If you want to be discouraged about the general state of human intelligence, go to one of the popular blog spots like ZDNet and read the comments. Inane or garbled or irrelevant remarks abound. They often sound like 12-year olds in a schoolyard trash-talk match. Although there is an occasional useful item buried in there, I have given up bothering to read the comments on many technical sites. It’s a shame because the articles themselves are often quite good.
And it’s not just the comments on technical blogs. Just as discouraging are the comments on items in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. These publications supposedly have a well-educated readership but you wouldn’t know it from the reader commentary. Too rarely is there a comment that adds anything to the discussion. True, there are a few thoughtful, well-written observations but they are the exception. Instead, there is a lot of posturing, political cant, and ideological sloganeering.
At PC World, Robert Strohmeyer writes:
The Internet is teeming with crazies, jerks, and blowhards; and in online forums, debaters are full of passionate intensity. Peruse the comments area on any popular blog, and you’ll find more irrational rhetoric than you can shake an encyclopedia at.
A recent column at MaximumPC makes a related observation:
The Turing Test says that if you can’t tell if you’re exchanging texts with a machine or a human being, then the machine has achieved cognitive ability—it’s thinking.
But based on that definition, and based on the evidence of the comment sections of various websites, then more than half the people posting online are not thinking. (And that may be a generous statistic. You can Google Sturgeon’s Law for a less optimistic assessment.)
(Sturgeon’s Law is generally stated, “Ninety percent of everything is crud”.)
Fortunately, most comments on this blog have been useful and to the point. I just wish there were more. To those few of you who have posted comments, my heartiest thanks. And please post some more. Your comments and feeedback are very important.