Saturday, March 29, 2008
User comments are eagerly solicited all over the web, and are an expression of the "participatory architecture" that defines web2.0. It would be hard to deny that the wealth of informative and insightful commentary one finds on the web is valuable; and equally hard to deny that the vast quantities of astonishingly moronic, hateful and misinformed commentary dumb the web down to a lowest common denominator. Comments and thumbs up/thumbs down ratings attached to controversial stories on news sites often strike me as a particularly mindless use of comments, and it's depressing to think that this kind of feedback will impact what editors decide is newsworthy. About a year ago, Google News implemented comments, but with a twist; only those mentioned in the news story, or affiliated with organizations in the story, are entitled to comment. This strikes me as a new and constructive use of comments, and if it catches on could raise the quality of news on the net and be a useful corrective to irresponsible journalism. Here's an example. You can see all the Google News comments by clicking on the "Comments by people in the news" link at the bottom of the "Edit this personalized page" section in the upper right part of the screen. You can also search for comments on particular topics using the "source:google_news searchword" syntax.