Nobody knows how it happened, but Stephen Fry was declared sometime last year the King of the Internet. However, His Royal Tweetness seems to have lost some of the vibrant love for all things participatory. During a social networking conference, he is quoted as saying:
“I don’t know about you but whenever I read a blog I do not let my eye drop below half the screen in case I accidentally hit the bit where the comments reside. Of all the stinking, sliding, scuttling, weird, entomological creatures that inhabit the floor of the internet those comments on blogs are the most unbearable, almost beyond imagining”.
Strong words, but not without merit. I am fond of The Guardian’s Comment is Free (CiF), the range of opinions and the quality of most commentary is usually a treat for anyone interested in online debate. However, any trip down the Comment section in each article can be trying. There seems to be a cultivated smugness in some commenters that I personally find off-putting.
However, peer participation is undoubtedly one of the strengths of blogging. While I understand why people despair at the animosity and rudeness displayed in some websites, it is important to point out that this depends entirely on the forum. CiF is what I usually call a battleground forum, where large numbers of people with opposing views clash. The Guardian is a progressive newspaper, but it attracts surprising numbers of right-wing posters, perhaps because American websites tend to be divided starkly between ideological lines, visit FreeRepublic and you will not find a single liberal post. CiF is also home to heated religious discussion. While these topics can produce interesting threads, they can also quickly degenerate into shouting contests where the meanest and most vocal obsessives can direct the level of the debate.
Needless to say, when one is located further down the blogging food chain, discussion is always most welcome 🙂