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Why We're Shutting Off Our Comments

 

Starting today, PopularScience.com will no longer accept comments on new articles. Here's why.

 

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Wellcome Images

 

Comments can be bad for science. That's why, here at PopularScience.com, we're shutting them off.

 

It wasn't a decision we made lightly. As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter.

 

That is not to suggest that we are the only website in the world that attracts vexing commenters. Far from it. Nor is it to suggest that all, or even close to all, of our commenters are shrill, boorish specimens of the lower internet phyla. We have many delightful, thought-provoking commenters.

 

But even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader's perception of a story, recent research suggests. In one study led by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Dominique Brossard, 1,183 Americans read a fake blog post on nanotechnology and revealed in survey questions how they felt about the subject (are they wary of the benefits or supportive?). Then, through a randomly assigned condition, they read either epithet- and insult-laden comments ("If you don't see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these kinds of products, you're an idiot" ) or civil comments. The results, as

 

Brossard and coauthor Dietram A. Scheufele wrote in a New York Times op-ed:

Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant's interpretation of the news story itself.
In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology ? whom we identified with preliminary survey questions ? continued to feel the same way after reading the comments. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.
Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they'd previously thought.

 

Another, similarly designed study found that just firmly worded (but not uncivil) disagreements between commenters impacted readers' perception of science.

 

If you carry out those results to their logical end--commenters shape public opinion; public opinion shapes public policy; public policy shapes how and whether and what research gets funded--you start to see why we feel compelled to hit the "off" switch.

 

Even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader's perception of a story.
 

A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. 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.

 

There are plenty of other ways to talk back to us, and to each other: through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, livechats, email, and more. We also plan to open the comments section on select articles that lend themselves to vigorous and intelligent discussion. We hope you'll chime in with your brightest thoughts. Don't do it for us. Do it for science.

 

 

Seems like a bold move, but pretty cool if you ask me.  A lot of other sites of the same nature as theirs (news, science, etc) should follow suit.

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Instead of punishing everyone, why not just get rid of the bad posters? That's what Neowin has done.

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I have never been to Popular Science but if the spammers are anything like on our local television station's web page they spam everyday, sometimes 4 times during the day. They get rid of them and they just come back using another Yahoo mail account and new password. To delete the spammers comments they have to be 'flagged' 4 times and that is for just one posting out of dozens they do. They used to do the local newspaper until they required a Facebook logon.

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Instead of punishing everyone, why not just get rid of the bad posters? That's what Neowin has done.

 

I don't see it as punishment.  There are plenty of venues for discussion - you don't need to do it at the bottom of an article.  And Neowin comments on many main page articles aren't particularly conducive to legitimate discussion.

 

I actually would like for Neowin articles to link out to the forum for commenting instead of vice versa (front page articles show up in the forum, but they just link to the front page).

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Sounds like they got tired of being called out on bad science so they killed to compensate and push whatever agenda they are pushing 

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That's what Neowin has done.

 

Are you serious?

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Are you serious?

More serious than not. It's not perfect around here but even a comment like "are you serious" would get you banned in a lot of places. Most of the discussions here these days are tolerable. I honestly had a huge ignore file at one time and now I have none. 

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More serious than not. It's not perfect around here but even a comment like "are you serious" would get you banned in a lot of places. Most of the discussions here these days are tolerable. I honestly had a huge ignore file at one time and now I have none. 

 

I still cant tolerate the replies in threads about any phone OS or Desktop OS. There are people here who act like their phone is a religious iconography.

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I still cant tolerate the replies in threads about any phone OS or Desktop OS. There are people here who act like their phone is a religious iconography.

 

I just can't take all this stuff seriously. I guess that's why I don't let it bother me. It's just a phone or a computer to me, nothing special. I sit back and laugh at the replies sometimes. They are so earnest.

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Frankly, most sites should turn off commenting. It rarely adds anything to a story.

