Articles about "comments"


Why are so many news organizations still worried about retweets by staffers?

Here’s our roundup of the top digital and social media stories you should know about (and from Andrew Beaujon, 10 media stories to start your day, and from Kristen Hare, a world roundup):

— At Reuters, Jack Shafer picks up on my piece yesterday about how so many news organizations — with The New York Times being a notable exception — still seem afraid of reporters’ retweets coming across as endorsements: “Are NPR, the AP, and Reuters’s editorial reputations really so fragile that a 140-character tweet or retweet by a staffer can blow the whole thing down?”

— Three months into the “temporary” Chicago Sun-Times comments ban, publisher and editor-in-chief Jim Kirk tells Robert Feder “he’s heard no complaints lately and he’s seen no drop-off in online traffic.” Comments should return with a new CMS “sometime around the fourth quarter.”

— BuzzFeed’s director of editorial products, Alice DuBois, on the photo “slide things” in popular posts lately: “I do think there’s a part of the editorial mission to keep pushing and experimenting,” she tells Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon.

— The Dallas Morning News has abandoned its “premium” website, which was ad-free and aimed to be more nicely designed. “But you could see this result coming a Texas mile away,” writes Joshua Benton at Nieman Lab. “The premium site was not some beautiful, immersive experience — it was aggressively ugly and a pain to navigate.”

— “It used to be that there was an ever-more alarming growth in the hours people spent in front of the TV,” Michael Wolff writes at USA Today. “Now the greater concern is the limits of human attention.”


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Technology can’t vanquish trolls completely, says leader of comments project

The just-announced partnership between The New York Times, Washington Post and Mozilla holds a lot of promise for the future of comments and communities at news sites, but don’t expect a new system to make trolls disappear completely.

“Try as we might, I don’t think we’re going to create magic,” Greg Barber, the Post’s director of digital news projects, told Poynter by phone. “What we’re going to do is try to take technology and apply it to the work we’re all doing as humans.”

Or, as Knight-Mozilla Open News initiative’s Dan Sinker put it: “We are not declaring war on assholery. It’s not a war we’ll be able to win, certainly not at a technical level.”

But what the team does aim to do with technology is augment the kind of human moderation currently required to make the Times’s comment section the gold standard in the industry. That means semantic analysis, machine learning and other automated tools, Barber said. Human moderation has its limits: the Times can only allow comments on a select number of stories, and despite the high quality, the conversations aren’t the most free-flowing and engaging on the Web.

It seems appropriate here to cite a comment from the Post story announcing the partnership this morning, comparing the Times and Post approaches to comments:

“That’s great news. The current NYT commenting system is death for dialogue. It only encourages one-off comments. 
 
“Here, I learn as much or more in the commenting section as the articles, speaking directly to people with wildly different viewpoints from my own. 
 
“The only problem here is that too many people clog up the comments with partisan bickering. They aren’t interested in dialogue, just taunts.”

Despite those different approaches, Barber said the two major newspapers found common ground when they started meeting late last year.

“Our challenges with comments are similar to what I’m sure other publications have, which is that we have a massive volume,” Barber said. At this point, moderation strategies “focus on helping us to remove the bad stuff. What we want to do with this project is to be able to highlight the good stuff and build something that’s flexible and easy for publishers.”

And the platform, funded with a $3.89 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is intended to go beyond just comments. Barber and Sinker both cited Gawker’s Kinja platform, which allows readers to submit their own blog posts (Mathew Ingram wrote that the NYT-WaPo-Mozilla plan “sounds a little like an open-source version of Kinja.”) And you just can’t not read Gawker’s comments.

Already completed audience research, also funded by a Knight grant, revealed reader appetite to engage on news sites. But barriers — whether it’s bad UX at a technical level or a bad user experience when it comes to interacting with others — make them say, “ugh, I’m not subjecting myself to this,” said Sinker, who is leading the project.

“What we found is that different people want to be able to do different things,” Sinker said, and the community platform he’s leading will be flexible and open-source, allowing newsrooms to implement whatever types of community interaction and user-generated content that suits them best.

“Right now, the most common space for users to contribute is in comments,” Barber said. “But we know that users can give us much more than that.”


