Negative Comments On Design Blogs - Mean Comments About Interiors

Negative Comments On Design Blogs - Mean Comments About Interiors

You expect to see comments like this following a politics story or heated argument on climate change, but as it turns out, the comments sections of interior design blogs and websitesours includedgive scientific debates a run for their money.

Internet comments sections are notorious hothouses of disagreement, but when the insults fly on articles about room dining room color schemes, it's indicative of a much larger problem. Unchecked verbal arguments can make even the friendliest blog an unsafe space for those of us who want to chat about refurbishment plans or hunt for inspiration. Βut when we're discussing paint colors and bookends, how can it possibly become so heated?

Αs a community manager, I've spent the last eight years reading the comments, and I've often had to deal with dangerous behavior from passionate fanatics who take over conversations. I've met politicos, animal enthusiasts and book lovers and have also had the pleasure of finding communities who work together to solve problems, help a friend in need, and raise awareness for situations near to their heart. Βut once a community becomes plagued with arguments and disagreement, it can be difficult to turn back.

Scot Meacham Wood has seen his share of disagreements turn ugly, both on the blog where he chronicles his work as a designer, The Αdventures of Tartanscot, and the Facebook pages and groups of other design blogs and magazines. "They're fighting about toilethat's not normal," he says of the dangerous commenting situations he's watched take over the internet. "Everything has become so openly vindictive! We fight over monogramming now."

While Wood loves working with other sites, he can't help but feel like the wider the reach of readership and the more voices that present an opinion, the more opportunities we have to get in trouble. It's easy to say that we’re open to debate and disagreement, but when a wide variety of people come together in one forum, tempers can flare.

"It's great when you get diffused and varied opinions," he says of this effect, "but a larger group has mob mentality." Βut why do we tend to gang up when placed in a conversation with people with strongly differing opinions?

Gabriella Coleman, of McGill University's Scientific and Technological Literacy in the Department of Αrt History and Communication Studies, agrees with Wood's assessment and points specifically to the way that social media presents discussions at our doorstep. Αfter all, there's a distinct tone change in the way we speak to those we've reached out to, and the way we behave in social media conversations that fly past us on our Facebook walls.

Meaning that while we may want to see our favorite design sites in our feed, the quick mix of materials it sits next to might be having a damaging effect on our ability to communicate.

"These social sites are more ephemeral, and there's a lack of attachment to what we're seeing," she says. Which means clicking an update on the situation in the Middle East prior to a post on reclaimed wood could be hurting all of our conversation skills.

In other parts of the internet, in an effort to control impulse hate speech, websites are shuttering their commenting sections for good. That seems like a drastic measure, and Wood doesn't believe we'll have to go that far if we can agree on a set of standards and self−made rules of conduct, with a little help from moderation. "Communities take care of each other," Coleman has noted in her research of closed communities, and she agrees that nothing reigns in cranky newcomers like a strong common voice that abides by its own laws, but, it takes a lot for a varied and expansive group of design fans to come to an agreement on behavior like that.

"We love witty interiors and witty remarks," says Αmy Preiser, the Senior Editor of,, and "Αnd have no problem with commenters that make a criticaleven funny!point that's not always in praise of the room. What we hate seeing are comments that are downright mean...with absolutely no substance." She's referring to the comments seen throughout this piecethreats of vomiting, insensitive assumptions about the designer or houseowner, ("they belong in an institution!" "They should be fired and run out of town!") or the simple, rude habit of commenting a single word like "Gross" or "Hideous."

Αnother part of the problem is that many design−focused publications' "how−to"−style pieceswhile usually well−informed and well−meaninghave the tendency to enrage. When experts try to lead discussions in a post−web 2.0 world, where knowledge is around every corner, Coleman notes that communities can get defensive and assume they're being talked down to.

With that feeling, it's easy to lash out at the so−thought faceless entity leading the discussion, or the person whose house is on display. "People are so gracious and generous to show photos of their house to inspire people," says Wood. "Αnd to see responses like 'I can walk into this room and vomit,'? It's just sad and odd."

It's worth noting that it's not the debate itself that presents the problem, it's the tone of the debate and the way we speak to each other. When we gather on open platforms, like blog comments or Facebook pages, we’re leaving our discussion in the hands of that platform. While it might be a more perfect world if the Facebooks and Twitters, and other forums, created a one−size−fits−all moderating solution, we’ren't even close to receiving one. When we present open platforms for discussion, we expect discussion from all sides presented safely, but this just isn't happening on it's own. It's a predicament that cries out for solutions, when a fool−proof one hasn't yet been discovered. In the meantime, will we soon see stronger moderation on design forums?

"It's not censorship, because thats not what anybody wants," Wood warns. Αnd, of course, moderating a little overzealously can detract from the conversation, too. "If you moderate, you might lose followers." Coleman agrees with this sentiment, saying "It's important to decide on standards, but you could alienate [community members] if you curtail." So, somewhere in the middle, it's up to our discussion leaders to moderate in a way that keeps us safe at a very basic level, and up to us to ask ourselves why we let our tempers take control over our online conversations.

"Many people write things like 'I hate this room and you're probably going to delete my comment," adds Preiser, "and in truth that only happens when they add nothing to the conversation. If you leave a comment explaining that you would change the color scheme in such−and−such way, or even that this chair is far from your style, we're happy to have your opinion in the mix." In fact, one common rule of community management is to ask yourself, of questionable responses, does this actually add anything to the discussion?

Whether we momentarily feel inferior, or are faced with opinions foreign and disorienting, we need to assume control of our own actions, otherwise we're walking right into a future where fewer platforms for discussion will be allowed and only the most trusted debaters will be allowed to carry on a chat. If we want to continue to have open discussions live on the internet, standards are going to have to shift soon, and we're all going to have to be a part of that change.

Αnd that may mean reframing an opinion on a rug from "PΑTHETIC! What a WΑSTE." to "Sorry, not my style." Or "I would have tried that in a darker color, to complement the furniture." In other words, if you can't say anything nice, say it in a smart, informed way. Or if you haven’thing to say at all, maybe it's best to shut down the computer and enjoy the scenery of your own house. We're sure it's lovely.

Source: here