Slugger’s new comments boxes – update…

As I’ve mentioned a few times here, we’re going to be giving Slugger quite a major upgrade soon. The work is now underway at last.n The good news is that it won’t be falling over every time more than a few hundred of you want to look at it at the same time, or every time the server goes up the Swanney. The site will look a good deal better as well, and we’ll have a shiny new comments system. We’ve had advice from readers before on this, and we did a session at the Belfast PICamp on the subject, so here are our conclusions / instructions to the developers so far, along with a few questions.Firstly, you will be able to register as a commenter with the site – but only if you want to. You can still create ad-hoc user-names or comment anonymously . Some of our best comments come this way and we don’t want to lose them.

We won’t hold any data about you on the site apart from your email address and whatever username you choose for yourself and you’ll always be able to edit your ‘profile’ as a commenter.

If you want to, you can add things to your profile such as a Twitter feed, an RSS-feed to pick up articles from other sites (your own blog?), a fetching self-portrait, links to your Facebook profile, LinkedIn page and other good stuff like that. You’ll have the option (opt-in) to register for Slugger’s updates.

We will discourage impersonation though and unless your name actually is Martin McGuinness, we’ll probably ask you to change your chosen username to avoid any confusion – deliberate or otherwise.

If you do register, every comment you make will be archived against your commenter profile. You’ll be able to keep track of what you say – as will others.

We’re going to give the option to comment in threads, though you will still have the option to comment in the linear way that you do now. You’ll also be able to choose how you view comments.

Anyhow, here are our questions for you:

1. What do you think to this? We want the comments system to improve the quality of our comment thread – both for you as readers, and as a benefit to the wider site. To this end, we’re going to allow readers to ‘rank’ individual comments. One way would be a simple thumbs up / thumbs down option. Or we could have a slider between – say ‘conversational’ and ‘argumentative’. Or we could have a similar slider between ‘evidence’ and ‘opinion’? Or one between ‘original’ and ‘repetition’? We’ll have to tread a bit of a fine line here because we don’t want to make it too easy for everyone to dismiss some comments – thereby discouraging commenters. We all post a duff comment every now and again….

2. How do we incentivise commenters to improve their commenting? We may put something on your profile that will accumulate any data from the above comments-ranking system. If you post a lot of comments that are appreciated by fellow commenters, maybe you can build up a reputation as a ‘conversational’ commenter and your profile can get some kind of ‘badge’?. We *could* also have a ‘troll’ badge for the more persistent below-the-belt merchants (you know who you are!)

3. How do we make Slugger more inclusive? We like the fact that Slugger is a bit robust, but one downside that we’ve picked up is that some potential commenters – often people who may have something worthwhile to add – choose not to say anything on our threads because they’re worried that they’ll end up as troll-bait. We’re thinking of asking everyone who reads a thread to give it’s ‘conversational quality’ a ranking. Any thoughts?

4. Comment moderation: Though we’re keen to allow anonymous commenters, we’re thinking of pre-moderating them (but not pre-moderating well-established commenters) to discourage trollery and other undesireable behaviour. What

Lastly, we’re aiming to make the commenting system that we build available as an open source WordPress plug-in. This means that other blogs will be able to use it. Ideally, we’d like to build this in such a way that you will be able to comment on those blogs and have your comments indexed on your profile here (and vice versa – those blogs will also allow you to build up a profile there that can index the comments from here). Any comments on that?

  • Mack

    #4. Though we’re keen to allow anonymous commenters, we’re thinking of pre-moderating

    That has seriously reduced the levels of interaction at ATW, but they may be happy with that. I think it would discourage the long term growth of Slugger. I notice that has moved away from it and is getting more comment than it used to..

    I’d recommend having a few different views into the blog entries e.g. the current view is effectively a ‘latest posts’ view, but equally useful would be a ‘popular posts’ view (larger than the comments widget) and a views-by-category. That might facilitate longer running conversations and debates – where one thread could be repeatedly updated and returned to – keeping the progression of the debate in one place (a bit like the Lisbon essays widget currently).

  • kensei


    I can’t see how you allow ratings for things without it descending into censorship, groupthink or a conduit for spite. Are trophies really going to incentives better comments? Nope, it’s much more down tot he culture of the site which has been getting much more ill tempered the last few months.

    One thing. I supect it’ll go against the grain, but allow an off button. I don’t particularly want to see another post on Adams and 666 or a seemingly neverending crusade by LTU against Sammy that is never dealt with. Allow an off button. If there is soemone intimidated by various people, they can filter commentrs with those people and focus on talking with people they like. threaded conversations are probably useful in this regard. Simialrly allow a swear filter.

    I think you need to get away from some kind of binary good / evil scale. Maybe allowing a set of tags on a post like “needs evidence” or “man playing” or somethign like that. Track the total number of each tag on the user page.

    I’d like to be able to save posts for later (typically those with some data in them).

  • kensei

    and a views-by-category

    Oh, and yeah, force a category on top level posts in future. Slugger is hell when trying to find anything.

