Towards a new commenting system for Slugger?

I’ve just cross posted an article on the development of commenting on Slugger on the Matt Wardman Wire and the Local Democracy blog, in which I go into some detail about how we have arrived the eclectic set of rules for the comment zone that we currently have. In fact over the next few weeks and months we are looking at completely revamping Slugger, and looking at ways of building new functions into the comment zone; in particular we’d like to move to some kind of ‘reputation management’ system, so that commenters can develop the quality of their own profile whilst maintaining their preferred anonymity.

There are already lots of innovative ways of doing things. Threaded comments like Slashdot, or co-commenting which allows you to keep track of your material over several blogs. To do it though, we’ll be taking regular soundings from the Slugger audience. What kind of improvements would you like? What have you seen elsewhere we might incorporate into Slugger? And other fun stuff. Please feel free to start the list below…

  • Nomad

    I’ve seen a couple of people posing as multiple posters. (Unless it’s just a series of happy coincidences). This is a little frustrating- don’t ask why, most likely just my own nurosis!

    Registration is preferable I think!

  • Mick, not so much commenting, but the ability to jump to the last page of a thread would be good if possible.

    p.ie has this reputation thing. I have to say I have no idea what the point of it is.

  • Dewi

    “In fact over the next few weeks and months we are looking at completely revamping Slugger”

    Biggest build up since Barbarossa….but sounds cool – good luck!

  • Kensei

    In fact over the next few weeks and months we are looking at completely revamping Slugger, and looking at ways of building new functions into the comment zone; in particular we’d like to move to some kind of ‘reputation management’ system, so that commenters can develop the quality of their own profile whilst maintaining their preferred anonymity.

    This acts as a barrier to entry in that it could lead people to ignore people without ten billion super combo / smilie face / green reputation. This is a recipe for developing a cliche. Moreover, even the worst commentator can sometimes coume up with something good. But hey, I ignore or can’t see bad commentators, so I never saw it. Allowing posts tp be recommended is fine as long as you can filter to ignore it, but not people. For the love of God do not do this.

    Separate the UI and the data. You want to store your data in such a way that it is easy to view it in multiple ways. So if I want to see threaded comments, I can do that. If I want to filter out everything except by material by certain users, then that is easy to do. Or certain topics. Ideally you are not proscribing; you are providing simple tools that let people view the data in the way they want.

    Not sure how you could do it, but working in some of the social bookmarking or annotated web ideas might be nice.

    Oh, and most importantly ffs get the basics right. this site takes an aaaaaaaaaggge to load, and has far, far to many external links and images. If you can’t get the basics right, then the bells and whistles are useless.

    Oh, and you seriously want to provide a trimmed down, low image version suitable for mobile devices. There are some powerful mobiles out there, but most aren’t, and most refactoring solutions are slow and not great.

  • runciter

    Slashdot probably has the best reputation management on the web. Another major bonus is that the software it runs on is free & open source. It’s probably your best option.

    More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slash_(weblog_system)

    In the short term, the most necessary technical enhancements are:

    1. Make the right column load before the middle column. At the minute, you have to wait until the entire page is loaded before you can see the ‘Latest Comments’ list.

    2. Fix the RSS feed! The feed links are broken at the minute.

    Both of these problems should be trivial to fix.

  • sw

    often when i click on slugger links from elsewhere or from the feed, clicking on a particular post i just end up on the main page rather then in that post.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes, sw, we’ll get that one sorted when we move. We should be moving to word press…

  • Mick Fealty

    when we’ll get to yours runciter…

  • Kensei

    Something else I think would be nice but not entirely related. This site chucks up an awful lot of useful information and statistics and the like, some of it not easily found. And often the same arguments come up again and again but you can’t remmber or easily find on what thread people posted what. Some kind of wiki that allowe dpeople to collate the information would be highly useful.

  • runciter

    Some kind of wiki that allowe dpeople to collate the information would be highly useful.

    I’ll second that.

  • Mick Fealty

    Great minds and all that… that is something else we definately have in the pipeline… ny candidates for preferred wiki software, would be especially welcome.

