging all the feedback it receives.

At the same time in-depth reviews of cameras and software either arrive so late it is useless or never appear at all. I seem to remember say fairly in-depth articles about Lightroom 4 and PS CS6. But absolutely nothing on Lightroom 5 and PS CC in 'additions' and not its pricing policy.

When pressed, the usual response from DPR is that 'we currently dont have the resources to do all the reviews that we would like.....' Not surprising when your attention is elsewhere.

So DPR says 'I want you to talk to one another, and continue to talk to us. Because the more you do, the less noise there will be. ' The reality is more mundane - the more we talk to one another, the less we will actually do and at some stage all you will be left with is noise.

3 upvotes
Artistico
By Artistico (8 months ago)

I second that, Abrak. I'd rather have no discussions and more and speedier published reviews, for that is what this website was supposed to be for in the first place, wasn't it?

Any time and energy spent on extracurricular activities beyond that basic scope of the website makes it less interesting to people actually wanting camera reviews without all the additional trimmings, and we have to look elsewhere for our technical fix when researching our future camera purchases, or - in the case of many photographers - to justify our last one.

Comment edited 16 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Joe Talks Photo Gear
By Joe Talks Photo Gear (8 months ago)

I would to see fewer characters available for commenting. Maybe 100. Like, get to the point and don't beat us over the head with your superior knowledge, negativism, trolling, attacks or/boorish behavior. Do that. Thanks.

5 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (8 months ago)

Just stop reading after 100 characters. Simple.

6 upvotes
Managarm
By Managarm (8 months ago)

"I would to see fewer characters available for commenting. Maybe 100. Like, get to the point and don'"
.
- that's exactly how far I read your comment, when it suddenly reached the 100 character limit...
And it actually worked out perfectly as your own "superior knowledge behaviour" got filtered out! ;)

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
Joe Talks Photo Gear
By Joe Talks Photo Gear (8 months ago)

And the A-holes come out as expected here on DPR.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Managarm
By Managarm (8 months ago)

I guess that kind of overreacting insults is a perfect example of those personal attacks you were talking about?
.
Well, each to his own...

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 10 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Chris Noble
By Chris Noble (8 months ago)

Comment: Articles written in the 1st person singular should be signed.

0 upvotes
Bob Janes
By Bob Janes (8 months ago)

I guess if you didn't have comments with the articles you would just get a topic being opened up in the forums - might as well keep the stuff with the article...

I do however like a separate "message to the author" option - sometimes you just want to point out a typo without advertising the mistake to the rest of the internet.

Moderation of comments is always a touchy subject as there are those whose attitude towards on-line communication resembles the spirit of the old west - "I have the right to bear arms and will start shooting at anyone I think has shot or might shoot at me"; others just have an off day, or make a posting they regret while under the influence (shocking, but it happens).

The personal abuse moderators receive is often over the top, but if a moderator has acted in good faith they should be able to avoid too many sleepless nights, even if they do make an unintentional mistake.

1 upvote
abortabort
By abortabort (8 months ago)

The only real problem I have with comments associated with an article is they very much represent the moment that article is written, not the longevity of the article being read. There tends to be a lot of 'hot-headed' responses from commenters that they will often take back once a full review is written or they have actually had a chance to use the device itself, or for that matter firmware upgrades, lenses added later and so on. But those comments become 'etched in' as part of the article - Someone who comes back to read it two years later, those comments haven't changed bit may very well no longer be accurate or relevant. Further to this, commenting kind of just comes in a burst when the article comes out and then just stops, making ongoing commenting rather pointless, even often a few days after the article, or even a few hours on some sites.

So it tends to become a lot of hissing and negativity, most of which is very reactionary. Yet they will mark that product announcement and review forever.

I'm all for discussion and I generally like to react to the negativity to provide some balance (whether I like a product or not I try not to be overly negative about it where I can, because of the above and try to eek out the positives). However I think that commenting on an article 'should' be maintained seperately from the article itself.

1 upvote
fz750
By fz750 (8 months ago)

I wish that, in addition to a "Like" button, you had a "dislike" (or whatever) button..

How do you vote a stupid idiot/comment down?!

Then also you could EFFECTIVELY search by most liked comments..

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
12 upvotes
Henry M. Hertz
By Henry M. Hertz (8 months ago)

yeah that would be so usefull for your posts....

1 upvote
fz750
By fz750 (8 months ago)

Get out of bed on the wrong side today..?!

But anyway, yes, if the posts are disliked then at least that poster will get to know about it and it might mike them thnk twice before posting some inane comment and hopefully improve on the signal/noise ratio..

0 upvotes
D1N0
By D1N0 (8 months ago)

dislike buttons would be great for fan boys. Let's not...

0 upvotes
fz750
By fz750 (8 months ago)

well, we have "like" buttons for fanboys, why not dislike..? Seems only fair.. :-)

0 upvotes
Paul De Bra
By Paul De Bra (8 months ago)

Thank you (dpreview) for the effort you put into this. I realize from other forums that spam can be a serious problem. Some sites have resorted to captchas and such to at least avoid bots from spamming forums, and this makes life harder for all the normal real human users interested in the actual topic. DPreview makes it easy to comment and to use the forums. Yes there are trolls but at least there are very few spammers that get through.

0 upvotes
reginalddwight
By reginalddwight (8 months ago)

Thank you for expanding the comments section to nearly all of your articles and recently the reviews also.

It is a challenge sometimes to separate the wheat from the chaff, but the occasional insightful comment can be enlightening and satisfying indeed.