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National Journal eliminates comments from non-members

National Journal

As of Friday, National Journal Editor-in-Chief writes, “we’ll join the growing number of sites that are choosing to forgo public comments on most stories.”

Comments are currently disappointing, he writes: “For every smart argument, there’s a round of ad hominem attacks—not just fierce partisan feuding, but the worst kind of abusive, racist, and sexist name-calling imaginable.”

Comments sections will stay “open and visible to National Journal’s members” and “Our reporters and editors will remain extremely active and accessible on Twitter, where the discourse is abbreviated but usually civil,” he writes. You can also email your thoughts, and occastionally NJ will open up comments sections on stories “where the unique perspectives and ideas and suggestions of individual readers can add immeasurably to our journalism.”

Last year The Huffington Post changed its commenting policy, requiring a Facebook login to post. Splitsider and Popular Science eliminated comments altogether. Ugly comments “became too much to really fight back” against, Dan Nosowitz, then a PopSci writer, said in an interview at the time.

“Some sites have responded by devoting substantial time and effort to monitoring and editing comments,” Grieve writes, “but we’d rather put our resources into the journalism that brings readers to National Journal in the first place.”

Related: Anonymous comments can be ‘a frothing, bubbling cauldron of insanity’ Read more

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Guardian has deleted almost 500 comments from pro-Russia trolls

The Guardian

On Sunday, The Guardian’s Readers’ Editor Chris Elliott wrote about a growing problem in the comments section of stories about Ukraine — pro-Russian trolling, which one moderator told him appears to be “an orchestrated campaign.”

Trolling covers a multitude of sins but a particularly nasty strain has emerged in the midst of the armed conflict in Ukraine, which infests comment threads on the Guardian and elsewhere, despite the best efforts of moderators. Readers and reporters alike are concerned that these are from those paid to troll, and to denigrate in abusive terms anyone criticising Russia or President Vladimir Putin.

One complaint came to the readers’ editor’s office on 6 March. “In the past weeks [I] have become incredibly frustrated and disillusioned by your inability to effectively police the waves of Nashibot trolls who’ve been relentlessly posting pro-Putin propaganda in the comments on Ukraine v Russia coverage.

Elliott included links with three recent stories on Ukraine from The Guardian with the listed number of comments and those deleted “for reasons of abuse,” including this one, from which they spiked 259 comments. Out of 4,817 total comments on the stories, Guardian moderators deleted 494.

In the comments for the story about comment trolling, one person wrote “as long as paid EU trolls are allowed to post, it should be OK.” Read more

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Judge acknowledges racist, sexist Web comments, withdraws from race

Arkansas Times | Blue Hog Report

Judge Mike Maggio withdrew from a race for the Arkansas Court of Appeals after acknowledging he’d posted sexist, racist and homophobic comments on a website, Max Brantley reported Wednesday.

Maggio posted under the name “geauxjudge” on a message board called TigerDroppings.com, sharing musings on topics like “rodeo sex,” someone who was “black by injection” and “Why do two men get their weiners cut off to them date each other.”

Matt Campbell compiled a dossier of Maggio’s postings, triangulating personal information he mentioned in his comments with facts about Maggio. In his statement acknowledging the postings, Maggio decried “the politics of personal destruction.” Read more

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Is the Internet a workplace? Lawyers debate whether online comments merit ethics probe

Feminist Law Professors | Above the Law | myShingle.com | Pacific Standard

Nancy Leong, a visiting law professor at UCLA, wrote in late December she had filed an ethics complaint with the bars that licensed a public defender who “commented about me approximately 70 times on at least five different websites, frequently remarking on my physical appearance.”

The commenter used the alias “Dybbuk.”

I don’t see how it’s workable to sanction lawyers who say disgusting things online,” Elie Mystal writes. “Lawyers say racist, sexist things all time. Are only the ones who say it online in ethical violation?” Read more

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Poynter experiments with ReadrBoard reader comments

Poynter is experimenting with a new commenting and annotation tool, ReadrBoard, which allows users to chart their reactions by paragraph and leave comments inside a story.

You can tell which Poynter stories we’re testing with ReadrBoard by finding the Reactions button; under the headline of some stories, there is a button with an icon that looks like bubbles with the word “Reactions” and a caret (the arrow pointing downwards):

When you hover your mouse over the button, ReadrBoard will show you how other readers have responded to the article. Click on the reactions to read comments other readers have left.

