A Webcoming on Romance, Sarcasm, Math, and Language.

XKCD: A Web Comic of Romance, Sarcasm, Math, and Language.

Comment threads and discussion forums tend to be the Internet’s 1st Grade classroom. YouTube’s comments are a 1st Grade classroom that’s into Metal and just read “F*ck Your F*ggot GAY n00b P*ssy: New Ways to Insult Strangers.”

cuntwitt5 (18 hours ago)
i cant believe how much better the jonas brothers are to this gay band metallica

Phantom20fo (1 day ago)
Metallica is fucking great. the jonas brothers suck. they admit that they just learned how ot play instruments while just starting. you need some fucking experience to start a band. what sounds more bad ass and straight? enter sandman or love bug? god i hope nick fucking dies of diabetes and in dimmu borgir’s words “he will burn in hell. Metal is better than any other fucking boy band

evilburper (1 day ago)
shut up u gay fag this is an impression of u ‘oh poo face i like the jonas sistersi want to be just like them’ thats what u say all day and how could u even say that gay language

RageRater (1 day ago)
FFS? The Jonas brothers are better then Metallica? Flaming Faggot.

lordnucklehead (1 day ago)
HAAAAA!!!!!!! U ARE FREAKIN’ GAY!!!!!! U JUST SAID POO FACE TO ACEHOODAND THAT IS HILLARIOUS!!!!! I AM 15 AND I KNOW THAT METTALICA WOULD ROCK THE JONAS SISTERS SO BAD THAT THEY WOULD SAY ” come on guys lets go find Micheal Jackson and have some fun.” FIND ME ONE SONG THAT IS MORE HARD THAN THIS AND I WILL TAKE IT ALL BACK!!!

In comparison to YouTube’s 1st Graders, Hulu‘s users are working on their Master’s. Their conversations spur discussion and thought, without cries of FRST!, PWNED, or FAG! Related to shows or episodes, and styled in a minimalistic look, the forum doesn’t functionally do many things differently. You can post a new topic, reply to topics, or reply to replies.

But somehow Hulu’s discussions are filled with even tempered, supportive conversations. On the Dec. 9, 2008 episode of the Daily Show, Jon Stewart and Mike Huckabee had a wonderfully even tempered discussion about gay marriage.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “The Daily Show | Gay Marriage Discussion“, posted with vodpod

Following that video, several topics about gay marriage were posted on Hulu.

Even the arguments were intelligent.

And there were plenty of arguments.

But nobody got called a fag.

Any sort of posting on YouTube would create chaos.

On A List Apart, Caroyln Wood warned against belligerent commenting in her article Putting our Hot Heads Together.

View a comment section as a brainstorming session or potential goldmine of creative exchanges, rather than your chance to choose between being a fanboy or a brawler. Purposefully interacting in the discussion section, rather than just reacting, doesn’t just broaden your horizons. People are watching—oh, so many people—from across the web, the world, and from businesses. Some may ask you to write articles or books. Some may hire you, collaborate with you, or even visit your site and purchase something through one of your cleverly disguised text ads.

It’s a good suggestion, but doesn’t examine what creates more productive comment/forum environments. Although, A List Apart is another example of intelligent comments. Users tend to add depth to articles, and authors often reply; this creates an interactive dialogue on the Internet. What a concept! A List Apart actively tries to maintain this kind of environment, though. Instead of letting users immediately comment on an article, A List Apart offers a “Join the Discussion” link.

Oh, A List Apart. It's always good for me.

Oh, A List Apart. It's always good for me.

This wording accomplishes two tasks:

  1. Distinguishes their feedback as a “discussion” rather than a “comment.” Discussions are two-way exchanges, whereas comments are muttered under your breath after your boss walks away.
  2. Forces the user to “join” something that already exists. This suggests you’re only a part of a group that has preset behavior and rules. It puts you into “polite mode.”

As Hulu gains popularity I’ll be interested to see how its discussions evolve. I can’t help but wonder if a simple shift from “comment” to “discuss” would alter YouTube’s environment. Or if it would take a greater reorganization of the site’s structure to encourage actual conversations. Since you can’t start new topics under a specific video on YouTube, commenting tends to feel pointless. On top of that, the sheer volume of comments makes a dialogue nearly impossible to track. It’s like shouting inside a tornado that’s picked up the YouTube 1st Grade classroom having a food fight: nobody’s gonna hear you, and you’ll probably get smacked in the face with meatloaf, even though you didn’t throw anything in the first place.

