Digital Discussions

Tracking Journal Register Company's Digital Transition

Story Comments

with 50 comments

To allow commenting was once the question Journal Register pondered. As we continue to evolve that question has also evolved.

The question is no longer whether to allow commenting but how to allow, encourage, monitor — even monetize — comments. The real issue is engagement and quality discourse within the communities we cover.

Story comments allow our audience an opportunity not only to participate in the discussion but to hold us accountable. If they don’t like a story or believe we missed the mark they will have an opportunity to call us on it. Unfortunately there are those whose only purpose is to be distributive, to incite, to enrage and to, well, hate.

And there’s the issue. Throwing story comments aside because a very vocal minority of users abuses the opportunity isn’t the right course. But then the question arises: If we could remove those abusive users from the process, would the quality of the overall discussion improve?

While we focus on shutting down those who aren’t playing by the rules we aren’t really focused on the quality of the rest of the conversation. We are actually ignoring the rest of the conversation.

So, instead of punishing the bad, does it make more sense to encourage the good?

Is their a way to “monetize” story commenting by rewarding those who participate in a way that fosters a better dialogue and thus provides a more robust experience for the rest of our digital community?

The Washington Post is set to unveil a program that will — as the WP’s ombudsman Andrew Alexander puts it — allow trusted commentors to be easier to hear.

It’s a tiered system. Users who play by the rules move up and those who violate the rules move down. While Alexander’s writing doesn’t fully detail the plan — the new format will be unveiled “in a few months” — it still, from what we’ve heard so far, penalizes users and only encourages them not to misbehave for fear of losing their ability to comment.

By rewarding those in the audience who are so engaged that their quality comments encourage additional discourse we could find community moderators or — at the very least — extremely loyal users who become part of our daily conversations. Like the WP’s program, a tiered system could provide a rating system for users. Registration could be the start. When users start commenting their initial comments are moderated by staff moderators.

When a user reaches a specified threshold (to be determined), they move to a community-moderated ranking. That user will only move back to staff moderation should they violate the rules of the road. The incentives for high-level users to continue to participate cannot only be the risk of punishment — moving back to staff moderation — it must be a greater role in the conversation. That increased role could be a blog where the user can opine freely or it could be the ability to moderate chats with users or it could be monetary — and those payments could vary from cash to theater/concert tickets.

This “social marketplace” would realize a currency of quality conversation.

Our goal is to be relevant to our communities and by providing these communities with a central meeting place for quality conversations about the issues impacting their lives we accomplish that. By allowing our story commenting sections to be overrun or to lock them up completely, we will fail our communities.

So, where is the balance and how do we find it?

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Written by Jon Cooper

April 5, 2010 at 1:15 pm

50 Responses

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  1. All: Comments may be a pain, but if it’s at all possible, I think it’s
    important to moderate them. Key reasons:

    — We want our sites to be interactive with our readers. I’ve gotten good
    story ideas and quick heads-up to mistakes or things that were unclear in a
    story via the comments. If one is only using the “report abuse” tack, are
    most of the comments really being read by staffers?

    — Once someone has posted a snide comment on an obit or a feature story
    about a grade-school child, does removing the comment after a “report abuse”
    e-mail really undo the damage to the family’s feelings or the paper’s image?

    I know we’re a small daily and we don’t get as many comments as larger ones,
    but the comments do generate traffic when readers get involved in
    back-and-forth discussions. Indeed, I’d wager that a significant percentage
    of the hits on top stories and the time people spend reading them can be
    attributed to the comments.

    If you spike hateful comments before they appear, I believe, it encourages
    others to post, who may not post if they know they’ll immediately be
    ridiculed.

    Just my opinion.

    – Kurt

    jrcdigital

    April 5, 2010 at 1:59 pm

  2. Just my two cents: Comments are always a tricky subject inside a media business. When we launched comments a few years back at The Morning Call (pre-Topix Comments) we went thru several iterations to try and find the right mixture of tools. We always required registration which did not stop the trolls. It is very easy to grab a new email address from Google, Yahoo, etc. The one feature we wrote into our application that worked really well was what we called the ‘Bozo’ feature.

    Since banning by IP address isn’t a good idea (IP addresses are shared) and banning by email address seemed to slow down bad comments but not stop them, we started to mark users as ‘Bozos’. This allowed them to still comment and see their comments but no one else could. Some people caught on after a while but we had a much better success rate using that feature than banning alone.

    My personal opinion on commenting:

    1. You need a funnel where ‘trusted’ commenters go directly thru the filter (‘x’ positive comments = ‘trusted’).
    2. Proper moderation tools – report abuse, delete, ban, bozo, curse word filters (contextual based, not just look for the word)
    3. Would love to see the option to sign up via mobile number instead of just email. I feel if users do this they would be less likely to send hateful comments since we would know exactly who they are and can track them down. They wouldn’t be hiding. Users that sign up under a mobile number could be ‘trusted’ from day one. I really see this being the future down the road for registration in general or at least an option.
    4. Ability to post anonymous but all those posts take longer to show up online. Possibly not moderated but they take 30 minutes to show up or something.

    I really like the idea from WP on the tiers and how if you are trusted you only see trusted accounts, it’s an automatic personal filter that allows the user to downgrade at anytime. Very cool idea.

    Regards,
    Jeff

    jrcdigital

    April 5, 2010 at 2:03 pm

  3. To Phil’s point – it is eating up a lot of time of several staff members to monitor the site 24-7; and, in new haven, we don’t require registration;

    kramer

    jrcdigital

    April 5, 2010 at 2:03 pm

  4. John:

    Thanks for opening up this dialogue. As you know, it’s one that has concerned me for some time now.

    We require registration, but we still offer anonymity in terms of what is actually seen and posted online. Although we know the persons’s ID, that information is not posted online.

    One of the big issues quickly is becoming the amount of time we spend monitoring the site and taking down objectionable content. It’s quickly evolving into a job in its own right.

    Phil

    jrcdigital

    April 5, 2010 at 2:03 pm

  5. john,
    fyi – majority of my and other editors day is spent taking down offensive comments; i understand the plus side of non-registration; but there is a downside – beyond the crap people post – it actually has had an impact on our reporters (some sources are reluctant to talk to reporters) based on some of the ugly commentary the stories bring; coop and I have had lots of discussions on the issue.

    kramer

    jrcdigital

    April 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm

  6. John,

    I’d love to be in on the discussion of a policy for JRC on this when and if we decide to have one company-wide. Torrington is a good model of how anonymous (unmoderated) comments have been a tremendous boon to the franchise, and also one of our biggest concerns/problems.

