As discussed yesterday, the online version of the Tampa Bay Times has a new commenting system.
The good news is that, because each comment must be linked to a social network, the era of anonymous commenting is over.
The bad news is that, in addition to the social networking requirement, that commenting system is offering the ridiculous option of marking each story as “Important”, “Inspiring”, “Sad”, “Angry” and/or “LOL”.
I first noticed this new feature after reading a story about all of the BBQ joints on Fourth Street North in St. Petersburg. Although it was an interesting story, I did not find it “important”, “inspiring”, “sad”, “angry” or “LOL”. And it’s silly to try to jam this or countless other stories into one of these five pre-determined categories.
Of course, I have the option of not clicking any of the options, but what fun is that? (I scrolled around the Times website devilishly marking several mundane stories, about baseball scores or movie times, as sad)
Moreover, when a story is labeled important, inspiring, sad, angry or LOL and I don’t agree with any of those labels, what does it say about me? What am I missing?
In particular, the option of labeling a story “sad” and “angry” is most interesting. These descriptions are really no longer about the story, but about a state of mind. For example, one can describe a story as “inspiring”, but you wouldn’t say that story is angry. That isn’t the right word.
And that’s my point. By introducing these ridiculous options in the first place, the online editors are attempting to narrow the conversation. A story bothers me, but I’m not angry, so what option do I click?
The online editors are guilty of being too cute by half. They did well enough to eliminate anonymous commenting and linking reactions to a reader’s social networks. But they went too far trying to put words in their readers’ mouths.