Articles about "User commenting"


Can the NYT, WaPo and Mozilla create a system to quiet the trolls in your comments?

The Washington Post

A partnership between the New York Times, the Washington Post and Mozilla aims to create a commenting system to address the nasty status quo in Web comments, where there’s an “incentive to be the loudest voice.”

“The two-year development project will be funded by a $3.89 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation,” Paul Farhi writes in the Post.

The Web desperately needs a solution to the vexing problem of commenting. Chicago Sun-Times managing editor Craig Newman called his site’s comment section a “morass of negativity, racism, and hate speech” when that paper (where I used to work) eliminated it in April.

Some would-be solutions, like YouTube requiring a Google+ login to comment and the Huffington Post requiring a Facebook login, have infuriated commenters who are fiercely protective of their anonymity. Anonymous commenters are often less civil but more engaged.

The NYT-WaPo-Mozilla partnership aims to quiet — if not eliminate — trolls. The trick will be to make sure the most productive comments are rewarded and the leas productive comments are penalized — without requiring the cumbersome, round-the-clock moderation that most newsrooms can’t afford:

The most ambitious aim of the project is to create a feature that would efficiently highlight the most relevant and pertinent reader comments on an article, perhaps through word-recognition software. Another feature would categorize and rank commenters according to their previous postings.


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BuzzFeed and Facebook Host Bowties & Burgers During 2014 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner

Commenters hate HuffPost’s new Facebook-only commenting system

The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post’s U.S. site and mobile apps will shift to using only Facebook comments starting Monday at noon, HuffPost CTO Otto Toth announced.

“This is far from an an end to conversation; it’s the start of conversation where you want to have it — and where you’ve been having it already,” he wrote.

Readers are having a Facebook conversation under Toth’s post, but many of them claim it’s the last one they’ll have before abandoning the site. The most-liked comment: “Now deleting my account, which I’ve used since 2011. If I wanted this integrated with Facebook, that’s how I would have logged in. Thanks for the memories.” Read more

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Can Livefyre’s annotations tool fix commenting?

Livefyre wants to bring its social commenting system not only to every story on the Web, but also to every paragraph, block quote and image. With its new Sidenotes feature launching today at Salon and Fox Business, annotations — essentially paragraph-by-paragraph commenting — could be poised to go mainstream.

It’s not a new concept: Many news outlets, including Poynter, have tested a service called ReadrBoard, and Quartz and Medium have notably developed their own in-the-margins commenting systems. News Genius got some attention lately for hosting an annotation-based rebuttal to Newsweek’s controversial cover story on bitcoin’s founder.

But Livefyre has more than 650 clients, with its social tools living on almost 100,000 sites. With that kind of scale, it hopes Sidenotes can be adopted quickly across the Web. Read more

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Chicago Sun-Times homepage

Sun-Times kills comments until it can fix ‘morass of negativity, racism, and hate speech’

Chicago Sun-Times

The Chicago Sun-Times has temporarily eliminated story commenting on its website until it can develop a system that will “foster a productive discussion rather than an embarrassing mishmash of fringe ranting and ill-informed, shrill bomb-throwing,” managing editor Craig Newman announced:

The world of Internet commenting offers a marvelous opportunity for discussion and the exchange of ideas. But as anyone who has ever ventured into a comment thread can attest, these forums too often turn into a morass of negativity, racism, hate speech and general trollish behaviors that detract from the content.

In fact, the general tone and demeanor is one of the chief criticisms we hear in regard to the usability and quality of our websites and articles. Not only have we heard your criticisms, but we often find ourselves as frustrated as our readers are with the tone and quality of commentary on our pages.

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Opinion network State launches with goal of democratizing online conversations

Today marks the public launch of State, the “global opinion network” from Jawbone founder Alexander Asseily.

Sounds like just what the Internet needs, right? Another place for people you don’t know to opine about anything and everything.

But it’s what State does with those opinions that Asseily hopes will set the platform apart.

Asseily explained to Poynter via phone that the goal of his new service — on browsers at State.com and on iOS starting today — is to connect users to people and content in meaningful, deep ways. “You can think about State as elevating the structure of the network from people to opinions and points of view,” he said.

Users “state” about a topic by choose from among 25 million topics already in the system (they can also add their own). Then, they pick up to three reaction words from State’s database of 10,000 expressions (or add their own). Those keywords get mapped and compared with other users’ opinions, resulting in a snapshot of where you stand and recommendations to engage with other users who agree or disagree with you. (The platform also allows for freeflowing conversation beyond the connecting keywords.)

