Bora Zivkovic was born in Belgrade, Serbia when it was still Yugoslavia, but he was born again into the world of science blogging. As one of the founders of the annual Science Online conference (or unconference, as they like to call it), an editor at Scientific American, a prolific blogger himself, and the author of 111,418 tweets as of this morning, Zivkovic uses, understands and pushes the boundaries of the science blogging world as well as anyone.
So when he decides to assess the current state of blog commenting, it's worth paying attention.
In a substantial post at Scientific American, he begins with a word or two on the recent article in which researchers say they found that found that uncivil comments can polarize readers who are unfamiliar with the topic at hand. The finding suggests that comments, especially uncivil comments, might have more influence over shaping public debate than hitherto suspected.
Reminding us of the 1-9-9o rule--1 percent of people post, 9 percent participate, and 90 percent lurk--he reports that "the quantity of commenting, especially on blogs, has sharply decreased over the last couple of years."
One reason, he says, is that commenting is moving to Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Digg, and the like, and is therefore no longer linked to the post it refers to. "Mildly active users are now becoming silent users as it is easier to click 'Share on Facebook' than to post a brief comment," he writes. The remaining commenters often consist largely of trolls--beings who emerge to post abusive or off-topic rejoinders, interrupting intelligent discussion of the issues in the post.
So, asks Zivkovic, what do we do next?
He goes on to review the technology for moderating comments, to wonder why comment threads so often get so nasty, and to lay out the reasoning behind his own rules for comment moderation.
You might not agree with everything he has to say, but his post is worth reading. And if you disagree, you can leave your thoughts in the comments section, where, so far, the discussion has been constructive.