Whether you’re writing a comment, or you’re writing a blog post, etiquette is hugely important. You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and tell them “that’s a terrible pair of shoes.” You wouldn’t tell a random person “Your hair looks funny.” I’d hope you wouldn’t turn down an invitation to a birthday by standing on a podium in front of a large group of people and say “I will not be attending this!” It’s rude, it’s unnecessary – But I think the technology we have is in part to blame.
You know, one thing that has bugged me recently is the amount of people who seem to not “get” commenting etiquette. There are YouTube commenters out there who just spam, or write something absolutely gibberish which is indecipherable even to our intelligence officers. Then you have those on Facebook who use it as a way to tell people of their interests, not really considering other people’s. I can’t even begin to described what’s wrong with Twitter’s etiquette. There are some rude people in the world and the internet brings out the worst of those people.
I’m not sure there are many people who would even care about this, either. Creators have always had to struggle with the idea that their content could be seen by millions, but yet get barely any interaction. Alternatively, they get lots of responses but those are about completely unimportant and trivial matters. If I see another version of the ‘This is Bob’ comment, I swear there has to be something wrong with our collective as a species.
But, what can be done to rectify this? Let’s talk about three platforms in particular, the issues they face and my counterpoints on what could be done to encourage more streamlined conversation.
Let’s start with YouTube – A platform where people can share their passions with the world, entertain people en masse, for free might I add. The sheer number of people who will comment, just to tell the whole world something like “I don’t like their hair” is preposterous. What about the content the person has produced? Sure, commenting about framerate issues is valid and fair if there are issues, but not something as small as a person’s appearance.
YouTube’s got a pretty straightforward set-up for commenting. You put your video up, you choose whether comments are enabled for your video or not, along with thumbs (up/down). You can hide the thumbs on each video, you can hide the comments on each video. This can be good if you’re a big company who doesn’t really need the extra insight, but what about the people who do need a small helping hand? The small video creators who do want to produce great content, they’re the ones who struggle by turning off the comments.
One way that YouTube are trying to rectify the problem is offering page moderators. A page administrator can set up moderators, who can scour content for the page. This gives the moderator the ability to flag and eliminate any nasty, unwanted comments. Another way to resolve this, is to set it so comments have to be reviewed before they’re officially published. The way to eliminate the bad comments is a combination of these, but it is a lot of work for a smaller group, or indeed an individual.
Arguably the hardest one of the three, Facebook has always been under scrutiny for its lackadaisical approach to moderating comments. At the same time, Facebook suffers with people saying it has too much data and control over said data as is. After all, it was only recently that we had the Cambridge Analytica scandal. If you don’t know about this, somehow, then please do go and check out that Wikipedia link.
Facebook’s commenting system is a bit more of a free-for-all than YouTube’s is. I’d argue the method I mentioned for YouTube is the best approach for Facebook in terms of public pages, but what about for smaller affairs? What about when someone publishes a Facebook Event Page for, let’s say, a birthday party? Do you know what happens? The publisher ends up with lots of “Sorry, I can’t make it that day”. The point of a birthday party invite isn’t so you can publicly declare that you won’t be going due to other arrangements – That makes it sound as if you’re far too important for your friend’s birthday.
The easiest solution would be, to me, for someone who clicks “Can’t Go” to not allow them to then comment. I’d also say that if people haven’t marked themselves as Going or at the very least ‘Interested’, then they don’t really have anything to add. If you’re not going, but you want to let the organiser know, that’s not a problem – Why not do so in the form of a private message to let them know you are thinking about them? Think of it like this: Would you like to set up an event and see lots of public comments telling everyone “I am not going to come to this?” If you’re not going, close the comments – You’ve done what you need to.
This one’s a minefield, but please understand that I don’t agree with a lot of what is said on Twitter. I also believe in a lot that is said on Twitter. It’s such an open platform, that I believe it’s great for saying what you want to say – and people responding in kind. Twitter gets messy when people flood a particular tweet negatively, which isn’t to say that you can’t Tweet something negative, at all. What I mean is when a Tweet gets flooded with bad comments – To where it starts to get personal.
Twitter has been a great source of collaboration for me, however some people see it as a huge problem. People receive death threats often on Twitter, as well as threats of harm, or general unpleasantness. Whilst not everyone or everything is nice in the world, there should be an element of civility. You wouldn’t walk up to someone in the street and say “I disagree with what you do, so I hope you burn”. That’s flat out wrong, so I think Twitter needs even more policing of the content that goes up on it. Twitter has a big stance on this, but many have critiqued it for not doing enough to enforce its views.
Hopefully you agree with some of my ideas, or perhaps commenting systems are okay as they are? Do you think software can do more, or do you think that we should be putting greater emphasis on the communities that use them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or drop a line on Facebook or Twitter.