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Posted on Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 12:30 a.m. launches new commenting system; let us know what you think

By Stefanie Murray

After months of planning and reader feedback, we've launched a new commenting system on

The new system makes commenting a more interactive experience and offers some functions our readers have consistently asked for. We now allow comment replies and comment voting. Readers have the ability to hide commenters and sort the order in which comments appear on their screen.

We've also added a feature that displays the three most popular comments on a story above all other comments. We hope this will highlight good conversation on the site and motivate our readers to make insightful, constructive comments.

There are many less noticeable changes, too. We've instituted a character limit and have a word filter. The comment submission tool will let you know when your comment is too long or when you've used a word we don't allow. 

Our new system will automatically place a marker in the comment thread when a comment is removed by our moderation team. We've restructured the design of comments to place the name and time of the comment above the actual comment to improve the reading experience.

We can't wait to hear your feedback and see how you like using the new commenting system. Please let us know by making a comment below or e-mailing us at In addition, we'll run a live chat today on from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Join our chat to ask questions or give us feedback in real-time.

For more information on how to use the new system, be sure to read our FAQs.

Stefanie Murray is the Real-Time Engagement Officer for Contact her at


Rork Kuick

Fri, Feb 11, 2011 : 4:58 p.m.

I am here to complain again about the elevation of the most voted for comments. It is not permitted to point out when that has terrible results in the articles themselves, where it might prove influential *gasp*, since such comments are removed. So I'm restricted to this backwater. "Ideally, we hope it will help highlight good comments." is Ms. Murray's perhaps disingenuous thought, but who cares about ideally? The actual consequences are the only thing that matters, right? How do you think that is working? Any correlation to quality? I find the results are often ghastly. "Argumentum ad populum" is already a famous fallacy. What is occurring here is even worse, since it is not the opinion of readers that is being reflected, but the opinion of those readers who actually bother to vote. I contend their judgment is poor and they are few and not representative. Why give them greater influence? The journalist here may be able to "hope" that this is not their fault, but they are responsible for the consequences of this system, which is often a race-to-the-bottom. Also note the enormous bias that those comments made very early have the only real chance of obtaining many votes. Suggest to have most popular comments shown only after an additional "show" button is selected, so that only those who care need be bothered. I'll promise to use that button exactly as often as I vote for comments and participate in polls here.


Thu, Jan 27, 2011 : 4:20 a.m.

I have a few things I have noticed so I hope you all are still reading the posted comments on this page. 1. if I select to print an article it will print it AND all the comments, which i might not have wanted. 2. if I do want the comments as well it will only print those that are open, meaning, it won't print the "reply" to comments, unless of course I open them all prior to printing. (ANNOYING) 3. GRR, I wanted to print it all out article and comments but the automatic print had the comments off to the right so far they fell of the page, cutting the comments, the reply to comments even more so. To fix this I had to reduce the % it printed off at to 60%, but not before I wasted 20 sheets of paper. in my opinion all the reply to comments should be open. I think most people that read comments are going to read them anyway, so basically we all have to open them, seems unecessary.


Sun, Jan 23, 2011 : 8:03 p.m.

You know considering the number of threads in the crime section where tombstones seem to outnumber actual comments...


Sun, Jan 23, 2011 : 8 p.m.

Now that the system automatically places the moderation tombstones, I wonder if the veritable cornucopia of tombstones under the new system is analogous to the amount of moderation in the old system. I would venture that it does and if so how does this square with the many protestations from management that only a small number of comments get moderated/deleted as opposed to the many complaints from commentors of overmoderation. Again, lovely new system but it does not solve the human factor problems that many have complained about.

Stefanie Murray

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 3:34 a.m.

Thanks everyone, again, for all your contributions to this discussion. It's been great! We have a few minor changes in the pipeline following your feedback. Sometime next week, we're planning to widen the comments to make them easier to read and make it so you can see more on your screen. We'll also make the "1 reply" link (which appears below a comment that has been replied to) bigger and easier to read. We're still working through expanding replies automatically when a page loads and offering a link to collapse replies if you don't wish to see them that way. More to come on that. If anyone is still having trouble making comments, especially in Internet Explorer, please let me know. We've had a few bugs this week. Drop me a note if you are, or if you just want to share your thoughts privately: either or


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 9:47 p.m.

3 things noticed so far: 1) The top 3 seem to change randomly. Usually they seem to be the 3 highest-rated posts, but sometimes there will be posts that have 0 vote ups (like this thread right now) or fewer than the top 3. 2) I may have either run into either a moment of being blocked (who on earth would block me, besides Stefanie) or a bug. I tried to reply to the vaccination thread and it told me I couldn't post and to contact Seconds later, however, it let me post in the Comment Moderation Guidelines. The mods did not get back to me on this issue. Maybe they were just trying to see if I'd notice. 3) Something that brings me great joy: In a number of threads, top-voted posts get removed. If that doesn't say you're removing posts against the will of the people, I'm not sure what does. This also makes a strong case for allowing vote-downs. I propose addition of vote downs and a moratorium on all moderation so that posters can have a few weeks to see what the site looks like running amok, and so that moderators can see what readers feel does and does not belong online.