    My feeling has been that registration would kill the forum (I would comment on many news sites but don’t because I have no desire to take the time to register and remember passwords for 15 different sites), but registration, on the other hand, seems necessary if we ever want to build a good database for email marketing.

    Matt DeRienzo

    Publisher

    Foothills Media Group

    jrcdigital

    April 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm

  7. An interesting article from the Washington Post’s ombudsman on moderating online comments.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/02/AR2010040202324_2.html

    John Paton

    Chief Executive Officer

    Journal Register Company

    jrcdigital

    April 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm

  8. I have been a campaigner in print and on radio against anonymity since the early days of the “web comments era.” However, our current TownNews setup has left me a compromise with which I can live, in that it protects “public anonymity” by allowing a poster to use a screen name, but it forces them to register using their real names, so we know who they are. Yes, it’s not foolproof, in that those who don’t want to follow the rules can try to use phony names. But we (I) remain vigilant in an attempt to police the list. Meanwhile, I read all comments before they go up so as to eliminate those deemed to be in bad taste, inappropriate personal attacks, etc. Judging from the healthy comment traffic we get (a recent story generated over 100, a record for us), I think we’ve struck a balance that does not discourage participation and still insures a measure of journalistic integrity. It will be interesting to see how this evolves as the Internet matures.

    Ira Fusfeld

    April 5, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    • Stan,
      read that you review all comments before they are posted; just wondering how you handle the issue of prompt posting. In New Haven, anyway, some of our most active posters seem to be people who are night owls or weekend wonders – and while I like the idea of reviewing before posting, I worry about the time delay.

      kramer

      Jack Kramer

      April 6, 2010 at 12:12 pm

      • Jack,

        I mislead you somewhere. We don’t read before they’re posted.

        Stan Huskey

        April 6, 2010 at 3:43 pm

  9. I’d like to throw comments on Facebook into the mix. We posted the McNabb trade yesterday afternoon and used three of the comments we received on Facebook in today’s print edition. They were all innocuous comments, but that doesn’t mean they’re always going to be, and if we’re going to continue to tease back and forth from digital to print, certainly an offending comment could slip through. We require registration and we have the report abuse option as well.

    Stan Huskey

    April 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm

  10. I’ve posted something on our Web site asking readers to come here and comment. This topic has been very controversial in Torrington, with a huge audience participating and loving the immediacy and anonymity of our comment system, and a very vocal group objecting to the nastiness that seeps through because it is set up that way.
    http://www.registercitizen.com/articles/2010/04/05/opinion/doc4bba04b54a74e674702827.txt
    I’m sure we’ll be getting some feedback soon.

    Matt DeRienzo

    April 5, 2010 at 3:44 pm

  11. I personally don’t mind anonymous comments. But I moderate them just to avoid spammers, which post even with registration and other security features.

    Manhattan gossip-site Gawker.com has an interesting policy concerning comments, (http://gawker.com/commentfaq/) in which a commentator’s first post is moderated to assure quality (albeit Gawker-type quality) and to make sure it’s not a bot. After a comment has been approved, the user (registered) can post as he or she pleases.

    It is also a tier system. Sites with too many comments to moderate might want to take a look at that system.

    Ivan.

    Ivan

    April 5, 2010 at 3:49 pm

  12. Everyobe should have to register in order to post. To many comments go to far because people think they can get away with something.

    Bruce

    April 5, 2010 at 4:06 pm

  13. Here’s a comment emailed directly to me from a reader:

    Since you know I write letters,and get sliced and diced in the sound offs,I think it’s unconstitutional.You have the right to confront your accusers.If you write in sound off,you can hide.I don’t hide.My ph # is listed.And I talk to anyone who calls me about my thoughts.
    Those cowards who hide disgust me.Let’s put their names up(verified by ph.,or e-mail),and let’s see what kind of response you get.
    Thomas Latina, Winsted, CT

    Matt DeRienzo

    April 5, 2010 at 4:18 pm

  14. Mr. Latina has to understand that the paper can not published someone’s phone number without any prior permission from that person. You think you have problems now with comments. Imagine if you did post people’s phone numbers? WOW!

    You need to have a format that the Republican American has in waterbury. You leave your comment and then it’s not posted until it’s reviewed. I know you will say that you can’t afford to have staff review comments all day long. But, you do it now anyway! Plus, this might make the people who constantly post hateful comments toward others go away.

    I don’t think you will ever find a solution that makes everybody 100% happy. But, too bad. You can’t make everybody happy no matter what you do.

    Thank you

    John Stevens

    April 5, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    • Mr.Stevens,
      When I send in a letter,I write my address and ph# so the Paper can verify it’s me.I don’t mean publish my street address and ph#.But the paper would have it if someone slanders me.
      tom latina
      winsted,ct.06098

      thomas latina

      April 5, 2010 at 8:42 pm

  15. More comments from Torrington’s Web site today on this topic:

    comments wrote on Apr 5, 2010 12:09 PM:
    ” My question would be what is the purpose of the comments section that the newspaper aims for in having it?
    Personally I would like to see better written articles from the Register Citizen. By that I mean articles with proper spelling and grammar (an issue I see daily in this paper) and less opinion based articles and more facts. Trying do more positive articles about people doing good things as those always receive only positive comments in the comments section. ”

    Report Abuse
    Make it just wrote on Apr 5, 2010 12:12 PM:
    ” Like the Rep-AM does. That seems to work for them. ”

    Report Abuse
    Free Speech wrote on Apr 5, 2010 12:21 PM:
    ” Why would you inhibit a person’s Constitutional right to speak their opinion? ”

    Report Abuse
    Registration wrote on Apr 5, 2010 12:22 PM:
    ” Yes, make sure all comments come from people that have registered with their email addresses. Allow each to post with a pen name, not their email address, but keep that pen name with their email addresses so that you can control what is allowed and who is allowed to post. The Danbury paper had issues with horrendous comments and shut down the opportunity to post unless you register. The amount of insulting posts and mean-spirited replies halved. ”

