The power of few

I have quite a few feeds in my FeedDemon but often I just read the blog entries and skip the comments. The other day, I did visit Malcolm Gladwell’s site because he posed a question about Enron there, and I wanted to see if somebody had answered him.

At that time, there were about 60 comments, and the majority of them seemed fairly aggressive, as if they were out to get Gladwell. About twenty or so comments into the thread you can see the same names and pseudonyms appear over and over again, engaging in a debate (or a fight how ever you wanna see and put it) over both Gladwell and each other.

I seem to notice the same phenomenon on all the discussion boards I have ever followed and ultimately, it is the fact that the boards often get hijacked by a few people who have the energy and the time to spend more time on the discussion board than anybody else that turns me off.

In the battle to dominate the board, the topics and the conversation, well, the discussion take a backseat and the point becomes to crush the opponent. I had a big theory about this being an Alpha Male issue because I hadn’t seen it as much on the discussion forum my site runs (, dominated by women.

Even there, whenever a man enters the thread, the tone changes and the spotlights get turned on, and on the man.

Then I had a chat with my father-in-law who runs a discussion forum with a majority of female users, and he said that “tough moderation” is needed there, too. He created a subgroup for the dominating group, made them feel special and cleared some discussion space for the others. Once there were enough new users again, the former loudmouths disappeared in the crowd.

There was an interesting entry about this on Writers’ Blog as well. It’s not easy. Comments are great, and good insights can really help both the blogger and the other readers, but not when they become nasty.

Maybe Seth Godin is right when he only allows trackbacks.

Webmaster: “I added the trackback function here, too, yesterday.”
Risto: “Really? Great, how does it work?
Webmaster: “You read the entry, and on the bottom of the page is the form and the links.”
Risto: “But they look all weird…”
Webmaster: “Yeah, I know. Got a problem with that?”
Risto: “Well … it would be nice to…”
Webmaster: “Fine. You do it.”
Risto: “I don’t know how, that’s why I have you.”
Webmaster: “That’s right.”

Not that I have a problem with comments. Except the ones from Theodoris who seems to “love the site that is an excellent resource.” So great that he writes the same comment on several entries and then adds a couple of hundred link pointers.

But that’s another story.

How does that make you feel?