I know I'm super biased, but I still find Reddit comments the easiest to read and follow (HN is a pretty close second, especially after they added comment collapsing).
Is it really just bad marketing it on Reddit's part that keeps others from using their embeddable comments? As a site owner, you can fully moderate the conversation by only embedding comments from a subreddit you fully control. You may not get quite as much data as Mozilla's solution, but in exchange you get the benefit of Reddit's 12 years of spam data that train its filters.
I just don't understand why more sites don't embed the reddit comments.
While smaller sites are happy to give up some control for the sake of easily adding a major feature to their site, larger businesses are probably going to want to own their own content and self-host their code as much as possible. Reddit has a non-trivial set of dependencies (https://github.com/reddit/reddit/wiki/Dependencies), so it's not very attractive as far as that goes.
My from-my-ass guess is that once Reddit ended up in the mainstream news a few times for some drama or another, it lost the opportunity to be taken seriously as an embeddable feature by other major sites.
You don't have to accepts reddit's culture to embed it's comments. You can have a subreddit that you control where you can moderate it and remove any content you don't like.
As a site owner, you can have full control over the content if you want.
To an extent, "just use the subreddit's moderation" is a product fail, too. It needs to feel like a standalone product, not embedding another site that you might not completely understand.
So even if we set aside the question of self-ownership of data vs. embedding, WaPo would look at this as an opportunity to either create their own culture, with their own weirdos and brilliant people, or to start with Reddit's and try to moderate their way towards the culture they want. Framed that way, I think Reddit's at a disadvantage.
If Slashdot had provided the option of just embedding their comment system onto Reddit pages, would Reddit ca. 2004 had done that instead of building their own?
Maybe, but probably not, largely because they could not fully control the content, like WaPo could do today.
In this day and age, commenting on the internet is pretty mature, and the best systems have years of data to feed their anti-spam algorithms.
Just like you can run your own mail server today, most people don't because it's a pain in the butt and it's a lot easier to take advantage of someone else's expertise.
It's the same with comments. It's a lot easier to let someone else do it.
I don't think Slashdot offered the kind of users that early Reddit founders wanted to seed their userbase with. But, I can't prove that, so I'll have to take your word for it that Reddit would have been open to the idea except for the quality of the imagined software.
I've been purposely gentle because I'm a long-time Reddit user -- I remember when comments were turned on for the first time -- and although I still think the main folks behind Reddit are pretty cool and built something really big that has had incalculable impact, I also have a lot of old axes to grind and I don't want your honest question to turn into an opportunity for me to do that.
Your response here has essentially been, "everything's fine, you can just moderate the content, we provide the tools to do that. Maybe this is just a marketing problem."
It's not just a marketing problem.
Moderators have publicly castigated Reddit admins on multiple occasions over the tooling they have available (example from quick search: https://np.reddit.com/r/fountainpens/comments/3byxtg/regardi...). Articles titled "Reddit is tearing itself apart" have been published on sites with widespread readership (http://gizmodo.com/reddit-is-tearing-itself-apart-1789406294). There was that GameOfTrolls subreddit that openly harassed other subreddits and Reddit administration plainly ignored it for quite a while until they finally stepped over some fine line in the site rules.
A publication like WaPo would certainly be a target for that kind of abuse. I would have to assume that whoever is involved in making decisions about comments on their site must be at least a little bit aware of the potential for abuse here. They were one of the first (or the first?) to have their own profile page. They grok Reddit, and they decided not to have Reddit embedded into their site. That's just not a marketing problem.
Reddit administration made a decision early on to take a hands-off approach to community management. One of the consequences of that is that a significant part of Reddit's community is the sort of culture that sites like the Washington Post don't want to have to spend their time dealing with, and the moderation tools Reddit provides are just not good enough to make up for it.
Or your very own installation of https://github.com/reddit/reddit ?
Are the moderation tools up to it? I've always thought they had the reputation of being underpowered. Or is that just another marketing fail?
Which culture? Outside of the default subs, I'm not sure its really accurate to say that Reddit _has_ a singular culture, except perhaps in the same broad sense we might say that "the internet" has one.
Rather, each subreddit has its own unique culture, and there can be a _lot_ of variance between the cultures of different subreddits.
>As a site owner, you can fully moderate the conversation by only embedding comments from a subreddit you fully control.
