Slugger’s comment thread rebuild – redux

You may recall that – a few weeks ago – I posted an idea on how we can add value to Slugger’s comments thread. It met with a mixed reaction, and while some of you liked the idea and saw possibilities in it, there were also some extremely perceptive objections. As a result, we have ruled the idea out of bounds.

We are keen, however, to try and give Slugger more of a community dimension for a number of reasons, so we’ve been trying out a few other ideas.

The site only works if it’s moderated, and moderating the volume of comments we get sometimes is a big – unpaid – job for Mick. It has been made easier by the fact that Slugger has a well-established ‘play-the-ball-not-the-man’ rule and the commenters reinforce it more here than they do on other sites. We now want to make this community support for Mick work more effectively and all of you will be able to ‘flag’ a comment for review.

Reinforcing the comments policy

All this will do is notify the moderator that a particular comment may be in breach of our comments policy and that it may need editing / deleting. In extreme cases, it will notify us that a commenter needs a warning or even a ban, though we are only asking you to flag comments – nothing else.

If a post has been ‘flagged’ by a number of people, these flags will not be visible and only the site’s moderator will be aware of it. There is no benefit to someone vexatiously flagging a post because they disagree with it. Repeated inappropriate flagging can – after all – result in a warning or a ban from the site. We already do this informally and a flagging system will just make it easier for the moderator – and it may help to make commenters more concious of the site’s rules.

Providing every registered user with an archive of their posts and comments

At the moment, if you click on the name of someone who is posting to the blog, you will see that if takes you to a short profile of them (they can edit this or leave it blank) and an archive of their posts to Slugger. It currently doesn’t also provide an archive of their comments on other posts and we’d like to fix that.

Secondly, we want to give posters the option to invite readers to ‘friend’ them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter or LinkedIn or subscribe to an RSS feed of their posts or comments.

Thirdly, registered commenters (as opposed to bloggers) don’t have a profile on the site at the moment. We’d like to change that so that they can have an archive of the comments they’ve made on the site. This will make it easier to find old comments. These users will also have the option to add a description and link to a Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn profile of themselves.

Building communities and rewarding good contributions

But we think we come up with a useful variation. We think that it would be interesting if every logged-in visitor to the site had the option to agree / disagree with either a post or a comment using a simple ‘slider’ that looks very roughly like this:

Then – and only if you ‘agree’ with a post – you will have the option to ‘recommend’ it for the quality of argument / evidence. We’ve sort-of nicked this idea from a project called Opinion Space that the Obama administration has been trying out. There’s a good summary of the project here but a shorter version of it is that it’s less useful to know whether lots of people agree / disagree with a viewpoint (lots of bad arguments have millions of followers) than it is to know which arguments are particularly well rated by people who agree with them.

So, each of you that opt in to this idea (and we’d hope that you would all at least give it a try) will have a sidebar on your profile that looks something like this mockup:

We’d muck around with the number of people that we list as agreeing / disagreeing, and you would probably needed to grade someone’s comments more than three times for them to register as single ratings would be fairly useless.

At some point in the future, we may even pull out the agree-disagree data and see if we could produce a visual representation of our community of users in the same way that Opinion Space does – but that would definitely have to be in v.2 or later…..

So what do you think?

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