Sep 25, 2013

Should viewer comments be allowed for company sponsored YouTube videos?

There are some changes coming to YouTube that should cut down on the extremely offensive comments that often show up on YouTube. I’m not certain of the particulars, but it apparently will allow uploaders to manage comments and restrict who can view them much like a FaceBook or Google+. It ties YouTube to Google+, in fact. I’ve found it to be a huge pain in the past when comments were allowed on company videos (usually informational or promotional). It required ongoing monitoring over an extended period of time. But of course, the positive side of it is the increased social media interaction with existing and potential customers. Which way would you go on the decision to allow/not allow viewer comments.

Allow them if you can moderate them. Disable if you cannot. That will prevent the comments from being overwhelmed with spam and nastiness. Or off topic junk comments.

Popular Science just announced that they are disabling their comment system on their website, citing the prevalence of trolls, spambots and “a politically motivated, decades long war on expertise,” which you will see every time there is a discussion about evolution, which forms the very basis of modern biological science, or global warming, which is overwhelmingly accepted by the vast majority of climate scientists.


The fact is, the relatively anonymous nature of commenting online brings out the worst in some people. I’ve had someone literally threaten to find me and execute me for disagreeing with them before. When you have a significant number of people that are so unable to engage in civilized discourse, and even a small percentage of the population is still a significant number, then it can break the system. I do not allow comments on anything I post on YouTube, because I refuse to grant a forum that can be abused by a vocal, reprehensible minority that has no interest in rational debate or discussion. When a major publication such as Popular Science feels the same way, you know that it is a significant problem. 


My view is that if I allow comments, I’m going to restrict posting until I have reviewed and approved them. The downside is obviously the ongoing effort required to moderate posts quickly enough so that people are engaged while not being OCD about it. I do think it dramatically improves viewer engagement though. I am glad they are making changes; not sure what it is about YouTube, but a significant minority of the comments on there are among the most racist/homophobic/sexist on a major website. Hopefully these changes are effective.

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