I agree that moderation is necessary (hate speech, spam, etc.), but allowing any individual(s) to create arbitrary rules feels really awful. I wish there was an overall "moderation guidelines" for popular subs that enabled discussions to occur, and some recourse if mods abused their powers. Right now it's an echo chamber machine and I'm starting to hate it.
On Reddit, if the top comment is a joke, you need to wade through a million other jokes before you get to the next top level comment (which may be interesting)
Categorising (a la slashdot) comments is interesting, you can filter out 'funny' and keep 'informative' etc. But I guess it puts a burden on the users to select the right 'up vote' .... do you have a funny button, an informative button, etc?
Facebook has solved this with their 'reaction' icons (like, funny, shock, heart) so user apatite is there for this kind of classification.
You can just collapse it.
I agree with you that the categorization on Slashdot was nice, as was the metamoderating. But when I find myself on Slashdot these days, I find it impossible to follow a conversation with so many collapsed comments.
Yeah, but I've usually swiped down and I don't know if its worth going back up to collapse it.
Default sorting by category would be nice, push the funnies down and pull the interesting ones up.
The Globe and Mail (Canadian national newspaper and growing media company) has executed something similar.
They actually have some pretty innovative work going on (at least with respect to the rest of Canadian media), and maintain a lab for this express purpose.
example (scroll to the end of the article, comments are expandable):
disclaimer: I work for a national media outfit in Canada that isn't the Globe
I was mistaken, the comment section is provided by: https://www.getcivil.com/
Their innovation labs have more to do with redesigning their end-user services and making them accessible. Anyway I'm not their salesman, I work for a competitor. I just have heard a talk from the head of their lab in the springtime and it was great. They're at least trying things on, whereas media (at least in my experience so far) has been largely resistant.
Trust me, try pitching, or carrying out at a manager's request, a project that changes the working, production, and content delivery paradigms of media and media-design veterans at the pinnacle of their careers; they do not like it.
The fact that the Globe, NYT, and WaPo are active in trying new things is great.
Again if you doubt me, try managing 20+ WordPress multi-sites, each with differing and undocumented theme build processes, and every little component another undocumented patchworked plugin -- all because most of the group doesn't want to have to relearn something they figured was solved enough in 2005.
Innovation like these things in media is well overdue in so many of the processes up to the front end.
Further, the link above is a beta. At least they are trying on different comment systems that aren't Disqus or the 'same old thing'.
https://www.reddit.com/r/GeoPolitics has a very nice CSS in which the collapse toggle runs down the side of a thread. You can collapse, and set the level you want to collapse, from within the thread. It's genius, seriously.
The bar appears on mouse-over, running vertically.
See for example: https://www.reddit.com/r/geopolitics/comments/6z27gx/rgeopol...
It's not the sort of place I'd go to for serious conversations about anything.
I have multireddits for tech, cryptocurrencies, DIY, entrepreneurship and so on. You can skim each multireddit for the top content every few days and filter out most of the low quality stuff that way. I learn a lot about interesting web businesses this way that I would have never discovered otherwise for example.
This is how I knew I was getting old.
Reddit's comment structure remains by far the best on the internet. You should definitely be proud of that.
The ability to promote certain users comments (and vice versa) is good too; but you have to use that carefully.
Would love to have that with the content and users here.
(And then HN replaced that because of the quality of comments here)
I came to HN well before I found Reddit (I think it being mentioned here was the stimulus). [this is my 2nd username here]
HN thrives IMO because it got a high value kernel of contributors early on, through synergy with Ycombinators business, and because of strong moderation heavily focused against new users.
Up until the last year or so most comment threads haven't needed to be filtered, due to the relatively small population, but popular stories now attract a mass of comments such that one can't easily scan through to precis the range of reactions.
HN maybe wants to stay "small" though. A lot of users in any case want to keep a tight focus on start-ups/computer tech/programming; keeping a "clunky" comment system probably provides useful friction to that end.
The main frustration in consuming comments here for me is the lack of differentiation between valuable and disagreeable comments. Though this appears to reflect pg's personal philosophy (he stated that down-voting for disagreement was proper, or words to that effect).
I'm trying to remember if it had the ability to filter comments below a threshold, though I'm thinking it did.
Really? I hate the tree style of comments. It's all well and good when you're reading a chain of replies, but then you run into a comment that's halfway back up the tree and have to make several attempts at collapsing comments to figure out which one is the sibling.
I much prefer a comment system like 4chan, where the post you're replying to is linked and previewable, as are posts replying to yours.
