The Mysterious Case of the Closed Comment

I have been a solid Internet denizen since before Prodigy.

I was on the web before many of you reading this were born.

Back in my day, (I’ve always hated this phrase: as though today is not your day because you are past your thirties or have not yet arrived there)if you wanted information about whatever, you had two options: watch television or read a book.

But it wasn’t just “read a book;” no! first you had to find the book. Which, in the days before electronic card catalogs, was only done via actual drawers filled with thousands and thousands of cards which required a manual alphabetic search for a book according to title, author, subject or keyword. ( More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dewey_Decimal_Classification )

Once you found the book in the catalog, you then had to find that book on the shelf, which often was the longest phase of the process. Many times I searched for hours trying to find a book which provided little to no information useful to me.

And of course, book in hand, you then had to search through that book page-by-page for what you actually wanted, which was not guaranteed to be there in the first place.

Then, in 1996, I heard about this thing called “Alta Vista.”

Alta Vista was the immediate predecessor to Google. Like Google, Alta Vista had its competitors such as Lycos and WebCrawler and HotBot.

They all sucked. Like, they sucked REALLY BADLY. If you searched, say, Alta Vista (best in its time) for “RG-6” which is a type of network cable which is really similar to the coax in the wall for your television, it would return all the results with an “R,” a “G” and a “6” on the same page, with no reference to context or topic or popularity.

In other words, it is SO EASY to find information these days. It will be three generations before most people (especially academics)have any CLUE how useful a search engine like Google can be, and what a wealth of information is available through Wikipedia.

Then there’s YouTube. I’ve spent much of my life, as a child and as an adult, making the most out of the available technology. As such, I’ve made MANY predictions about the future of informatics and knowledge in general, so when Wikipedia happened I was not surprised. When Google happened I was not surprised. But when YouTube happened, I was amazed.

Not only can we get information from “authoritative” sources, but now we can bypass the middle-man completely and teach each other directly through full-motion, HD broadcast-quality video. Amazing.

Anywhere in the world, any culture……even language barriers are no longer towering, insurmountable walls past which only the wealthy can afford a glimpse. Wow.

We can all address each other directly. We can do research on any topic of interest, and we can acquire goods and services from parts of the world which would have been unheard-of to most (let-alone shopped)even ten years back. What?

There will be a crucial rebound period where interested parties will have a thirty-year opportunity to convince the People that online knowledge is essentially worthless. They will attack these information sources with their propaganda and buzzwords and phoney “statistics” in the hope that no one will protest too much when these information sources are attacked and removed.

It has already started: Phrases like “YouTube famous,” or “Wiki troll” are already in the spotlight. The former suggests that a YouTube producer whose product has been viewed 100 million times is somehow less influential to the zeitgeist than a televised episode of “American Housewife.” While a “Wiki troll” is a person who has donated their time and maybe even money to the task of making truly useful, academically-sourced information free to all.

Now, with just a bit of thought, and it doesn’t take much, you can see just who would be opposed in principle to such a wealth of information being made so widely available free of charge, since such a thing would severely damage their interests. {all hats off to MIT and Professor Lewin for pioneering the OpenCourseWare program; check YouTube for HOURS of MIT lectures in physics, astronomy, computer networking….you name it. Free.}

But the true subject of my post here is a disturbing trend I’ve seen developing for the last decade. Prior to that time, it wasn’t much of an issue, because most of the world had yet to discover the web: Expirations on reply comments.

You know what I mean: you’ll see a post or a comment on the web made by some person, and you will even sign up for the forum just to make your own reply; only to find out (AFTER you’ve surrendered your e-mail address) that the thread has been closed to further comment.

Ever wonder why?

I did. And you know, I just can’t figure it out. I mean, why would anyone open a public or semi-public forum for anyone else interested to join and contribute their knowledge or ask their questions and then choose NOT to allow others to contribute more at some later date? While the people who originally asked the question or OP’ed the thread may be long gone, (again: may be)there are other people who may come along later and wish to further contribute.

Do they not matter? Is it something to do with thread ranking? What possible reason could there be for closing a thread to further comment after some specified time has elapsed?

I feel like I’m a pretty smart person, and like I said, I’ve been on the wire for longer than many of you have been alive: so it is with no lack of experience in web-stuff that I can say with certainty there is NO LOGICAL REASON for this “thread death” phenomenon. Even if there were, such reason could not possibly outweigh the benefits, to every party interested in that knowledge, of leaving the thread opened to new comments indefinitely.

Unless of course you can be presumed to have an interest in limiting the spread of Ideas across time because maybe you feel THAT “privilege,” at least, will remain with those in power.

Don’t fall for the bullshit, people. Use your brains, and do more every day to strengthen your minds. Responsibly help everyone you can to do the same. You will NEVER regret it, I can assure you.

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