Rork Kuick

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

Alright, I hate the voting system, and the "top 3" stuff. It can elevate an opinion even if the evidence given is completely false, and thoroughly rebutted. My presumption is that the people whose opinions I might actually care about will never, ever, vote, just as they probably never answer your polls. What's the goal? Is it good journalism?

rusty shackelford

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 2:04 p.m.

I think the more "up" votes a given user has, the harder it should be for administrators to arbitrarily delete their comments, given that the community clearly thinks they contribute a lot of value to various discussions. There must be some algorithm that pits a user's "good karma" against a given admin's desire to censor what they say.

Stefanie Murray

Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 3:03 a.m.

@robyn, we've heard that problem from a handful of people in the past day. Are you using Internet Explorer? Send me an email, if you don't mind, at Our tech team has been trying to replicate the problem to determine how to fix it. Thank you!


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 2:16 a.m.

Got another question... I can post on some comment sections - but found that I can't post on others. I type my comment and click on submit - nothing happens... And still nothing... I did make sure the comments weren't 'closed' (that happens sometimes) - I was within the limits for characters. Pleas etell me it's just a glitch and I'm not banned from certain sections. I think my feelings would probably be hurt... The other problem I had mentioned is okay now - pages are all good and loading properly.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 10:32 p.m.

Need to have a thumbs down vote in addition to the thumbs up.

Kristina Birk

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 7:58 p.m.

It would be nice if you had a feature that would allow commenters to privately message each other. Sometimes the comment thread on a story turns into a conversation between the same few people (and you might not necessarily want to completely block the individuals with the Ignore feature). I'm thinking of something like the Gawker Media commenting system. Also agree that if you can vote up a comment you should also be able to vote it down.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 6:14 p.m.

Well, Been playing around with the new system and I do like the nested comments as it does allow me to respond to particular points without resorting to @ this person or @ that person. Not to mention the ability to flag comments with more specific comments and/or reporting abuse of an entire account in general... That's nice and useful... Now if only the under-moderation of certain currently "politically correct" yet clearly violating the written guidelines, hateful and antagonistic comments would occur... AND the over-moderation of comments NOT VIOLATING THE WRITTEN GUIDELINES would be addressed. No semblance of blind justice in the moderating as CLEARLY personal opinion rules what is and is not allowed.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 9:52 p.m.

Yeah... I would like to see no moderation without a clearly written guideline. If mods want to beef up the guidelines, fine, but I think we all have a right to know specifically what they are and to challenge them outside of disputes over individual posts.


Fri, Jan 21, 2011 : 2:19 a.m.

@ Ricebrnr: Nothing - just wanted to say @ you... :)


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

i'm almost seeing a pattern, i.e. which moderators delete more than others.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 4:41 p.m.

Whoa.... They are slow to load when there are many..... Turn it up to 11.....


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 3:28 p.m.

@Stephanie, I never said there was any conspiracy to stifle debate, I said that hiding replies serves to stifle debate. There doesn't have to be a conspiracy to make it true. If you reply to a comment, your comment is hidden, thus making it harder for a third person to follow a debate. Thats not a conspiracy theory. Just like now, someone trying to learn more about my comment will have to search for your original, "hidden" comment. You are always so quick to tell us that people thank you for your moderation practices, but that doesn't go too far to defend them. A set of published guidelines that you follow would. I have seem many instances of comments that would not appear to violate any of your guidelines removed. In one case, I caught a weekend moderator removing comments that questioned the accuracy of a story. After several comments on that and the moderation thread, Tony admitted that that moderator had been overzealous. That's just one example of a comment that wouldn't appear to violate any rules disappearing. So, no, I don't think its outrageous to ask for an outline of the criteria used to moderate outside of what is published. Oh, and I guess you're right. I just don't have the newest, fastest mobile device on which to view the wonder of technology that is the, and I should go out right away and spend another $200. The old version of the website loaded just fine on my current and older smart phone.


Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 4:02 p.m.

agree 100%. just got a comment removed on the forcier story.......have no idea why, yet others are left up.


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 3:41 p.m.

Like the newer format. Would be even better if posted comments went in the order of newest to oldest.


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 3:07 p.m.

I don't understand how the voting works on comments. What are we voting for?

Stefanie Murray

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 1:07 a.m.

Thanks Rod! That's correct, Sally - we hope people use it as a way to show support for a viewpoint. Ideally, we hope it will help highlight good comments.

Rod Johnson

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 12:27 a.m.

You're saying "I like this comment." Most upvoted comments get proudly floated to the top.


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

I think there is too much white space on the left side of the page. You are essentially only using half of the page for the comment column. Make the comment box wider, which would also shorten the list of comments. Also, the font (helvetica?) is hard to see when typing and correcting. The thin letters are too close together in this typeface for readability. It would be better to use a serif face (Times), which is more readable.

Rod Johnson

Thu, Jan 20, 2011 : 12:26 a.m.

Yeah, it looks like most people will be seeing Arial, which is a really poor choice of typeface. Verdana is a much better choice in that style. Embedded fonts would be nice, but they would add another layer of slow onto the slow javascript of this commenting system. I was telling Stefanie last night, with the type choices, the soft pastels and the gradients, and the whitespace-happy page design, it's like 2005 (or earlier) in here. Just call it annarbr and you've got yourself a nice old-school web 2.0 site. Some Guy, you know you can apply your own style sheets, right? It might be fun to experiment.

