There's been a resurgence of high-profile tech bloggers deciding to turn off comments on their sites. I've written previously about comments, and how they can be a real turn-off, and potentially damage reader numbers (even if they shouldn't). It's interesting to see how this issue develops in two communities Im involved in, technology and music.
SoundCloud has grown in the last couple of years from a fairly niche site of home-grown music to become one of the go-to places for new sounds, both underground and commercial. The other got-to place to hear new music is of course YouTube, a site famous for its quality of commenter.
SoundCloud has a really neat commenting system: they can be attached to a moment during the uploaded recording, so that the commenter can make a comment about a specific moment in the music. SoundCloud also has a really nifty view for each recording: a representation of the waveform. The result looks like this:
Now, I may be jumping the gun here, but we've found that the vast majority of comments are positive. You get a few that are thinly-veiled adverts for someone's own SoundCloud page, but the amount you could actually put in the trolling category is really small. In fact, when a comment is negative, its often actually constructive, maybe about an aspect of the sound that could be better. That's not to say negative comments don't exist, but on the whole, there are fewer than you might expect.
It might be that all our music is just great, of course. Don't take my word for it, here's the link to the latest 'hot' tracks on SoundCloud, and below are a couple I chose at random: just hover over a view of those comments, and you'll see what I mean: positive comments drown out the negative!
Around 18 months ago, SoundCloud was hit really hard with spam. Fake accounts were being created in droves, and spam comments were numbering tens each day. They quickly got onto it though, and the problem has mostly gone away now.
The SoundCloud community is a fantastic one, a brilliant example of how a grassroots community can grow up, supporting its members along the way. Maybe it's just testament to this community that the commenting system hasn't gone the way of so many others. Is it that the music community, as opposed to the tech community, is just better behaved? More positive? Less bitchy? I'm not sure they are attributes we'd all apply to musicians. Maybe though, the difference is that almost everyone at SoundCloud is there to create something new, and this is something everyone has in common. As the community grows (and it is growing increasingly quickly), will these qualities remain, I'm not sure. For now though, I'm happy to be a part of a community like this. And the tech community could learn a lot.