(I'm developing it.) It's inspired by Reddit & HN, and has some additional features that makes it simpler to navigate large discussions, e.g. instantly jumping to the parent post (if it's far away) to refresh one's mind, and then jumping back. I made a video: (scroll down to "Jumping to the parent post, and back") https://www.effectivediscussions.org/-32/how-hacker-news-can... (everything not ported to embedded-iframes yet, though.)
Maybe Reddit aren't advertising their embedded comments, so no one knows about it? A while ago I searched for embedded comments alternatives, and I found some abandoned projects (that had gotten super many upvotes here at HN), + Isso, + Disqus, + Talk, but cannot remember having found anything about Reddit. I wonder why they build it, but then won't focus on marketing it. Maybe they haven't thought about any way to make money from their embedded comments, yet. Hmm.
You know what? I can't find anything helpful on Reddit about how to do it.
I found how to embed reddit buttons easily enough (from the link on the bottom). Checking the FAQ eventually led me to a page that says: "We’re working to support comment embeds shortly. We will update the publishers page and the FAQ when it’s out." 
Googled for it, and found an announcement blog that made me realize "embed" exists under each comment. That only seems like a peculiar way of quoting a specific comment though -- and if there is some way of replying to comments through it or upvoting, I don't see how. I can't imagine anyone would want to have to comment on their own post in order to start a comment chain on their own site either.
Finally realized that "share" existed under each post as well. (Like 'embed', my brain just tunes that stuff out as junk -- seriously, why would I need help emailing a thread when I know how to copy and paste?) In addition to social media icons, there's a weird icon that seems to give you the option to embed a fancier looking link to a reddit thread. I don't see any comments attached to that in the preview though. This seems like the most likely place to find the functionality, but I'm not seeing it.
So, jedberg, I'm going to have to go with "no one knows how to do it" as the main reason that nobody embeds reddit comment threads for their own comment sections.
(Honestly though, I'd rather read reddit comments on reddit than have them embedded.)
Isn't comment collapsing in HN the same as downvoting? I find this confusing - or maybe I just don't have enough karma for the actual downvote button.
With enough karma you get a downvote button.
1. You can't leave comments after an amount of time has passed on Reddit. On even my blog, conversation will spark up 1+ years later. Why would a website want to inherit that limitation?
2. Users have to have a Reddit account. Some of the best conversations in my comments section are anonymous.
Sometimes their comments are good, but then there's the guy who writes a poem every single time, or 'Socrates' who posts the same cookie-cutter 'blame-the-GOP-all-the-way-back-to-bush' comment with the most dramatic rhetoric possible, trolling for likes of course.
Having said that, I'm pretty satisfied with the Times comment system, everyone does get a voice even though the top comments are absolutely fixed.
Then the hack: this is a newspaper. They have no reason to be fair. Give community moderators super-credibility. So they can upvote people and not just give their comment visibility, but by upvoting they incidentally give them credibility for future comments. And in turn, those commenters' upvotes are more powerful as well, thanks to the credibility lent by the community mods.
It creates an echo-chamber, of course... but ultimately, that's what people want.
I want to eat ice cream every day, but I also want to feel good and be healthy.
Let's give people a little credit--if they're aware of their biases and are given tools to overcome them, a lot of folks might make the right choice.
Also - regardless of how great their new system is, the old adage holds: "Garbage in, garbage out."
I'm libertarian, and vote all over the map, but likely lean more liberal. I know plenty of well educated, employed conservatives. But, a bulk of voters in Trump's corner are not you. It's like going to a Free Speech rally. Some people are likely there just for speech, but if Neo-Nazis show up, and cause a ruckus, they're the face of the movement. Same goes for Antifa and taking over other peaceful protests. So, I think the disenfranchised, middle of the country, uneducated, unemployed person is simply the face of the cause. Unfortunately, some people only see things at face value.
Why do you assume that's inherently a good thing?
EDIT: And if you're interested in learning about the constitution, I strongly recommend starting with Hillsdale College's free 'constitution minute' series ( https://constitutionminute.hillsdale.edu/home ), and if you like that, trying out their free 'constitution 101' series ( https://online.hillsdale.edu/course/con101/schedule )
But why would people need different healthcare based on different states? Or education? Or food? That never made sense to me.
Now, why would people need different healthcare based on different states?
