There are spam comments, flaming comments, troll comments … and then there are just plain old boring comments.
It’s a problem that faces many news websites.
So Nick Denton, the influential head of Gawker Media, said at a conference hosted by Advertising Age on Tuesday that his company was developing a product to rid his sites of comments he considers boring.
“I would like an AT&T engineer who has an explanation for why AT&T’s data coverage is weak in New York and San Francisco to feel comfortable in our comment environment,” he said.
Indeed, the comment sections of articles are often used for official responses and the like. But that’s often the exception.
Denton offered few details on how this new system would work or when it was coming. But it was a blunt way of explaining what others have been trying to do for some time.
While getting rid of boring comments might improve user experience, it would hurt engagement. Remember, trolls are just that: they troll around, constantly hitting refresh to see who has responded to their comments. Each refresh of theirs is a pageview.
But remember, Denton presides over a blog network that underwent a redesign said to hurt traffic. Denton has defended that redesign. So he’s probably not too concerned about the potential traffic hit.
But he should take a look at what others have done.
Take for instance The Washington Post, which gamifies the commenting experience, by awarding badges to top commenters and considering them “top commenters.” The default view of Post stories is seeing the “top commenters” in one tab, and all comments in another.
That seems to be a good trade-off: The “good” comments are seen a lot more easily than the “boring” comments, but the “boring” comments aren’t completely gone. So the trolls can have their fun, but without impacting the experience of a more casual reader.
Denton’s ideas tend to roll out with a splash, and I look forward to seeing what his “boring” filter will look like.