Pulse has always been an open forum for GPs. We take pride in being a place where the profession comes to take stock, debate and share ideas.
I am often pulled aside at conferences by someone who is eager to tell me how much they enjoy reading our website. And that includes the active discussions below the line, where GPs often astutely cut through the artifice of management speak and baldly ‘say how it is’.
Rambunctious and amusing, I often find the comments section on PulseToday more informative than the articles themselves. They are a vital way for the profession to show its strength of feeling, when policymakers often only listen to ‘yes-men’. With such a diverse profession, the comments often bring multiple perspectives to an issue and have a wildly anarchic logic that ensures a wide range of opinion.
However, there is a dark side. Occasionally the comments section can turn sour. This is not just a problem for Pulse’s website, but I have had GPs refuse to write for us, because they are concerned about the reaction they will receive. Others have complained that they can be attacked anonymously.
The facility for anonymous comments on PulseToday is there for a good reason – to enable GPs to express themselves without fear of reprisals. As public figures, and in order to protect patient confidentiality, GPs sometimes need to be able to voice an opinion without being identified. But sometimes it can feel like a wall of faceless criticism being directed at those who put their heads above the parapet. It can have the effect of stifling, rather than helping, debate. As with the rest of the internet, there is the potential for more moderate voices to be drowned out.
At Pulse we are constantly looking at how we can improve the experience of GPs on our website, and as part of this we are looking at how our comments section works. But before we make any changes I am keen that we listen to what you think. How do you think the quality of debate on PulseToday could be improved? Do you value the option to be anonymous?
It is really important that we know who is on our site and that we preserve it as a place for GPs to debate and express opinions, but some of you have asked us to deal with the issue of non-GP commenters skewing debates on the site. Do you see this as a problem? Would you like comments to be restricted just to GPs, or do you find other voices valuable? Should all users be validated?
Please leave your comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please be assured that whatever happens, our aim is to extend the discussions on Pulse rather than restrict them. Now – perhaps more than ever in Pulse’s history – GPs need the freedom to express themselves and debate the future of the profession.
Nigel Praities is editor of Pulse