    Report Abuse
    re free speech wrote on Apr 5, 2010 12:24 PM:
    ” Not inhibit the free speech, but i dont need to see people calling each other fat and lazy, stupid, live in mommas basement etcc Just actual comments on the article. ”

    credibility of free speach wrote on Apr 5, 2010 12:26 PM:
    ” it is a great conversation Mr. Derienzo.
    do know that you try very hard to allow conversations to flow but this venue cannot be controlled 24/7.
    do feel some people do not want their family dragged thru the mud because they smoked pot or got caught doing something once in their life-they never did again or they become a great person in the community years later but may only be reminded of the bad they did in a -sound off- style attack with no credibility to check the nasty comments-as you call them.
    this conversation will go back and forth but in the end-it comes down to this:
    1. how does the newspaper profit from sound off or anywhere anon-comments can be left.
    2. has the paper lost business due to a local business being slammed due to a competitor’s rant and then-the paying customer goes elsewhere to spend their advertising buck?
    3.most of the people that do attack others here are not held accountable and should be.
    4.not only would it have to be about a police officer for someone to be arrested for a libelous comment.
    5. the local competitor does also received comments though a valid e-mail structure appears to work for them.
    6.Last, may this not only be a discussion for a day. let the people whom also read maybe “both” print and the on-line version have a day or two to also comment.
    I enjoy the local end to this newspaper and like to leave with a smile.
    Have made an effort to shy away from the sound off page as the “hate” flows and nothing positive can come from its drivel let alone the personal attacks on many of the good things in the newspaper that you have brought to light Mr.D.
    May you balance all of this in a positive way. ”

    Like it the way it is….. wrote on Apr 5, 2010 12:27 PM:
    ” If you do that, you’ll be just like the Republican no comments.
    I enjoy it the way it is. If I don’t like something, I bypass it; if I think it’s really bad or an advertisement I “report abuse”.
    There are going to be kooks in everything and even if they have to pick a name, their going to say the same thing.
    Leave it as is. You’ll soon be like our government, controlling every aspect of our life! ”

    Meant FREE SPEECH-my typo wrote on Apr 5, 2010 12:28 PM:
    ” should have said speech-so sorry-we all make mistakes ”

    The Republican wrote on Apr 5, 2010 12:33 PM:
    ” I just went to the Republican and for this article
    Monday, April 5, 2010 3:12 AM EDT
    Records from corrupt Waterbury mayors in city’s hands
    There were 5 responses. One would think with that title a few more comments would have been made for a city the size of Waterbury and the surrounding towns.
    Hope that answers your question! ”

    Joe wrote on Apr 5, 2010 12:47 PM:
    ” Why would a broad range of comments unnerve you? Why not hear the stupid and angry ones too? That you are puzzled is the puzzling part….. ”

    Ben D wrote on Apr 5, 2010 12:53 PM:
    ” Although using your name would make things more thought out and perhaps more honest, maybe leave the Sound Off as it is but have comments to the “Letters” require a sign-up and yes, you can use a pen name but you are free to speak your mind without being bothered by the facts or possible ridicule by opposing views and still there is a shred of responsibility as your name and email is on record.
    I rarely read SoundOff mostly because the things are unsigned but it does give a hint as to what the general public is “thinking”. That “Think” at times becomes questionable but still, it is insight to how those who unburdened by social restraint are feeling. Leave SoundOff bur remind that a courteous put down with fact is far more effective than name calling. Liberal Conservative Right Wing Left Wing Idiot. ”

    Ben D wrote on Apr 5, 2010 12:56 PM:
    ” Oh, and the “Report abuse” doesn’t seem to be working when I report that *!#@~ that posts ads. ”

    Same as print edition wrote on Apr 5, 2010 12:59 PM:
    ” Do you allow anonymous and inflammatory comments in your print edition? The policies should be the same. ”

    sugartoast wrote on Apr 5, 2010 1:02 PM:
    ” Personally, I think the comments (which I no longer read) just prove what we have for residents of Torrington…a complete embarrassment. Why the paper would continue to let people show how ignorant they are is beyond me. The RC doesn’t have that much going for it even without these insulting comments…try to find a way to redeem yourself! ”

    autumn night wrote on Apr 5, 2010 1:10 PM:
    ” I totally agree with the poster, “Registration”. I would be happy to register.
    For the people who want to end their news reading experiences with a smile; I suggest you read books penned by Woody Allen or Mark Twain instead of the news! Life is not “happy land” and actual news articles reflects this. ”

    Comments wrote on Apr 5, 2010 1:15 PM:
    ” I think that the paper is being used as a chat room for anyone that has a grudge or insists on spilling their hateful messages. Hold people accountable by registering with their names. By the way, does this have anything to do with hits on a topic and how that is portrayed to advertisers? ”

    Taxpayer wrote on Apr 5, 2010 1:19 PM:
    ” Leave it alone. If the politician don’t like it, they shouldn’t be in office.
    For better or worse the free flow of information is for the betterment of the community. Who knows what some individuals would have attempted, for fear it would be printed in the newspaper.
    The pundits call everything that they don’t agree with HATE speech. “

    Matt DeRienzo

    April 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm

  16. you have indiscriminately censored the ip of many knowledgeable posters. shame on you. you need to have a fair standard when you block an ip. who manipulates the banning process behind the scenes? is it political?

    jack

    April 5, 2010 at 6:11 pm

  17. More comments …

    Threaded discussion wrote on Apr 5, 2010 2:14 PM:
    ” If the paper want’s to allow all comments (personally I think it should) why not move to a thread based format? Anybody can post a comment and have it replied to directly and in turn comment to the reply. In this way, you could see the top level post and decide if you want to read on in that post or ignore. This would keep the folks that just rant nonsense off of threads that are having real discussion. I’ve seen other sited do similar things using PhpBB. Of course, that’s too much jargon for the editor so Jordan – if you’re confused, it stands for PHP Bulletin Board where PHP is a scripting language for the web which stands for PHP: Hypertext Processor. This is a recursive acronym because PHP is both the acronym and part of the acronym. ”

    Require an IQ score above 80 wrote on Apr 5, 2010 2:47 PM:
    ” I enjoy reading peoples opinions. Sometimes it becomes apparent that even a monkey can get online nowdays and post. Would be great if a minimum intelligence was a requirement to post feedback. I welcome various opinions but at least have something intelligent to say. ”

    Word of warning wrote on Apr 5, 2010 3:13 PM:
    ” Start restricting comments, and watch page views plummet. I think Matt is well aware of that. “

    Matt DeRienzo

    April 5, 2010 at 7:33 pm

  18. I am very strongly against any kind of wall on our site – be it a pay wall, merely registration, or a tier concept.

    The fact that some are concerned with the amount of time it takes to monitor comments only shows the lack of integration between social and traditional media. Work is work, plain and simple. As social media becomes more integrated into our newsrooms, the tasks required to generate the news will change, right? So the amount of time associated with each task will change, too.

