I’ve spent a long time over the years working at media companies and specifically around the software and design that supports commenting and forums. Having watched the Guardian close the “You Tell Us” thread last week, I thought I might jot down some thoughts I have about the experience.
I want to say up front, I love the interactivity of the web. And I think it is a mistake that news companies currently seem to be out-sourcing a lot of the commenting on their articles out to Twitter and Facebook, rather than run it themselves. A lot of people think comments on news sites are toxic, but I’d argue that’s often because they are poorly run, and the company doesn’t really know why it has them. I certainly get annoyed at journalists who are sniffy towards “below the line” commenters, a snobbish attitude that I think belongs back when it was much harder for readers to question your pieces.
At the moment we don’t have comments on the Mirror site where I work, and I must confess it is a slight relief not to be immediately called a twat every time I press publish, but equally I find sites without comments don’t feel as alive. You know an article has had an impact when it has generated hundreds of comments.