Not everyone agrees with your definition of what constitutes "need" as it relates to healthcare, education or food. And while populations are rarely if ever completely homogenous, it would be absurd to say there aren't significant cultural values that are largely shared based on geography.
Don't worry, it's more of a rhetorical question than one seeking an answer.
1) The federal government sucks up all of the money -- see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Federal,_State,_and_Local... . And that chart only encompasses income tax -- the overall federal tax rate is closer to 20% GDP. The average person in the US already works until April 24 each year just to pay taxes (if you were to take your all of your taxes and pay them at the beginning of the year). Higher income earners already work well over half the year to pay taxes.
2) People only want these things if somebody else is paying for it. 'Free' healthcare and college tuition seem a lot less 'free' if your property tax (or rent, if your don't own --
landlords still have to pay tax, after all) and/or state income tax suddenly jump by a large percentage to cover it. People are usually very happy to spend somebody else's money (the battle cry is "the rich", but the reality is more like "our children's"), but not their own. Local and state governments have less borrowing capacity than the feds and don't control the currency, so it's harder to obscure the true cost of these things.
3) A lot of people don't actually want them. Although large population centers (which hold a lot of sway at the federal level) tend to favor these things, much of the USA geographically does not. Massachusetts, for instance, already had something very similar to Obamacare (in fact, large parts of Obamacare were based on Massachusetts' "Romneycare" law), but it would have been a cold day in hell before a state like North Dakota passed something like that.
"The average person works until April 24 to pay for things like schools, healthcare, rule of law, roads and trains, internet, etc...".
When people's needs are satisfied, they want more of that.
So let's satisfy their needs instead. Echo chambers are ultimately self-defeating as they bring on more divisiveness and intolerance.
But they are excellent at driving activity => pageviews. Which is where the money for newspapers comes from. Nothing to be said beyond that - the induction of outrage and divisiveness is a desired feature, not a bug, from the POV of media companies.
And, really, what is Facebook but Internet commenting on baby and cat photos of people you are related to in some form (by choice or by birth).
If we accept that humans are social creatures, and social media is able to connect people, then it is possible to say Internet comment sections are able to fulfill some needs that people have. Displaced football fans working far from home may not be able to find a local group that also supports their home team in a far away place, but there's a digital clubhouse for the displaced fan's home team somewhere on the Internet.
This may not satisfy a need like food or water, but people organized into geographically-based, sometimes tightly-knit communities before the Internet. That modern technology allows us to organize into loose-knit communities through the use of "Internet comment sections" is to realize J.C.R. Licklider's dream of an inter-networked computer system.
People (at least some people) tend toward the need for discourse to temper and test their ideas. I mean, you're commenting on HN.
It's the guidelines. By writing guidelines that promote useful discourse you allow everyone involved to learn more about their own biases and shortcomings.
Every person that writes their opinion grows when reading the varied responses (as long as they're open to other people's perspectives).
That's pretty much it. Once the population gets too big and the level of discourse too low, the intelligent people will move to greener pastures with better signal:noise ratios. Slashdot's moderation system didn't save them, and HN's moderation system won't either.
I've yet to see a comment system that promotes signal:noise ratio over groupthink.
Doesn't every groupthink community describe themselves as "Smarter and more insightful commentators"? I'm pretty sure Trump or Clinton voter websites consider their signal-to-noise high and everyone else's low.
And your comment really rather touches on it.
Peoples' needs aren't as profitable -- not until what they need also becomes what they want.
separate buttons for "this is a good/bad argument" and "i agree/disagree with this"
then give more voice to people whose votes on these two axes are orthogonal.
this rewards policing bad arguments on your side, or finding good arguments on the other side.
to gain visibilty, need to vote "good argument, but i disagree" or "bad argument, but i agree with the conclusion"
a naked 'good argument' or 'i agree vote' costs a small amount of karma.
a 'i agree, good argument', costs a large amount of karma, because those votes should be rare.
Done right, it will allow diversity of opinion without turning the comment section into an unreadable ranting mess.
Do you really want to read a commentator who post the same screed about republicians or democrats on every story?
What I'd love is to see a tool that allows you to see fact from opinion and the ability to see multiple perspectives.
In Australia there's a government run TV channel that have programs that attempt this. Good journalism is hard to find though.
As technologists we've built this system that optimises for page views. Surely we're capable of building a system that optimises for the truth instead.
Are there site that do that? I know hackernews limits your voting abilities until you get so much karma.
