July 6, 2015 Last Updated 4:12 pm

The Verge decides comments have gotten toxic, says it will turn them off for the summer

The digital-first police are not going to like this, another big website, The Verge, has decided to turn off comments – though, in this case, temporarily.

Nilay Patel, who returned to The Verge, after a time at Vox, broke the news to readers who responded… actually, comments are off, guess they could not respond. But the reason for turning off comments is the same as it has been elsewhere: things were getting out of control.

TheVerge-flag“What we’ve found lately is that the tone of our comments (and some of our commenters) is getting a little too aggressive and negative — a change that feels like it started with GamerGate and has steadily gotten worse ever since,” Patel wrote on the website. “It’s hard for us to do our best work in that environment, and it’s even harder for our staff to hang out with our audience and build the relationships that led to us having a great community in the first place.”

So The Verge is turning off the comments in hopes things settle down, the trolls go away, and when they are turned back on they have a more civil tone.

“So we’re going to call timeout for a while and turn comments off by default on all posts for the next few weeks. It’s going to be a super chill summer.”

Comments have been the center of online communities since the beginning of the web publishing. They are, in fact, that secret to success online – publishers need to build communities of readers. But how one builds those communities is, and always has been the big mystery. AOL did this first with its discussion boards where readers could talk about anything from the best new restaurants to politics and the like. But early on it was apparent that some members of the online community were less than honest, with their own agendas.

Verge-nocommentsNow, many years later, we recognize that some websites attact paid trolls and other commenters there to disrupt the conversation, or simply SCREAM (always in caps) loud enough to dominate the conversation. And so some websites have decided to end comments altogether.

Popular Science, the Bonnier magazine title took the hard decision to turn off comments after it became apparent that some readers were more interested in promoting their political agendas than discussing science.

“A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics,” wrote Suzanne LaBarre, online content director for the title. “Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to “debate” on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.”

Back to The Verge… the website will continue to leave its forums open, however. In fact, one area of the discussion boards are about The Verge itself, and one new discusses the decision to cut off comments. The verdict from readers? Mostly positive.

“It has definitely gotten worse in the last few months than it has ever been,” one reader said. “Some of that may just be a cost of getting more popular over time, but whatever the cause, it made reading and posting comments unpleasant. I’m really happy they did this. Vox doesn’t need comments, and The Verge will be fine without them for a while.”

  • Thales 2 years ago

    This is so naïve… One of the reasons paper journalism is in crisis is that, during decades, all of it was rampant liberal and did not have proper channels to receive feedback from the average population – remember that famous quote from Pauline Kael “I don’t know anyone who voted in Nixon”. With the internet this problem was solved and journalists finally were touched by real world, with the “Nixon voters”. Now you are returning to the liberal bubble again. In sum: you want to write clickbait news and not hear the obvious setback they generate. This will work in the short term, but this is the very first step to disruptive innovations.

    • Eric 2 years ago

      Ironic to say the least as most media from the thirties to the early 21st century was dominated by conservatives: The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, the Luce magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The Union Leader, the Gannett papers, and Knight-Ridder chain, all had conservative editorial positions leaving mostly just the Washington Post and New York Times carrying the “liberal” banner, and that no doubt explains why the highest percentage of the electorate (38%) considered themselves conservatives during the forties through the nineties. Conservatism itself has morphed into several different and warring camps, no longer isolationist and much more in favor of using government to control their social agenda. Paper newspapers have decline for a myriad of reasons having little to do with political agenda. Who wants to pay anymore for innumerable sections most of which don’t get read when you can get all the sports (or whatever) info you want free and instantaneously. (P.S. I’m an economic conservative, social liberal, and political libertarian who registers independent.)

      The Kael quote is actually. “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.” and is widely considered misattributed. If she did say it, it certainly reflects a problem in general with all of Washington and New York where people, plutocrats, especially, tend to reside in their own little bubbles.

  • nerdrage 2 years ago

    I didn’t read Verge comments often enough to see a problem with them. But the lack of comments definitely makes it less likely that I’ll bother to read that site in the future.