To make those connections, the site has to understand what each of those 10,000 expressions really means — a big technical challenge. Semantic architecture is what Asseily says has been missing from web communication from early Usenet to today’s Quora.

“We don’t want to create another silo system,” he said. “The goal is actually to break down the silos.”

Users can “tune” in to broad areas of interest — usual suspects like music, tech and sports — to come across ideas for what to offer opinions on. They can also tune in to friends imported from Facebook or Twitter, or people whose views they come across while using the site.

Mapping out opinions

While the site has been invite-only until this point, resulting in a tech-heavy user base, it’s still pretty fascinating to browse the site and get a sense for prevailing opinions on everything from “House of Cards” to Flappy Bird to Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp.

Something that stood out for me: Opinions about Facebook as a whole tend toward the negative, while views on the company’s new Paper app are glowing:

Among other insights State has highlighted: some common ground between views on capitalism and socialism (“misunderstood” was a word frequently used by people weighing in on both), and a pretty overwhelming distaste for genetically modified food.

Still, State’s ability to beautifully collect and make sense of so many disparate opinions will only be useful to the extent that it can scale and acquire a critical mass of users. Until then, opinions won’t be representative of much at all, but Asseily said State is seeking out users from around the world.

Revolutions and recommended content

State has some high-minded goals for the site. In a blog post, Asseily alluded to revolution and democratic ideals:

My brother Mark and I recruited a world class team to create State. We believe that everyone deserves a powerful voice online, no one should be left out, and when everyone’s opinions count, a more complete picture emerges and good things happen.

But on a micro level, State could simply be another useful platform for stumbling across content tailored for you. As the network grows, it will be able to use each user’s opinions to offer more content suggestions — both conversations taking place inside State and articles and information outside it.

Among the sharing tools: a “Stateclip” button for the browser bookmarks bars, allowing users to instantly share content from around the web. Once the content is clipped, State crawls the page for topics, and you can either state about the story itself or about any of the related topics State chose. It’s a potentially powerful way to share and discover links.

The State app is available for iOS today.

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HuffPost policy banishes trolls — and drives away some frequent commenters

When The Huffington Post announced that all commenters — not just new registrants — would be required starting Dec. 10 to link their profiles to Facebook accounts verified with a phone number and have their real names displayed when commenting, the reaction was fierce. Commenters, many of whom had left thousands of comments and amassed thousands of “fans” over five or more years on the site, felt betrayed.

When I asked about the reasoning behind the policy via email last month, HuffPost Director of Community Tim McDonald referred me to comments from Arianna Huffington reported by GigaOm earlier in the year: “Trolls are just getting more and more aggressive and uglier and I just came from London where there are rape and death threats.” And: “I feel that freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they say and [are] not hiding behind anonymity. …We need to evolve a platform to meet the needs of the grown-up Internet.” 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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Commenters on HuffPost mobile apps will soon need Facebook verification too

Amid the uproar over the Huffington Post’s announcement that commenting now requires Facebook verification — which itself requires supplying Facebook with a phone number — some users found a loophole: They could still use their old usernames (and not their real names) when commenting via HuffPost mobile apps. Read more

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Former publisher’s bill would have compelled newspapers to ID commenters

The Spokesman-Review
A panel in Idaho’s legislature rejected a bill that would have forced newspapers to disclose the identities of commenters in the event of a lawsuit, Betsy Z. Russell reports in The Spokesman-Review. Last summer, Idaho Judge John Patrick Luster ordered The Spokesman-Review to reveal the name of a commenter after a Kootenai County politician sued the paper, saying she’d been libeled in a comments section in a blog post.

That commenter revealed herself before it came to that. But there’s an interesting footnote to the story of the rejected bill: It was submitted by Rep. Stephen Hartgen, the former publisher of The Twin Falls (Idaho) Times-News. When a fellow representative asked Hartgen why the legislature needed to get involved in “rules within the judicial system,” Hartgen replied that Luster’s ruling was “narrow.” “This is an area of the law which has evolved to the point where anonymous blog comments are part of our daily life,” Russell reports he said. (Here’s a copy of his bill, which misstates the name of the politician whose suit inspired it, red meat for an anonymous commenter if I’ve ever seen it.) Read more

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Early comments on stories affect what later readers believe, and what they say

A recent scientific experiment demonstrated the importance of intervening in comment sections to cultivate constructive discussion, particularly just after publication.

Scientific American Blog Editor Bora Zivkovic writes about the results, which showed that the tone of pre-existing comments on a story affected subsequent readers.

