fredag 7 december 2012

Guardian website cockup

The Guardian has just altered its "Comment is Free" website and introduced what is called "threading". Responses are gathered together instead of being in chronological order. This seems to be unpopular - an overall look at the number of comments suggests that there are less than half the number there were before.

In addition making navigation difficult, the threading system has led to fragmentation of discussions to the point of meaninglessness. The comments have degenerated into one-liners. It may have seemed like a good idea, and if the aim is to stifle discussion, it is a good system. The Telegraph used it too, but I have stopped going there anyway since they put themselves behind a pay wall.

Around three years ago, the quality of the comments was often better that that of the editorial pieces, especially those by the Guardian's old war-horse regulars. Some of the same people are still commenting but there has been a falling-off, possibly also due to changes in format, the most important being the ability to view "newest first". The original system gave an advantage to the early posters but that allowed discussions to develop coherently until they tailed off after a couple of days.

If the aim was to stifle public discussion and close down a forum of debate, the redesign has done the job perfectly. But then open debate can threaten the powers-that-be, and the Guardian is just as much a part of the system as the more openly oppressive political "right". 

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