 

I was on Al Jazeera reading a topic yesterday and I was blown away by how much racist, anti-Semitic, bigoted rubbish was in the comments section. I wasn't surprised it existed; that is just another day on the internet, I was surprised that there seems to be 0% moderation of the topics.

 

 

Sounds like they got tired of being called out on bad science so they killed to compensate and push whatever agenda they are pushing 

 

 

Evidence they spread "bad science"? Seems more likely you get wackos with their idiotic agendas going onto the site and trolling the **** out of articles. Climate change is a hoax! Evolution is a scientific conspiracy to kill off Jesus! ... and so on.

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Instead of punishing everyone, why not just get rid of the bad posters? That's what Neowin has done.

Maybe we are one different versions of Neowin.. Pretty sure trolling is still going strong here.

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I just can't take all this stuff seriously. I guess that's why I don't let it bother me. It's just a phone or a computer to me, nothing special. I sit back and laugh at the replies sometimes. They are so earnest.

 

The problem is, I don't have an issue with people having opinions or viewpoints on things - in fact I really enjoy discussing stuff like that on these forums. The issue is that there are people who are utterly blinkered in their viewpoints (which is a tad frustrating) but also that there are people who are just downright RUDE - I've spent time writing out a couple of paragraphs as a response to make a point, only for some stupid one liner reply like "Your butthurt" or something equally intelligent. I have to sometimes walk away from a discussion knowing I have a point to make still, but can't be bothered with that kind of idiocy. 

 

Still. Could be worse. We could have the same level of discussion as most YouTube comments... that's like staring into the eyes of the medusa :|

 

 

Maybe we are one different versions of Neowin.. Pretty sure trolling is still going strong here.

 
Very much so :( 

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Instead of punishing everyone, why not just get rid of the bad posters? That's what Neowin has done.

There are quite a few hardcore people and fanboys here, specially when anything non MS shines... over MS. (and let's not mention Intel! :D)

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Maybe we are one different versions of Neowin.. Pretty sure trolling is still going strong here.

 

It's the Internet. I expect a certain amount of trolling. Still, I see a lot of good discussion going on here. Haters will be haters and fanboys will be fanboys. You know? 

 

 

The problem is, I don't have an issue with people having opinions or viewpoints on things - in fact I really enjoy discussing stuff like that on these forums. The issue is that there are people who are utterly blinkered in their viewpoints (which is a tad frustrating) but also that there are people who are just downright RUDE - I've spent time writing out a couple of paragraphs as a response to make a point, only for some stupid one liner reply like "Your butthurt" or something equally intelligent. I have to sometimes walk away from a discussion knowing I have a point to make still, but can't be bothered with that kind of idiocy. 

 

Still. Could be worse. We could have the same level of discussion as most YouTube comments... that's like staring into the eyes of the medusa :|

 

 

I agree, that's annoying. I get that sometimes too or someone seems to deliberately misunderstand what I'm trying to say. But I take a deep breath and consider if might be a cultural thing or a language barrier, or maybe I didn't word my thoughts properly. And sometimes I consider the poster might actually be a 12 year old begging for attention. I've found that overall if I make a valid point then some decent poster will be willing to discuss it sooner or later. I just have to ignore the shallow posters until then. It's really hard to do sometimes. 

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eh, it's their website.. they can do whatever..maybe they will become UNPopular Science..

 

 

:rofl:  

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From article:

Another, similarly designed study found that just firmly worded (but not uncivil) disagreements between commenters impacted readers' perception of science.

[...]

Even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader's perception of a story.
And this is not necessarily a bad thing. Today we are dictated by "experts" , what we should believe . With not everybody having the knowledge, or just the means to check what is being told to us ; I  don't find it so different from religious dogma. "Scientific dogma" , that would be the ironical way to designate it.  So obviously you'd have some dishonest "experts" that would take advantage of this to push toward the mass some beliefs (because of some agenda)  :
GMO  are safe, fluoridated water is good etc ...