    What is more important than the amount of time it takes is the free-flowing aspect — the back-and-forth between readers and the newsroom, readers and sources, readers and each other. That is priceless and something I would not trade lightly. Put a wall up and that conversation is muted.

    What is more important is that the community feels the site is THEIRS – not the news org’s. Put up a wall and you become a gatekeeper, then those trying to get through the gate know very well who is letting them in or keeping them out. It becomes OURS, very clearly, in their minds.

    Don’t know if anyone quoted Robert Frost yet, but, hey, I’m a nerd: Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offence.

    Jordan Fenster
    Editor
    The Register Citizen
    Foothills Media Group

    Jordan Fenster

    April 5, 2010 at 9:58 pm

  19. We should allow comments on a registration based, uncensored policy.

    That registration information should be put to use.

    We should gather the info into databases to use for advertising purposes.

    We should sell advertising packages that include “Twitter coupons” and other creative uses of new technology. Those who take the time to comment on our sites should receive special “Twitter coupons” from our more progressive advertisers.

    karl

    Karl

    April 6, 2010 at 12:46 pm

  20. I’d like to see basic registration. Even though people can use fake emails and such, I think it forces people to realize that there’s *some* link from their computer to our site. Right now at The Trentonian, there’s no registration at all, and I believe it liberates the scummier members of our audience. (That said, I am routinely impressed with the creativity of the Jew-haters. They sure can turn a phrase, especially if it involves the word “Hitler.”)

    But … I wonder what would happen if we did a chain-wide, print advertising push with “Uncle Sam-I-Want-You” type posters asking people to join the fray. I’d like to that with more voices come more decent people, all leading to the drowning of — or at least the ignoring of — the haters.

    Jeff Edelstein

    April 6, 2010 at 2:14 pm

  21. A bunch more comments from our readers in Torrington:

    NewHartfordPlus wrote on Apr 5, 2010 3:45 PM:
    ” Re. Hartland:
    On our online news website we have developed a great way of handling comments: we email (or call) those who leave questionable comments (bad or defamatory language) and work with them, sometimes over several emails, until the comment reflects the readers’ opinions minus the bad language or defamation. Everyone comes out a winner! It’s possible to create a respectful forum, even when commentors have differing viewpoints; it just takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. Best, Maria ”

    The Larger Picture wrote on Apr 5, 2010 4:01 PM:
    ” What’s bothersome to me is the fact that abusive comments are a problem in the first place. i.e. why is it that there is always someone out there (no matter what the situation is in life) who ruins things for everybody else? It’s not fair to those who play by the rules. Basically, everyone who does follow the rules gets punished because of the abuser.
    Yes, I realize I am holding on to a dream of life in a Brady Bunch bubble, but I can’t help but think that if people were just decent in the first place, this issue (along with so many others) would be moot.
    Therefore, for me, I have a fundamental philosophical problem with the fact that the issue of how to handle abusive comments needs to be dealt with in the first place — this is an issue that shouldn’t even exist at all — IF everyone could only just be decent and follow the rules. I said it the other day– there are way too many more Goofuses than Gallants in the world today.
    It’s sad. ”

    Conrad wrote on Apr 5, 2010 4:12 PM:
    ” I think the allowing Comments to Be Great
    I Myself Have in the Past posted comments on out Legislators Giving themselves a Raise in Pay and We Get No More cost of Living increases in Our Social Security,
    why not move to a thread based format? Anybody can post a comment and have it replied to directly and in turn comment to the reply. In this way, you could see the top level post and decide if you want to read on in that post or ignore it, ”

    long ago wrote on Apr 5, 2010 4:13 PM:
    ” Long ago, I was a regular voice in the comments section. I rarely even glance at your paper anymore, due to the vitriol and ugliness in the comment sections. If you have a registration process, you would encourage actual discussions. If you don’t, you will have more comments, and this section will continue to be chaotic, threatening, and just plain ridiculous. I hope that you will institute a registration process, but I’m not holding my breath. Until you do, I will continue to boycott businesses that advertise in your paper. I vote with my purchasing dollars. Thank you for asking, and I hope you make the best decision for this community. ”

    MICHAEL TYRRELL wrote on Apr 5, 2010 4:29 PM:
    ” I believe that our opinions, judgments or our personal views on anything should be judged by others based on who it saying them. Without knowing you are, there is have no reason to give any weight to them. If the owner of one restaurant wrote how bad the service was at his competitor’s place of business, How much weight would that carry? This paper is giving freedom to do just that by allowing people to say or write anything about people or businesses without checking who is sitting at the computer. I, Mike Tyrrell, am proud of my opinion and will stand behind it otherwise I would not type it. Unless this paper demands that people identify themselves, Don’t read it, Don’t subscribe to it, and Don’t sound off about it unless you are willing be be known. ”

    The Free Speech people wrote on Apr 5, 2010 4:32 PM:
    ” can start their own blog and experience all the free speech they want. They are USING you and your paper for their own egotistical agendas. Close down the sound off. The only people who will be disappointed are those who want to have exposure to your readers. No one will sign up for their blogs if they aren’t connected to your paper. They are taking advantage of your readership – can’t you see that? ”

    Marshall Miles wrote on Apr 5, 2010 4:45 PM:
    ” Hiding behind the internet is not free speech, it’s abuse of free speech. Free speech was and still is intended to have people trade views..face to face! Or letters to the editor that are signed and verified. Not some fake personality behind an on-line identity! If you can’t stand behind your comments with your real name, than your comments hold no weight. ”

    Sound Off or No Sound Off wrote on Apr 5, 2010 5:04 PM:
    ” When I have time or need a good laugh, I read Sound Off. I too get a sizeable chuckle over poor grammar and spelling.
    However, not being a Constituional lawyer, I would think that, if you do allow Sound Off to be printed, any control over it would be censordship. You would have to stop printing Sound Off completely. Many would agree with me that this would not be a bad idea. I would be interested in what the paper’s legal department says on this issue.
    I would be willing to bet a sizeable amount that if any controls were put on Sound Off,i.e., any way to identify the posters such as email addresses or whatever, there would be no posters at all. Everyone would write their opinions the “Old Fashion” way, through Letters To the Editor.Well, anyway that’s my opinion and thanks for letting me Sound Off. ”

