Adult 641, Reflection Two

Spoon, a band on whom Pitchfork has bestowed much love, by me

Last week’s readings and discussions were about a topic very close to me, blogging. I see blogging as an essential part of being technologically tuned in. I know not everyone likes to write, but the connectedness that results from blogging is amazing. One of the topics that I wanted to discuss more is blogging comment communities and elitism. Alert: there are a lot of links in this post and I am a giant nerd.

I was a Jezebel/Gawker commenter for years (I quit because it’s insanely time consuming) and the commenting community that both blogs had was crazy. People overshared, found help for personal situations, talked smack about the new episode of Project Runway, created nicknames for themselves based on posts and had meetups across the country. There were people who became commenting celebrities and some of them even ended up writing for the sites. However, Nick Denton seems to care more about pageviews and numbers (validated by all former editors and writers) so the commenting system keeps becoming more complicated and elitist. First there were stars for good commenters; then, discussions by non-starred commenters were hidden; and now there is some confusing system that lets the “best comments rise to the top” (ie those with the most responses) and it’s very difficult to find other discussions. To me, this is a huge problem. Either have a commenting system that promotes discussion or don’t have one at all.

The Awl, a set of sites that was created from ex-Gawker Media employees, has a pretty democratic system on most of their cadre of blogs (like the old Gawker system), but The Awl itself gives numbers to each commenter in the order that they registered. If you have a lower number, you have been a commenter for much longer, and are somehow much cooler, than someone with a number in the thousands.

Pitchfork, a music site with reviews and features, is notorious for their decision to not allow comments, but since we learned age make up of their readers, it makes sense. But by not allowing comments of any kind they have created their own kind of elitism. Their opinions are not questioned except on their Facebook page and on various fan sites that have popped up. Pitchfork is the music Bible on the Internet. I saw writer Brandon Stosuy speak at a panel this weekend and he said because Pitchfork is so popular, they can do whatever they want.

However, an open commenting system can sometimes lead to questionable results. Brooklyn Vegan has free-for-all comments and they are horrible. The site is known for being offensive–I knew if I googled “Brooklyn Vegan and Lana Del Rey” I’d find a bunch of gross comments. When people are allowed to be completely anonymous with no moderation or consequences, bad behavior is definitely rewarded with lols.

I know I have given you so much to read–don’t feel like you have to, even I don’t have time to check these blogs every day–but the blog commenting community is fascinating. I really enjoyed researching and writing this post.


12 thoughts on “Adult 641, Reflection Two

  1. Commenting community… when you mentioned that in class last week, it was new to me. And now to learn that there is elitism among commenters? Yes, I do still have a lot to learn. I had to laugh, though, at the comment made by the guy from Pitchfork… I started to think of Mean Girls!

    • It is SUCH a weird phenomenon. I just accepted it until I started writing this and I was like, WTF? I wanted to look into it.

      I REALLY like Brandon Stosuy so I think he meant it in a good way: it gives them the freedom to do really crazy things. It just came off kind of snobby! But snobby is part of the Pitchfork persona. I don’t know, someone needs to write a book or a New Yorker essay about it. [/off topic]

  2. I would recommend a fascinating book by Scott Rosenberg called Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters. Having spent the past decade growing up with the internet, I found this book full of interesting background around a subject that I thought I already knew! In the opening eight chapters, Scott details how blogging began and grew by focusing on a person or two per chapter that highlighted his conceptual points. With your background, I know you would enjoy it!

  3. Fun post to read, Melissa. I spent some time digging into the links because many of the sites were unknown to me. Your observations about “commenting culture” are interesting and insightful. It made me wonder if all site have some degree of – if not elitism – som hierarchy in their commenting. I’ve seen this in academic blogs as well, it seems some commenters generate more exchange because of who they are as opposed to what they say. Some comments are met with silence and others with accolades. Curious. Maybe just a part of electronic discourse? Human behavior in general? I don’t know…but sleuthing commenting culture is certainly a rich topic for exploration? A project perhaps…

    • Do you think this is appropriate for our project if I study it in a scholarly manner and relate it to adult learning? It might be too big for me to take on but it’s just a thought. Maybe a wiki with footnotes and hyperlinks? Hrm.

      • It would be interesting to talk further about this as a discourse. For those who consider blogging beyond the class, it might be useful to have a greater understanding of electronic discourse?

  4. The term commenting culture provoked me to reframe my thinking about commenting, reviews and the like. To be honest I have always separated the two-comments and reviews-even though they are essentially the same, someone’s spin or opinion. I still think reviews tend to incorporate more factual information into the user/consumer’s opinion because it is often based on a product or experience..and where I find reviews (product website vs. Yahoo) causes me to see them as separate. Regardless, consumer elitism continues to influence and expand to sites, including a common one I contribute to for traveling, TripAdvisor. I recently earned a new reviewer badge and was really excited about it, ha!

    I also poked around some of the sites and Pitchfork provided just-in-time learning for me. I’ve been wanting to find new artists and usually seek out a longtime friend who I revere for his musical taste-he always keeps up with new artists and I can’t seem to-but after exploring Pitchfork, I think I found a new solid resource. I checked out the People’s List Top Albums and saw some faves-RadioHead, Sigur Ros, Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse, Girl Talk- I think this site will provide welcomed company, thanks for sharing:)

    • I think comments can be based in fact, too, it just depends on who the commentor is and what the post is about. There are definitely some quality commenting communities out there. I always see the bright side in the Internet, I know it’s annoying sometimes!

      YAY I am glad you like Pfork. I think what differentiates it from other music blogs is the quality (writing, design, everything), and something that Jeff mentioned in class the other day: curating. Brandon was talking at the panel about how Pfork is not going to review every metal record that comes out, just the best, because not everyone would be interested in a metal record that gets a score of 2.0. The best rises to the top. It made me see things on the Internet differently, and how much work you don’t see goes into blogging.

  5. I love that you are bringing a new “pop culture” element into this blogging community, sista. This is, to me, an example of what eLearning and blogging is all about– sharing interests that others can identify with and explore. I think it’s awesome that Lindsey has found a new resource in Pitchfork (and also that we are into the same bands). 😉 I never would have known that if it hadn’t been for this post, and the following commentary. How cool is that? Thank god for the internet.

    • It’s much easier for me to bring what I love into my writing and connect it to something in class than write about straight theory. I know there’s a place for that, like our larger projects, but in a less formal blog I feel like I can go a little crazy.

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