To leave your own responses, click on “What do you think?” and a series of rectangles will appear. You can click on the rectangles which best encapsulates your reaction to the story: Hilarious. Love it. Uh, no. Amazing. These are the options are now available in the story on email encryption by Jeremy Barr.

If the categories don’t fit your response, create a new one by clicking “Add your own” and type in your response.

To comment on a particular paragraph, hover your mouse at the end of the paragraph to see the ReadrBoard icon appear with other reactions. Click on “What do you think?” to leave a comment.

If others have comments, you can find them in the grayed out icon with a number denoting the number of comments in that paragraph:

We are trying this new system to determine whether we can increase meaningful discussions with our readers and gauge your reactions to our stories.

Publications such as ProPublica, Fast Company, Duke Chronicle and Racialicious, have already partnered with ReadrBoard to try the tool, according to Porter Bayne, co-founder of ReadrBoard.

Leave a comment through ReadrBoard or discuss below to tell us if you like this commenting and annotation tool. Read more

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FILE This July 16, 2013 FILE photo, shows a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Government agents in 74 countries demanded information on about 38,000 Facebook users in the first half of this year, with about half the orders coming from authorities in the United States, the company said Tuesday. The social-networking giant is the latest technology company to release figures on how often governments seek information about its customers. Microsoft and Google have done the same. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

Want to comment on HuffPost? Just give Facebook your phone number first

Huffington Post

Grab your pitchforks and text art tanks: Huffington Post is doubling down on its anonymity crackdown.

The site’s new commenting system, explained by Tim McDonald, HuffPost’s director of community, requires users to have a Facebook account:

Here’s how to get started under this new system. When you log in to your account and go to make a comment, you will be prompted to link your commenting account to your verified Facebook account. Then, choose how you’d like your name to be displayed. You can either display your first and last names, or your first name and last initial. This is the only information that will be viewable to the community at large, and you will have control over your private information via Facebook’s privacy settings.

How do you get your Facebook account verified? You have to enter a confirmation code sent to you by Facebook via text message. So to comment on Huffington Post, you need to give Facebook your phone number, and you need to give HuffPost access to your Facebook account, which, Facebook says, must list your real name. Then, you can choose to post HuffPost comments under your full name or just your first name and last initial. Read more

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Newrooms can co-exist with online comments with moderation and a strategy. (Depositphotos)

Can reporters help repair online comment sections?

Several years ago during a seminar at Poynter, we were talking about engaging our audiences.

“We ask our readers and viewers to comment on our stories,” one participant said, “but unless we respond to them, how will they know we’re listening?

“Their assumption,” he said, “is that we’re not.”

In the years since, I’ve heard from a lot of journalists who confirm that, indeed, they’re not listening. They don’t read users’ comments for a variety of reasons: no time, no interest, no stomach for the cesspools they often find there.

Meanwhile, I’ve heard other journalists and newsroom leaders say that journalism’s future requires a different, more interactive relationship with the audience, one in which people outside the newsroom share their expertise and engage in productive debate. That’s how democracies thrive cheap nike air max.

Which brings us back to those cursed Web comments sections. What can be done to make more of them places for productive debate?

Three ideas I hear most often are these:

  • Comments need to be moderated.
  • Comments sections need to be more than fenced-off areas for the public to talk among themselves. They need to be part of a newsroom’s coverage strategy.
  • Reporters and editors need to participate in the conversation.

For starters, moderation. Conversations on websites that moderate comments tend to be more substantial and less venomous. So why aren’t more comments sections moderated?

Money, of course. Many newsrooms have decided they don’t have the resources to invest in good comments sections. A few are “deputizing” members of the public to police comments, and the verdict is still out. The others? Well, as my mother would say, you get what you pay for.

Does your newsroom moderate comments?

Often, the same newsrooms that don’t moderate also lack a strategy for comments — beyond the idea that news organizations have an obligation to make space available for a public forum. Like abandoned properties, comments sections without strategies quickly become neglected and fall into disrepair. The best comments sections reflect a plan for hearing the public, benefiting from its expertise and promoting meaningful discussions of issues.

Does your newsroom have a serious strategy for comments?

