I visit a LOT of different websites and blogs -- they run from generic news sites to very specific forums dedicated to all sorts of hobbies I follow. And what do they all have in common? Commenters.
Lately I've been giving some serious thought to totally ignoring comments for a half year... maybe even a total year. While I love reading comments (good ones), it just seems that the Internet has really taken a nosedive in terms of civility and common courtesy.
I won't throw stones here -- I'll gladly admit that I've posted the occasional nasty reply or sarcastic remark, but almost always it's been in retaliation for an earlier nasty remark. I'm not saying that's right -- it's not. I'm just saying I don't want to be part of that problem anymore, and I think the extreme solution is to stay out of the comment pool. Completely ignore it for a while.
Imagine for just a moment if for the next six months no one but trolls commented on certain forums or websites. All that would be left are those commenters who we all wish would go away anyway. And without an audience, without readers (and those that bite their bait), they might just go elsewhere and find another way to be miserable.
I bring this up only because of some really nasty comments of late on GeekDad.com for a variety of posts. I've always had this idea that GeekDad.com readers were a bit more educated, a bit more classy... a bit nicer. But I guess when you've got as large a readership as GD has, there are bound to be those that like to swim in the dirty water.
Totally ignoring comments, though, brings up a real problem for bloggers like me... if I don't read comments from my readers, how will I be able to respond to their questions about a post where I've left out some bit of info that they need? How will I be able to identify those readers who I might find fun and entertaining and having the same interests?
I really don't know...
Believe it or not, we, the GD writers... we're pretty nice folks. We get along with one another, we have shared interests and non-shared interests. We treat each other with respect, even when we disagree with one another. But you're talking about a group of less than 50 people. Open up the gates and let everyone respond... and lately it seems that conversations quickly devolve into insults and worse behavior.
There are a handful of websites and blogs that I have already decided that I will no longer read comments. GeekDad.com isn't one of them. All in all, I still find a slightly larger percentage of good visitor comments and a small percentage of negative comments. I still think GeekDad readers are made of better stuff, so for now... I'm going to continue to read and participate in discussions that start in the comments area of the various posts put up... mine and my fellow contribs.
But I really do believe that the Internet has opened up a can of worms that will never be closed. Being able to hide behind an anonymous username while throwing insults seems to be the rule, not the exception. I really believe that if everyone who posted comments had their full name visible, the negative stuff would slow to a trickle. Maybe not.
Okay... probably not.
Clicking the Publish Post button now... let's see what happens.