Comments: we're talking about the wrong thing

Daniel Ha, CEO of Disqus, writing for WIRED:

But for too long, the debate about online discussion has been about the commenters. We need to move away from pointing the finger at pseudonyms or anonymity as the sole problem, because it’s not. Instead the debate needs to shift to what kinds of online communities we are creating because I’m a firm believer that if we build better online communities, we will have better discussions.

There are two things people who are critics of comments on blog posts or news articles rarely mention:

  • Community management: As Daniel suggests, how you shape and manage the conversation determines both the community you develop and the tone of the comments that are left. 
  • Scale: most of the arguments are based on experiences in high-traffic, general interest subject areas. This is obvious and intuitive; those places where you can get the most attention are most likely to attract those who want to win attention through disruption.

Fundamentally, comments are a social problem, and the best solutions to problems with them are social rather than technological.