First Word, Last Word And Letting Our Biggest Fans Help Shape The Conversation In Our Comments
from the hop-to-it dept
Because this is such a new feature, I wanted to discuss a little of the thinking behind it. Despite blogging for well over a decade, I'm still amazed by how much controversy there is over blog comments. Some people insist that they're completely useless. Others spend many hours of their day engaging in discussion and debate in the comments. There are various attempts to try to "improve the quality" of comments out there, including banning anonymous comments, heavily moderating comments or doing things like having editors highlight the best comments. Others have integrated third-party platforms to manage comments, such as Facebook or Disqus. Gawker keeps pushing the bleeding edge with a series of commenting experiments that try to increase the importance of comments while decreasing the number of comments that actually get viewed.
Over the years, we've taken a very open approach to comments. We don't require a login to comment (though there are benefits to having one). We don't require people to identify themselves at all. And despite the default assumption some have that anonymous comments are bad, we quite regularly find that comments from anonymous users are some of our most insightful and funniest comments. To that end, we've always focused on trying to do more to highlight and encourage good behavior -- such as highlighting the comments voted most insightful and funniest, both with badges on the comments and in our weekly summaries.
With the First Word/Last Word feature, we're trying to take all of that a step further. We've seen how a single trollish commenter can sometimes (not always) derail an interesting conversation by getting in early and saying something completely brain dead, then watching (probably with laughter) as the thread disintegrates. Our expanded Crystal Ball may take care of that in some cases by giving insiders more early access to kick off the comments. But, not everyone's going to be able to rush in and be first. With "First Word/Last Word," Insiders with credits can help highlight one or two of the absolutely key comments on a story and put them in places of prominence to help define the overall conversation.
This is very much an experiment (and like all experiments could flop completely). But what fun is it if you never take chances? We've trusted our community for many, many years, and here's another attempt to trust those who become Insiders to help curate the absolute best comments for everyone to see. We hope you'll take part and help us develop an even more interesting and compelling comments section.
You can get your own First Word/Last Word credits at the Techdirt Insider Shop. Most purchases include at least one credit, and subscriptions like the Watercooler Package and the Behind The Curtain Package include a cache of credits that replenishes on a monthly basis.