I’d like to take this post to breakdown the aspect of this practicum assignment that I’ve been having the biggest problem with, and that is integrating myself into the TheKicksBlog.com comments section community. The first issue I have with TKB’s comments section is that it doesn’t automatically log you in when you want to comment. In many community areas on the internet there is a setting to make it so that you are logged on each time you visit the site and don’t have to waste time entering in your username and password, waiting for it to be recognized, and then sometimes being redirected to another page. Allowing for users to be signed in upon entrance to the site promotes expression, as when someone feels inspired to say something, they can share it with the rest of the community at the click of a button.
Secondly, TKB offers too many ways to log in. Powered through Disqus services, users have the option of logging in from a Disqus account, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, an OpenID Account, a Google account, and a Yahoo Account. At first I thought this was a great idea and a good way to promote posting. However, as I’ve gone along, I’ve grown to dislike the service, as I believe a community is not harbored well when one can post under as many accounts as they’d like. It’s difficult for an identity to be created unless one uses the same login method every time. Even then, they can’t be sure who everyone is around them. It could distort the perception of how many people are actually posting and make each user seem a bit more detached from the others. On message forums there is usually only one method of logging in under one name, and moderators have methods of identifying when users are using multiple accounts by tracking IP addresses. Furthermore, having so many options to login through various sites that we use personally, it takes away much of the anonymity of the service and therefore might stop some people from saying exactly what they want since they are so easily able to be identified/contacted.
Furthermore, and this is a problem for the Facebook Fan Page as well, is the method by which comments are organized. Obviously it’s a comments section so it’s difficult to maintain much organization/structure, however it makes it extremely difficult to establish an identity within a community and/or establish a community in and of itself when everything you post gets dropped down to the very bottom of the page, where no one is likely to read it. This means that the most prominent posts and potentially the most prominent posters will simply be the ones who were able to comment the quickest. All that does is discourage well-thought out, respectful discussion and encourages quick, rash, knee-jerk reaction-type comments. This leads to a lot of confusion and miscommunication.
Another glaring issue I have with the TKB comment section is that it doesn’t allow you to create a subject to comments. Though giving users the choice to add a subject line to their comment is optional around the internet, in order to maintain organization and harbor community better, allowing for subject titles to people’s posts would do wonders for this comments section. When I go down comments section, normally, I like to see if people have opinions on other, somewhat-related news, however it takes much too long to get through all of the other discussion based on the original blog post. Basically it takes reading through all of subject “A”, “B”, and “C” just to get to the topic I’m interested in, “D”, when the site could easily present what “A”, “B”, “C,” and “D” are from the get go and save me the time.
The final main issue I have with the Disqus comment section format within TheKnicksBlog.com is the lack of ability to have a customized signature and the fact that it makes your comment section avatar the same as whatever the avatar of the service you logged in with is. Though both these things might not seem like a big deal at first glance, both contribute significantly to creating identity within a community and creating a community in general. On message forums, besides someone’s username, the number one way to identify them is through their avatar/signature. Both are places of expression. One usually represents the person visually, and the other philosophically. Often on message forums I don’t even look at the usernames because all I need to see is their avatar. It becomes part of the identity of what/who the person is. It’s always funny when someone posts a real picture of themselves and everyone says how they always pictured them as whatever their avatar is. It’s this built up imaginary persona we have in our head that grows everytime we see the person’s avatar. Same thing with a signature: you associate the person with a mantra, image, link, text, etc. On the comments section of TKB, if I sign in with my Yahoo name it automatically loads my Yahoo avatar, and same with the other mainstream services that one can login with. This isn’t an accurate representation of me as the way I want to represent myself on a Knicks blog. And when I log in using a different service I’m represented a different way, never able to construct a cement identity for users’ familiarity. As for the signature, there’s no option for it whatsoever, so I can never remind people of what words I want to be represented by. There’s nothing there to associate with me, so to readers of my comments I’m not an identity within the community.
Overall, in order for this comments section to start to become more like a community, I think it would need to seriously consider creating login exclusivity, allow for automatic logins, subjects for comments, and allow for singular avatars/signatures.