Sunday, August 26, 2012

Comment Consolidation and Nazis

My friend mentioned Godwin's Law to me one day during a chat, and I confessed I'd never heard of it.  Godwin's Law states that the longer an online discussion goes the closer the discussion comes to the mention of Hitler, Nazis, and the Third Reich.  It's meant to be serious but also to poke fun at the way we interact with one another on the digital platform.

This got me to thinking about how much people like to leave commentary.  I do it every so often, just throwing out my two cents for the sake of getting it off my chest, but I never get into a sparring match, as there doesn't seem to be any point.

However, for some reason, I love reading what people say almost as much as what an article says.  If you want to know what America thinks, go to a controversial article and skip straight to the comments.  You'll find the bloody beating heart of America right there.  Without the inhibitions of a face-to-face encounter, people put it all out there.  It can get nasty quick, and comparisons to Hitler are the least of your worries.

Every site has their own system.  That is, generally, if you want to leave commentary, you have to have an account with that particular site.  If you love leaving commentary and you love reading ten different sites, this usually means having an account with every single one of them.  In short: this blows.

I would like to see a consolidation of commentary.  What Huffington Post does within their own web content is excellent by the way: they reward people who post a lot by highlighting their names, allow others to follow them (digitally, of course), and keep track of them overall.  I would venture to say that their system is the best one out there right now that I've seen.

It's this system that I would like to see used across the internet, a stand-alone company whose sole job is to provide commentary support for all internet content.  I want to know what people are saying across the spectrum.  I want a history of their writings across all sites; in short, I want whatever users write to create a history.  Like a credit card, it's their choice to create a good history or bad history.

Compartmentalization of comments, which is what we have now, allows for people to say whatever they want.  The goal of commentary should be to achieve a level of mutual respect that exists in the physical realm.  Obviously, not all interactions are positive in the physical arena, but those people who act out do so with the full knowledge that they alone support their words.  Comment accountability does not really exist in the digital realm, but it can and should.

A few days after my friend told me about Godwin's Law, he said that he had gotten into a heated online discussion.  After a few back-and-forths, the person he was debating used a reference to Hitler!  Godwin's Law was illustrated to full effect!  My friend was both pleased and disappointed.  The comparison (I don't recall which two things were being compared) effectively terminated the conversation because to play Devil's Advocate at that point would mean to side with Hitler.

It's this kind of stuff that one would hope to avoid while creating a history.  A user might even see patterns in his own way of debating things and make improvements upon himself.  But really, it should give a commentator a moment's pause before posting: this is going down in my record forever.

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