The Ringer and the end of Engagement Communities (and my pledge)
Did you notice something missing in your Medium feed today?
So, earlier today, The Ringer executed its move away from Medium to a VOX site.
This took place with little advanced notice or loyalty to the thousands of fans who followed and created community around The Ringers Game of Thrones coverage here on Medium.
Heck, I only found out because I was wondering why “Ask The Maester” wasn’t showing up in my Medium feed today.
I started reading the “Ask The Maester” column (which I love) when it was on Grantland and while I have, to date, followed it from site to site I am pretty sure that I may stop reading it now.
Well, I might stop reading The Ringer because, in all honesty, I am kind of pissed off at them.
I am not resisting because of some long allegiance to Medium (while I have read the GoT coverage on The Ringer since it started, I have only been using Medium myself for a short time). I will probably resist because, as near as I can tell, The Ringer no longer allows comments (like other VOX sites).
I could be wrong on this, and I have asked for confirmation from the folks at The Ringer, but I don’t see comment sections on even today’s “Ask The Maester” column (which is after all a column about community engagement). If I am wrong, I will apologize.
** Update ** I wasn’t wrong
However, VOX sites do not allow comments, so it would make sense that the new backbone is not comment enabled.
In my humble opinion, the best thing about The Ringer’s Game of Thrones coverage was the community that grew together around the coverage and that community grew together in the comments sections.
I enjoy reading insight from writers I respect (Jason C.) but I also like talking about those insights with other fans just as much.
Just yesterday, as a result of conversations in the comments section on various GoT posts I interacted with 100’s of other readers here on Medium and in comments on my blog (and had over 1000 people read my episode 4 recap).
I think the community discussion is as important as anything that any of us (me included) post.
I might not have always agreed with everyone that I talked to over the last four weeks about my posts here but I always enjoyed the interactions and they almost always added to my understanding of the show and to my feeling like I am part of something more than just a show (but also a great community of Game of Thrones fans).
But there is one bigger reason to protest the death of comment sections. There is a trend in media away from real social media engagement and especially from comment sections.
Yes, things can get really ugly occasionally in comment sections, but Democracy is messy and the best way to defeat so-called bad speech is to make better arguments. The answer to our fears of speech is not to build moats and take media back inside castles guarded by elite gatekeepers.
Some masses may indeed be asses, but limiting access to the means of mass communication is profoundly undemocratic (even fascist). As much as it can hurt to be attacked in the comment section (and if anyone knows I do), one of the reasons that we have free speech is that it provides a safety valve and place where everyone has a voice and a right to even unpopular opinions. Sometimes those unpopular opinions are extremely important to the survival of Democracy.
And many of you might suggest that these are private companies who have every right to control the flow of information and legally this is correct but they serve a public trust and influence what Free Speech means because they control pathways to discussion. How they defend speech matters.
When you take away pathways to meaningful participation you ensure that only the privileged can be heard. We should avoid this at all costs.
In addition to my blog recap, for the next three weeks, in an attempt to encourage discussion here, I will also put out a Monday post here on Medium that summarizes the issues that I thought were raised by the most recent episode. The intent will be that others would add what they think I missed or even correct my mistakes.
This is obviously not a sacrifice, I think it could be great fun, but I hope you will participate. If people join in, it could be great fun!
In other words, lets all continue to talk about Game of Thrones here on Medium together. This is an amazing community, and a community that never belonged to The Ringer (and even if it did, they just let us know how important we were to them). I don’t mean to sound too snarky, I love some of the Ringer writers and this was most likely not their fault (but ending comments was pretty uncalled for).
We can also keep the community going in other ways.
If you are a Game of Thrones fan on Medium, follow me and I will follow you back. Say hello, start a discussion with me (most will tell you, as long as it is a civil conversation, I always respond).
Post your stuff and I will try to read it (and comment, highlight, and like it).
If we all connect around each others content, we can keep up, and even expand, the great Game of Thrones community that started around The Ringer’s content.
Hope this works!
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