My eye was caught today by one of those curiosity news items that seem to speak to matters beyond their limited immediate interest - swarming Amazon book reviews.
We live in an age when the proverbial Common Man can comment online on anything that takes his fancy. Virtually every review or newsy website and most of those that sell you something let you 'Comment' on their content. Sometimes these are monitored before posting but, as the Amazon piece illustrates, there are all too often ways of 'gaming' that process to slip by it. The process of policing is often erratic, presumably largely because it involves a lot of on-the-fly decision making on the part of the owners of a well-read site.
I occasionally submit comment on my morning paper's online articles. It helps 'keep my hand in' as a blogger plus allows me to vent or educate about things I care a lot about. Writing Letters to the Editor rarely proves worth the time spent but an online comment will get published most of the time. When it doesn't, it can be hard to fathom why. While news outlets publish some form of comment policy, recently I had a couple of submitted comments disallowed as 'abusive' when they contained content very similar to some previous posts in this blog.
That said, I do feel something is quite off-kilter about the torrent of selective comment that an open web seems compelled to accept. Local restaurant rating websites are one example of this. They let you and I rant but provide no considered comment of their own. Yet shouldn't one assume that the publishers of these sites have some special knowledge that readers would like to benefit from? To be a ratings app maker does not seem to require much subject expertise; just the ability to produce the right software. When the inexpert reader is the only arbiter how much real new knowledge can other readers expect to gain?