Sounds like some variation of the above ideas would work great. The vote from a random troll who doesn't understand the community's rules shouldn't count as much as other votes but I'm not sure how you would implement it in a way that wouldn't be abused.
Not news or commenting related, but a site like Newgrounds  (i.e. flash games and videos) has this feature. As you participate in the community more and contribute high-quality ratings, enforcement, etc. you gain more influence, making your votes carry more weight. Therefore an account that has been involved with the site for some time may carry more weight than a few new troll accounts.
It seems like a good model, but may still need occasional moderator intervention to prevent abuse here and there.
Not sure how the results were used though.
It's a way to police the moderators, a great concept at least, though it gets tiresome at times.
I wonder if a similar system would work where 1) regular users vote as normal 2) moderators who strictly stick to community guidelines vote (e.g. vote up comments that add to the discussion, vote down trolls, silly jokes and rude comments) 3) only votes from people whose votes are consistent with the moderators are weighted heavily.
Maybe you could even be rewarded with karma when a moderator agrees with you to encourage it instead of it being hidden. Obviously all these systems are open to abuse and problems but just throwing out ideas.
Someone on the team got annoyed by this so for a while we would post the top comment before publishing such that they couldn't post their personal fundraising link. Then we ran some numbers and realized how much money it was costing the campaign (a lot).
Moral of the story: comment sections are weird.
I don't miss them. I'm sure commentcowboy236523 from Atlanta has some important things to say, but I don't need to read them. If I want conversation, I'll come to a place like Hacker News or reddit, where conversation is the goal. I can find that when I want it.
But I don't need it when I'm trying to relax and enjoy the paper. Comments simply don't add any value to the experience. We don't need better comments. We don't need them at all.
Comments tell me "what's wrong with the article", and in doing so, give you a good picture of what the article is about.
As for the "what's wrong" part itself: generally speaking, you can really tell by how the comment is written whether it's legit or not. That way, you kinda get two sides of the coin, and you can decide for yourself what's going on.
Whether comments are valuable very much depends on the kind of people you have writing them, and I believe it's worth trying to maintain a good commenting community.
But that was kind of my point; by looking at the way a response to a piece of content is written, you can judge its merit somewhat accurately.
For example, on a video about the way the Suicide Squad movie was edited, you might see:
- "BRILLIANT 100% agree!"
- "While I think you're right, there might be a couple of things you missed out on [...]"
- "FU M8 DA MOVIE WAS AWESUM!!!1@2"
Each of these comments tells you something different. And yes, some say more about the audience than the content ;)
Would just as soon not give armchair phd a platform. There's some research (don't feel like pulling it up - bullshit?) that talks about how the decline of valuing expertise has had some negative social consequences, but that's probably obvious.
At Slashdot, chances are that I haven't read the article. I go straight to the comments and read those.
Curiously, I can't do that as often here on HN. Here, the quality of article is often higher and the comments are usually more on-topic and, often, more specialized. I do end up reading many more threads than I comment in.
But, yes... I learn a lot more from the comments (frequently) than I ever do from the article. HN is particularly good at this, and it's one of the reasons I visit.
I think "forums" like reddit and HN are fundamentally different from inline comments on news websites.
We have already seen examples where people run the same story on extreme left and extreme right web sites to get clicks and rage views and their toning, and changes are fairly algorithmic. That makes me wonder if you could build an echo chamber of one. So that what you read was always something you really agreed with, even if it wasn't written that way for anyone else. (same data and facts mind you, just slanting it toward the reader's preferences).
I'm similar. You could think of articles as one giant comment from a single person. I'd rather read comments from several people as it's much easier to spot bias and get a variety of viewpoints.
> ...we aim to rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism. That is to report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor, striving always to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences in the stories that we bring to you.
I've taken a different approach, which I don't think is superior to yours, just more enjoyable for me... I intentionally watch openly biased news aggregators. For left wing commentary I will watch The Young Turks or Jimmy Dore. For right wing commentary I like Ben Shapiro. The truth usually lies somewhere in between.
Oh, I notice it. I think it's a fun game to root out the bias in the Times. It's really how the news is meant to be read (i.e. confrontationally).
> We feel that rather than approaching the problem with a collection of algorithms and an army of moderators, our engineering and editorial resources are better utilised building new storytelling formats that resonate with our audience.
Modern media do this every day already with their yellow-journalist hit pieces, biased comments to drive a narrative aren't even a skip away from that.
