While abroad I’m reading every day, a few times a day, news from back home. I’m also reading local Belgian online newspapers and I was struck by the differences in the way users comment.
Personal communication: while in Belgium people are having a sort of discussion with one another, addressing each other by their user name and put in the ‘@’ sign in front, in Romania people are mainly throwing random ideas. When the site allows, they are using the reply facility, having their comment slightly indented than the user they are replying to.
Politeness: while in Belgium people are mostly polite with each other, in Romania even the quality online magazines have users that insult other users because they don’t match opinions.
Debate: the main difference I identified lies in object of the conversation. In Belgium, this object is the news itself, the idea behind the story and the consequences. In Romania people are clinging to the perceived image of the characters inside the story, to other users’ comments and to the journalist that wrote the piece. There is little debate about the meaning of the text.
Emotional vs. Rational: Romania is by far more emotional when it comes to users’ replies. People are taking articles personally, comments as well. If by any chance the articles resembles the feelings one holds, he will reinforce the text with sometimes radical views. Comment that express criticism are answered back promptly and, sometimes, in an aggressive manner. Usually a discussion outside the article debate appears between users that insult one another.
If I were an online news magazine owner/ editor/ whatever, I would start growing my collection of users and moderate it so as to engage people with the ideas inside the text, not against one another. It’s fascinating how you can tell the level of tolerance once you start reading what people are saying at the bottom of a news article.