Some Guy in 734

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 8:46 p.m.

Personally, I like having short-ish columns, and that holds whether I'm using a big screen or small. On a 22&quot; monitor, having the text flow the full width would produce long lines which I tend to have a hard time tracking with my eye. This width is just about comfortable for me. And on my iPod Touch, an older model with low-ish resolution, lines that are too long require either endless finger-dragging back and forth, or shrinking it to a full-line width, which makes the text a low-pixel blur. I would love to see get away from Microsoft Core fonts (Arial, Times etc.) Any chance of HTML 5 embedded fonts? If you had multiple CSS (one with the current look, one full-width, one experimental, one low vision, for example) readers could pick and choose which one they liked best, either from the browser menu, or that could also be set up as a user preference. (See <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> for a demonstration of switching styles within the page itself)


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 2:43 p.m.

@Stefanie: I'm not a fan of nested replies, although to be honest I hadn't even noticed them in this thread. (Maybe nobody's replying to individual posts?) Nested replies might make a thread easier to read when it's all over, but when the discussion is still evolving, which is when most people will be looking at it, nesting makes it harder to tell what's new since the last time you looked, since you might have to look in 10 different places.

Rork Kuick

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

Expand all option would be good, perhaps the default. I may quickly learn to never use the reply mechanism if I think they are less eminent. As noted by some others, the waste of screen real estate is massive. Over-indented and over-spaced both between comments and within comments. Try to pack it much tighter.

Stefanie Murray

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 6:26 a.m.

I'm curious to know how everyone is reacting to placement of replies in the comment thread underneath the parent comment and with a link to expand to read them. Thoughts?


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 9:44 p.m.

I would like the replies to be visible without having to click on a link. I can see where this will take up space, but maybe not so much if the left margin were narrowed.

Some Guy in 734

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 8:19 p.m.

A button on a story that would automatically expand all would work. Saving that preference in each member's profile would be best, so people could read it the way they like.

Boo Radley

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 5:06 p.m.

I like the placement of replies, but I would also prefer that they be visible all of the time. I see questions being asked over and over again that have already been answered. I just think users are not expanding the replies to see them.


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

Dislike. They should automatically be visible, or else there should be a setting for individuals to choose a default setting for how they want it to display.


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 12:37 p.m.

I don't mind the replies being under the original comment, but I do dislike having to hit the reply link every time to read them. On other sites a feature that allows you to show all replies (or hide them) is very helpful and I always like to see all replies without a lot of extra clicking involved. I hope decides to put in that feature.


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 4:31 a.m.

I've already expressed my overall satisfaction with the new system but - have had time to consider the input of others and see that I do agree: put in a vote-down button. Uh, please !

David Briegel

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 3:45 a.m.

Why do you delete the name of commenter whose comment is deleted? So far so good!


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 2:04 p.m.

Maybe your new system should keep the name as well as an explanation of the rule violated (as if there is anything other than the whims of the moderator at play in the decision-making process). I personally would prefer having my name attached to my improperly deleted comments.

Stefanie Murray

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 6:20 a.m.

David, whenever we've removed a comment in the past, we've always removed the entire comment and the name of the person who made it. Our new system essentially does the same thing with an automatic marker.

Rod Johnson

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 12:39 a.m.

Is there a way to view this with replies auto-expanded?


Sun, Jan 23, 2011 : 11:25 p.m.

I would like to throw my support behind auto-expanded replies, that is, if this ever gets read because it is buried in an un-expanded reply.

Stefanie Murray

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 6:20 a.m.

Something we're taking feedback on and will explore if it is possible - thank you Rod!

Rod Johnson

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 2:34 a.m.

Never mind, got my answer elsewhere!


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 12:21 a.m.

@zip the cat: Do you really want to be cluttered with all the filth that's in the Freep's comment section?


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 11:55 p.m.

Looking forward to more good commenting. Where do I vote?


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 11:21 p.m.

Now I see how the reply works. That's about the dumbest thing I've ever seen. So the message that I take from this is that you are trying to keep those pesky debates from taking up space on each story by &quot;hiding&quot; them. So if you want to actually debate an issue, don't &quot;reply&quot; to those posts you don't agree with, just post them. Combined with a 2000 character limit, its hard to believe you are really doing this to further your stated purpose of providing a space for lively debate. You're just looking for fun little quotes to get people riled up at each other. Give me a break. Stephanie, its good to know that you're satisfied with your comment moderation policy. Judging from the hundreds of posts on the moderation thread (many, many of which, I would estimate over 100, are now missing) and what I would guess to be thousands of deleted comments, your readers may have a different opinion. Comments that would appear to fall well within your guidelines still seem to disappear regularly. Your instructions to &quot;don't be that guy&quot; could use a little clarification. It also appears comments can no longer be viewed or made from many mobile devices. At least they no longer appear on my fairly-new blackberry. Way to keep up with the one of the fastest growing tech sectors.

Stefanie Murray

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 6:25 a.m.