Then again, I would be shocked if PACs of all flavors didn't have pay groups of subscribers to crash the comments sections of the most prominent publications (NYT, WSJ, etc). Especially during the primaries last year. When you consider the amount of traffic they get, the top comment is valuable thought capital real estate during election season.
I agree about Socrates. Overwrought.
I don't read WaPo comments anymore, the signal/noise ratio is too poor. I learn something occasionally from NYT comments.
It's down to an organization's willingness to spend money on quality. NYT spends $ to improve the comment experience, WaPo doesn't.
I have no idea how well this worked.
What is this all about? Feature-wise it doesn't sound better than a comment system from HN, Reddit or StackExchange.
Besides, Mozilla is really lacking communicational skills. This blog post feels like the documentation at MDN, tedious and unclear.
This feels like an undeserved swipe to me. How many developers prepend their searches with "mdn" when they need info on browser APIs?
Plus with GitHub single sign-on it's actually very easy to contribute to or edit an article (assuming most web developers have a GitHub account). I was surprised when I found that out.
Stackoverflow is my preferred source of course.
- A reputation scheme for both posters and commenters.
- Pinned responses from the poster.
- The comments appear in a 'best' ordering.
- Bad comments get pushed down and hidden.
> We’ve created a streamlined system that can improve how people behave and interact in the comments space, and allow moderators to more easily identify and remove disruptive comments.
Seems like one of its primary functions is a censorship tool. "Disruptive" is a very subjective term.
If you're struggling to grasp the importance of plug-ins for commentators, there's a good explanation of their relevance in the article.
1. Improved controls for filtering comments on prominent news sites.
2. A step towards the decentralisation of the web.
Both have potential benefits, especially if the comment filtering is user-driven.
Without comments, people go elsewhere to discuss the issue - elsewhere that you don't control. With comments, they discus it on your site, where you can completely control who can say what and how visible those comments are.
Done correctly it's a form of soft censorship by controlling of the discussion and manufacturing consensus among the "commentators".
Hard censorship has more immediate backlash than this does.
It's part of a larger narrative being sold to the 21st century investor, that AI are taking everyone's jobs, so buy your robots before someone enslaves you with theirs. (It's all still leading to the Butlerian Jihad of Dune.)
I think that's the problem with comments on any website. The questions are 1) how to bring out the best from people, and 2) whether that is sufficient.
The same person will behave very differently in different contexts. They may be professional but constrained in a business meeting or around superiors; intellectual, curious, and challenging in a classroom; and obnoxious and loud in a bar. How do you make your comment section, and website in general, bring out the qualities you want in your comments? I'd guess that many websites are not so altruistic as to want intelligent comments more than provocative ones, to generate traffic. I recently read an interesting history of the NY Times Op-Ed section, which said that provocation, rather than wisdom, was the intent.
And even if you bring out the best in people, is that sufficient? I find almost all columnists and op-ed writers to be a waste of time; how much time do I have for uninformed, random people? (And I appreciate the irony of saying that in my comment!)
Better tools to filter out trolls leaves more space for healthy debate.
The very nature of US political discourse itself leaves no space for healthy debate. I'm sceptical that removing the trolls is going to be sufficient to fix that.
I am quite convinced that the nature of US political discourse is largely determined by the predominant media, and not by the individuals participating in the discourse.
–– Cable news is incentivized to sensationalize any minor event, and to frame stories centered around conflict
–– Social media rewards the most emotionally potent messages, consistently pushing aside calm discourse in favor of messages that hit emotional hot-buttons
–– Newspapers, magazines, etc have adapted their style of writing in order to gain more traction on social media, furthering the cycle of increasingly strong emotional engagement. Sure, newspapers are also often quite dispassionate, but those stories rarely gain much attention in the political realm.
–– Social media also increasingly creates identity bubbles, where like minded individuals can support one another's beliefs. This grouping of people has lead to identity being the primary consideration; facts are secondary.
There are plenty of historical examples of partisan clashes like the USA’s "conservative versus liberal/progressive" one without a modern media. Just look at some of the appalling rhetoric between the two parties of the time in 19th-century America, or the clashes between the Blues and Greens in Constantinople.
Choosing a tribe to belong to and then adapting a harsh “us versus them” stance seems to be a human universal. Modern media has only capitalized on something that was already there.
I would go one step further though, the news tries to make everything emotional (it obvious by the loaded words they use). Any emotional discussion can't be rational, almost by nature.