A third contributor to better comments sections — especially when accompanied by moderation — is the involvement of reporters and editors in the conversations. But talk about a hard sell.

Yes, newsroom staffs are handling more responsibilities than ever. And this does amount to new work. But the truth is, most journalists have never been anxious to mix it up with the public. Newspaper editors and reporters for years responded to unhappy readers with one, or both, of these scripted responses: “We stand behind our story,” and “Why don’t you write a letter to the editor?”

And remember the reaction to publishing reporters’ email addresses at the end of stories? As that debate unfolded, I remember becoming increasingly uncomfortable that we who demanded unlimited access to those we were covering, wanted desperately to limit anyone’s access to us.

Today, we publish reporters’ email addresses, are (generally) more willing to look into complaints and publish far more contributions from our readers and viewers, at least their comments. And slowly, a growing number of newsrooms are requiring or strongly encouraging reporters and editors to wade into those comments and talk with the users who post them.

One such newsroom is the Financial Times. Sarah Laitner, the London-based newsroom’s communities editor, told me during a recent visit to Poynter about the FT’s efforts to involve reporters in the comments sections, and the results they’ve seen. The FT moderates comments. They are part of a strategy, as is the desire for the journalists to participate in them. Sarah is quick to point out that the effort is evolving, but she says the FT already has seen benefits.

Here is a Q&A I conducted with Sarah and her colleague, social media journalist Maija Palmer:

Ward: The FT has embarked on a serious effort to have its reporters engage readers in the comments section on articles on your website. Why? What role does that play in the FT’s strategy?

Laitner: Readers’ comments on our site inform us, reward us and often surprise us. The comment box is a space in which readers can agree, disagree, foster connections with each other and challenge us. When our journalists join in, they show that we listen and have our readers in mind. This is particularly important for a subscription site such as ft.com.

When I comment online, I’m usually thrilled if a journalist or fellow poster answers me, and I hope my colleagues are able to provoke the same reaction in their readers.

Palmer: I think the way that journalism is conducted is changing. In many cases, there is a lot we can learn from our readers who can be real experts in particular subjects. We should be moving more to taking suggestions from readers on what we are covering. Some journalists have found that one astute comment under their story can provide the starting point for another article.

Ward: Specifically, what have you asked FT’s reporters to do with online comments? Is it a mandate or a suggestion?

Laitner: We have asked our colleagues to read the comments on their ft.com stories and we strongly encourage them to reply. We know everyone is busy, but we do ask them to take a few minutes to review comments on their stories from the past 24 hours. We don’t expect them to respond to everyone and it doesn’t have to be at length, but we do want to show that we are listening.

A great example of reader interaction is on FT Alphaville, our finance and markets blog, where our journalists chat to their loyal band of readers pretty much all the time, and know them well. Our UK personal finance team talks to readers through its live Q&A series. Here’s a recent example, featuring the British pensions minister: http://on.ft.com/18HdhDi

Palmer: Our columnists regularly answer the comments under their articles and often can end up in debate with readers. It can be enjoyable and it has raised the level of the comments a great deal.

Laitner: Our news editors also have become more involved in comment threads, which helps to spread the load.

Ward: How are you communicating the effort about engaging with readers’ comments on ft.com and the strategy behind it?

Laitner: The message has come from the top, from the editor. Training sessions with me and Maija, emails, blog posts and water cooler moments also help to get the message across. We explain the value of reader interaction and point out the benefits of getting to know readers who may be experts in their fields. We also try to share examples of when conversations with readers can be really helpful for the journalist. Here’s one such case: http://blogs.ft.com/ft-long-short/2013/08/13/the-cape-of-less-hope/

Web traffic is another incentive. Our homepage has a box featuring “best comments” from our readers. We invite our journalists to make suggestions for the homepage box. If a comment posted on their story appears in the box, their article usually has a surge in traffic.

Also, Maija and I try to show our journalists how effective timely and judicious use of Twitter can get the ball rolling in traffic and commenting.

Ward: What was the reporters’ reaction to the new work? How did management respond to the response?

Laitner: As with any new initiative, some people take to it readily and others need more persuasion. We point out that reading comments can improve colleagues’ knowledge of their beats and potentially lead them to make new sources.

