AnnArbor.com introduces new commenting features, including ability to 'vote down' comments
We understand what kinds of conversation our readers find valuable, and we are about to get a better indication of what kinds they don't.
We're adding some new features to our commenting system today, including the ability to let readers "vote down'' comments.
These changes are part of our ongoing efforts to encourage a conversation on our site that is lively, but also reasonably civil and constructive. Here's an overview of what's new:
Voting on comments. Readers have been able to "vote up'' comments since we last reworked our commenting system in January 2011. We're now adding the ability to vote comments down as well. This will allow readers to record both their pleasure and displeasure over the tenor of the conversation. As readers vote on a comment, it will receive a cumulative score. For instance, a comment that three readers vote up and two readers vote down would have a score of 1. A comment is voted up by three people and voted down by five people would have a score of -2.
Registering to vote on comments. If you want to vote a comment up or down, you will now have to be registered on the site in order to do so. Until now, we've allowed readers to vote on comments without registering. But particularly now that both voting up and voting down is allowed, we feel that registration is appropriate to ensure that a user only votes once.
Most popular comments. One of the changes our readers are most likely to notice is that we're doing away with the feature that highlights the three most popular comments posted on a story. We know many people like this feature, but since we added it to the site, it's significantly increased load time for pages, slowing down our site to a degree that neither we nor our readers find acceptable. That's been a bad trade-off for us, and we've decided to do away with the Most Popular comment module. However, you can still view the most popular comments if you want to. Comments display on the site in the order of oldest to newest, but you can change that to sort by most popular. We've made the drop-down menu for that more prominent, so it's easier to find and use.
Pre-moderation on crime stories: This also is a significant change for us. Our normal practice is to post-moderate, which means that comments appear on the site as submitted and are taken down by a moderator after the fact if the comment violates our guidelines. At times recently, we've put certain crime stories on pre-moderation, so that comments do not appear on the site until a moderator approves them. We're taking that a step further now. All crime stories will automatically be on pre-moderation. When we look at inappropriate commenting on the site, it tends to occur disproportionately on crime stories. Pre-moderation is a tool that can help us control and clean up that conversation. Depending on how this experiment goes, we may expand the use of pre-moderation to other stories or areas of the site in the future.
Other new features include the ability to share your comments on Facebook.
We have always worked hard to encourage a good conversation on our site, and like any media company, we have found that to be a continual challenge. Our entire industry continues to grapple with the dilemma of how to encourage a vigorous conversation without allowing the discourse to degenerate into an ugly, acrimonious scrum.
Different media outlets are trying different solutions, and in the coming months, we will be experimenting with some new approaches that we have in development right now. We look forward to rolling those out. In the meantime, we welcome your input on the changes we're introducing today. Please let us know what you think.