    There doesn’t seem to be a standard or set of standard platforms in the way there has been in blogs…

  • qubol

    Hmmm, WordPress should be much better. I reckon some of what’s been said is good.

    • Rate comment’s positive or negative.
    • Allow users to develop profiles (openID?) which will also show commenting history
    • allow profiles to feature their reading lists from Amazon (a little extra revenue for the site hopefully)
    • in time registrants can’t also help you maintain the site, god knows some of them spend enough time here – using WP system of permiting different editing permissions
    • Keep the comments open, so registration isn’t necessary
    • the flickr integration could be better
    • the banners don’t work that well IMO, they’re an afterthought and need better integration (although not too much)
    • the mast-head is wack. the logo could work but its needs the love of a designer
    • allow some more HTML on comments, but then you can see that.
  • Scaramoosh

    On the all important question of anonymity. How many people have access to the IP addresses of the people posting on this blog? Does that list include the so called “bloggers?”

  • percy

    on lots of forums, the commentators develop profiles.
    This has many benefits.

  • kensei

    Mick

    Wikipedia runs MediaWiki, which we ruin fro a few things in work. I’ve never delved into the backend of it, but it’s fairly easy to use but very open.

    From a quick search of t’internt TWiki appears to have a bigger feature list.

  • Harry Flashman

    @kensei

    “This acts as a barrier to entry in that it could lead people to ignore people without ten billion super combo / smilie face / green reputation. This is a recipe for developing a cliche.”

    I agree that there is that risk and that somehow people will dismiss a new poster as a dreaded “newbie” but intelligent posters will not do so. I post in many other forums and despite my number of posts being in single digits in some of them as long as I don’t be a complete prick (no, stop sniggering there) I generally find I’ll get a decent response.

    The benefit of having a “reputation/number of posts” attached to your name is that you can avoid the dreaded accusation of being a “troll” one thing guaranteed to blow my already heightened blood pressure to bursting point.

    Another small suggestion would be to provide a much bigger “recent posts” link. Given the sheer number of posts here each day it becomes much too easy for interesting debates which are still ongoing to drop completely off the radar, which is very frustrating if you’re having a good argument and you forget where exactly it was.

  • Forecast

    100% agree with Kensei (for once….) about a decent mobile site.

    One can get very bored at airports with only my blackberry and BBC mobile for company!

  • kensei

    HF

    I agree that there is that risk and that somehow people will dismiss a new poster as a dreaded “newbie” but intelligent posters will not do so.

    How long you been here ;)?

    Another small suggestion would be to provide a much bigger “recent posts” link

    A “Your most recent posts” would also be useful.

  • How about a spot where posters can at least link articles for possible new threads if they suit the fancy of some administrator?

    I see things all the time which are most appropriate for this site – especially given some of the recent stuff that has been started – but cannot be bothered to go to the trouble of getting in contact with someone who might adopt them.

  • kensei

    Apparently after yesterday we also need some more authoritarian measures >_<. I have to say that the silencing of someone because people weren't prepared to give basic respect is a not a good reflection on the site. Swearys are one thing, but that should eb totally unacceptable. The ability to have vetted commenting on contentious threads would be useful. Something where you could allow cetain people instant publishing by default but force everyone else's comments to be vetted before appearing would be ideal. A "report this post" feature would also be useful, as would the ability for bloggers to ban people on single threads, rather than having to wait for Mick to see it and do a universal ban.

  • delta omega

    Is it feasible to introduce nested threads to prevent multiple posts around the same topic? Have a single post once the item is first raised and then if others want posts on the same thread, let these be subthreads of the first. There must be at least half a dozen posts in the last week on Eames-Bradley, with many posters regurgitating the same lines multiple times. This would also reduce the total number of threads, allowing easier access to an individual topic and posts relating thereto, and would make searching for info related to a topic much easier

  • kensei

    delta

    Is it feasible to introduce nested threads to prevent multiple posts around the same topic? Have a single post once the item is first raised and then if others want posts on the same thread, let these be subthreads of the first. There must be at least half a dozen posts in the last week on Eames-Bradley, with many posters regurgitating the same lines multiple times. This would also reduce the total number of threads, allowing easier access to an individual topic and posts relating thereto, and would make searching for info related to a topic much easier

    I don’t think you need to go that deep; as long as threads are tagged appropriately, or placed under a particular topic, it should be very easy to filter them. However, I think your suggestion would be excellent for Pete since he only ever blogs on the same three topics anyway, and would have no need to repeat all his links. He could continually add to his wee heart’s content.