    Other papers wrote on Apr 5, 2010 5:16 PM:
    ” The Bristol Press used to review all comments before posting them. And not much was posted.
    And their review response time is terrible.
    Then they moved to the RC format – comments posted immediately with an abuse button.
    So why would you want to go a route that does not work? Leave it the way it is and just work toward handling abuse notification in a timely manner. ”

    Been a victim of anonymous comments wrote on Apr 5, 2010 5:24 PM:
    ” Have enjoy ALL of the comments posted here today and many are quite civil.
    Imagine having the chance to read these voices here on a daily basis.
    It could only improve the conversations at large.
    Do not mean that if you or I misspell a word-it matters in the long term, but some of the banter are rants and drivel at best-sometimes ranting ten times in a row to themselves.
    To me though-not being a politician- though have had to have me, my family-my profession dragged thru the “nasty” Mr. DeRienzo speaks of.
    I know I did wrong things growing up, smoked pot, did drugs and so on.
    But some people will use that to better their business even though I have not done drugs in 30 years!
    I also believe that the present day abuse button does not work and also received -invalid information e-mails – when attempting to report an abuse on another great story I read last Saturday.
    It would be nice to leave “Sound Off” the way it is to let some, not all, of the crazy ranters a place to call home and the ones that want to post via anonymously.
    But presently- if someone wanted to post a bad comment about a dead person they could and that would be shameful to say the least.
    I hope it is being considered to “sign in” in the future for comments on most of the newspaper stories knowing the newspaper keeps those e-mails and names confidential. ”

    db wrote on Apr 5, 2010 6:39 PM:
    ” I’m not too worried about people that post ignorant or hateful comments, they can just be ignored.
    However, I do think that registration should be required in order to post a comment. Anonymity is necessary for safety but a consistent user name could have benefits.
    Most importantly, I think, troublemakers wouldn’t be able to post using someone else’s name. I post under the same name each time and don’t like the thought of opinions other than my own being expressed under that name. ”

    Just a thought wrote on Apr 5, 2010 6:59 PM:
    ” There should definitely be a registration process with a pen name used for publishing. When these people make inappropriate comments to a story or sound off, they should be removed and lose the right to post.
    Many people on some articles and sound offs are spreading inappropriate rumors and lies that can damage reputations of the victims.
    I read online the other day that a newspaper lost a civil law suit due to inappropriate posting to articles.
    This could definitely happen here, as some people are getting carried away with their posts.
    I am sure if the RC gets sued, all comments will be stopped.
    Just a thought . . . ”

    Jeff Bauer wrote on Apr 5, 2010 7:09 PM:
    ” With freedom comes great responsibility.
    Personally, I’d like to see registration required with a working email addy verified before being allowed to post – and posting with real names – not ridiculous CB handles, aliases, or other identity obfuscation.
    Freedom of expression would be preserved with the only difference being people commenting would be held accountable for what they’ve said.
    I firmly believe that this would provide far better “self-policing” than the far from perfect “report abuse” system currently in place. ”

    Ron Lyon wrote on Apr 5, 2010 8:50 PM:
    ” I have found many of the comments posted on this Web site and others run by the Journal Register Company newspapers to be immature and mean-spirited. I believe requiring registration will help. But more importantly, the Register Citizen should police comments and review them before publication. That should weed out the irresponsible comments that seem to dominate this space ”

    no wrote on Apr 5, 2010 10:20 PM:
    ” Should we require readers to register before commenting?
    NO NO NO
    Only someone like the Chairman of Gilbert School would want you to do this.
    Should we attempt to force some kind of identification to eliminate the “anonymous” nature of online comments?
    NO nO NO
    Should we “moderate” comments before they appear on the site, leading to a delay in posting vs. the immediate back-and-forth debate that exists now, but screening out nasty comments in the process?
    NO NO NO
    Please do not subcomb to those in positions of power who are being critized. Keep these comments free from politics ”

    ones to be considered for delete button wrote on Apr 5, 2010 10:28 PM:
    ” I think advertisements or the name of any business should be deleted. A business should never be listed by name because it could deter genuine customers from frequenting the business. The noise could be coming from an disgruntled employee and I have read a few where it seems to be just that. I do not think there should be comments allowed in the police blotter section. These are especially mean spirited and serve no purpose as far as I can see. The only thing I abhor about sound off are the spelling police. ”

    writers rights wrote on Apr 5, 2010 11:15 PM:
    ” I suggest you never, ever take away the rights of your readers by editing the comments or eliminating their right to say whatever they please. It’s an honor to be an American and that includes saying what you want when you want to whomever you want, as long as you do not cause violence. The RC readers are a diverse group; it shows the mindset of the attitudes here in the northwest corner. I think that’s great. Don’t change a thing. ”

    quick response more thoughtful input later wrote on Apr 6, 2010 8:00 AM:
    ” registration with a pen name and valid email address would be a positive thing.
    even as one who advocates against the flow of nastiness and hate responses, I do think my posting behavior would change some. (the snippy response to obnoxious people? I might think longer and then hold back if my pen name would then be tarnished….)
    can still be relatively anonymous. easy to get an email address. but still traceable. and still clear when one person is writing multiple posts.
    I think the free for all that results from the current set up gives a false impression of the thoughts of the general public. I think the more moderate, some might say more reasonable folks get disgusted and don’t read or reply. So you get the extremes then presented as if they’re the mainstream perspective. and it tarnishes our community. and, in some cases, perpetuates a hateful undercurrent in our community. all while appearing to be a reflection on all, when its really a reflection on a few.
    Off to work. will read the rest of the comments and perhaps post more ideas later. ”

    PS wrote on Apr 6, 2010 8:07 AM:
    ” re posting w/ real names. that would definitely kill conversation. I don’t want to subject my family to personal attacks due to a post on silly sound off.
    I don’t attack others, but I know how things go here. and yes, I think others would do that, even if not publicly by name in the paper, but in ‘the real world’ so to speak.
    also, I for one work in a field where I get along and work w/ people of wide ranging perspectives. my professional opinion is openly expressed, but my personal or political beliefs and perspective are my own and not addressed at work. stating my opinions on such a forum with my real name could impact my working relationship w/ those with strongly opposing views. so I wouldn’t post.
    I’m good at working with people and respecting differences. I wouldn’t want someone to be fearful or hateful about working with me because they knew my political views from sound off.
    people who want to use their real names most certainly could. but I wouldn’t post without a ‘handle’. ”

    sort of bashes people with mental retardation wrote on Apr 6, 2010 8:16 AM:
    ” Require an IQ score above 80 wrote on Apr 5, 2010 2:47 PM:
    ” I enjoy reading peoples opinions. Sometimes it becomes apparent that even a monkey can get online nowdays and post. Would be great if a minimum intelligence was a requirement to post feedback. I welcome various opinions but at least have something intelligent to say. ”
    reality is, many with an IQ below 80 have far more intelligent things to say than some of the posts on this website. ”

