This Is Why Online Commenters Can't Have Nice Things

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 11 2013 7:30 PM

This Is Why Online Commenters Can't Have Nice Things

When it comes to not treating online commenters like scum, the gossip site Gawker and its affiliates have long been in the vanguard. On Monday the publishing group's auto blog, Jalopnik, took things to a new level by launching a new system that gives its readers heretofore undreamt-of privileges. From editor Matt Hardigree's official announcement, entitled Welcome To What's Next:

Yesterday, you were a reader and a commenter. Today you can be a writer, an arbiter, an editor, and a publisher. You'll still read, but now you can also contribute. With the full launch of Kinja 1.0, which you've known only as the 0.4 commenting platform, we've opened up Jalopnik to all of you. Our philosophy has always been to demolish the walls that separate the conventional wisdom from the truth, the reader from the writer, and the powerful from the curious. Today we have the platform to match that philosophy. As of this moment you now have all the tools we have.
Gawker wanted this on Jalopnik first because of the strong community. ...

The new tools give readers the ability to "heart" stories and comments, annotate images, follow or block anyone in the system, and even start their own Kinja blogs on the site. "When we look for the next generation of writers for our site, and other sites, we'll be looking at who does well in Kinja," Hardigree wrote. Imagine that: Treating Internet commenters like actual human beings capable of contributing to the discussion.

Having driven by Jalopnik's announcement Monday morning, I cruised on back later in the day, partly to check out a story about the entertaining spat between the New York Times and Tesla's Elon Musk, but mostly just because I was excited to see how the commenting experiment was working out. Here, dear readers, is the first thing I saw.

Kinja commenter picking Elon Musk's nose
A Kinja commenter demonstrates the new paradigm in online-media interactivity.

Screenshot /

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.



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