Source : wired.com
A decade or more ago, Internet publishers entered into what now seems like a collective delusion: That a comments section is a necessary component of a web page. Granted, that notion is a relic of an era predating social media, when there was no effective way to talk publicly about what we read online. But it persists with zombie determination. We’ve bought into the fallacy of comments so completely that they remain nearly universal—and universally terrible. A lot of people have tried to fix them.
Yet, as Digg CEO Andrew McLaughlin says, “everyone who runs a commenting system ends up killing themselves or shooting up a post office.” It’s hyperbole, sure, but trying to wrangle online conversations is a messy, frustrating, and typically thankless affair that involves more time than most people have. Even a dedicated team of moderators can hardly compete with legions of trolls and spambots. Nonetheless, lots of people are trying to make you read the comments again—because in those rare moments when comments are great, they are some of the best parts of the Internet.
The most talked-about new system is probably Branch, which moves discussions over to its site and lets publishers select the best threads to embed on their own pages. Want to weigh in? You’ll need to be invited by a discussion’s host or one of its participants. That barrier to entry cuts down on toxic drive-by commenting. When people have to be invited, they’re less likely to be jackasses.
Meanwhile, Gawker built an entirely new publishing platform based on commenting. Called Kinja, it lets authors and readers isolate thought-provoking discussions so every comment isn’t just vomited up chronologically. But Kinja isn’t only about bringing civility; it’s also about moving the story forward by treating an article as a starting point rather than a product. This doesn’t happen magically—it takes work. Writers must actually dive into discussions to surface interesting conversations.
Both of these systems treat discussions as independent acts instead of afterthoughts. “If you want quality conversation, you have to elevate it,” says Josh Miller, who cofounded Branch. That’s the key: For too long, comments have been stuck in overlooked back alleys where anyone can leave digital graffiti on online real estate. And so of course they’ve played host to parasitic trolls and spammers.
It’s time to banish the comment box. Services like Twitter, Facebook, Branch, Discourse, and Potluck all free readers from page-bottom cages. If we want actual conversations, we have to acknowledge that those conversations are as important as anything else we publish. We need to either prove we value reader discussion by giving it primacy or go the route of a site that doesn’t have a single bad comment: Daring Fireball, which has no comments at all.