The YouTube comments section, I think I can say without hyperbole, shows humanity at its very worst.
This trolling, homophobic, misogynistic, spam-filled netherworld where most ‘conversations’ end with one commenter comparing the other commenter to Hitler, is the most poorly managed outpost of intolerance and ignorance.
However, YouTube has unveiled new changes to clean up this town; changes that will bring prohibition style peace to a violent gangland. The new comments system is Elliot Ness, Mary Whitehouse and The Father from The Road all rolled into one.
So what are these changes, and how have the YouTube community reacted?
I think we all know how this will play out…
Welcome to the detoxification of YouTube:
Comments you care about move to the top. You’ll see comments at the top of the list from the video’s uploader, popular personalities, engaged discussions only relating to the video and people in your Google+ circles.
Join conversations publicly or privately. Like Gmail, replies are threaded so you can follow them in a similar way.
Easily moderate comments. When you upload a video, you have new tools to review comments before they’re posted, block certain words and auto-approve comments from trusted people.
You can also switch from ‘top comments’ to ‘newest first’ if you’re feeling particularly sadistic.
As you can probably tell, these changes are not only to ensure a nicer environment for YouTube commenters, but also to tie it into the Google+ experience, bringing consistency and cross platform usability to all of Google’s channels.
Here's YouTube’s quick tutorial:
So… has this worked? How has the YouTube community reacted?
I’m almost too scared to look…
For balance, I've taken a screengrab of exactly what the YouTube tutorial page looks like right now:
The top comments show criticism of what is the perceived threat of the Google+ community (referring to the BBQ arranged in the video), followed by a link to a Justin Bieber fan page and #googlesucks.
Perhaps not as bad as I feared.
Oh wait. Almost immediately, someone under the guise of Adolf Hitler appears...
This is currently the most popular commenter on this post.
This missionaries sent to convert YouTube's godless tribesfolk soon make an appearance...
Then hundreds of replies that pretty much sound like this...
There's the occasional voice of reason...
But mainly it's just this...
I don't really know what I, or YouTube, expected from this.
Your engaged audience, for better or for worse, reflects your website. I think the lesson here is that you're only going to create a positive community if you moderate responsiblly, and diligently.