DSB: Kotaku Users Deserve a Better Commenting SystemS

A detailed look at just how the Kinja comment system may be doing more to control discussions, limit intellectual conversations and censor the community in ways that need to be addressed

Implemented on Kotaku since March 25th, Kinja is the website design system that Gawker Media rolled out across its network. To its credit, Kinja does many things right making for a better user experience than the last site update in 2011. Kinja also has allowed users to create blogs, helping make TAY here such a great part of Kotaku. However, the one thing that Kinja is gets wrong, it is getting extremely wrong.

When Kinja came to Kotaku, Editor in Chief Stephen Totilo declared that it would help our community discussions experience “A Return to Comment Civility.” Any frequent users of the internet would definitely be able to get behind this. Everyone knows how trolls and degenerates can destroy comment threads, so limiting their ability to do so sounds like a great idea. In theory it sounds like a just cause, but in execution we are seeing something much worse happen.

First a bit of background: Jason Schreier has gotten himself into a bit of a back and forth with George Kamitani, the designer for the upcoming title Dragon’s Crown. In two separate posts, Mr. Schreier let his thoughts be known calling Kamitani’s work akin to that of a teenage boy and that Kamitani’s work was embarrassing and perpetuating sexism in video games. Mr. Schreier’s opinions are clear, that this kind of art style has no place in our modern video game landscape. To quote him directly:

“I'm not saying this particular piece of art should not exist, but I have no qualms about saying I think it can hurt this game and gaming as a whole. I think it repels more than it attracts. It doesn't challenge viewers in interesting ways. And I don't consider it beautiful.”

I find this quote very interesting, because it perfectly displays a level of cognitive dissonance I find so irritating about this subject. Mr. Schreier, in essence, is saying that while he will not prevent an artist from creating their artwork, he does think that it is well within his right to try and pressure an artist to stop them from creating artwork that he deems as hurtful to the industry. Or another way to describe this, Mr. Schreier is in favor of censoring artwork.

Now imagine my surprise, when not one month later Mr. Schreier posted another article about how “Silly” Japanese censorship is. This struck me, as more than just a little hypocritical, to the point where I took to the comments and posted this:

DSB: Kotaku Users Deserve a Better Commenting SystemS

Now, my comment was a little salty, but this is an issue I feel very passionately about and my comment certainly falls within “dinner party standards.” In fact users started to agree, only a couple of minutes after my post, 4 users had recommended it and I had received a comment of agreement.

DSB: Kotaku Users Deserve a Better Commenting SystemS

Then something strange happened. Upon, going back to the article to see what other users were saying, I couldn’t find my comment anymore. Was my comment deleted? How could this be?

DSB: Kotaku Users Deserve a Better Commenting SystemS

In a post about how “Silly” Mr. Schreier finds censorship, my comment was deleted, it was censored.

Which brings us to the big issue with Kinja; the power the editors have over the comment system. I am at a loss to understand why this comment was removed from the post. I can only assume it was because someone thought I was being too harsh. If that is true, who or what is deciding what is acceptable on Kotaku anymore? What criteria are they using to determine this?

Editors are not infallible and their viewpoints are not scripter, but if every time a disagreeable opinion is deleted from the site, what kind of comment system do we have here? Is this the kind of site that we as users want, one where thought and opinion is so easily cast aside in service of damage control for its editor’s sake?

My example is just my own, and there is no way to tell how many times this has happened to others, but it’s not the only symptom of problem with Kinja. As we all know, just to get your comments seen on the main page, you need an editor to follow you after you post a comment. I doubt after my comment, Mr. Schreier will follow me anytime soon, but what about other users who have counterpoints negative to the editors? Should those commenters and their opinions not be seen by the community? Because the editors find them harmful to the point they were trying to make.

Looking at the system as a whole there is also problems. Whenever an editor comments on a thread, it usually pops to the top. I have seen this happen before, but sometimes when editors choose to comment on threads that agree with them, which elevates the thread, while and disagreements fall further down. Kinja is turning our comment system into an echo chamber for editors to validate any argument they wish to make.

Many people have said this before, but the promotion of comments should be in the hands of the users themselves. Many years ago, Kotaku had a system where users could star comments. The community decided in real time, what was the best opinion to the content being provided. On Kotaku in our comments we used to have a democracy, now we have an Oligarchy.

If you agree with me, please let me know. More importantly, let Stephen Totilo know.

DanimalCart’s Soapbox: 05/08/13