Now if would please revive the "dislike" option....

0 upvotes
Adamaflex
By Adamaflex (8 months ago)

That's not really what a troll is, just because someone commenting is negative, cynical or passive aggressive it doesn't mean they are a troll

0 upvotes
keeponkeepingon
By keeponkeepingon (8 months ago)

Wow.

You sort of misrepresent the entire original article.

While he does rant against traditional, hard to moderate, sucky comment systems, the main thrust of the article is not to banish comments altogether. The main thrust is to suggest outsourcing comments to 3rd party commenting systems such as branch. com and kinja. com, systems which facilitate moderation by the author and the commenting community.

dpreview is slowly trying to improve commenting in it's own homegrown system with the "like"s. If you made the best comments (such as this one) bubble to the top of the comments that feature might actually be useful.

BTW I love comments even though I barely read any of them. Just the fact that one of your news items is heavily commented on tells me it may be worth looking at, even if the title does not initially catch my interest.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 6 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (8 months ago)

Well not really - I'm arguing against Matt's position that publishers should wash their hands of commenting etc. But agreeing with the other main thrust of his argument, that if you really want people to converse, you have to give them a serious platform.

0 upvotes
LiquidSilver
By LiquidSilver (8 months ago)

Dpreview is a niche site and comments are rated and moderated. So it works quite well.

On other sites, comment can be useless or damaging, because they fail their own "noble" and useful mission (to spread ideas and information).

In that cases, they only work as an easy trick to generate "clicks", but in the long run they overshadow the editorial content of the site, and they decrease its "perceived quality" .

Comment edited 12 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Ron Poelman
By Ron Poelman (8 months ago)

I'm in love with the sound of my own voice,
isn't everybody ?

0 upvotes
JEROME NOLAS
By JEROME NOLAS (8 months ago)

Depends on what pills you (we) are taking....

0 upvotes
InTheMist
By InTheMist (8 months ago)

The alternative is one page view and gone.

Comments sections keep people coming back to a page to contribute or to see what is being discussed.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
7 upvotes
oscil8
By oscil8 (8 months ago)

Sycophant.

1 upvote
Grumpyrocker
By Grumpyrocker (8 months ago)

I think far fewer sites need comments. Often comment sections ruin articles. The Mona Lisa doesn't need a load of ignorant rubbish scrawled underneath it.

On some sites the comment section is a cesspit - YouTube for example. And I believe the quality of the comments damage the image of the site, even if the site isn't responsible for the content of those comments.

Yes I get the irony in posting this. :)

0 upvotes
Eleson
By Eleson (8 months ago)

Hmmm, I'm not sure how many that would actually notice the Mona Lisa painting hanging on the wall if they had never heard of it before. So the talk is the biggest part of what creates the interest.

1 upvote
JEROME NOLAS
By JEROME NOLAS (8 months ago)

Yes, you're right. Sometimes I hate myself for my comments but trolls are provoking me all the time!

0 upvotes
Henry M. Hertz
By Henry M. Hertz (8 months ago)

well you are a troll yourself.....

0 upvotes
Nightwings
By Nightwings (8 months ago)

Comments sections is the barometer by which you can gauge how well or not your work is viewed by others. Without feed back, you have no way of knowing why your business model is doing well, or not... whether that business model involves selling something, or reviewing / testing something.

That being said, one has to put the in to time to weed out useless / worthless feed back in order to properly analyze the data. That... is no easy task. The fact that you do so, is testament to the dedication and overall qualitative work you guys do here.

Comments also allow readers to exchange their opinions on why this, that, or the other is a good product or not.... why THEY think the review was good or not, etc. etc. It's also allows YOU to harvest potentially good suggestions that you could use in future reviews.

It's a win win ... but not without putting in the time and effort.... as with anything else in life.

3 upvotes
Eric Hensel
By Eric Hensel (8 months ago)

I'm 60, and I love the 'net, warts and all. The best (yes, and sometimes, worst) thing about it is it gives *everyone* a voice.
Moderating is a difficult job, until you realize, like Barney, how important open dialog is. Thanks to all the editors involved, for continuing the practice.

8 upvotes
CeleryBeats
By CeleryBeats (8 months ago)

Matt Honan is wrong. People always need a voice. Accepting/ignoring the crap is a part of life.

And at least I always love my own comments

14 upvotes
GeminiH
By GeminiH (8 months ago)

Thats true.

As someone else mentioned, the 'weight' of an article is now near the bottom, in the comments. Its one lecturer in a room full of different opinions.

I like this article - it gives the OP's (ie DPReview) a stronger voice in the comments section as well.

0 upvotes
sieem
By sieem (8 months ago)

Sometimes I click on an article just to read the comments, because I'm interested to see what people think about a new product or anything. Banishing the comments would make a website indeed a lot less interesting.

23 upvotes
arhmatic
By arhmatic (8 months ago)

I opened the article and scrolled straight to the comments. But this is me...

0 upvotes
Henry M. Hertz
By Henry M. Hertz (8 months ago)

well about image comments i will say this:

i don´t allow commenting my images on flickr and co.
95% of all commets are useless anyway.

every snapshot on flickr gets "great", "fantastic" or "you nailed it" comments.
so what are they worth?
i don´t need such meaningless patting on my back.

and the downside to allowing comments is, that when some asocial types or trolls write crap or insulting stuff, or fight with eachother on your page... you have to moderate it or you are in some way associated with their stuff.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 288
123