Broderick sees online participation split into two very different worlds. “There is a social realm where things are rationally sorted and then there’s the anonymous place that brings out a person’s base instincts. It can become a frothing, bubbling cauldron of insanity,” he said. “Yet, you need that animalistic part of yourself. I think of it almost like your sex drive.”
So with so much potential for offensive behavior, why allow commenting in the first place?
Both Isaf and Broderick believe that open and anonymous commenting is quite powerful when it works. Sometimes, even great ideas are born among the shouters. “We’ve seen comments where people spend a couple of hours researching and writing. I’ve watched a discussion on abortion that had 50 people taking part with 200 comments without a single attack,” Isaf said.