Do you ever read the comments section after finishing up an article online? When was the last time a comment changed your mind about something, or added something great to the conversation?
Just how valuable are comments?
First, let’s look at some random comments from different online sources that I found today:
Youtube: “1st comment. LOL” (discussing a weekly news clip)
Times UK: “I’m afraid the Government will have a hard task ahead of them persuading the average UK family to convert to solar power at UK prices.” (warily eying Cap & Trade)
The New Republic: “What you seem to have discovered is the artifice and intellectual bankruptcy of much of ‘literary theory.’ Forgive me if I don’t read the book…” (contemplating a book review & subsequent purchase)
Clearly, we see how comments can be bad (LOL), decent (restating simply, or with wit what’s already been said), and good (adding something more to the debate)
How are comments digested, ranked, & presented? Then & Now.
In the early days, comments were created… only to become buried by newer comments. However, it left room for spammers and pranksters to run amok and hijack space created for civilized discussion. To control this, most sites adapted a editing system that mixed both editorial control and public moderation. Now, a link to diet pills or a racist diatribe are harder to find on comment sections.
Today, sites can either let every user vote for their favorite comments (popularity) or only let a group of select users/readers make visible comments. Welcome to High School 2.0.
Digg and other social bookmarking sites have relied on their massive user community to bury (digg down) useless and pointless comments and highlight funny, insightful, and witty comments. Comments on Digg are visible if they are approved by the majority.
Or, sites can chose to elect a group of users to produce visible, front page, comments. Gawker Media recently decided to do just this and currently displays comments that have been written by “tier 1” readers/commentators. “Tier 1” commentator’s are those users who have continually impressed the editors with their commenting skills. Comments left by anyone else will still be published, but in a completely different page that’s aptly titled, “tier 2”. The new system creates a order which will put Gawker’s advertisers at ease, alienate some of the existing community, and persuade other readers to work doubly hard to get into the “tier 1” club. That’s a win, lose, win for Gawker.
A comment on the future of the love affair between social technology & business.
Comments by users make social technology/media sites as good as they are. After all, places like Twitter are simply platforms for user comments. They are important and they are shaping how people interact, do business, and network. Smart businesses can see the importance of staying on the cutting-edge of social technologies–and comment ranking is a very big deal. Companies looking to promote their products ‘virally’ may now need to earn the credentials (such as “tier 1” status) in order to begin a successfully marketing campaign. Or, perhaps comment rankings, in the future, can be bought, sold, and traded.
An empty comment box is the modern day overturned soap box and it’s important that we think about its purpose, its visibility, and its future. Perhaps, sites shouldn’t create a “tier 1” or a “tier 2” comment system but instead offer commenters the ability to write in one of either three groups, ‘support’, ‘disagree’, or ‘who cares’. And than let the readers chose what they want to read.