4 min

Prediction about comment sections for 2016

Dec 2015



It’s time to stop using the c-word. “The comment section” has moved in people’s minds from being an empty box on a website into a viper-filled pit of hell. We need to start again. We need to do better.

Indeed because your "viper-filled pit of hell" is YOUR fault.

It's not the fault of the idea of comments or user-contributed content.

It's not even the fault of trolls and flamers because they are simply being themselves.

As always, 100 percent of the blame for nasty comment sections belongs to the site owners who failed to innovate a way to make comments work.

July 2011 dashes.com post : If your website is full of assholes, it's your fault

If you run a website, you need to follow these steps. if you don't, you're making the web, and the world, a worse place. And it's your fault.

Put another way, take some goddamn responsibility for what you unleash on the world. And people who make communities on the web have to moderate them.

"Moderate" could mean many things, in my opinion. I don't believe that it simply means approving comments or flagging and deleting comments.

I think "moderate" could mean how the site is designed for user-contributed content. What barriers-to-entry are implemented? Is it super-easy to post a comment, or does a user have to go through a bunch of hoops, which could irritate the trolls?

I use multiple barriers-to-entry at ToledoTalk.com, which has improved the discussions considerably over the years. It's a small site but enjoyable.

  • a real email address must be submitted at user account creation time.
  • new account is pending until the user clicks the activation link that's contained in an email message.
  • a new user must wait 48 hours before being allowed to post a comment and 72 hours to start a new thread. When I implemented this barrier in 2010, it nearly wiped away spammers and the drive-by flamers who don't want to wait.
  • at times, the new user sign-up process is disabled for a few days to a few weeks to slow site growth.

More users are not always better, regarding online conversations. I like the concept of "less but better."

Sure, new users are needed to offset the users who eventually leave for whatever reason, but I'm never in a rush to attract a larger audience. I go slow.

More from the Dec 2015 niemanlab.org article:

“Don’t read the comments” became a mantra. Little surprise that some publishers have chosen to close down, or highly restrict, their comment spaces.

It's easier to give-up than be creative.

In 2016, publishers are going to make a mental shift away from “comments” and towards “contributions.”

Another c-word.

"Contributions" is not new. The longer phrase "User Contributed Content" was used last decade. It meant text, such as comments or blog posts, and photos and videos.

Local TV news orgs have been accepting photos from viewers for many years. But now they receive them easier over social media.

And for decades, newspaper readers have contributed somewhat by writing letters to the editors with a few getting published daily. It continues today with the Toledo Blade.

They’re going to do this because engaging their communities towards contributions is the best way to surface exclusive content, to get closer to the audience and their needs, to make people feel more connected to the brand, to correct errors, to add new voices, and to get ahead of stories. The business, the journalism, and the ethics of the newsroom all depend on it.

I that some or all of these questions should have been contemplated at least 10 to 15 years ago by the media and not in 2016. But once again, better late than never for the media orgs.

Along with that shift will come a series of new questions for publishers:
  • What kinds of contributions do we want for each type of content?
  • What does a useful contribution look like?
  • How can we create conditions that encourage useful contributions, and from a wider diversity of voices?
  • How can we add value by being part of these communities, instead of staying apart from them?
  • What differentiates our on-site communities from those on social media?

On The Coral Project, we’re working with publishers of all sizes to answer these questions, and to build free, open-source tools to make it possible. We’d love for you to join us.

Comments are dead. Long live contributions.

Mmm. I consider comments and other forms of user contributed content to be contributions, and these contributions have occurred for many years. I'm confused.

#forums #comments #blogging #media #design

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