@AndyYpsilanti, no, it has nothing to do with any conspiracy to hide replies. That's how our parnter, Demand Media, tells us many of their clients have the most success with it. We'll continue to evaluate it. As for comment moderation, we are confident with where we are at. We hear a lot of feedback very consistently from a wide group of people in the community in person and privately that they are thankful for our moderation, versus a small group of close to the same people who are no happy with it who express themselves on that thread. Posts are missing from that thread and others because we had a problem importing comments with links last night - that's being fixed tonight so all will be restored properly. As previously discussed, the number of comments we remove is actually a pretty low percentage of all comments made. Our comments have been showing up nicely on Droid phones and iPhones. I recently got rid of my BlackBerry Curve because it wasn't loading web pages very well - is that the kind you have?


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 9:06 p.m.

Add in the Vote Down functionality. IMO, if voting up a comment helps it become one of the &quot;Top 3&quot;, then readers should also be able to vote down comments as well. Not allowing this implies that comments can only ever &quot;get better&quot; as determined by readers. Giving readers the ability to vote down comments should also result in less work for AnnArborcom staff, with off-topic stuff buried by other readers. Another feature would be the ability for a user to hide comments that hit a user-defined limit - &quot;hide all comments that have -4 votes&quot; etc.

Edward Vielmetti

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 9:05 p.m.

@Sarah Rigg - We have identified that every comment in the old system that had a hyperlink in it didn't get imported properly. Those comments have not been lost and are being added back in. (Needless to say, this affects me too.) @Andy Ypsilanti - The comment character count limit is 2000 characters.

Sarah Rigg

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 8:58 p.m.

Do you want us to report individual instances of comments not migrating? For instance here: <a href=""></a> Tammy's reply to me shows up, but my original comment does not. -SR


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

Now if we could get rid of all the commenters that don't share my opinions on things, life would be good.

Tom Teague

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

You COULD block everyone but yourself. But what fun would that be?


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 8:26 p.m.

You've been asked many, many times. Will you please tell us what the character limit is? And Ricebrner (and others) are correct. This does nothing to address the deeply flawed human element in your comment moderation policy. When will we see new guidelines that address those issues?

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 9:12 p.m.

@AndyYpsilanti, yes, I responded a few times above to this same question - it's 2,000 characters. We don't have any plans to redo our comment moderation policy and unveil new guidelines. We're pretty comfortable with what we have and how we've been enforcing the rules. If you have additional feedback that is specific, you are always welcome to email us at

Tom Teague

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 8:51 p.m.

It's 2000 characters. Stefanie replied to ERMG's comment above about comment length but the replies don't show automatically unless you click them.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 7:40 p.m.

Would be great if we could edit/delete our own comments. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment....


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

Definitely agree that we should be able to edit comments.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 7:38 p.m.

It will be interesting to see.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

I think you have some broken links with this new launch. I've tried for a couple of days to update my profile picture and I can't get access.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 6:39 p.m.

Just don't know what to say....

Ron Granger

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 6:30 p.m.

I normally block anything with facebook in it. My rule is to block *facebook* But apparently, the &quot;Submit&quot; button to post a comment EMBEDS facebook in the URL. What is with the facebook obsession at Quite a few of us won't have anything to do with facebook and their horrible business and privacy practices. We do not want to be tracked by facebook. Quite often, I hit &quot;submit&quot; on the comment page and nothing happens. It's also cumbersome to need to find the &quot;comment&quot; link buried on the page somewhere. Why not have the comment box available all the time, especially when a user is already logged in. The new comment system is a big step backward in basic user interface and usability. If you fix this, great. If not, see ya.

Rod Johnson

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 12:37 a.m.

...on the other hand, there's being paranoid and there's just being difficult.

Ron Granger

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

Apparently, you can't see the comments unless you enable javascript. That is unfortunate. I don't typically browse the web with a javascript enabled browser. It just isn't necessary, and it isn't secure. For example, I don't need javascript to browse and order from Amazon. The other forums I frequent do not require javascript to read comments. Will I start a javascript enabled browser to read comments at Mostly not.

Rod Johnson

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 12:36 a.m.

Ron, I urge you to get Noscript (and use Firefox or Chrome if you're not). That way you can mostly have JS turned off but selectively whitelist sites where you want to have it turned on. It's really a godsend if you're paranoid about security but still want the JS option.

Jake C

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 6:42 p.m.

Ron, you're probably in a &lt;1% minority of all web users, so I'm guessing would rather lose your readership if it means they can gain a few extra readers by means of an improved comment system (And this is a greatly improved comment system over the last one.). This isn't a web forum, it's a news site that encourages user pariticpation. Why exactly it has to use Javascript I couldn't tell you -- I'd guess it was probably the programmer's favorite language so that's what got.

Ben Connor Barrie

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.

Ok, so you can post links: <a href=""></a> By pasting URL's into the text box they automatically become links? But you can't put them in using HTML tags. Is this correct? Links look much cleaner when you can use HTML. Also, the mechanics of linking are not clear in the FAQ.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 6:13 p.m.

The comment section is too slow to load compared to the article.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

I'd like to think that's intentional, force people to read the articles first.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 6:13 p.m.

The system is not working correctly for me: I can see comments for an article until I add one, after which the comment display is severely broken. Seems like you have a few bugs to sort out...


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 6:04 p.m.

Ok so the commenting SYSTEM has changed, what about the complaints about the capricious moderating? How will the new system level the playing field (other than tombstones) for comments that do not violate the guidelines AS WRITTEN and yet are removed anyway? How about the weekend overly zealous moderating? These are neither hardware or software issues.... Asked this in the &quot;live&quot; chat but got no answer and got tired of waiting. OH and FYI you're missing quite a few comments from the Comment Moderation thread...


