Why Do People Care About Gawker’s New Comment Platform?

Denton and company boldly try to reinvent the system

Brace yourself, Internet. Gawker comments are back.

Even though many could care less than to be bothered with the inner workings of a sometimes smarmy, frequently controversial blog platform, Gawker’s new comment system has been whooping denizens of the Internet into a frenzy since founder Nick Denton gave a SXSW keynote on the subject in March. Today, the site re-launched its comment functionality after a short hiatus and Denton and editor in chief A.J. Daulerio have spent a good portion of the day and Gawker homepage real estate addressing commenters and stirring up discussion. It all begs the question, why do people care?

For online publishers of all sorts, there appears to be more at stake here (one certainly gets that feeling after watching Denton retweet comment-related fodder and baiting other publishers like the editors over at BuzzFeed all afternoon). With the introduction of a proprietary algorithm to promote worthwhile content, more commenter control to ‘dismiss’ unsuitable replies, and a new, anonymous (burner) comment feature, Denton is boldly trying to raise the bar for online commentary, which is akin to trying to scrub clean the walls of a bathroom stall.

Only a few hours in, Adweek spoke with Daulerio, who said, “I’m finding it a little cumbersome, but it’s obviously day one. I think overall it has been pretty civil. Whether or not it achieves the goal of elevating the conversation though, remains to be seen.” Gawker commenters, long seen as creatures of habit, have expressed distaste with the changes already. One critic on Twitter griped, “Gawker is delegating moderation of comments to commenters themselves. Talk about the wolf in charge of the chicken coop.”

Daulerio noted on Gawker’s site this afternoon that he was “a little fuzzy on the algorithm” and told Adweek, “who knows what it’s going to entail?” Yet, while the future is uncertain, things have run about as smooth as possible. “It is kind of fascinating,” Daulerio said. “We had this mini conversation earlier about the strength of BuzzFeed and it has attracted some interesting people. If that’s the caliber of conversation we can have then that is a positive.”

Daulerio told Adweek that there will be adjustments in the coming months and weeks with input drawn from the editors and Gawker audience. It would appear though, that Denton’s shakeup has been felt throughout the Internet.