Hulu, on the other hand, makes users create topics for their discussions. Making users write headlines for their comments forces them to focus what they want to say. I’d argue that this extra moment makes them write with more care. Establishing topics also let users scroll through discussions more quickly, choosing when to participate.

It’s the difference between a trash dump that puts everything in one pile and a recycling center that sorts materials. One smells like shit, and the other helps the Earth. Which one would you rather visit?

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So I’ve just joined a live NPR Web Chat for the first time. And my question got answered.

11:17
Dick Meyer:  A question from Wes Mikel:
11:17
[Comment From Wes Mikel]
How did Blago manage to rise through the ranks when he seems to have so few qualms about lying and cheating and… oh. Answered my own question.
11:18
Dick Meyer:  Ken, this is up your alley…
11:19
Ken Rudin:  Great question.   It was easy for Democrats to be perceived as the reformers, especially in 2002, when GOP Gov. George Ryan was up to his eyeballs in a corruption investigation.   Blago was first elected to Congress in ’96, defeating the guy who beat Rosty two years prior.   He really got his political start by marrying the daughter of Dick Mell, a Chicago ward boss who is a major player in city Dem politics.
11:19
Liz:  And that rise may be capped soon by a resignation: local Chicago television station …

11:19
Liz:  reported that he is close to resigning. And Blago met this morning with ministers, who came to his home.
Now THAT’S interactive journalism. My specific question was addressed. You can bet I’m coming back for more of these.

UPDATE: Read the full transcript from NPR.

Scrapbook news, now online!

December 12, 2008

In a post on Publish2.0, Josh Korr wrote about scrapbook news, and how it could be applied to online journalism.

The truth is, scrapbook news written by journalists is effectively the same as scrapbook news submitted by the would-be scrapbookers. If the story is “Megan won the 4-H award at the fair,” how much of a difference does it make to have a journalist write the story rather than Megan’s mom? (Though you’d probably still want some minimal level of editing so every item didn’t say “Goooo, Megan!” Or maybe that would be ok too.)

The key would be to acknowledge that while scrapbook news is news, certain kinds of news might not carry the same burden of expertise, professionalism, polish or “objectivity” (if you believe in that sort of thing) as city council coverage might.

This theory becomes even more compelling with online journalism, since the Web removes the hurdle of publishing. Megan’s mom used to write in to the paper about the 4-H award so she could clip out her daughter’s name and put it on the fridge… and prove to Sarah’s mom how much better her daughter was. And back then, the town newspaper was the best source for town news. In many small towns, it still is. But even small towns have the Internet now. So why not let Megan’s mom get online and write about her daugther’s award on the newspaper’s site?

Allowing citizen journalists to become involved in the paper could do two things:

  1. Boost customer loyalty and involvement
  2. Take the weight of boring stories off journalists’ shoulders

Obviously, opening up a newspaper’s site like this has a lot of risk, as John Zhu writes about on his blog.

I have no qualms about publishing user-submitted scrapbook news, but I do worry about publishing it with little editing. That concern doesn’t stem from a distrust of non-journalists, but rather the lack of faith in the ability of the bulk of humanity to write something good enough for public dissemination and consumption. Everyone — journalist or not — needs editing before their work sees the light of day in the form of a professional publication. This is the view I’ve formed from more than a decade of editing other people’s writing in journalism, advertising, education, and public relations.

But if a paper were careful in setting up the system, let users edit other users’ content, and clearly flagged user-submitted content as different than professionally-produced content, then Megan’s mom would visit the site more often, interact more often, and click on advertising more often. Then, once Sarah’s mom wins the pie competition, she’ll start doing the same. And then they can start posting screenshots of their stories to their personal blogs. Suddenly you could have a swell of content written and read by a tight-knit community. Suddenly, you’ve allowed that community to interact online. The newspaper becomes its own social network for its coverage area. And now you have a bunch of subscribers writing content that THEY care about.

People might ask if that’s newsworthy, to which I’d ask what could me more newsworthy? To me, a story is newsworthy when it has an impact on people. Certainly, Obama’s weekly addresses are more newsworhty than Megan’s brother winning the pie-eating competition. But both affect the audience. They can feel like they “own” that part of your newspaper; that they are part of the newspaper. Once you’ve got that kind of brand loyalty, once it escalates to brand evangelism, then your subscribers are far more valuable.

Smart stuff on customer loyalty and interaction.

Twittermaven: Do I Want to Follow Your Brand?