Thanks PopSci: Web Page Integration may be the next Social Frontier?

You may have heard that Popular Science has shut down its commentsPopSciLogo.png citing studies which show comments can influence the readers perception of a story.


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.

They go on by explaining there are still lots of ways to interact with the company – social media, etc. Response from readers was mixed and to me it seems that shutting down comments is a bit like soft-censorship; people will still comment on the content but much of it will be hidden from readers.

This is echoed by a commenter, jasonthibeault who says:

Okay, so I am going to take a little different stance. I’m rather shocked that PopSci is putting the blame on the Internet. Although censorship is a tough word to swallow, a private magazine like PopSci can do what it wants on its message boards. That includes pruning messages (and banning users) who don’t conform to 1) expected behavior (clearly defined in the ToS) and 2) who continue to derail conversations with unrelated comments. I think that in removing commenting, PopSci has significantly reduced the value of its digital presence. I completely understand that it would take quite a bit more effort to manually police the comments but that is all part of engaging this way in the first place. You don’t get to open the door and then act with shock and indignation when you find people in your house. Digital is a two-way street. It’s truly revolutionary in that it lets organizations have synchronous and asynchronous conversations with their audience around a content piece. When has that happened before? And yet here is PopSci simply saying “no, that’s not for us”. I don’t condone the trolls in any fashion. But, let’s face it, these are the same folks that are standing on street sidewalks waving Westboro Baptist Church signs. You can’t make them go away, nor fix the underlying issue, by simply turning off the dialog. Again, disappointed. PopSci needs to take some accountability and figure out a way to fix it rather than just turning tail.

This got me wondering – why is it that we still don’t have a browser which gives us real-time social media information about the content we are digesting? RockMelt was supposed to be the solution to this problem but after the company was purchased by Yahoo, we haven’t heard too much about it.

Many publishers do allow readers to see Twitter posts below a story but there are so many social networks out there – wouldn’t it be great to have a more encompassing view of the content we are seeing?

My suggestion to the web browser developers – give us a panel where we can see real-time tweets and other social information about the sites we visit. Make it customizable so we can change the order if we want – in other words favoring Twitter over Facebook, etc.

In situations where a website publisher gives users similar functionality, there may be some duplication but in instances where there is no interactivity, such a browsing experience effectively de-censors the internet.

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