Open And Free Discussion, The Myth

Yesterday marked for me a renewed passion to engage and participate within the web development community. As my career enters a new phase, I am finding myself wanting to move beyond the technical discussions that can be reduced to an objective list of pros and cons, and into an area that is far less black and white. Conversations about interaction design, the roles we each play, and the social impact of what we create are becoming gradually more commonplace. Spurred on, in large part, by a moving talk given by Wilson Miner, When We Build.

Naturally, the less objective a subject, the more likely there’ll be a difference of opinions. As I discovered when I happened to read this article – The Rise of Product Design, over on Q&A website Quora.

The article tends to be rather dismissive of the great work done by the User Experience (UX) field. As a front-end developer, working on the side of the web that faces the people using it, I feel the the ideas put forward by UX teams are inspired and motivating. So I thought I’d put forward my view in the comments section. Read the comment here.

Of course, on first glance you won’t see it. Neither on the original article, nor on the direct link. What you will see is a short piece of text – “Comment downvoted”. You’ll need to click that text before viewing the comment.

Downvoting allows a reader to vote down something they see as trolling, inflammatory, inappropriate, incorrect, or something they generally do not agree with. The voters are typically not required to explain their reasoning. Most sites then use these votes to decide whether or not to display or remove a user comment. In this case the comment has been hidden from view, discarded into a realm where most people won’t see or read it, essentially removing it from the conversation. Whether or not you agree with what I wrote, I’m sure you will agree that it was well structured enough to deserve a tiny spot at the bottom of the page. Unfortunately, the team at Quora did not, and decided to both hide it and move it to the bottom of the list.

For a site that appears to encourage healthy debate, this comes as a huge surprise. I had hoped my thoughts would evoke a reply, one that would perhaps mention some other aspect to the subject and help to educate all involved. Sadly the discussion was neither open nor free and this did not happen. I hope this makes clear the need to improve the experience of user comments on the web, so that the conversation can continue.

Perhaps if the team at Quora had employed the skills of someone in the UX field, my user experience wouldn’t have left such a bad aftertaste.