It's not a culture change that happens overnight, but the potential long term benefits make it worthwhile.
It's hard for me to imagine what a comment on a Washington Post article could add to the article or to anyone's knowledge. It's user involvement for the sake of user involvement. "Healthy debate" is maybe unobtainable at that scale.
HN can get pretty ignorant and off in the weeds (hey we're all guilty) fairly often, and that is despite being topical, relatively small, having relatively informed users and active moderators.
> So how did the like button come about? What problem were you trying to solve?
I was trying to solve what we called the redundant problem. So for example, if you write "We're getting married!" all the comments used to say "Congratulations" over and over again. I found that really aesthetically ugly, plus, every time someone did say something heartfelt, the post was hard to find among all the other redundant ones. 
I find a similar situation on YouTube, where commenters don't add any insight or discussion to the video, they just say something like, "Great job!" or "Beautiful music!". Not a problem in itself, but when you have hundreds or thousands of these comments it leaves out real room for critique, questions, etc.
GitHub has a similar feature with reactions to issues.
However, one small concern I have is that such reactions might "dumb down" user/viewer participation and give the impression that using a reaction is all you need to do to have an opinion. Real discourse requires thought and reason, and not just slapping an emotional sticker on something.
It wouldn't allow for great conversations, but I like the idea that I could write a blog post, go to this site, pick a couple of thesis statements that basically sum up my article, and plug them into the bottom of my post. When people reply, they'd need to reply to those arguments and use the conventions that the site establishes.
People are running pell mell into this arms race and are stopping to imagine how their tools could be put to ill use.
The best option for moderation is trained man power.
By far the worst UI in a comment system. And they still do the slider and "load all comments" bit, but at least the UI feels a bit better than some years ago.
If you require someone to post really blatant stuff like "Hitler did nothing wrong" to be ejected from the discussion, then your discussion will be filled with ideological trolls who don't argue in good faith but insist that any moderation to their participation is censorship and echo chamber creation.
Their theory that Global Warming is a big conspiracy demands attention, and they have plenty of links to "studies" to back it up.
The reality is that any social space needs to have a set of norms, including ideological norms, that are enforced to a degree to ensure they're followed. The idea of purely "open discussion" is a fantasy; if you ever have something that feels like that, it's because the participants have internalized the enforced norms sufficiently that they never run into the enforcement.
The difficult problem is picking out a set of norms that successfully produce the quality of space you want. Sometimes that is an outright ideological echo chamber. (In fact, it almost always is, to at least the limited degree that there is some ideological position that would be rejected without consideration by the participants and met with hostility. This is a good thing.) Any talk of "open discussion" must always the include the important context of "within what boundaries".
You let the people self select themselves.
Some people might set "funny" to zero, and some might give it +2. Some people could set "inflammatory" to -10, while others might want it at +1.
You don't need many dimensions, and only one tristate control for each: humor/gravitas, inflammatory/huggler, informative/fluff, religious/factual, lefty/righty, vegan/meaty, etc.
This especially goes for anything political.
Of course, it takes some work to read through the trolls, but their moderation system is cushioned by the meta moderation impacting who gets mod points and who does not.
I have, for example, been given great scores for comments defending Microsoft and even systemd. It's not just what you say, it's how you say it.
Also, I was often curious to read what was "beneath my threshold" and often clicked. Which played a big part in convincing me that slashdot's moderation was top notch was that I usually did not find anything of interest.
For example, I've posted a number of "controversial" comments on HN that were purely technical and resulted in substantial discussion of the intricacies of the solutions discussed. Because these comments condemn the listless tech-hipsterdom that many devs rely upon to feel valuable (and that many important companies subtly leverage), people complained to the mods, seeking protection of the echo chamber. Apparently some of these people were important enough that HN reacted by throttling my account, initially by claiming my posts were too "tedious" and later revising the rationale to the facially spurious explanation of "engages in flame wars".
I haven't flamed anyone, but now I can't participate much in active discussion threads, hitting a something like a 3-hour throttle at something like 5 comments within an hour. Because my voice was drowning the chorus of echoes a little too much for comfort, and this displeased people whose opinion HN values.
This craving for echoes of validation is why reddit can't shed its negative image. reddit's concept of a unified identity with "default subreddits" severely limits the site's appeal, because anyone whom doesn't find the front page appealing is going to leave. Since the front page frequently contains acerbic content that is either critical of a large section of the public or presented in a manner that is conventionally considered crude, hostile, or defamatory, many leave not only uninterested but actively offended. How would your mom react if she loaded up reddit.com and looked around?
