Pando

So, commenters told a comment platform that commenters are the coolest

By Nathaniel Mott , written on December 15, 2014

From The News Desk

A new report from Disqus claims that people who comment on news sites aren't worried about whether their fellow commenters identify themselves with their real name or a pseudonym. So are websites like Reuters wrong for banning comments because their pseudonymous vitriol distracts from a report's substance, or have Disqus users' own biases compromised the study?

Many of the people polled for this study rely on pseudonyms themselves. Some 63 percent of comments made on Disqus' platform are done so via pseudonyms; only 41 percent of the general population do the same. So it makes sense for the company, which lives or dies based on the number of people who use its platform, to talk-up a feature which encourages activity.

So the study's claim that people trust pseudonymous commenters as much as those who post under their real names is suspect. It's also damning: only 23 percent of respondents think that commenters are trustworthy, regardless of whether they're pseudonymous or not; rejoicing over that is like partying because 17 percent of your friends think you're "a tolerable person."

All of which leaves us with a study commissioned by a commenting platform that asked people who probably leave comments under pseudonyms whether or not they trust people who leave comments under pseudonyms. And that's supposed to make the increasing backlash against comments -- something I dearly wish would come to Pando -- seem like a bad development?

That's quite the leap. Meanwhile, sites like the Atlantic have reported that readers exposed to comments were less favorable towards an article than those who weren't, and publications like Popular Science removed comments because they distract from an article's point. Comment sections, in other words, are good for commenters but horrible for readers, publications, and anyone who supports civil discourse over the unmanaged chaos of pseudonymous comments.

Disqus is unlikely to change anyone's mind when its study's conclusions are drawn from answers provided by commenters, about commenters. Feel free to disagree with me -- I can't wait to not read your comments, pseudonymous or otherwise.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]