    Mainer wrote on Apr 6, 2010 8:21 AM:
    ” I do think that having people register is the smart way of doing business. I am sure that you could do this in several different ways.
    No, I do not want my full name used for the same reasons I do not use Facebook or the like, it is an open door to my life, my car and apartment. I am learning that is better to be careful with giving out information. Less is more. This is true of things like emails as well. I found out that even “private emails” can come back to bit you.
    I have just started getting Register Citizen emailed to me. I moved to Southern Maine 5 years ago. My mother gets the hard copy of the newspaper. She is always bringing up articles she has read and or things I should read. Now I can talk to her about the articles in the paper having read them.
    The big newspaper in this area The Portland Press Herald is undergoing changes, they got bought out last year. What I saw and now see is some people just want to post and post and post again everyday and in the same ways. When this happens I think people skim read these posting.
    In my limited time reading the RegisterCitzen I have found it to be most enjoyable. “

    Matt DeRienzo

    April 6, 2010 at 2:51 pm

  22. The current comment system can be very helpful – it gives you instant feedback on stories, alerts you as to any inconsistencies or inaccuracies, and gives you tips from regular people on the street without even leaving your desk.
    However, when it comes to developing sources and trust in the community, it can be very undermining. People, whether they are officials or otherwise, are often hesitant to talk or be quoted in the paper not because they don’t trust you as a journalist, but because they’re afraid of being skewered in the comment section, and those comments being left out there in plain view.
    While I won’t say the anonymous comments haven’t helped me with stories in the past, I feel like some moderation or pre-approval system, even a loose one, is definitely worth consideration.

    Dan Ivers
    Register Citizen

    Dan Ivers

    April 6, 2010 at 3:30 pm

  23. I think we should ask Readers to register to use our sites but not charge. During the registration process it should be mandatory for them to fill out a short, “user friendly” survey so we know exactly who are online Readers are (i.e., household income, home ownership, children, educational level). The information that we collect can also be used for marketing reasons or for sponsored email blasts by clients.

    It will also make Readers accountable for their comments…one would hope!

    Donna Schweder

    April 6, 2010 at 3:43 pm

  24. I still operate under an old school theory that if you have something to say for the newspaper and/or the Web site, have the courage to sign your name. We don’t print anonymous letters to the editor or allow Sound Off comments in the paper by an anonymous author. That’s the way I learned and I totally believe in it. In this electronic age it’s just too easy to fire off an inappropriate, hateful and tasteless comment. Why would we or why should we allow an anonymous person to post a comment in regards to say, the tragic car accident involving teen drivers? What purpose does a comment have when it says something like, “Where were the parents when the 16-year-old was out at midnight?” I’m all about healthy discussions even at a high-tension level but why offer a forum for idiots? Just for the sake of traffic? If that’s the case, why not run really gruesome pictures of dead bodies from accidents/fires/crimes? To me, it’s the same theory of shock value for readers and/or Web site users. I think we should have some level of expected decency. We open our pages for all opinions, etc. But we’re not in the business of giving people a forum to be totally ridiculous. In my opinion, we’re in the business of delivering news and information. If these people want to voice their hateful and useless comments, let them start a blog on their own. Make people accountable for their actions. We as a society talk about this all the time yet we’re willing to let anonymous posters run wild? No thanks. And their arguments are just weak. What, you’re afraid of what others would say in regards to your opinion? C’mon. If people don’t want to use their real names and be responsible for what comes out of their mouths, then let them go to some other really “credible” source that allows them to insult the families of accident and crime victims without accountability.

    Andy Hachadorian

    April 6, 2010 at 4:16 pm

  25. Simply reading the responses points out the biggest issue we face as an organization. We cannot cookie cutter a policy and force every site to use it. While Torrington has had fabulous results with un-moderated, unregistered commenting a similar experiment conducted at a local weekly resulted in the editor spending many hours dealing with the aggrieved targets.

    What we need to have is the flexibility to allow each site to find the solution that works best for their staff. When we reinstated commenting at the weekly they opted to only require a name and verified email and age verification; but added an opt in to allow us to use the registrant’s email for advertising purposes.

    I also think at a level of automation will improve the issues. Some platforms will automatically remove a comment from public view when a preset number of complaints are received. Some systems allow users to block or hide the comments by other users that they don’t wish to read. Other sites that allow for rating will automatically hide comments with low ratings.

    leslie wenzel

    April 6, 2010 at 4:29 pm

  26. I think we should have a thread system and that people should have to
    sign up. I used to go on this forum page and they had a sign
    up/register but when you went on you could post with whatever name you
    wanted. Thread system would be good because a lot of the people that
    post on here have conversations and that interferes with the comments on
    the actual stories, so a thread system would weed that extra stuff out.
    And then the republicans/liberals/dems can fight in private.

    Jenny Golfin

    April 6, 2010 at 4:33 pm

  27. So … I might as well continue to flood this blog with opinions from Torrington. Notice that within our own staff (see above: Jordan Fenster, Dan Ivers, Jenny Golfin, Donna Schweder) and readership here, there are many different viewpoints.

    In Torrington, we have chosen not to require registration, and not to review comments by staff before they go up on the site:

    If we view story comments as a “product of the newspaper,” an extension of our voice and our product, something that we control, of course it would move us in the direction of restrictions of all kinds.

    Or it could be viewed as a new and different and separate platform – a community forum that stands on its own and operates under a different premise. In our case, that premise is that it is community controlled – the community comments and polices its own comments by hitting the “Report Abuse” button.

    As Clay Shirky articulates in his book, “Here Comes Everybody,” platforms such as the popular photo-sharing site Flickr don’t interact with “their photographers” the way that a newspaper has traditionally interacted with a staff photographer. Instead of “increasing its managerial oversight over photographers” to solve a problem or gain specific content, it “(abandoned) any hope of such oversight in the first place, instead putting in place tools for the self-synchronization of otherwise latent groups.”

