5 x 8: Can the ‘comment section’ be saved?


Where will we turn for racist, ignorant, worthless commentary once YouTube finishes cleaning up its house? Plenty of places, unfortunately, but perhaps YouTube is providing inspiration for everyone to reconsider whether the comments sections on the Internet need to be sheer thuggery.

According to Wired, YouTube is changing the way comments work, with an eye toward giving prominence to the thoughtful from the thoughtful:

The move is supposed to help create conversations instead of a deluge of one-off statements and poisonous vitriol. An updated moderator tool will block certain words and could cut down on some of the worst comments from even showing up on the site.

The update also tightly integrates YouTube with Google+. Conversations on YouTube and Google+ about a video are cross-posted to both sites. By using the Google+ circles to dictate who sees what you have to say about a video, you can determine how many people see your posts. Plus, you can uncheck the ability to cross-post your comment.

Until the move is complete, Wired says, “please don’t read the comments.”

But maybe it’s too late. Popular Science thinks so. It announced it’s shutting off comments on all articles effective immediately. Why? Because we can’t handle the truth.

A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to “debate” on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.

(h/t: Jeff Conrod)

Archive: 5 x 8: Uncivil discourse civilly discussed (MPR)


“This is the real Disneyland; you guys have to come here,” the young man speaking perfect English says in a recruiting video for Al Shabab posted on the Star Tribune website.

The video was released last month, the paper says, but has gotten new attention after the massacre at the shopping mall in Nairobi. It features three young men from Minnesota.

Meanwhile, the terrorist organization today claims that Kenyan forces used chemical weapons to end the siege of the shopping mall.

Related: An unwelcome spotlight falls on Minnesota's Somali community because Nairobi attack (Public Radio International)

Several victims of Kenya attack have ties to Minnesota (Minnesota Public Radio News)


The economy may be improving but it’s not trickling down to some charities, apparently. In St. Cloud, the United Way cut funding to a sexual assault center and charitable gambling revenue has dropped, forcing cutbacks at the Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center, the St. Cloud Times reports.

The nonprofit helps with 300-400 new sexual violence cases every year in Stearns, Benton, Sherburne and Wright counties, the paper says.


The MacArthur Foundation has released the recipients of its 2013 Genius Grants. Sorry, Upper Midwest, you struck out. But there is inspiration, nonetheless. NPR profiles one man who specializes in saving analog recordings from the destruction of time.

We find the most intriguing to be Angela Duckworth of Pennsylvania, whose work examines two traits — grit and self control –that she says predicts success in life.

Did someone say “grit”? Tackle Cancer: UMD football player battles cancer twice (KARE).

After one of Alastair Moock’s twin 5-year-old daughters, Clio, was diagnosed with leukemia last summer, he sang traditional songs and made up new ones with Clio, which the two of them singing together in her hospital room. Moock’s new album, Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids, is based on his family’s experiences with Clio and her fellow patients. Kids fighting illness and their families are its primary audience, but its message of clear-eyed hope and comfort isn’t just for kids, NPR says.


If the Minnesota Orchestra ever pulls itself out of its swan dive, where will it find a new conductor? Here’s an idea this week from Improv Everywhere.

Related: Talks intensify as Minnesota Orchestra dispute faces weekend deadline (Star Tribune).

Bonus I: The Road to Mahtowa (Tales of the Road).

Bonus II: A Man With a Plane: Journalist Captures the Scale of Destruction in Colorado (Wired)

Bonus III: In Saint Paul, Susan Solarz builds a bench for rest – and to pound on (MPR).


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The rise of the city state.

Second hour: Why don’t we talk about young black females?

Third hour: Jane Austen Annual General Meeting

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A “Climate One” special featuring the UN’s top climate change negotiator Christiana Figueres, former Colorado and New Jersey governors, and two national political strategists on the impact and politics of climate change.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – New numbers from the Minnesota Department of Revenue confirm business claims that cigarette sales have gone down since July 1. That’s when a $1.60 per pack cigarette tax increase took effect. As tobacco sellers struggled and smokers paid more, tobacco tax revenue collected by the state is up. MPR’s Mark Zdechlik will have the story.

Parents send their children off to increasingly popular study abroad programs, but they often don’t realize the dangers they may face, MPR’s Alex Friedrich notes. A Minnesota foundation for study-abroad safety estimates more than 400 American students — mostly college students — have died on such programs over the past 15 years in cases such as drownings, hiking accidents and murders. Hundreds more have contacted it after students experienced injuries and sexual assaults, negligent chaperones, and unsafe transportation and housing conditions. Now two Minnesota lawmakers want to draft legislation that would make programs abroad safer by shedding light on the dangers involved.