But there are serious drawbacks to the site also. Some of those weaknesses are to do with the blogging medium itself, of which I am broadly sceptical (as I've written here). Others are to do with the heavy bias of its contributors towards some subjects but not others (e.g. not much on the elections in Congo). But there is one characteristic specific to CiF that I doubt Ms Henry and her colleagues can have foreseen. The intention of drawing readers into the conversation has had consistently appalling consequences, at least in the posts that I have followed. The threads below the posts have been skewed, and in some cases dominated, by contributors who hold exceptionally peculiar ideas and appear susceptible to anti-Jewish notions. The site invites readers to alert the editors to offensive or otherwise unsuitable comments, but this appears to work only partially, owing to the volume of material. In general, as well as being inadequately moderated (which is not a criticism of the newspaper: I don't see how it's possible even in principle for the editors to keep up with the constant flow of bile), the threads contain much personal abuse and poor English. Full marks to The Guardian for providing the facility, and all sympathy to it for trying to resolve the problem. But there definitely is a problem, and it's one that other newspapers will have to consider carefully before expanding into the blogging medium.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
The Problem at CiF
Oliver Kamm has reservations about aspects of the Guardian's Comment is Free group blog, which he praises for the imaginative writing of many of the contributors but condemns for the indiscriminate nature of its group identity which, he believes, leads to a situation where the site "in one important respect does not work as it must have been intended to":