An article about nanotechnology, a topic most people know very little about and usually have no a priori biases for or against, was presented to the test subjects. Half the people saw the article with (invented) polite, civil and constructive comments. The other half was given the same article but with uncivil comments – essentially a flame-war in the fake commenting thread. The result is that readers of the second version quickly developed affinity for one side of the argument and strongly took that side, which affected the way they understood and trusted the original article (text of which was unaltered). The nasty comment thread polarized the opinion of readers, leading them to misunderstand the original article.

The Guardian saw a similar lesson when it tried two commenting systems simultaneously — Facebook comments within its Facebook app, and traditional comments on Web pages. Former user experience chief Martin Belam writes:

I had rather hoped that by opening two commenting threads underneath each article — one on Facebook, and one on the Guardian site — we’d be able to prove once and for all whether one or [the] other led to better interaction. In the end, it appeared that actually the tone set early on in a comment thread looked like it influenced comments much more than anything intrinsic about the format or identity system used.

Journalists who have written off comment sections as forsaken wastelands should still be concerned with this problem — because rancid comments also spoil the perception and potential impact of your content.

So how do you get the kinds of comments necessary to seed good discussions and avoid meltdowns cheap jordans from china?

That seems more difficult than ever, unfortunately.

Technology is not enough

The act of publishing is now so democratized and social media so pervasive that most everyone whose musings are worth hearing probably has found their own personal avenues of expression.

Smart people with something constructive to say about your article may be posting their thoughts to their Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr. Your comments section could be left as a second-class wasteland suitable only for logical fallacies and trolling.

Major publishers like Politico and TechCrunch recently announced they were dropping Facebook-powered comments and switching to other platforms (Disqus and Livefyre). That renewed debates about which platform produces better discussions.

But most people with experience in the field seem to believe, as Belam says, that “software design and features do influence community behaviours, but not as much as decent community management and personal engagement from journalists does.”

Dan Gillmor recently shared some thoughts about how that might work:

If I could design a comment system, it would put all anonymous comments at the thread’s end, and give the site owner an easy way to move good comments higher. I’d also give users a way to make anonymous comments invisible. Most sites, at this point, require a working email address and let users post under pseudonyms. This, too, can be abused by a troll, but it injects an element of accountability.

In the end, accountability is up to the site owner. Whether you are a lone blogger or a big news organization, comment threads are a platform you make available to others. The thread is your living room, where you’re hosting a conversation. You invite people into your home, and you make the rules on how they should behave.

Maybe “better comments” is the wrong goal. Maybe we need something “better than comments.”

Fresh approaches

The Huffington Post — which received well over 70 million comments last year — is launching a new comment-highlighting tool called “Conversations.”

It plucks discrete discussion threads out of the sea of comments and elevates them to their own Web pages. PaidContent’s Jeff John Roberts has the details:

The new set-up should make it easier to jump in on a given debate about the story that’s of interest. In the Benghazi story, for example, groups of people can find each other to discuss specific facets of the story — whether the US should be in Libya; whether the incident was Hillary’s fault; whether Hillary is actually a Muslim agent sent from Mars to destroy America and so on.

The fact that the “Conversations” will now have their own URL also makes it easier for people to share them and invite others into the discussion.

Gawker has been pushing its comments in a new direction too, with a focus on creating distinct, focused conversations and giving the person who started each conversation control over the responses.

Others are arguing that new systems of “social annotation” will replace commenting forms. One startup to watch is Hypothes.is — an open-source platform for annotating content across the Web. It will act as an overlay that participating users see on top of content as they browse, so individual website owners will have no control over it. But the notion is intriguing.

Reuters’ Felix Salmon looks at another annotations system used by the Rap Genius website to crowdsource understanding of rap music lyrics. The site’s users annotate each line of song lyrics with explanations.

Salmon is enthusiastic about the idea’s potential to spread:

If this takes off, it could be a significant evolution in the way that we talk about Web content. Right now, for instance, if I want to link to something somebody said on a Web page, I’ll normally just end up linking from Twitter to an undifferentiated page, rather than to the specific thing being said. And more generally, the conversation around things like blog posts tends to happen mostly on Twitter and Facebook, where it’s easy to miss and almost impossible to archive.

It would be amazing if annotation could change all that, helping to make comments more on-point and also providing a centralized archive of the conversation around any given story. … Internet comments are more of a bug than a feature these days, and I do think that annotation is a very promising way of potentially addressing the problems they have.

Related: Ben Smith: “It’s crazy that people still read, much less write about, blog comments” | Monday was Community Manager Appreciation Day Read more

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