This is why the big players like Facebook and Twitter start each user with a blank feed and suggest only the most generic initial follows (usually late-night talk hosts, reality TV stars, and sports figures), and proceed to give each user total control over what they see. People demand echo chambers.
It surprises me to see jedberg still confused about this after all these years.
In an ideal comment system I believe that articles, comments and moderation events should come from three different, decentralized streams (like Atom) that the end user can subscribe to individually and that are joined at the end users client. That would would provide transparency to the moderation process, ability to comment anywhere, and it would allow moderators to become effective spam-filters without giving them the power of censorship. Now, imagine if this system was built into the browser and it became the default commenting platform for all websites...
Imagine you know someone in the public eye, let's say a musician, with their own website. They enable comments, and site now has comments all over it that they have no editorial control over whatsoever. People are posting a high amount of offensive content. What do you advise that this musician does?
In my mind it would be the users, not the site owners that would enable the comments.
> People are posting a high amount of offensive content. What do you advise that this musician does?
My advice in this case would be to create a moderator stream that the end users can subscribe to. Perhaps some mechanisms could be put into the system to make it easy for site owners to suggest a "default" moderation stream that the end-users can opt-in to.
In this case the site owners would be able to moderate comments through voluntary cooperation with its users, but it wouldn't be able to censor opinions that it didn't agree with, because the end users would always be in control of how its stream is filtered and would always be able to verify that on-topic posts aren't censored.
"My advice in this case would be to create a moderator stream that the end users can subscribe to."
That sounds like a pretty complex thing to do, which doesn't solve the problem of, "The comments on my site are overrun with people posting racial slurs."
"In this case the site owners would be able to moderate comments through voluntary cooperation with its users, but it wouldn't be able to censor opinions that it didn't agree with, because the end users would always be in control of how its stream is filtered and would always be able to verify that on-topic posts aren't censored."
I don't believe that's actually a problem, though. You can always go make your own site if you want your voice heard.
I think you're misunderstanding the proposal. Comments and moderation are independent of the site, not on the site.
If distributed commenting and moderation is too complex to implement, then we need to move to network designs that make it simpler.
It's something that doesn't actually exist yet, but maybe will.
I'm sure you'll have hoards of sites signing up for that.
 This add-on actually exists for YouTube/Reddit: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/reddit-on-you....
In an ideal comment system I believe that articles, comments and moderation events should come from three different, decentralized streams (like Atom) that the end user can subscribe to individually and that are joined at the end users client.
What he is asking for is the exact opposite of "the added legitimacy of the site itself". He's asking for a user interface to integrate content that does not come from the site itself.
That would be a lot cooler than another comment moderation system, of which there are already multiple open-source implementations. Could someone at least provide an argument of why Mozilla Talk is better than the existing solutions?
1. Aggregate comments from Mastodon, personal blogs, etc.
2. Interact with these comments by upvoting and applying filters, etc (i.e. moderate)
3. Publish your moderation actions and apply the same type of metadata from other moderators (and moderation aggregators).
If Talk has any value, it's to serve as a starting point for Tool 2.
I'd perhaps do most of my commenting in a private comment stream with 2 or 3 friends.
The only explanation of their approach is that they did "an enormous amount of research". This sounds about as convincing as someone claiming "Oh, I took a class in that."
Your best bet if you really want this feature is to implement it yourself server-side with just enough knobs to make it useful for your user-local case, and hope that other sites agree...
I.e. as I upvote your comment, I publish the info that "user XYZ upvoted this comment" which you can use in your own user-local moderation schema (at your discretion).
What we have to avoid is when Potential Employer looks for info on "John Q. Smith", they can identify which articles he upvoted.
E.g. "I don't want to see comments posted by user XYZ, or containing regexp W. Any comments by user ABC, or upvoted by ABC, or containing regexp D, go to the top. I trust the moderation of site trollblocker.com"
I don't see these kinds of ideas represented in the user engagement research.
: See a demo GIF on https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/ask-the-post/wp/2017/09/...
The decentralized web does nothing to advance universal health care, so why is it a good thing?
I imagine people could delegate moderation responsibility to people and organizations with a strong reputation. Let's say GNU, EFF, and Larry Lessig would all publish moderation data and metadata; as well as your "friends" on various social media sites, friends-of-friends, etc.