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 1:59 p.m.

Stimulating response from @Stefanie as usual. I'd also like to know the answers to the questions above, but I suspect intentional vagueness is their MO at this point.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 9:09 p.m.

Stefanie, If you can reference the time stamps, you'll see that there was about 5 minutes or more between my initial question and your response in the chat. In that time I typed this and sent it. Your response did not come until after it was already sent. Now if there was a chance to edit it....I'd be happy to update it. In the meantime as you can see, it serves it's purpose of engaging the other comments who have shown similar interest in the answers to these questions.

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 6:08 p.m.

@Ricebrnr, I did answer in the live chat about this question. We will continue to moderate according to our conversation guidelines. And yes, there's been an issue with some of our data not importing properly across the whole site. We've been working on it.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:57 p.m.

Love the voting mechanism and the ability to sort by most popular -- good work! Three suggestions: 1) Make the Sort preference sticky. It would be great if I didn't have to keep re-selecting the fact that I want things sorted by &quot;most popular.&quot; Having the top three up there is good, but not enough. 2) There's waaaay too few comments on a page because of the already crazy left indent. Now, there are occasionally multiple carriage returns after comments and a bunch of white space between comment boxes in addition to the space taken up by the new &quot;voting bar&quot; and &quot;reply&quot; space. I like readability as much as the next gal, but let's tighten things up! (Can the vote bar be under the avatar?) 3) Can we have a &quot;preview&quot; of the beginning of the text of all the replies (kinda like gmail does with email content)? Right now, there's just a(nother) wasted line announcing that there's a reply. If not, can there be a preference to &quot;expand all replies&quot; like I've seen on other sites? I don't think as many people are going to want to reply if the visibility is low like it is now and you have to click on each one to see them. As far as the up and down voting, I'm hoping enough people vote so that there's de facto down voting! Keep up the great work!


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:31 p.m.

Regarding the comments questioning a &quot;like&quot; button and no &quot;dislike&quot; button, try reading the article first. The purpose is so that the 3 best comments can be posted at the top, thus saving people time. If there are 100 comments on an article and I don't want to read all of them I can just read the best comments. That said it's too bad there is not a feature that would filter out comments from people who do not take the time to actually read the article before adding their 2 cents in the comment section. Or those who pose questions that have been asked and answered multiple times already. Or folks who are clearly illiterate. The comments containing several spelling and grammatical errors hurt my head!


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

I have to say that I would NEVER use as a model for anything! A gang of thugs took the posts over several years ago and have made a career of insulting and humiliating other posters. Those posters get removed and just get new user IDs. I'm guessing they must have an entire crew that moderate that site 24X7. The Detroit Free Press long ago gave up any civility to make a dollar on hits. I applaud your guidelines. We all can get &quot;carried away&quot; with our opinions. Please keep civility as the cornerstone of comments. I also applaud the &quot;like&quot; and don't think &quot;dislike&quot; is appropriate. If a poster disagrees with parts of a post, they can reply now. To &quot;dislike&quot; could end up discouraging posters from coming here. We need a variety of posters who feel welcomed to post. Just my opinion.

Some Guy in 734

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

(Correction... I meant to say that it looks like I'm ASKING the question I was ridiculing. An object lesson in why it might be useful to have limited editing capabilities.)

Some Guy in 734

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:20 p.m.

I'm also chucking my hat into the ring of those who don't like the loss of HTML tags. Of course you don't want this place to look like a 14-year-old's myspace page, but not being able to italicize or bold is a significant drawback. If you like, you could chuck responses for bold/italic overuse just as you do for overuse of caps, but judiciously used, they can be great aids to communication. There's my own vanity, too. Sometimes I have answered a question by quoting it, in italics. I checked one of my responses where I did that, and the tags that were there have been stripped, so now it looks like I'm answering the dag-nagged question I was ridiculing. (And to step off topic for a moment--am I the only person who finds the title &quot;Real-Time Engagement Officer&quot; has a vaguely sinister ring to it?)


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.

Still think you should make people use their real names to comment. That would take care of a lot of the stuff out there. Like the old days, where you actually had to sign letters to the editor.

Boo Radley

Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 4:58 p.m.

@babmay11 ... That's an odd comment from someone not using their real name. There are many reasons people decide not to use their real names. If it was changed to require the use of real names, i don't think there would be too many comments to read anymore. And, I learned my lesson, in the old days, with a published letter to the editor. I started getting lots of phone calls to my home from both persons agreeing with me, and those disagreeing. Here, everyone is free to post their opinions of my comments, without the problem of the phone calls.

Ben Connor Barrie

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:03 p.m.

And it's pretty lame that we can't put in links. I think allowing us to link to outside files (or inside in the case of the FAQ) allows us to have much richer dialogues.

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

Ben, you can put in links - you just can't put in hidden hyperlinks with HTML. You have to expose what link you are pointing readers too.

Ben Connor Barrie

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

The FAQ says the comment length is set to 2000 characters. I have to agree that this new system is slower to load.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:58 p.m.

This may not be the place to ask, but since you've also tweaked the personal information/profile page I'll ask anyway. How do I go about changing my official e-mail address?


