What You’re Not Seeing In the Comments Section…

comment1

I’ve lost some really good writers to our comments section.

It’s not that they couldn’t take a hit or two.  It’s just that the barrage of criticism and hostility was affecting them mentally, and in some cases, making them write vanilla articles guaranteed to minimize blowback.

In every case, I’ve tried to coach away the issue.  For starters, people typically don’t comment unless they’re engaged, and a cantankerous comments section should be viewed as a success, not a failure.  Simply stated, people don’t comment on smaller, less relevant and less ballsy sites, and a very large percentage of comments are helpful and well-informed.

So why let a few bad comments ruin an otherwise great debate?

But more than that, when you challenge the dogma and status quo of an industry, you’re almost guaranteed to draw a vitriolic response.  This is because people don’t like it when you disagree with their religion, they hate it when you dismantle their fragile constructions of what’s happening out there.  Which is exactly what we do almost every day.   

I’ll take it a step further: I don’t really regard our comments section as a problem at all, which might explain why I’ve taken great pains to make it as open and unfettered as possible.

It’s also why I spent three years defending the anonymity of our comments section against Grooveshark and its owner, Escape Media, ultimately winning decisively in the California Court of Appeals.  And it’s also why I’ve hired writers like Ari Herstand and Nina Ulloa who can deal with it and shove it right back.

Sure, I’ll criticize the anonymous cowards that take pot-shots behind the veil of pseudonyms, especially since I’m putting my name on everything.  But I also have gone to extremes to defend their right to be anonymous, because a lot of people simply won’t talk if they can’t be guaranteed anonymity.  Some companies have rules against commenting.  Others have clients they don’t want to piss off.  Or, they would get fired.  But they are extremely important members of the industry that desperately need to share information with us.

It’s a classic baby-with-the-bathwater scenario.  But let me take things a step further:

Who even cares if the comment is positive or negative, a compliment or an attack?

What’s the difference, as long as it’s contributing to the discussion?  Why are we weighting the back-slap as more valuable than the pot-shot?  Shouldn’t we care about the information contained in each?   Maybe we’re already seeing the damaging impacts of a society that rewards its children for accomplishing nothing, while sugar-coating failure into some distorted version of success.

Personally I prefer something that’s real and unvarnished.  In fact, I feed off of it.

But there’s something way bigger than all of the above.  Because less than 0.1 percent of all readers actually comment.

Let me say that again: less than 0.1% of readers actually submit comments.  So how could I possibly make that a gauge of the broader Digital Music News community?

I’m always floored and relieved to meet readers — over and over again — who have been with Digital Music News for years, and absolutely love the publication.  Or, disagree violently but also agree violently and can’t keep themselves away (but don’t necessarily comment).  I’ve met entrepreneurs and investors who have cited Digital Music News as inspiration or a critical information source in their decision to invest or start a digital music company.  Or, a decision not to do either.

And the strangest thing?  Many times I had no idea these people even existed or felt this way until we met over coffee, or I popped open the surprise email.  Because as important as our comments section is, the real community of Digital Music News is way bigger.  But it’s also a highly-decentralized and fragmented ‘community’ due to massive changes that have occurred over the past ten years, which means the feedback loop is fractured and dysfunctional as well.

Maybe that’s best viewed as a challenge and opportunity instead of a problem.  And as Digital Music News continues to explode in traffic and influence, it’s something we should be thinking about some more.

And if you don’t like that, well, you can tell me to go f*&k myself.  I really don’t mind.

 

Paul Resnikoff, Publisher.

Image by The unnamed, adapted under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).  Written while listening to London Grammar.

18 Responses

  1. hippydog

    Well, go Fu…
    wait..
    actually I agree 😉

    I’ve been a member of more then a few different types of forums.. One of them for almost 15 years..
    What I find in common with almost all of them is over time they lose more and more people.. to the point where only a few hard core people continue to post..

    Then the excuses start to happen.. “this group is dead because everyone is on facebook” or “its dead because it doesnt have these features”
    you know what.. i see the EXACT same decline happening on some facebook groups..

    Then I look at DMN which isnt a forum, just a comment section (and not even a very user friendly one.. sorry paul but its true)
    And at times there are more INTERESTING conversations happening here then dedicated forums/groups..