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From article:

And this is not necessarily a bad thing. Today we are dictated by "experts" , what we should believe . With not everybody having the knowledge, or just the means to check what is being told to us ; I  don't find it so different from religious dogma. "Scientific dogma" , that would be the ironical way to designate it.  So obviously you'd have some dishonest "experts" that would take advantage of this to push toward the mass some beliefs (because of some agenda)  :
GMO  are safe, fluoridated water is good etc ...

 

This sounds more like the media rather than science, science is found on research journals and papers as well as books. Science works, whether you like it or not - from the same guy which gave birth to the meme "watch out, we got a badass over here"

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Sounds like they don't want people challenging their point of view or conclusions.

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Sounds like they don't want people challenging their point of view or conclusions.

Exactly.

 

@Time Craymel

This sounds more like the media rather than science, science is found on research journals and papers as well as books.

 

There are ton of "papers", giving (questionable)  "proof" that homeopathy works.  As long as you have the money, you can finance the research to

support any truth. Science works, but lies to the mass too. 

Just question authority, either scientific or not.

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This sounds more like the media rather than science, science is found on research journals and papers as well as books. Science works, whether you like it or not - from the same guy which gave birth to the meme "watch out, we got a badass over here"

 

Yes, but if you read actual scientific papers they acknowledge a lot of qualifications, gray areas, and uncertainty. Yet, findings get reported by the press in a black-and-white way and are dumbed down, often with headlines that mislead the reader by making the issue sound less complex than it is. Popular Science is not free from this problem, which is what makes their explanation ironic. They hate critics of science as it gets reported. But they don't criticize the misreporting of science, and they're part of that problem.

 

They seem to be doing a lot of articles on Nintendo and pop culture now, and have several politically oriented articles. And, oh yes, this,

 

http://www.popsci.com/gadgets/article/2013-07/problem-windows-phone -- Why The Amazing New Flagship Windows Phone Will Fail

 

Very scientific article.

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http://www.popsci.com/gadgets/article/2013-07/problem-windows-phone -- Why The Amazing New Flagship Windows Phone Will Fail

 

Very scientific article.

 

Obviously peer-reviewed and based on only the most state-of-the-art scientific methods available to researchers. I can see why they wouldn't want us ignorant peons challenging their solid scientific conclusions in that article with our comments.

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Are you serious?

 

Was just thinking the same thing..  This place has some masterful trollers who have the mods by the balls and it seems the traffic absolutely thrives on keeping them alive.  Heavin forbid you try and call them out.

 

Anyway, i can totally see why any science based site wouldn't want comments, you can't make any claim without religious nutbaggers and creationists taking it to the dumpsters

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From article:

And this is not necessarily a bad thing. Today we are dictated by "experts" , what we should believe . With not everybody having the knowledge, or just the means to check what is being told to us ; I  don't find it so different from religious dogma. "Scientific dogma" , that would be the ironical way to designate it.  So obviously you'd have some dishonest "experts" that would take advantage of this to push toward the mass some beliefs (because of some agenda)  :

GMO  are safe, fluoridated water is good etc ...

Yep that's that "intelluctuals is stupid" argument again.

scientific findings can be challenged unlike religious claims.

Sounds like they don't want people challenging their point of view or conclusions.

There is a place to do that, taking a big steaming dump on the papers though isn't challenging the conclusions.

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Instead of punishing everyone, why not just get rid of the bad posters? That's what Neowin has done.

 

Its not just trolling... they were also fighting misinformation.  Neowin moderators don't have to bother with folks making known how ignorant they are.  On a website like PopSci they decided that this misinformation in the comments was significantly degrading the quality of their original article.  Its easy to moderate trolling.  Its a very labor intensive effort to fact check everyone.

 

Wouldn't be an issue, except many people's opinions on science are closely tied to their politics.

 

I think they were smart for removing the comment sections.  There are plenty of other avenues for commenting such as Facebook.

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I think they were smart for removing the comment sections.  

 

I would agree with you but it makes many people believe in this:

 

Sounds like they don't want people challenging their point of view or conclusions.

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