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.

So far it sucks...I would not expect anything less though from


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:31 p.m.

BTW #2 really like the quick post of a comment. MUCH FASTER than before.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

Every time I try to post, I get a message that they are unable to delete the message at this time.

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:33 p.m.

Are you using Internet Explorer? We've been having some issues with it.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

BTW why the limitation in the length of a post? Are you trying to be like Facebook and Twitter? I have found if a comment is too long the use of the scroll bar downward works very well. Maybe you are working to make us commenters better editors to state a topic in as few words a possible. :+}

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

@aareader, we've always had a comment length limitation but we haven't been very good about letting our commenting community know about it. Generally we have limited comments to about 300 words. This new system automatically limits it to 2,000 characters, which is more than 300 words. We'll take feedback on it and assess accordingly.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:25 p.m.

Test, test, test... So far so good. The &quot;vote&quot; option is a puzzle. Will the comments be part of a popularity contest? One would hope a person could speak their mind with or with our this option. The Chevy VOLT Site has a similar option... and in my opinion adds no value. I will look at the FAQ site to find the reason why it was added. Does the reply option &quot;reply&quot; to just a post i.e is it like the @ when one makes a reply to another poster? Again I will look at the FAQ section.

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:40 p.m.

We're hoping to highlight good conversation by allowing people to vote up comments. The most popular comments are featured at the top of the thread. We'll have to watch how this works wit our commenting community and evaluate. It's also a lower bar of interaction for people to engage with comments without making a comment - but perhaps a step in that direction.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:19 p.m.

My concern with the new system is the limitation on comment length. Let me start by saying that I don't see where it is made clear what that limit is. That said, I fear that this might lead to this comment page becoming something akin to those on the Freep and the News. There the limit on comment length means that substance is frequently sacrificed for snark. Most of us, me included, can be snarky at times. But there is a hard core of commenters on who come from all points of view who make long comments that are substantive and educational. I fear that limits on comment length will discourage them (me included) and that the quality of the comments and discussions will decline. Good Night and Good Luck


Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 4:13 a.m.

Just to let you know ERM's Ghost, the length limitation was my primary objection I sent directly to Stephanie early in the day. I count you, myself, EyeHeart and a hand full of others as those who make a real effort to elaborate points in order to explain to others (many!) who ask questions or express doubt or confusion.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

2000 characters should be fine. More than half the stories posted here. If it's not enough, just reply to your own comment and continue.

Tom Teague

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:51 p.m.

I just did a character count of your comment in another application and feel that 2000 characters seems inappropriately short. I'm not sure whether spaces are counted as characters on, so I might not have gotten the official count, but your comment is 714 characters . (That includes the &quot;Good Night and Good Luck&quot; which I'd personally hate to see you drop just in order to complete a sentence. FYI- your sign off is 24 characters. Just sayin'.) Since the number of times people can comment doesn't appear to be limited, I suspect we'll see multi-part comments, which sounds like a bad unintended consequence of the character restriction. I hope can be persuaded to loosen this up in the future.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:35 p.m.

Seriously, if 2,000 words is not enough to get your idea across here's an idea for you. After you've typed 1,991 words type the word continued and post a second comment below the first.

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

@ERMC, we've always had a comment length limitation but haven't been very good about letting our commenting community know about it. Generally we've limited comments to about 300 words. Our new system automatically limits it to 2,000 characters, which is more than 300 words.

Roger Rayle

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:12 p.m.

I'd like a way to suppress comments from people who do not use their real names. This feature should be available on a story-by-story basis so if commenting on a particular story might raise legitimate privacy concerns, I could choose not to suppress comments from aliases. I'm tired of reading outrageous comments from people who don't have the courage to back up what they are saying by using their real names. Let the trolls talk among themselves. (I'm assuming that you have some way of knowing whether a person is using their real name.)


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:17 p.m.

I do not use my real name for safety reasons. Females are just paranoid that way.

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:01 p.m.

@Roger - best way to do this is to ignore the user and you won't see comments from them.

zip the cat

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

I'd comment,but you'd just delete me like you always do for no reason whatsoever. If you want to see what other papers allow go to and unless your use foul language which I have never done anywhere on line they will print it. So unless you drastly change your so call guide lines for commenters to follow. Its just the same old,business as usual forom

Rod Johnson

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:28 p.m.

If all your comments are like that, no great loss.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

Sounds like some much needed changes. It will be interesting to see what the character limit is - maybe I'll give it a test on an upcoming article post on the football team! I think any changes that keep people on-topic will be improvements. A big issue with comments all along has been that many are either completely off-topic or are very weakly related to the original article. Of course, this often leads to whole threads of unrelated back and forth commenting that wastes everyone else's time. Anyway, onwards with the new system!

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

Ok, I posted a comment then blocked it, just as a comment that violates our conversation guidelines would be blocked. Can everyone see that? Let me know what you think.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 7:25 p.m.

It would be nice if the &quot;reply&quot; functionality were kept intact so that these issues could be addressed inline and out of the flow of general conversation. We know you guys don't really do the world's best job answering questions in the comment moderation guidelines thread, and then half the time ask for links to the stories anyway.

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

@ERMC, the same system as before - if someone blatantly violated our guidelines, we will simply remove the comment. There is plenty of fair warning. If it's more of an edge case, our moderators try to communicate via email.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.

