Obscure Box

Thoughts from inside the obscure box

January 13, 2010

Why the comments sometimes don't matter

Posted by : Michael Lund
Filed under : Media, Observation, Online, Style

I'm growing increasingly puzzled by the comments that are allowed on some news stories posted online.

Sometimes there are none. Does that mean no one really cares about the story?

Sometimes there are many. Too many. Hundreds. When you read through a few it's quite clear that the majority of commenter’s have not read any of the other comments as the same points are often repeated ad nauseum.

Sometimes the comments provoke debate. Sometimes that can be useful. Sometimes it can act as a huge distraction away from the original story.

Then sometimes the comment can be so off the mark as to make you wonder how it got there in the first place.

Take this offering from the Times Online in the UK on the story headlined "Google Earth helps find El Dorado" (January 10, 2010).

The story's about a possible lead to the discovery of the legendary lost "golden city" in South America.

So why this comment?

Ken Lancaster wrote:
Ferguson doesn't deserve the respect he gets. One decision, which was clearly offside within the laws of the game went for his team - which he supported, one (where the renowned dirty Darren Fletcher) was red carded for a foul was apparently very wrong. Had exactly the same decisions been made for and and against Birmingham his position would, without a doubt, be reversed. Ferguson should be a leader in the game yet he does his level best to undermine officials decisions at every opportunity. Until the FA take a proper stance against Ferguson people will conclude that there is one rule for Ferguson and another for the rest. In other words there will be a perception that no only Ferguson is a cheat but the FA are complicit in his antics. The FA need to develop some backbone and give this man the punishment he so richly deserves.
January 10, 2010, 3:34 AM GMT

What has a comment on UK soccer got to do with lost civilizations (don't tempt me)?

Others were obviously equally puzzled.

Marcus Brain wrote:
Ken lancaster is obviously a very bitter and jealous Liverpool fan who feels he has to comment about Manchester United on any story, even one about the Amazon!
January 11, 2010 10:32 AM GMT

Then there was this one.

Alex Penn wrote:
After reading this article and comments:

i) Hopefully this is El Dorado - what a find that would be!

ii) Yes, Ferguson doesn't deserve the respect he gets.

January 11, 2010 12:50 PM GMT

Is there no gatekeeper checking the comments for relevance?

But then a glance at some other comments reveals some strays about the possible use of Google Earth to track missing UK child Madeleine McCann who disappeared from a holiday home in Portugal in 2007.

Again, not relevant and an unwelcome and ill-informed distraction from the original story.

I think it's time for those involved in publishing comments to clean up their act.

Just like the letters published in a newspaper and the talkback callers on radio (or TV these days), there needs to be some sort of editorial control involved to publish only the relevant comments, or all comments on stories will just become an irrelevance themselves.

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Just so you know…

All thoughts and comments here are the honestly held personal opinion of Michael Lund and are based on the information available at the time of publication.