Talking tech since 2003

Everyone knows that YouTube commenters are just about the worst people on the Internet. It’s nearly impossible to find a YouTube video that isn’t drowning in the mindless musings of idiots, bigots, or both. But news broke today that Google, which owns YouTube, will be integrating Google+ profiles into its commenting system in order to raise the level of discourse and lower the volume on trolls—all while injecting a much-needed dose of relevance into the company’s oft-neglected social networking site.

According to a post on YouTube’s blog, this week the company is going to roll out options for users to more easily upvote contacts in their Google+ circles, while out-of-circle commenters will have a harder time being seen unless the video creator or moderator makes it okay. There will also be options for auto-blocking comments with certain words, meaning that jerks are going to have a harder time dominating the conversation.

And that isn’t all. A post on TechCrunch explains that YouTube will actually stop telling abusive users that they’ve been blocked, letting them see their own virulence, fooling them into believing that their verbal bile has made it onto the comments page. That’ll keep them from creating new accounts to get around being blocked and trying again. That way, the trolls keep trolling, but fewer people get hurt.

Personally, I think this all sounds great. As my writer’s bio notes, over the last few years I’ve worked with the YouTube network Machinima, and written scripts for a few shows on that channel. While it’s always fun to see people expressing how much they like the work I’ve done, it’s disheartening to see how quickly conversation threads devolve into non-sequiturs, name-calling, and flat-out hate speech. This new system will help ensure that jerks stay on the down-low, while people who want to have meaningful discussions about the videos can actually do so without fear of getting harassed.

This new system also has the potential to make people actually start using Google+ more often. While Google+ is superior to Facebook in just about every aesthetic and functional way, it still lacks that most important aspect a social networking site needs to succeed: people. Now that Google is integrating Google+ with YouTube directly, suddenly there will be a reason to update and maintain Google+ accounts. Why, this might even induce people to start actually using Google+ on a regular basis.

My own Google+ profile has been lying fallow for some time now. But with these new changes being implemented this week, I suddenly feel the urge to dust off my account, get rid of the cobwebs, and see what I can find. And I have a feeling I won’t be the only one who thinks so.

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