Stef, How will the commenter know why their comment was removed? Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:04 p.m.

I like the new ability to reply to comments. I agree that it would be nice to put in a comment or two and remove them in order to see what the flag looks like. I too have found the moderation standards to be highly variable at some times. And yes, I've read the FAQ about the policy, but based on my comments that have been cut, the standards seem highly variable.

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:58 p.m.

If anyone wishes to join, we've got a live chat open now until 3 pm, and we'll re-open it 7-9 pm. I'm handing it off to Tony Dearing, who will be running it until the lunch hour, then we'll pull Jen Eyer and Ed Vielmetti into the discussion. <a href=""></a>


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

Thumbs up on the thumbs down option.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

Need a dislike button, Otherwise, the like button (like on FB) is irrelevant.

Ron Granger

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

The new system is slow.

Bill Wilson

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:38 p.m.

Hi Stef, Where are the rating tools for us to rate the stories you guy's write?

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:54 p.m.

Interesting question. We could apply recommendations or reviews against any object, including articles. We had voting on article when we launch but no one used it. Facebook Share is an easy way to gauge how well at least one part of our community is interacting with our stories.

Dr. Rockso

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:35 p.m.

This is the stupidest comment setup I've ever seen in my life. Vote for what. There should be a choice vote like: Agree or Disagree Yes or No Good comment or Stupid comment

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

Don't forget there is a link to our FAQ: <a href=""></a> Good stuff in there explaining a lot of the smaller changes.

Ron Granger

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:32 p.m.

There sure is a lot of facebook junk to block.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

What is the character limit? How many characters?

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:32 p.m.

2,000 characters.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

What is the character limit for a comment? What words is the filter designed to identify and delete? I expect that swear words will be eliminated and do not need to see a list of these but just acknowledging the category will be instructive. I hope that I am careful enough with my writings that none of my words will fail the &quot;filter test.&quot;

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:32 p.m.

Character limit is 2,0000 characters. The word filter is mostly swear words. And other unsavory near-swear words. It's a list I wouldn't want my mother to see.

F. Andy Seidl

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

Overall, nice improvements, but here are some thoughts for further refinements: 1) I agree with EyeHeartA2 that if there is a vote up option there should be a vote down option. 2) There should be some simple formatting mechanism (e.g., bullets list, numbered list, bold, etc.) 3) The size limit should be clearly state (perhaps shown as a countdown as you type). 4) The &quot;reply&quot; link lead me to think I could reply to a specific comment. Perhaps you should change the text of that to something like &quot;show staff replies&quot; (or allow threaded replies). 5) The &quot;Sign in to comment&quot; link at the bottom had no effect in Chrome or FF. In IE it jumped the page to the most popular comments. (The link simply jumps to #login-prompt; why not just provide a login dialog at that point?)


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.

all good comments, #5 annoyed me, and the overall system is slow and clunky.., I am new today so not sure if it was always this way but it has to be easy, quick, inuitive to set up at first, links have to work, etc., otherwise, it wont keep people. I know I am stating the obvious here but...

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:31 p.m.

Good thoughts - thank you! 1) Point taken. We'll continue to evaluate. 2) Also good point. Thank you. 3) It will countdown when you are over the limit. Try pasting more than 2,000 chracters into the comment box - at the top, red type will appear showing you that you need to remove a certain number of characters to be able to post. 4) You got it, I see. 5) I passed your note on to our technical team. It should take you back up to the form for commenting.

F. Andy Seidl

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

One additional thought on voting, having a vote down button would also provide a mechanism for undoing an unintentional vote.

F. Andy Seidl

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

Ah, I now see that threaded replies are allowed. The &quot;1 reply&quot; link drew my eye and I overlooked the &quot;reply&quot; option below the comment.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 2:59 p.m.

I was glad to see that the pages are basically the same. The only problem I am seeing is that many of the comments are either gone or hidden. This topic shows that there are 23 comments - yet only three are showing. On older articles - many of the comments are no longer there and above the comment it states that I have chosen to ignore the member. My profile page does not load so I can change any settings.

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

Robyn, we are featuring 3 comments at the top of the thread. Scrolling down, you'll see the full thread. This is a design issue we're looking at. Robyn, can you email me a screenshot of what you are seeing? Send it to


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

I see no downsides to the changes in the Comments portion of the website. However, although I agree that having the ability to vote thumbs down (in addition to the currently available thumbs up) would be welcome, I think a better addition would be the ability to comment on comments, and have it formatted as such. On other websites that allow such a function, commenting on a comment indents the response to a comment, at multiple levels if need be (e.g., Reader A makes a comment; Reader B comments on Reader A's comment and Reader B's comment is indented; Reader A responds to Reader B's response and Reader A's comment is indented relative to the first indent). Regarding the Login, I had to log in at the top of the page. When I tried to log in at the link below the comments, nothing happened.

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

@DBH, we do offer replying - is that what you mean? They will only indent once, though, and you can only reply to a top level comment. We don't want to get it indented to the point where it's hard to read, or where the conversation gets way off-topic. Let me know what you think about replying.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

So are the most popular comments duplicated? Seems EyeHeartA2's comment has a different number of vote-ups above and below the break.