  • Wilde Rover

    “To this end, we’re going to allow readers to ‘rank’ individual comments.”

    So the atheists rank atheist comments highly, and the god squad all come to each other’s aid, for example? A good idea in theory I suppose.

    “How do we incentivise commenters to improve their commenting?”

    Jaysus, sounds like a team building exercise.

    “If you post a lot of comments that are appreciated by fellow commenters, maybe you can build up a reputation as a ‘conversational’ commenter and your profile can get some kind of ‘badge’?.”

    You mean the sort of commenter you might invite around to your Ma’s house for tea on a Sunday afternoon?

    “We like the fact that Slugger is a bit robust, but one downside that we’ve picked up is that some potential commenters – often people who may have something worthwhile to add – choose not to say anything on our threads because they’re worried that they’ll end up as troll-bait.”

    I don’t think you are giving the readers enough credit for their powers of critical thought. If someone is trolling Ad Hominem then it should stand out, but if someone “scores” a point then it is obvious to all, even those who have “conceded” a point against their established point of view, so to speak.

    Debating the point is a contact sport, and there are bound to be bruised egos here and there.

    “We’re thinking of asking everyone who reads a thread to give it’s ‘conversational quality’ a ranking.”

    Wouldn’t that derail the whole thread with people discussing whether or not it meets the appropriate conversational quality level?

    “Though we’re keen to allow anonymous commenters, we’re thinking of pre-moderating them (but not pre-moderating well-established commenters) to discourage trollery and other undesireable behaviour.”

    While not a particular fan of the one thread stand bandits, how do you know it isn’t a reader who has never commented before but has been pissed off by something and lashes out, only to become a regular commenter in the future?

    Maybe it’s a streak of the Luddite in me, but I like it just fine as it is. It’s a hell of a lot better than the bollixology over at with its status, join date, number of posts “has a reputation beyond repute,” or “will become famous soon enough” and other such nonsense. Comparatively speaking, the refereeing team here seems to be doing a good job of keeping the “flow of the game” while keeping foul play in check.

    But hey, it’s your baby.

  • Guest

    An ‘all comments on one page” option.
    Or at least that the tabs give the name or first words of the thread and not just having “sluggerotoole” five or six times across the browser.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    When a message is sent by email it would be good to know who the message is from ie include the name of the poster – though quite often I can guess.

    There could be an editorial box at the top for important announcements – e.g. problems with the site or signallling that something imnportant will be followed by a thread e.g. “The DUP are expected to agree on the transfer of Police and Justice today (10/05/2015) at 12.15

    I would include a prediction faciltiy – it could be used in elections to predict outcomes or single issue. You could vote, on selected issues but also include a certainty factor of say 1 to 10 when you do – your success rate can be worked out by taking the numer of correct votes multiplied by the confidence factor as the historic results can be held it can be used to show those with the best/worst record.

    Regarding ranking commenters (apart from the suggestion abpove) it is difficult to see how this does not become gimmicky and distracting and commenters know how their comments are viewed by the responses they get. Though you could have post of the month or quip/SluggerSlogan of the week which perhaps is linked to from the main screen and remains in place until the next winning entry.

    I would not change the latest post at the top and last at the bottom it is simple clear and effective, sticking things in the middle will probably be confusing and look cluttered.

    I dont think categorisation is a good idea unless you are talking about posts that can no longer be aded to – as is it good to feel there is a mix even if you dont necessarily want to read about each. As soon as you introduce categorisation you then have to check out all categories to see what is going on. The category of sport will quite often (even if I was not posting) morph into something quite different and therefore the categorisation is no longer relevant. Good searching and indexing should overcome some of the problems that categorisation seeks to deal with.

    On the non techical side bloggers starting threads immediately after another blogger has started is probably one of the most annoying things on Slugger – although it has declined somewhat in recent times. A blogger shoulde surely add his comments on to an exisitng thread rather than start a new one ulness something truly momemntious has taken place.

    I would also suggest you allowed posters offically raise issues if they are being harrangued by other posters – without having to make that public – which may lead to further abuse.

    And of course I would also include a ‘betting’ facility – where posters could challernge each other – with the winnings going to Slugger and allow these bets to be stored and viewed by anyone. This could be tied in under the expanded heading of tip Jar and Bets.

  • Brit

    Er can someone in admin open up the comments under the “Whats in it for Hillary” post? Its still closed and there is someone who needs telling whats what.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    ….another thing – the lastest poster to the thread’s name could be held beside the title of the thread or as part of the ‘Latest Comments’ on the side.


    calm down, calm down, in Ireland the pace of life is not what you are used to.

  • Brit

    All the others are open??

    So I’m going to be naughty and post them here (given that my comments were initially in response to yours)


    Directed at MyTuppenceWorth on the Whats in it for Hillary Thread

    “I have no prejudices on this issue” MTW

    The evidence points in another direction; and if its not prejudice it must be plain ignorance.

