Another Website Kills Its Comments Section

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 02:26 PM


The popular comedy news site Splitsider just announced that they will ban comments on most of their articles. They join PopSci, who received opprobrium for killing comments in late September.

Why? Here's editor Adam Frucci: 

A couple of reasons. For one, we've never had much of a commenting community to begin with. Unlike sites about politics or social matters, people don't seem to have much to say about comedy news. And when we do get comments, much of the time they're either offensive or just without any real substance. We put a lot of work into the content on this site, and it's frustrating to have folks finish reading an article only to be confronted with mean-spirited garbage at the bottom of the page. Furthermore, we're a small team without the time and energy to dedicate to policing and cleaning up comments. So we're getting rid of them. And I'll be honest, it feels pretty great.

Here's the thing. When sites kill their comments, there's a predictable pile-on of criticism. People defend online comments because online comments feel democratic: everyone gets their say. But websites that can't or don't invest in creating worthwhile forum shouldn't have them. It serves no one to finish a post and read paragraphs and paragraphs of unintelligible bickering, obscenity, and work-from-home scams. 

So, no comments > completely unmoderated comments. That said, I'm not sure how hard it is to moderate, even on a shoestring budget. I also think there's a broken-windows theory that applies here. If you're proactive about keeping out trolls, you can create a place where people will thoughtfully engage with each other. If you don't pay any attention, the trolls will drown out any meaningful conversation. 

As for us, I'm glad we've got smart commenters who say substantive things that surprise me, and also nitpick my appalling spelling and grammar. Never stop posting, please.  



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Comments [14]

Dailyskew from Floriduh

I'm OK with banning comments, and have done it myself. It has nothing to do with democracy- websites are privately owned. Moderating comments IS a pain and so are flame wars, trolls, and mostly spammers. Truly a waste of bandwidth that I am paying for! Send me an email instead.

Nov. 06 2013 03:48 PM

Popular science isn't a respected "journal", its mostly an entertainment magazine. The reason those sites don't allow comments is because they are afraid of offending advertisers, or they are just too lazy to moderate and too scared to have a lose moderation system.

I find that claims that there are nothing but trolls or that they are too influential to be unconvincing. Do you think your readers are that stupid popular science? If you fear that someone who is against science in your comment section sways most of your readers against you, you must not be doing a very good job to make your case. As with most attempts to stifle discussion or dissent, the reason comes down to fear. Its why churches have so long come down so hard on unbelievers, they were deathly afraid an atheist just might make some sense.

Many comments are entirely pointless sure, but its no different from anything else. Most records put out are trash, most books published are forgotten...but if you don't allow it, you destroy the potential for anything valuable. Like it or not, sometimes you find in the comments on such articles valid corrections or insight.

So back to old media they go, articles they can put out without any review.

Nov. 04 2013 10:35 AM

PJ -- I don't really remember much "opprobrium" when Popular Science did away with its comments section. If anything, I remember heaps of praise.

(In the circles I travel in, at least. Which don't seem to contain very many anonymous web trolls.)

Anyway: Kudos to P.S. and to Splitsider. And to anyone else who follows suit.

If OTM ever decides to ban comments, I'd be happy to write in via email when I'm so moved, or to share my thoughts within in my own social media networks.

Oct. 27 2013 12:57 AM
FelixRay from USA

In the age of the internet, what some people need to understand is the difference between censorship and editing.

Oct. 26 2013 07:12 AM
Martin Hackworth from Pocatello, ID

Why thank you (I think). You might be interested in how we deal with trolls in our own small corner of the "interwebs." Cheers!

Oct. 24 2013 12:14 PM

TonyLoaf, please stay here forever. Forever!

Oct. 23 2013 05:25 PM

Make $900/week working from home, posting negative comments about Obamacare on Web sites! Call now!

Oct. 23 2013 08:14 AM

DaktariDave, there is one comment a little bit up north of yours that very wonderfully proves your point. I hope you saw it.

Oct. 22 2013 11:53 PM
David Hollis from Hubbardsville, NY

All you have to do is read the comments on and you will be convinced that these are useless wastes of bandwidth.

Oct. 22 2013 08:11 PM

With Obamacare about to cause the biggest train wreck in American history, you're worried about comments sections on websites!?! No wonder you liberals are in trouble.

It would have been better with some obscenities.

Oct. 22 2013 04:33 PM
Martin Hackworth from Pocatello, ID

I wish more websites would follow suit. I agree with DaktariDave, some content does tend to attract crazy like with about the same efficiency that black holes attract mass.

I edit a small website in the motosports industry, and though most of our readers are thoughtful, polite and well-spoken, every time we do a product review or a motorcycle review we get inundated with reddit-level commentary from people who know way more than we do about the item in question despite never have come remotely closer to it than three or four zip codes. This causes real harm to manufacturers when the review noise overwhelms the signal. It takes an enormous amount of effort to police all of this. I completely understood when Popular Science decided to pull the plug.

Just because we live in a place where you have the right to say pretty much what you want, I am under know obligation of which I am aware to facilitate, or to pay any attention to ill-informed rants or trollish behavior. So complain all you want. Just don't let the screen door hit you in the fanny on the way out, and please have a wonderful day.

Oct. 22 2013 04:23 PM
DaktariDave from Earth

As someone who very occasionally reads (or adds to) comments following NPR stories, I'm not sure I agree that the broken windows theory applies. Certain issues, at least, seem to bring out the wackos and trolls no matter what kind of moderation takes place. Climate change, for example. Or anything remotely associated with religion.

I have often wondered why we don't equip our society by requiring that civil discourse be taught in school. I took speech & debate in HS and quickly found that rather than teaching how to formulate, evaluate, and respond to / acquiesce to an argument, it taught how to win. How to pull one over on the other guy with verbal tricks and slight-of-hand insults.

Someone once said, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." I think that applies to web comments as well.

Oct. 22 2013 04:04 PM

Ecu, this is exactly what we're hoping for over here. Thank you for your contribution.

Oct. 22 2013 04:00 PM
ecuamerican from NY

Shut up, your posts suck!

(did I do it right?)

Oct. 22 2013 03:09 PM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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