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

Yes - most popular comments will appear twice. At the top and then in order in the thread below.

David Briegel

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

It doesn't seem to be working for me. Many of my comments are deleted.

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

We're looking at the issue of some old comments from users not appearing on the site - details to follow when we figure it out.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

ERM: Yep, I figured as much. Either you, Cash or maybe that Atticus guy (he scares me with his gun toting avatar and the implied repercussions to disagreeing with him.) Anyway, mystery solved. Thank you. Good afternoon and good luck.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

Eyeheart: It's me. ;-)

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

Stefanie, My &quot;agreed&quot; is too vague. Everything I have posted since June 16, 2010 appears to be gone. Some probably think that a good thing! ;-) To answer your question of David B., I have used both Chrome and Mozilla.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:40 p.m.

OK, so all kidding aside, I am having the same problem. All my comments in my history were deleted, except for some from way back in 2009 - one of your first storys. Odd. Unless, you gave David the 2nd shift moderator job?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.



Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:23 p.m.

Nope Dave, I think it is working as intended. Did I tell you about my new job as 3rd shift moderator at

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

David, what browser are you using?


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 2:42 p.m.

I think the new system is great. I really like the Ignore User function, as there are a few commenters that I will use this feature on right away.

Boo Radley

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

&quot;No dislike button? I was hoping to set a dubious record of sorts with those.&quot; Sorry, a couple of other regulars come to mind who would keep you from setting that record. It would be a nice feature to have, though ...

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

No dislike - but you can block those other commenters you don't want to read.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

I had to reset my password also to log on.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

I must agree EyeHeartA2 (surprise), comment removal at times by moderators seems rather arbitrary.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

@Bill - That's because it is. :) Let's see them remove this one for being off topic, then we'll know what the flag looks like!

Chase Ingersoll

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 1:17 p.m.

As one of the guests/participants in (s) forum on commenting last spring/summer I would agree that this is an excellent response to issues raised at that forum. Will I buy my mother-in-law an ipad so she can stop complaining about the 2 day a week &quot;old media&quot; she is still subscribing to....seriously, between the information and analysis that the comments have and the coupon (Real Deal), every week that goes by, I am wondering if that un-purchased pile of papers on the counter at the liquor store has seen it's last week. She is 80 years old and complains to high heaven about the 2 day a week news, but she does use the computer and just returned from the Ballet at the Detroit Theater (Groupon/Real Deal purchase) with three of her 80 year old friends. I suppose I will explain to her how I got the tickets when I get her the Ipad.

5c0++ H4d13y

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 1:14 p.m.

There's a glitch in your login systems. The only option I was given was &quot;logon with Facebook&quot; which I didn't want to do. There is no &quot;submit&quot; button for the standard log in. I was only able to log in by resetting my password.

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 2:51 p.m.

We fixed this issue this morning, we believe. Does it work now? Inadvertently forgot to turn something back on after we turned commenting off last night.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 12:01 p.m.

I have no comment.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 11:59 a.m.

Sounds great...and so far so good! Thank you!

Kim Kachadoorian

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 11:56 a.m.

Let the commenting begin!!


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 11:50 a.m.

New! Improved! Like the latest car models with all the beeps and squeals, I can't wait to kick the tires. I'm looking forward to seeing how the new changes affect over-all commentary.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 11:10 a.m.

As a commenter who seems to spend at least my fair share of time sent to the corner by the moderators, it will at least be nice to see a &quot;marker&quot; where my nuggets of wisdom previously existed. Really like the idea of the actual time stamp. I always felt the &quot;3 hours ago&quot; thing was inaccurate. Also, I see HTML will not work? Will other forms of formatting take it's place, say for bold or underline. I feel this is important, even if only occasionally used. Will there be a spill chucker? I spell an awful lot of words wrong while rushing to try to &quot;set the record straight&quot;. I thought I heard a rumor about the ability to edit comments for grammatical and spelling errors for a bit after posting. Will this be a feature? No dislike button? I was hoping to set a dubious record of sorts with those. Anyway, thanks for the effort to improve your site.

Rod Johnson

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:26 p.m.

No MARQUEE tag?! :) Alas, HTML is disallowed by more and more sites--the possibilities for XSS attacks are just too great. We'll have to fall back on *asterisks* for emphasis.

Stefanie Murray

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 2:28 p.m.

Thanks EyeHeartA2! Appreciate the feedback (and setting the record straight). No spill chucker. That remains on the list for future consideration. We aren't offering edit features and I'm curious to see if folks miss the preview function. That is another possibility that will remain something we'll consider. Do you have an example of another web site where you can edit comments for a set period after posting? Love to see it in action. We struggled with whether to offer a dislike button. Decided to start with a voting up feature, see how our community responded, and then make further decisions from there.

Jeff Westbrooks

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 10:57 a.m.

Anything to help sort the wheat from the chaff is well appreciated.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 8:45 a.m.

Much needed improvement.


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 7:26 a.m.

Commenting on commenting, are we? So far, looks good :)

Bob Martel

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

Oh, yes, this works well!


Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 6:08 a.m.

Sounds good.

Edward Vielmetti

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 5:39 a.m.

Can't wait to see how it all turns out.

Bob Martel

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 : 1:42 p.m.

What is the character limit? I missed seeing the figure specifically mentioned.