At the same time, I think it helps if you recognize your colleagues’ concerns. We want to protect our journalists from the abuse and unpleasantness that comes with some online comments, especially on topics that stir strong emotions or opinions. Even the thickest-skinned of colleagues can be unsettled by hostile comments. We try to help by intervening in comment threads and acting against fiery users who verbally abuse our journalists. We also remind colleagues that commenters tend to write criticism more than they do praise, but if you foster a community then readers will stand up for you and intervene against hostile types.

We have found that if our journalists and moderators intervene early in uncivil threads then the decorum tends to improve. In some cases, we simply need to accept that a civil debate isn’t possible and close the thread instead.

Ward: Can you point to any results this effort has produced? Have your readers noticed?

Laitner: Yes. We have received story ideas, picked up readers’ dislikes and raised the tone of some debates on our site. And readers have noticed our efforts. One (Ex NHS Surgeon) wrote recently: “The beauty of FT is not so much the articles themselves, but the treasure trove in the comments. Not that I can pretend to understand more than a fraction of the total.” And another (@khakieconomist) wrote: “I really like that the @FT puts top reader comments on the front page. Creates a real incentive to make worthwhile comments. Why not copied?”

We are curious about our commenters on ft.com, many of whom post using pseudonyms. My colleague, Lisa Pollack, head of new projects, had the great idea of a survey to ask them what they thought about our commenting functions. She dipped into comment threads and posted a link to our questions. Several readers told us to “keep up the good work,” which was heartening! Respondents expressed appreciation for our journalists who regularly wade into comments to reply to readers and further the discussion. FT Alphaville was mentioned as an example of the right amount of interaction.

Ward: What have you learned from this effort? Would you do anything differently next time? Any advice for other newsrooms?

Laitner: Explain the advantages of going into comment threads; someone who is an expert in their field could be posting on there anonymously and sharing valuable insights.

Remind journalists that it’s a compliment that readers are taking the time to post their views.

Remember that you are dealing with the emotions of your colleagues and your readers. Always try to put yourself in their shoes. Read more

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Despite complaints, comments broadly allowed on many news sites

With the recent focus on online reader comments — see The New Yorker on “The Psychology of Online Comments” and The New York Times Magazine on “Four Ways to Improve the Culture of Commenting” — it’s a good time to survey the field and see how news organizations allow comments. (We’ll save the subject of moderation for another day.)

Starting with Alexa’s list of the top 500 sites in the U.S., I took the first 50 that could loosely be defined as news sites, removing sites such as Drudge Report and AOL that primarily linked out to other news sources. I also removed sites with strategies that would be redundant to include (such as Businessweek because Bloomberg was already on the list, and Lifehacker because it’s part of the Gawker network).

Finally, I focused only on the site’s main domain and not on affiliated sites such as blogs, which often have different commenting systems and standards.

Of the 50 sites I identified, none lacked a commenting system. In fact, just five of the sites — The New York Times, Fox News, BBC, The Guardian and CBS News — seemed to limit the number of stories available for comment in a significant way, with stories allowing comments particularly hard to find on the BBC’s site. The vast majority of sites I looked at seemed to allow comments everywhere. None of these major players in online news has done away with comments completely, as Popular Science did in September.

Meanwhile, more than 80 percent of the sites surveyed permit comments on stories via social-network plugins such as Disqus, Livefyre, Gigya and others:

Interestingly, of the six sites that required registration and didn’t permit commenting via social media, three were newspaper websites, even though newspaper websites made up less than one-quarter of all the sites surveyed. That could indicate newspaper sites have been slower to catch up with the possibilities of social-media commenting.

According to Pew, 64 percent of American adults have a Facebook account, and it’s appealing to be able to post a reader comment without having to sign up for yet another user name and password to keep track of. Eighty-six percent of the 50 websites visited allow readers to comment on stories via Facebook, and two of the top 10 — ESPN and USA Today — require it.

Given that research shows Facebook comments are more civil than anonymous comments, it’s no surprise news organizations are pushing readers in that direction and risking less engagement by giving readers a reason to think before they post, knowing their real identities (in most cases) will be linked to the comments they leave cheap jordans.

Only two sites — Gawker and People — permitted completely anonymous posting without even email verification. (Many sites, of course, permit anonymous screen names, but only after completing a registration process.)

See the full list of sites surveyed below:

Read more

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