Oct 10

Andrew Marr and the inadequate, pimpled and single

It seems highly unlikely that Andrew Marr meant what he said very seriously when he laid into bloggers at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, describing them as “inadequate, pimpled and single.”

Marr can’t seriously believe that many people nowadays think that bloggers or “citizen journalists” (whatever they are) are going to “replace” journalism, even if they have already changed it.

He seems to be confusing people who comment online with bloggers. These categories overlap, but aren’t the same. Marr is on to something in drawing attention to the unreadability of long comment threads. They’re rarely rewarding, many comments overlap, the sequence is incoherent and quantity of rewarding reads very low. As Marr says, it’s the anger that makes them off-putting.

I’d predict that newspaper websites in particular will start to look ever harder for ways of reducing the prominence of comment strings, moderated or otherwise, despite having strained so hard to generate them only recently. You can see the trend already in “Editor’s picks” which function as a short-cut through the ranting. Surely there will before long be software which enables comment threads to reduce duplication, get the best to the top and actually distinguish by value added? Perhaps it’s already out there and I don’t know about it.

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