    We take the extra step of having staff looking at comments as well and choosing to take offensive comments down, but they are doing it on basically the same footing as the rest of the community participants in the forum.

    As for the work involved in reviewing story comments – shouldn’t our staffs be immersed in reading and interacting with these comments anyway? They are (not always, but for the most part) being written in response to and to supplement and to correct our attempts at community journalism.

    It would be pretty arrogant and isolating for us to have all of this back-and-forth about our product all day long and not be reading and participating at every step of the way.

    There are both big-picture and practical arguments against the requirement of registration.

    At Journal Register Company’s content conference in Philadelphia last month, several speakers talked about how we can’t expect readers to follow the “read the whole paper in print” habit to a “read the whole paper online” habit. That’s why home page views are dropping in comparison to traffic on the interior parts of a Web site, individual story links, etc. Because readers are being referred via the personal news streams of their friends and acquaintances on Facbeook and Twitter, and via Google searches on topics that are important to them, from “Justin Bieber” to “winter storm school closings in Torrington.”
    So why should we expect or require that they go through the trouble of “registering” with our brand just to interact/comment on that particular story? Especially if they are faced with having to register with the 15 other sites that they visit on the same topic or another topic?

    And to dissect it a little bit further, I might want to be identified as “Matt DeRienzo,” publisher of The Register Citizen and Foothills Media Group, when I comment about the industry or the company. But not if I’m going to comment about how much I hate the New York Yankees or how much I like Beyonce’s new music video.

    Why are you so interested in forcing me to do so, or controlling how and when I do? If it’s a PUBLIC forum, why can’t I choose?

    Regarding advance moderation of comments, I believe it would kill story comment forums because it would kill the immediacy of a back-and-forth debate as it stands now. Look at the time stamps on the comments we received on story comments themselves on RegisterCitizen.Com. 1:37 p.m. 1:39 p.m. 1:40 p.m. On local issues now, readers can respond to each other in almost-real time.

    Finally, regarding the question of anonymity, I think “Common Sense” (think Thomas Paine) would tell us that of course there’s value in it and need for it, not to mention the near-impossibility of forcing true identification of Web commenters regardless of the system.

    Matt DeRienzo
    Publisher
    The Register Citizen/Foothills Media Group
    mderienzo@journalregister.com

    Matt DeRienzo

    April 6, 2010 at 6:05 pm

  28. We have found that registration has worked for the most part, and I think people are coming to understand the nature of reader comments. They are not editorial, they are not the same as letters to the editor, and they are not even the same as anonymous Sound Off items in the print edition. I see online comments as a delayed-time live chat, much as they are on any web site not connected to a print product.

    One of our biggest problems is sorting opinion from libel. I often have somebody complain that a commenter calling a politician a ‘loser’ or accusing them of wasting money is libel. To my mind this is opinion, much as you would hear in any coffee shop or on the sidelines of a youth sports game. The bigger problem comes with private citizens, who might be involved with a local business or charity group. If somebody is accusing them of running their business improperly in a reader comment, is that libel? If they are accused of a crime, I would say it is. But if they are simply accused of being lazy, unresponsive to the public or greedy, I feel that is just opinion.

    I do my best to educate people as to the nature of these comments. If I hear somebody quote a reader comment like it is one of our stories, I will correct them. And while many readers still think of the ‘print rules’ when judging reader comments, I have found that many more ‘get it’ and treat the comments for what they are. They may not like them, or even the fact that we allow them, but realize these are not the stories.

    chris stanley

    April 6, 2010 at 6:27 pm

  29. I’m not sure where I stand on whether to require registration or not. I like that open commenting on the Register Citizen and Foothills Media Group papers allows for a lot of comments. I do think that requiring registration would deter some of the types of posts that are against our policy, but I also think that our staff does a good job of moderating the comments through the report abuse button.

    One thing that I don’t know if we CAN do, but I think would be helpful if we could is to not make the deleted post completely go away. For example, the post would be replaced with text along the lines of “comment deleted due to personal attacks” or “comment deleted due to spamming.” That way, it might cut down on people asking why their comment was deleted, and it could provide a slight reference point for others as to when a deleted comment was posted.

    The biggest change I’d like to see is threaded comments. I know it’s been mentioned here, but threaded comments will make separate conversations and replies to comments easier to distinguish. This could also allow people to post their names or whatnot instead of putting “Re 10:40.” This might help distinguish who is posting more than one comment, and make multiple conversations – especially on stories with many comments – easier to follow.

    Kaitlyn Yeager

    April 6, 2010 at 6:40 pm

  30. Our experiences with the “comments” portion of the website format have been mixed at The News-Herald Newspapers in Southgate, MI, like many others who have replied. We started with the totally open, unregistered format, went to the registered, switched back to the unregistered and finally decided once-and-for-all on the registered version. When we originally changed from unregistered to registered, our comment traffic dropped 90 percent. The second time around, the commenters seemed to accept the registered version much better and our traffic remains very good.

    I agree with Leslie that JRC shouldn’t be taking a cookie-cutter approach to this. What works fine for Matt DeReinzo might not work fine for someone else. These newspapers have a wide range of staffing and demographic issues.

    I wonder whether we could have our cake and eat it too when it comes to these comment boards. Personally, I’m a fan of the specialized “forums” run by MLive, which seem to separate the run-of-the-mill commenters from the story boards. For instance, if we had a forum for area politics or city politics, the wild commenters might be removed from the story boards. That’s a small step, but it might be a large step in the eyes of our readers, who associate the comments with the stories above. Tracking our commenters, many just seem to jump from story board to story board trying to start some type of argument. That takes away from our stories, at times.

    As a weekly journalist with a somewhat limit staff (who doesn’t have a limited staff these days?), my greatest concern is the comment abuse that isn’t seen by editors for a period of time. Whether it’s 45 minutes or four hours, I find that footing in dangerous territory. And I haven’t heard an answer for that problem…

    Karl Ziomek

    April 6, 2010 at 7:03 pm

  31. Commens are the bain of any web site’s existence. To register or not to register is the ultimate question everyone has to answer. This very discussion I have consistently with my editor. We continue to weigh the pros and cons but have concluded its better to not register than do. Why? Traffic is one reason and two you hear truly what the people are saying.

