I came across this excellent analysis of online commenting, which, according to the article "has become a medium in its own right". The question then becomes, "when the general consensus is that most comments suck, why do we continue to add the functionality to websites?"
Comments on my blog are all awesome, and I love to get feedback on stuff I write. However, it is easy for me to love comments here, because they are all very smart, interesting, and polite and respectful even in disagreement. In fact, I welcome people who disagree with me (or offer a new way of looking at things) because they push me to think more. When comments are inspired by the topic/article, and not by its author, there's a context for a healthy exchange of ideas, and "enhance whatever they are attached to and offer insightful and constructive debate".
More often than not, this is not the case.
It's more likely "to find comment in the form of excessive superlatives or the monosyllabic jeering and swearing from anonymous cowards, wading through which only saps our energy to persist in looking for something worth while to read."
And it's not only about the wasted energy. Accumulated comments, like those on AdWeek or AdAge, are a collective reflection of the marketing industry and its predominant culture. It's like an anthropological case study.
So, what are the findings? I am going to quote here Alan Wolk, who already wrote about this, and summarized it the best. Apparently, all industry comments belong to three main categories: a) "you are not famous enough for me to pay attention to", a.k.a. "where is your portfolio", b) "all this smart stuff makes my brain hurt", and c) "enough about you, here's a link to my brilliant blog post".
If these comment modes are reflection of the "state of the industry", then it may help us grasp why the industry is not adapting a bit faster - and better - to consumer behavior in the complex media environment. Simply, a lot of people working in it are often more interested in trashing each other, pushing their own agendas, and being intolerant to difference, than in thinking and discussing new ideas.
In contrast, there's a digital marketing world. It's an uncertain and unpredictable place. More importantly, it's also a place where most people are actually curious about the changes in the media, society, and the world around them. (Operative word here being "around them").
Just have a look at Faris' or Noah's or Paul's or Gareth's blogs. People there want to talk about ideas, not about each other. Together, they offer a reflection of a totally different culture. It's a culture of appreciation, respect, creativity, information, experimentation, newness, and challenges.
To brave an uncertain digital environment, people working in it figured they need a little help from their friends. And that's adaptive.
If traditional and digital advertising don't get agree so often, it's not because they revolve around different media. It's because of the people.