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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Holes In The Mainstream Media Wall

Comments (12)

I’ve always hated walled gardens.  Before I started blogging in 2004, I had a point of view that was driven from my desire to share interesting information with my friends and colleagues.  Since I’m a big reader, I run across a lot of stuff and have always enjoyed sharing, going back to the late 1980’s when I used to cut articles out of magazines and mail them to people.

When I started blogging, I gained an entirely new perspective.  As a writer, I was proud when people referenced things I wrote.  I loved the debate and discussion around topics that were controversial.  I’ve always been comfortable expressing my opinion and having people express a different opinion, as I almost always learn something as long as there is a real discussion.

Over the weekend, Fred Wilson wrote a post titled Why Comments MatterFred and I had a discussion about comments several years ago shortly after Intense Debate and Disqus appeared on the scene.  Fred went on to invest in Disqus (WordPress acquired Intense Debate) and Fred has demonstrated that he’s a master at building a community that really engages with his blog (167 comments so far on Why Comments Matter – a little recursive, but proves the point.)  Fred ends his post (well worth reading) with:

“So my advice to the world of journalism is to ignore Douglas Bailey’s advice and keep the comment threads at the end of news stories. But doing that is not enough. You need to use the best comment systems out there and they are usually from third parties like Disqus, not from your CMS vendor. And you need to have your journalists participate actively in the discussions. If you do all of that, you can host great discussions at the end of your news stories and who wouldn’t want that?”

I was pondering the last sentence as I read Sam Harris’ Op-Ed titled Science Is in the Details in the New York Times this morning.  It’s a sharply written op-ed about Obama’s nomination of Francis Collins as the next director of the National Institutes of Health.  Harris – a well known atheist who recently wrote Letter to a Christian Nation – dissects a recent presentation by Collins which scared the shit out of me.  As I worked my way through the article, I was looking forward to the comments (which I expected would be strongly polarized) and noticed that – voila – there were no comments.

I then decided to tweet the article.  As this is the NYT, I remembered that if I just used the base URL, then anyone who came across it would be forced to register for the NYT to read the article that I had just shared (dumb).  But – there’s a solution – using the NYT “E-mail” option I emailed the article to myself and then tweeted that URL (after running it through awe.sm to shorten it).  I thought about this some more and realized that I could have chosen the “Share” option on the NYT site (instead of the “E-mail” option) which gives me a “permalink” for the article.

“To link to this article from your blog, copy and paste the url below into your blog or homepage. Using this link will ensure access to the article, even after it becomes part of the NYT archive.”

For a few minutes, I thought I was really clever to figure out the “email to myself” thing.  Then I realized I wasn’t actually clever at all; instead, the NYT was being obtuse by making this hard to figure out.  Most people don’t know what a permalink is – they are just going to forward the article around using the “Send Link” feature in their browser.

Sam Harris should just get a blog and follow Fred’s lead.  Oh wait – he has one.  Sam – turn your comments on!  Like so many things, the debate is the most interesting and important part.

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  • Gigs

    First post!

  • http://www.w3w3.com Larry Nelson

    Brad…you are right on and this is frightening…Larry

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/arinewman120 arinewman

    Brad, you are actually touching on a number of relevant topics around mainstream news online. I agree that online articles (op-ed or otherwise) should have comments enabled, and using something better than the built-in systems is wise. Ultimately being able to sort/search/view comments by the commenters authority/score will be a big help in weeding out all the idiots who fill up comment streams and contribute nothing. Having the comments be searchable/indexable and "part of the conversation" is also really important. Glad companies like @backtype are focusing on this. We need to do one better than just enabling comments, IMO. There is often so much noise, pollution, crap, and petty fighting between commenters that the "real" conversation/debate is spread out over 10 pages of comments. Someone with no "authority" or commenting track record should be able to post and be read, but at the same time we need to weed out the irrelevant stuff so the comment streams can be consumed more easily. We need http://stupidfilter.org for blog comments.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/arinewman120 arinewman

    Brad, you are actually touching on a number of relevant topics around mainstream news online. I agree that online articles (op-ed or otherwise) should have comments enabled, and using something better than the built-in systems is wise. Ultimately being able to sort/search/view comments by the commenters authority/score will be a big help in weeding out all the idiots who fill up comment streams and contribute nothing. Having the comments be searchable/indexable and "part of the conversation" is also really important. Glad companies like @backtype are focusing on this. We need to do one better than just enabling comments, IMO. There is often so much noise, pollution, crap, and petty fighting between commenters that the "real" conversation/debate is spread out over 10 pages of comments. Someone with no "authority" or commenting track record should be able to post and be read, but at the same time we need to weed out the irrelevant stuff so the comment streams can be consumed more easily. We need http://stupidfilter.org for blog comments.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JChauncey JChauncey

    I have been pushing for our agency to use facebook and twitter for a long time now. However, our executives have a problem with posting things out on the net that can be commented on by anyone.

    Because of the sunshine law anything that we post is subject to PRRs and that also includes the comments. So our executives struggle with how to properly handle situations where comments about a post may be inappropriate. If we delete the comment how do you record that, in case we get a PRR about the particular topic.

    But as I have pointed out countless times to my executives, these comments tend to be more useful than the ones that only praise our actions. I think not having a comment section is worse than having a comment section that rarely gets used.

  • Andy

    You say that having a Christian as head of the NIH "scares the shit out of you" but you promote the anti-Christian thoughts of an atheist.

    Based on this and other comments you have made in previous blogs, you seem to have a hate-on for Christians. Are you an atheist?

    Why do you insert such comments in a blog from a tech VC?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      Actually, I said “a recent presentation by Collins which scared the shit out of me.”  The presentation is what is disconcerting.  I couldn’t care less what the religion of the head of the NIH is.

      I don’t have a “hate-on for Christians.”  In fact, I’m completely indifferent to one’s religious views.  I am an atheist, but I have a strongly held indifference to anyone’s religious orientation.

      Feld Thoughts is a blog about “my thoughts.”  I write plenty of entrepreneurship and venture capital, but I also write about whatever else I feel like writing about!

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/JChauncey JChauncey

    I have been pushing for our agency to use facebook and twitter for a long time now. However, our executives have a problem with posting things out on the net that can be commented on by anyone.

    Because of the sunshine law anything that we post is subject to PRRs and that also includes the comments. So our executives struggle with how to properly handle situations where comments about a post may be inappropriate. If we delete the comment how do you record that, in case we get a PRR about the particular topic.

    But as I have pointed out countless times to my executives, these comments (the inappropriate comments that is) tend to be more useful than the ones that only praise our actions.

    And because of their inability to cope with that fact that people MAY comment on items, we are stuck without a facebook and twitter presence. So the next time we post an Amber Alert on our homepage and only a couple hundred people see it, we could have put it on facebook and twitter and exposed it to several thousand maybe even tens of thousands…

    ug…

  • http://www.universityparent.com Sarah Schupp

    Indeed! We have recently opened commenting up to our college parent community through a Facebook Fan Page, and its been really interesting to see which articles & questions inspire user commentary.

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