    Just to rewind briefly, my initial contribution on this thread was to criticise, in a fairly lighthearted way, a reference to a highly powerful ‘Jewish lobby’ in the US. A claim which it best is inaccurate and at worst it anti-semitic, given that it (no doubt unconsciously in this case) draws on the idea of a secret cabal weilding massively disproportionate influence – an idea at the heart of most 19th and 20th Century anti-semitism. That there are pro-israel / zionist lobbies in the US is uncontested although the extent and nature of their influence is very debatable.

    As part of a very short form argument rebutting the ‘Jewish lobby’ claim I made the pretty universally accepted observation that Jews overwhelmingly vote Democrat and that they are a small community so not electorally important as, for example the more “floating” and larger hispanic vote.

    You disputed this claim by identifying a Republican Jewish politician and noting that there is an Evangelical/Christian Zionist movement in the US.

    You then backed up your claims by making meaningless extrapoloations from the results in NY State and Florida.

    Your claims about the size of the evangelical community / vote and the level of Israel subsidy are largely irrelevant.

    Now I surmise prejudices on your part from all of this and a kind of lazy connecting of some facts and half-facts into a pre-determined framework by drawing false conclusions. Something along the lines of Neo-Cons are American and many of them are Jewish and Neo-Cons overlap with the Relgious Right who are pro-israel including the Evangelical Christian Zionists who are theologically pro-Israel and of course the Jews are very powerful and therefore they must be politically right wing and reactionary or certainly not overwhemingly Democrat.


  • Brit

    According to the Gallup poll I linked to relating to the 2008 election, the figures in October 2008 were that 74% of Jews intended to vote for Obama as opposed to 51% of the general population. Gallup also estimates that in the 2004 and 2000 elections the proportion of the Jewish vote for the Democratic candidates was 74% and 80% respectively. A large majority of Jews polled in 2008 identified themselves as liberal (in the US sense of left-progressive) or moderate and only about 15% of Jews said they were firm Republicans. Are you still disputing my claim?

    You have undermined your own arguments that the support of evangelicals for Israel proves that Jews are rightwing by acknowledging that “most” Americans support Israel. This is, of cousre, exactly what I said in the preceding post.

    Democrats support Israel, Republicans support Israel, Trade Unions support Israel so the fact that evangelicals do is not at all unusual and doesn’t support your claims about a massive Jewish-Evangelical-Right alliance. The evangelical support for Israel is “strange” in the sense that it is ultimately theological and about the salvation of Christians and not Jews who ultimately are seen as non-believers who they think will end up in hell. This is strange because most support from Israel derives from perceived commonality of values, interests and objectives as opposed to theology (there are of course a signficant number of Palestinian christians).

    As for the electoral impact of the evangelicals I think this is another example of your lazy stereotyped thinking that Americans are mainly half-crazy evangelical loons, which again doesn’t fit the facts which is that the evangelical Christian/Republican Right bloc is not all powerful and is (thankfully) declining influence and size. That most Americans are religious and Christian doesn’t mean that they are evangelical and many who are evangelical do not necessarily adhere to the Right wing views that most would associate with evangelicals.

    See the following articles

    I’ve no idea of the level of subsidy that the US gets from Israel but I’d like to see the evidence for your claims in that regard. When you’re finding that perhaps you could reflect on the fact that the U.S. government is one of the largest donors to Palestinians providing $575 million in assistance in fiscal year 2008 and whether that proves that the US is under the control of a powerful arab/palestinian lobby.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    typical of you British – you come over to our country – and no sooner than one can say “running dogs of Imperialism” you start making up your own rules.

  • Brit

    I know I know Sammy but the guy was making annoying arguments and I couldnt respond yesterday evening and couldnt hold back any longer.

    It is a little bit bad form but why weren’t the comments re-opened?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    I blame that Pete Baker – I always blame him – what with him and his telescope – I ask you what can the man see during daylight hours when he should be busy re-opening posts?

  • frustrtaed democrat

    Can we have the ‘latest comments box’ on the top right of all pages not just the home page?

  • Brian MacAodh


    I was chomping at the bit to respond to that guy too but couldnt either

  • Sorry Mick, I think you are misusing the word “troll.”

    The “attack dogs” flame other commenters, and surely are not trolls?

    I’ll append some definitions of “Troll” removing those which bang on about fishing & scandinavian social democrats etc:

    an internet user who sends inflammatory or provocative messages designed to elicit negative responses or start a flame-war. (As a fisherman trolls for an unsuspecting fish.) : Don’t answer those silly messages. Some troll is just looking for an argument.
    a message sent by a troll (sense 2). : Every time I get a troll, I just delete it.

    An electronic mail message, Usenet posting or other (electronic) communication which is intentionally incorrect, but not overtly controversial (compare flame bait), or the act of sending such a message. Trolling aims to elicit an emotional reaction from those with a hair-trigger on the reply key. A really subtle troll makes some people lose their minds.

    As is the way nowadays, the word’s meanings are being dissolved into a term of general abuse, in which role it is frequently simply a term for bullies with little to say to prattle.