    Whats the difference?
    low moderation and pretty much a free-for-all..

    yes.. at times a person might become butthurt.. there are some pretty mean and opinionated “anon” ..
    in the end, if your in the entertainment industry and you havent built up a thick skin..’
    well you REALLY picked the WRONG industry to be in..

    just sayin

    Reply
  2. indie dude

    “if your in the entertainment industry and you haven’t built up a thick skin..’
    well you REALLY picked the WRONG industry to be in..”

    Exactly – maybe you should find a knowledgeable aspiring rock journalist or two with some strong opinions and the kahunas to back up what they write..instead of..you know..

    if we’re to take these articles seriously we should be able to respect the writer whether we agree or not – sorry but that’s my opinion –

    Reply
  3. Chris H

    Perhaps some self reflection is needed Paul. The quality of the articles here go from very high (where I’m quoting it and sending people here with a “must read” fwd), to sad and misguided. I get the sense that you want this to be more free form than most music news sources and that’s fine, but sometimes when some weak sauce is served, your readership who came for the good stuff is let down and let’s it be known.

    You can tell us to go fuck ourselves and put that under your pillow at night, or change your huggies and raise your A game up tomorrow. I think the .01% are the ones who give a shit enough to tell you, I’m not sure you should be looking down your nose at them. They might be a little rough on writer’s sometimes, that’s a fair point, but there is a reason.

    Reply
    • Chris H

      Nothing in my comment should be taken as anger either, I’m just saying how I feel. Take it how you will.

      Reply
    • Paul Resnikoff
      Paul Resnikoff

      You can tell us to go fuck ourselves and put that under your pillow at night…

      I didn’t say, ‘go fuck yourselves’. What I said was, ‘you can tell me to go fuck MYself.’ There’s a difference.

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    “And it’s also why I’ve hired writers like […] Nina Ulloa who can deal it and shove it right back”

    A more simple solution might be hiring a writer who doesn’t defend pirates at any given chance (and then some).

    Artists/Pirates-discussions are not the same as Republicans/Democrates-discussions, you know. It’s perfectly possible to be a decent person whether you’re blue or red.

    But you can’t be a thief and a decent person at the same time.

    “And if you don’t like that, well, you can tell me to go f*&k myself. I really don’t mind.”

    Best attitude, ever. Goes both ways. 🙂

    Reply
    • Versus

      “you can’t be a thief and a decent person at the same time”

      Well said. I do lose respect for people who pirate, and trust them less. It reveals the person’s character.

      The true test of one’s moral character is how one behaves in situations where one can get away with immorality.

      Reply
  5. Bob

    I’ve lost some really good writers to our comments section. It’s not that they couldn’t take a hit or two. It’s just that the barrage of criticism and hostility was affecting them mentally, and in some cases, making them write vanilla articles guaranteed to minimize blowback.

    Or maybe it’s simply a matter of your “good writers” not actually being very good at all. When you publish crap under the false pretense that it is news or insightful commentary you’re going to get aggressive feedback from your readers.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      “Or maybe it’s simply a matter of your “good writers” not actually being very good at all”

      Helienne is good, and she knows the industry (writes for the Guardian, as well).

      Reply
  6. TuneHunter

    Paul, you doing brilliant job!
    Many of those “few line” articles with just photo or chart are the best eye openers to absurds of music industry. I wish TOP boys at RIAA and labels would read DMN and stop drift to nowhere.
    Last, I think you got your decimal point off. .1% would give you less than 100 active comment posters, unless you are over 100K readers!

    Reply
  7. Snidely

    The software for this comments section sucks ass. I given up on trying to comment a few times in the past because of glitches that won’t let my post go through. It’s a dice roll, right now, whether this will show up after I click “Post Comment”.

    Reply
  8. There is something...

    Maybe you should start to not allow several people to use the same user name in comments. Like how many “Anonymous” do we need ? Some discussions don’t even make sense because you don’t know to who you are actually replying. A simple one time registration would solve that the easy way without touching anonymity. That’s what most blogs / webzine do and it works.

    Reply
    • Paul Resnikoff
      Paul Resnikoff

      ‘Anonymous’ is just the default for anyone that doesn’t enter his/her name. It used to be ‘Visitor’. I think Techdirt uses ‘Anonymous Coward’.

      Reply
  9. There is something...

    But that kind of “default” should not be allowed. Also, nothing prevent anybody to use a user name someone else is using. This can make things really annoying and comments hard to follow. I don’t ask for real name or verified accounts, but having people register their user name would makes things really better imho.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      “But that kind of “default” should not be allowed”

      Agree, we have to prohibit anonymous use of the internet.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Verify Your Humanity *