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A Lament for Comments in National Post

[Online comments are the lifeblood of communication between reader and audience at a modern newspaper.

However at the Post, as on many news websites, the online conversation can careen between incisive and perceptive responses, to vitriolic personal attacks.

We want to remove the negative part of that conversation, and so we are changing our system for commenting on stories at and

Starting today, you will need to sign up with Facebook and log into your account in order to continue commenting on our websites.] excerpt from the article published in National Post 14 Sept. 2015.

Readers of National Post may notice a significant change in the way comments are received and processed.  Disqus, software based in San Francisco, had been used to manage reader comments.  There were, and still are, many publications which use this feature but NP found that the comments for articles became chat rooms for debates between anonymous posters who would lose perspective, or worse, exchange pejorative verbal assaults.

The chat room provided by NP, like other publications, was intended to drive viewers to the website.  The vociferous discussion became a draw that accelerated traffic, probably beyond the original expectations of the newspaper.  Website traffic impresses advertisers, though few readers actually read the articles.  Conversation became a singular motivation for logging into the site.

You may notice in my columns that I referenced a few comments from NP and, occasionally, highlighted them as examples of fine, incisive writing. Pushing past the illiterate fog often revealed jewels glistening in the light but the light has been extinguished, presumably because the ownership of the paper has been fretting over their reputation.  One can appreciate the necessity of that concern but it is unfortunate that a few, thoughtful writers were discarded with the rabble.

Anyway, one ought to ponder the practice.  Hidden behind a shroud of anonymity, the thrust and paray of fake names with peculiar avatars jibed and ducked, often for hours, like a video game.  Of course it was a silly waste of time but hunting for treasure can become a daily obsession.

I was one of a few posters who used a true name and image.  It was like being in grade school again, with bullies, ridicule, and verbal abuse but the lure of those rare jewels seemed to justify the effort.

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Professional. Retired. Canadian.

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