I was having an on line chat recently with the man behind the website The Substantive.com site about leaving comments on blog sites, as on his site comments are always closed. You should have the site in your reading lists, always a great variety of topics.
Having "comments closed" settings on I have always found a strange concept, after all isn't one of the points of blogging to spark debate and conversation? On many of the sites and blogs I read often I like to comment, not just to show I have been there and read the article, but to pass a different view point or raise a question that may not have been covered. All my articles are open to comments, but moderated by me, so spam and abuse doesn't make it through the net.
While reading a football forum site this morning I decided to read through the comments on a particular article, and I was reminded why I stopped visiting most forums on the interwebz. The stream of personal abuse to people relevant to the article and then between the people posting in the comments section was amazing. It really defined the "keyboard warrior" name. People typing words and threats that they would never say in a face to face setting, seeing some of the comments made me pleased that my smaller readership is a lot more civilised than the people on some sites.
There have been numerous cases recently where even comments / jokes on twitter and facebook have lead to prison sentences, but still it seems to be an absolute epidemic over the web. The excellent spoof in Private Eye of "From the Messageboards" shows the funny side of it, but a cursory search over messages and mentions to almost anyone in the public eye shows a level of abuse that stuns me on a daily basis. Racial abuse and threats, anti-semetic insults based on the football club people support, threats of violence to women, I genuinely wonder why anyone would open themselves up to this. Many sportspeople and others have left "social" networking sites for exactly these reasons, and I can't say I blame them.
On twitter I routinely unfollow and block people who engage in this sort of behaviour, but it makes no real difference. Quite what people expect to get from hurling insults at people is beyond me, but it seems to be here to stay.
So, while I leave comments open, reserve the right to not publish them, and understand why others may just prefer not to have the option of leaving comments. A sad state of affairs where as is often the case the small minority make a positive system into a negative.
For reference the last comment I blocked on here was on one of my pieces about the Jubilee, the opening line was "I didn't bother reading all this as I knew what you would say.....". How do people like that even get access to a computer?