The Nature Network of blogs announced reaching a 50,000 comment milestone today.
Yes, that's right, we've reached the impressive though totally arbitrary milestone of 50,000 comments on the blogs. Congratulations to Richard Grant, who unwittingly tipped the threshold with his remark 'Wintlito? Is that like Wintle Lite?' on this post.
Is Nature Network too insular? How would you like us to improve? Have your say in the comment thread: http://bit.ly/8GDI7b
So if you have any opinion on that, go comment.
I tend to chuckle at this a little bit because all up and down NPG they have a tendency to do this sort of thing. To be really keen on the online discussion, throw resources into it and then look back and whine about how the discussion is not better. You see this with respect to commentary on peer reviewed journal articles all the way down, in this case, to the relative unwashed mass of the Nature Network blogs.
I find it funny, because there are plenty of examples of how to generate loads and loads of online participation and commentary. Whether in the political arena or in something that is nominally "science blogging", the evidence is quite clear. The amount of commentary, and freedom of commentary, is directly related to how easy it is for the readership to actually make a comment.
As put by @mrgunn in a post on his blog:
Online participation depends on lowering the barriers to participation, and unlogged anonymous comments lower the bar to the absolute floor.
I totally agree. Everyone knows this. So why does NPG adopt a snoot-raised stance against anonymous commentary (and they are for the most part pretty cheezed about pseudonymous commentary as well)? Dunno. The best one can tell it is because of the following assertion made in this case by commenters on the NN post. (Of course I can't link the comments directly because of the infuriating blog system they use which is a part of their problem too...but I digress.)
Wednesday, 27 Jan uary 2010 - 20:43 UTC
Åsa Karlström said:
Kyrsten> as Cath said. I would never be able to follow up otherwise 😉
General> I think in general I like that you have to register at NN in order to comment. It makes the trolls less abundant and [at least I feel] the conversation/comments a tad bit more on the serious (ok, maybe not the best word)and civil compared some other places/blogs. I guess the "non anonymous" thing makes people behave more like "in a real face to face setting" or maybe that's just me 😉
Wednesday, 27 Jan uary 2010 - 21:15 UTC
Mike Fowler said:
It's possible to comment anonymously over on the NN Forums. It's not really my cup of tea though, and few people involved in a discussion on the forum I administerise appreciated it, when one or two contributors started posting anonymously. It really has a strong effect on the tone, as it's much more difficult to interpret posts when you suspect someone has something to hide. They may not have ulterior motives, but it's just harder to judge how to read things.
Wednesday, 27 Jan uary 2010 - 21:18 UTC
Cath Ennis said:
I don't like anonymous comments. Pseudonyms are a different matter; at least a unique pseudonym lets you recognise repeat commenters, which helps a great deal with interpretation of their comments.
Right. These are reflective of the general culture over there which is to prefer to only permit online discussion from people using real-world identities. That's fine and all but it is going to reduce comment and produce a self-reflecting small circle of discussants. One might say an insular blog product.
Of course, this just brings up the related difficulty they seem to have. Problem? What problem?
Wednesday, 27 Jan uary 2010 - 16:00 UTC
Maxine Clarke said:
I have commented several times on Sabine's blog in the past couple of years, and often tell people at Nature what a good blog I think it is.
I also feel sure I have picked up NN posts via google searches...but I don't always remember how I stumble across things on the internet. I would certainly not agree with Bora and others who call NN "isolated", based on what I read out and about on the internet.
It is a natural problem of blog collectives like Sb, Nature Network and Discover Magazine that they get a little insular. They read each other and talk to each other preferentially over external privateer blogs, smaller networks or even each other. The only saving grace is the Venn space of shared topic interest (geoblogosphere, prof-bloggers, arghmateyosphere, New Atheism) or prior association. It is inevitable. To minimize insularity requires an active effort to combat the tendency.
Indignantly claiming that your collective does not suffer from insularity is just silly. More importantly this stance gets in the way of achieving your goal.
This latter is the part that drives me crazy, particularly when people from the Tribe of Science are involved. Isn't a significant feature of our world view the capability we have to look at a problem, review the evidence dispassionately and to figure out how best to accomplish our aims?