For the past week and a half, we’ve been occasionally using Facebook for article commenting. (See this article on ice cream with marijuana in it). It’s in an effort to offer the best commenting experience possible for our readers. We’d also like to interact more directly with commenters.
We’ve had about two dozen responses to the idea of running comments through Facebook. A handful have welcomed the switch, a handful have concerns about Facebook privacy, and handful of you have called us morons (again).
The commenting system we’ve used since early in 2008 is through Topix which allows users to comment without registration (although you may register with Topix).
Our comments receive a ton of traffic, more than 1.8 million page views in 2010. Some people love the comments, some people despise them (everyone from certain mayors to certain anarchists have asked us for changes), but lots of people read them. One point of clarification – we’re not getting rich from our comment board and costs aren’t a real factor in making any changes.
We’d like to see an improved tone to our comment threads and remain a host to debate on local issues. It’s pretty much a free-for-all right now, despite our considerable moderation efforts (also the subject of some second-guessing). We kill about 100 posts a day, ban about 10 users a day, and turn off comments on several stories every week.
The fact that every article generates conversation is good. That people are accustomed to participating is outstanding. The tone may be reflective of the sentiments of the community at large, but my take is that there are about a dozen posters who are fairly extreme and prolific. Every comment system is likely to have the same percentage of those extreme voices.
Still, we’re working on changes. I think we would see a better conversation if reporters and editors jumped in and engaged the audience on a regular basis, but it seems they’re usually busy reporting, writing and editing the next story.
As we continue to gather feedback, we may test several more alternatives. Thanks for your patience, your participation and your opinions.
Not surprisingly, Topix commenters are commenting about our possible changes. Gotta love the Internet!