Monday, April 4, 2011

The Exodus, Duly Noted

This past Saturday night there was a very interesting DUAN conversation about the state of Deadspin commenting, in which several prominent commenters (Steve U, Eddie Murray Sparkles, Bevraj of Choice, Gamboa Constrictor, All Over But The Sharting, and others - including a surprise appearance by ClueHeywood, one of the original gangstas of the Deadspin Commentariat) expressed their frustration at the ongoing technical problems in the commenting system, the radio silence on that front from Gawker/Deadspin's powers-that-be, and the continued exodus of quality, longtime commenters from the site.

The important things to notice from that conversation are: the palpable frustration and disappointment being expressed by some of the site's top contributors, including guys like EMS and Sharting who've until recently been fairly upbeat and positive whenever the topic of the redesign comes up; very prominent commenters like EMS describing the current state of the site as a "wasteland" and openly talking about the poor overall quality of commenting at present; and Steve U and others talking about a total death of commenting as though it is a foregone conclusion.  No one outside of Gawker's offices can say whether those things put a shiver into the site's movers and shakers; as for me, as someone who is enough of a fan of that site's comment threads that he went and started a blog about it, I'm depressed.

And if that conversation didn't do it for you, how about last night's retirement-from-commenting by UweBollocks, one of Deadspin's most beloved contributors?  People, that is a heartbreaker, and at least as ominous a portent of the future of the site's commenting section as the unannounced disappearance of all-time greats like AzureTexan, Lionel Osbourne, Theodore Donald Kerabatsos, and others (leaving aside guys like David Hume and MarkKelsosMigraine, who still show up from time to time, but at only a minute fraction of their former frequency).  Uwe was one of the site's most approachable and easily-digestible commenting voices, and I'd guess that a great many current commenters joined the site because of funny, silly, user-friendly guys like him.

Now there's talk (in the thread attached to Uwe's retirement) of commenters staying away deliberately, as an act of protest - which might, in the sense that it holds out the possibility for a mass return someday, seem preferable to the slow bleed of contributors disappearing as commenting simply ceases to be enjoyable for them, but still means a lot less of the funniest people on the internet all being funny in the same place at the same time, which sucks for those of us whose primary reason for visiting the site is the comments.

My intention here is not to bitch about Deadspin's redesign - Lord knows the commenters have done enough of that over the past couple of months - but rather to mourn what certainly appears to be the slow death of what has been one of the best things about the entire internet.  I don't want to jump the gun too much - just today (it's 11:40am ET as I write this), we've already seen multiple comments from MKM, Hume, and don't-forget-where-you-came-from-cheese mac, plus an appearance by commenting legend ArkansasFred; - and nobody hopes for a rebound more than I do, but it's hard to escape the feeling that something has been irreparably broken.  And anyway, I won't believe things are truly fixed until we've either seen the return of people like AzureTexan and UweBollocks, or new additions to the commentariat have truly filled the empty space left behind by those who've abandoned the site.  Neither of those things have happened, and based on the crop of unstarred folks these days, Option B doesn't look likely.

As at least a couple of commenters noted in that Saturday night conversation, it would be great if someone from among Gawker Media's or Deadspin's staff would respect the readership and the commentariat enough to at least put out a statement on one of the sites - even if, as Eddie Murray Sparkles noted, it was just a statement to the effect that site viewership and ad revenue are up since the redesign, so concerns about bugs in the commenting system are not a priority, and commenters can go get fucked if they don't like it.  Something.  Anything.  As things stand now, the radio silence unambiguously sends the message that nobody gives a shit one way or another.

Anyway, since we're a blog dedicated to the Deadspin Commentariat, I figured it would be silly to continue doing what we're doing without acknowledging the biggest thing going on in that community these days.  Things don't look so good right now.  And it's notable as hell that, as of this writing, Steve U, who typically comments on damn near every single post in any given day, has not commented once yet today.

Carry on.

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