What a pro. He pushed the tension till the last possible moment.
@TW: I'll be delighted if it turns out well. I'm just skeptical of the enterprise as an enterprise because, again, what they say they're aspiring to do has already been done, in many places. I'm all for user-friendliness, and some systems really don't offer it — but you also don't need a whole lot of bells and whistles to get there.
@John Herrman: It's hard to understand why people don't like or trust journalists. (Thanks.)
@John Herrman: Well, yeah, I get what they want, but I think that's really dumb. Has Karen correctly translated what you mean by it not scaling? That the goal is not for each publication to cultivate a community of invested readers, but actually just to be able to glom onto an ever-growing mass of clicking eyeballs? I don't really understand why, say, an alt-weekly in a midsize Midwestern city would want to share a lot of commenters with a metro daily — but "I don't understand" sums up my perspective on much of the industry over the last decade and a half. (VERY NICE META RESPONSE, BTW.)
Seriously, though, has the journalism industry ever met a purveyor of bullshit snake-oil technophilosophy it didn't embrace with open arms?
Having participated in a few worthwhile commenting communities (HEY YOU GUYS) — communities where commenters contribute pics and links and stories, where they track discussions and form friendships with one another, where there is relative self-policing and civility — I feel pretty comfortable submitting that the defining characteristic of all of them has been significant participation on the part of the site staff. It's good to have moderators, and it's really good to have writers who will jump in and contribute to the discussion. I mean, we know how to do this, it's been done, repeatedly, and the reason so many news outlets' comments are terrible is because they don't do it at all.
Tangentially, I've heard there are a lot of perfectly smart journalism grads who could use jobs. But LET'S SPEND THE MONEY ON SOME NEW FUCKING SOFTWARE (that does not sound notably different from Disqus or Kinja or Livefyre?), because the key to building thriving communities is definitely Computer Magic™ and not involving actual human beings.
Yeah, McLuhan makes the point about how the dishwasher and vacuum were supposed to be labor-saving devices, but actually would ultimately increase the labor of women who had previously used hired help. And by sort of atomizing everyone into full responsibility for their own labor, technologies like those have also dissolved a lot of the fabric of basic, mundane human contact — last week I talked to a woman who'd just retired after 22 years in banking, who has all these close relationships with her customers, and that's just not a thing that happens so much anymore, thanks to ATMs and the web. (Samuel R. Delany makes some very worthwhile points related to all this in the second half of Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, easily the most compelling case you'll ever read for why the NYC porno theaters were a greater social good than the touristy landscape that displaced them.)
At the end of the day, building a world where people get along better (in every way) inevitably comes down to getting along with people, not reducing their role in the equation, whether you do so with a machine or software or a system.
"Why, earlier today I watched as a little boy dropped his popsicle stick on the ground. Father didn't pick it up. 'Too sticky,' I suppose. 'Trying to get home before nap time' or some such thing. Fortunately, a constable was on the scene in an instant. Set him right straight, he did. Mmm, these entitled white folk. They make all the rest of us look bad."
"Indeed, indeed. I saying just that down at the monocle shop this morning."
I mean, it's darling, really, the commenters here all getting the vapors over a child of that age going potty. "Oh! But have you ever seen Brooklyn Bridge Park? Urine on the grass! Hold me, Thaxley — I believe I may swoon!"
@Incidentally: I like cops fine; I really do. I just understand that part of a healthy democratic society is putting the burden of proof on the people who carry the guns. But here, a handful of this dad's peers read his story and their first thought is not "Wow, that's fucked-up, he shouldn't really even have to own up to anything, his 3-year-old took a pee is all" but “This guy thinks he's so special.” It's indicative of a larger cultural mindset that is seriously dismaying.
You've made it clear your chief concern here is being "a responsible citizen" and "doing the right thing," and that the cop was just "doing his job." I have no issue with any of those things — I'm for them! — but I think it's kinda stupid where you and other commenters have chosen to draw the line. (And if your response is "Maybe I'd feel differently if Gabriel Roth had presented himself differently, but he just sounds like an asshole" — well, that's even more stupid.) We live in a time where so many presumably thoughtful, socially conscious people are more invested in policing their peers and bullshit signaling to distance themselves from the taint of white privilege than in examining how their own assumptions perpetuate that privilege. Sorry, we don't get someplace better by taking a stance against 3-year-olds peeing in public, no matter how unsympathetically the kid's dad relates the story. Because 3-year-olds peeing in public are not a problem; the general attitude of American police right now is. (And no, I'm not saying we would magically improve society if everyone commenting here had been appalled by the cop's behavior; I don't have quite that much faith in the power of comment sections. I'm saying that no one being appalled by it — to say nothing of writing it off as "[not] exactly a nightmarish police state," and attacking the citizen who got rolled up on — is evidence a lot of people aren't even pointing in the right direction for improvement, no matter what they think.)