  • Gael gan Náire

    Mick,

    I do not wish to take away from anyone’s contibution but I find some posters to be a bit one dimensional and somewhat contemptuous for fact based arguement.

    I would like to be able to filter them out.

  • Conchuir O Fearain

    I have to disagree with mo chara ” Gael gan Nire”, everone has an opinion, whether fact based or not is up to them.

  • Gael gan Náire

    Chonchuir,

    I agree, and I am not trying to block them form everyone’s sight, just mine.

    Likewise they could block me.

  • Turgon

    I would be very reticient about any change to the current ability for anyone to comment. Slugger in some ways exists on three levels, not a hierarchy but a complex interplay.

    There are people who start threads
    There are people who comment on threads
    There are people who only read slugger

    All three of these sorts of people are vital to slugger: people may also move from one category to another; I certainly have.

    If we put any barrier at all in front of someone making their first comment I suspect some will never comment. Had I had to sign in or create a profile I very much doubt I would have ever begun commenting.

    In addition almost anyone’s initial comments will be less than brilliant and they will gradually improve: that is the nature of the learning curve in any activity.

    I also think that a post should come up straight away: it gives people (well it did give me) a bit of a buzz the first time I saw my comment on the website and that should not be dismissed as a way to get people into commenting, blogging etc.

    There are also relatively few comments that we actually need to take down. Bloggers and indeed commenters have a fairly thick skin and the cut and thrust of debate requires that. Clearly there is a line such as excessive language but apart from potentially illegal actions such as threats or libel I think we should take very little down.

    I think annonyminity or pseudonyminity should be valued. I for one could and would not blog or comment here if I was known by name: I am unashamed of my views but my job effectively precludes it. A commenter / blogger’s views have validity because of the force of their argument: not because of who they are.

    Just a few thoughts.

  • Doctor Who

    kensei

    “as would the ability for bloggers to ban people on single threads, rather than having to wait for Mick to see it and do a universal ban.”

    Lol, oh yes Kensei you would love that, the drawback being you might end up with just your posts on your blogs.

  • Turgon

    Another possible way of encouraging high quality comments might be to have a slugger awards for commenters: funniest, best nationalist, best unionist etc.

    There are also some forums where you can vote a given comment a “quality” one and such like.

  • kensei

    Doctor Who

    Lol, oh yes Kensei you would love that, the drawback being you might end up with just your posts on your blogs.

    I have deleted very little. A thread became a personal tirade about me swearing, so I removed those posts as it didn’t wnat to derail the topic. Aside from that, I’ve removed nothing and tend to dislike doing so. If you’ve had posts cuts by other mods, I suggest you look at your own behaviour.

    In any case, we now have an issue where a potentially interesting interview is derailed because civility cannot be guaranteed or enforced. I’d prefer not let the intolerant get their own way, so if someone is going to be silenced, it may as well be them.

  • Doctor Who

    Kensei

    Bloggers are not impartial, surely the nature of the site is to present as broad a spectrum of opinion from all sides of the NI community.

    I do not have the confidence that bloggers will moderate their individual threads fairly.

  • kensei

    Doctor

    I do not have the confidence that bloggers will moderate their individual threads fairly.

    In which case they will not remain bloggers for long. I can delete out any comment on my threads, but I can’t stop people posting on it except by locking out everyone. Contentious issues and difficulties do arise. A few more flexible options would be useful in dealing with them.

  • Mick Fealty

    Trow,

    A link dump’s a great idea. Though it might be something that people can elect into from membership rather than completely open.