    Yes, people are finding it difficult to read the comments because of the offensive language. I have trouble reading them too but at the same time we are stalwarts of the Fourth Estate – Freedom of Speech. People speak more freely when they don’t have to identify themselves. Think about it how freely do you speak when you are with a stranger than you are with your family or friends. You censor yourself with family and friend letting them know only what you want them to know. With strangers you might feel a little more freer in speaking, hide your identity but you can say what you want and how you want without reprisal.

    Despite the offensive language and the use of words as offensive comments is hard to read. But we all are missing the greater story – people are angry, racial attitudes are getting worse and no one is saying why. But we allow Tea Party speak volumes without censorship. Think about this. What stories are you getting? What information are you getting from your commentors? And push come to shove ask them? Do a story on why people are so offensive and see what happens. The worst people will comment more offensive or you open up and have a good discussion with your readers on the state of society. Your engaging them on something that his happening everyday.

    Also, have blocked everyone who is offensive or have you used them to craft a comment section so that you have the good people vs the bad people. Has anyone done a survey asking people if they read comment section and what they like or dislike about it. I have and let me tell you the folks always say I can’t stand it or they love it. Why? The villains. If they can name all of the villains they are hooked. That is how you handle it. And when they get out of hand block them, more villains will be made.

    Also, you have a captured audience. What type of branding or marketing are you doing with this audience. People don’t think how horrible, think how can I sell this and to whom. Your comment section is a product. Use it to your advantage. People will be people. No matter how you censor them they will find a way around it. Trust me I have learned how to spell various words in new ways.

    Andria Y. Carter

    April 6, 2010 at 8:47 pm

  32. Has anyone checked out DISQUS (www.disqus.com)? It’s a third party manager for comments that people register for and keeps track of their comments (and responses to their comments, etc.) across all the outlets that use DISQUS for commenting.

    I know The Atlantic Monthly (www.theatlantic) is using it, because that’s where I found out about it and signed up for it recently. Haven’t had a chance to really delve into DISQUS, but it seems like an interesting solution. Has anyone else tried it out?

    Stephen Shoemaker

    April 6, 2010 at 8:48 pm

  33. I would like to echo Dan Ivers’ comments above. I think that having a system that allows comments is great, I have also found that it can also put up walls when trying to communicate with the public. People read an article that we arite and then post comments that have nothing to do with what was written, these comments can be racist, sexist, biggoted, you name it, but as long as the don’t swear…they are allowed to remain up there. I will say that some of the worst comments have been taken down, and there is moderation. What I would like to see is some sort of “search engine” that you could put words into, and would dis-allow posts that contained those words, that would be great. Posters will always use fake names, and fake email addresses, so a syetem that weeded out posts based on those criteria would be nearly impossible. I am not against free speech at all, but free, ignorant speech frankly is irritating and useless.

    Mike Agogliati

    April 6, 2010 at 9:33 pm

  34. At one time, I was the biggest champion at my paper for not requiring registration for comments. We now require registration and I’ve warmed up to the idea. It certainly has cut down the number of pure idiotic comments, while still allowing intelligent debate. This is the second time we have switched to registration. The first time, it was a disaster. We would go days without a single comment. It cut our numbers drastically more than I imagined it would. This second time around, we are getting a fair amount of comments. Not nearly as many as we did when we were without registration, but an amount that I’m comfortable with.

    Personally, I’m a fan of sites such as freep.com, where reader comments do not automatically appear at the bottom of every story. They’re there, but as a reader, you have to intentionally click on an icon to see them. If you want them, they’re there. If you want to read the news story and that’s it, problem solved as well. I think a lot of times, negative commenters would never continue an out-of-control thread had they not seen the comments. Plus, those who complain about the comments also have a reprieve, where those who wish to view them, can easily do so.

    I do like Leslie’s mention about a comment automatically being removed when X many abuse complaints have been lodged against it. That makes sense.

    In the beginning of this thread, Matt mentioned email marketing being tied in with registration. That certainly proved true for us. When we launched our Facebook and Twitter pages, we had two large mailing lists at our disposal — those who have signed up for our email newsletter and those who have signed up to comment on our site. We were able to reach out directly to both lists with the news of our social media pages. Within 2 1/2 weeks, our Facebook fans reached 1,000. I doubt we would have reached those numbers without having a database of email addresses of readers who had already demonstrated that they’re interested in our product. Having registration does offer more than just some control over story comments.

    Jason Alley
    The News-Herald in Michigan

    Jason Alley

    April 7, 2010 at 3:24 am

  35. Check out this story … 329 reader comments yesterday on a piece about a police manhunt in one of our towns, including real-time citizen reporting on police activity and other response and fears about the incident.

    How would advance-moderation delay and the requirement of registration affected this? … Good community journalism and an important public safety matter as well.

    http://www.registercitizen.com/articles/2010/04/06/news/doc4bbbcce11e969516163653.txt

    Matt DeRienzo

    April 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm

  36. I love the idea of having some kind of verified users for those people who genuinely want to take part in the discussion and are willing to provide their name instead of hiding behind a screen name. If a town politician wants to comment on a story, it would be great to know that’s really him or her. Setting up official accounts for local politicians and important community members on our end could encourage them to participate more in the discussion.

    All that said, there MUST be some kind of anonymous way to post comments if for no other reason than to keep people on the site and increase that site’s value. People enjoy that anonymity too much. All we’re doing by requiring registration is making it annoying to comment, it doesn’t really make it anymore transparent. You can still go in, create an account with a fake name and an e-mail address you use for spam (I imagine most everyone has one, so I question how useful those we do collect by registration are) and post anonymously with some screen name. Why make people go to all that trouble if we’re not really solving any problem?

    We could delay the anonymous comments from showing up for a period to encourage readers to register. We could also allow registered commenters to create profiles and give them other benefits for registering.

    To combat the bad posters, I’m in favor of developing a method where the audience moderates itself — especially given the size of our editorial staffs. I’ve seen sites that let the users rate individual comments with a plus or minus sign, thumbs up or thumb down, etc. If a comment gets enough negative votes, it gets deactivated and either completely taken down or compacted with a message saying the comment was deemed inappropriate by readers.

    Matt Grisafi

    April 7, 2010 at 5:37 pm

  37. Here is the comments policy announced today by a larger competitive paper, the Times Herald Record of Middletown, N.Y.:

    “Reader comments have returned to recordonline.com. We have installed a new and improved system to make commenting easier. You can even share your comments on your favorite social network stream.

    “We ask that you abide by the community rules we have established for blog and story comments. Comments are now screened before they are posted to the site. This means you will not see anything you post immediately. There may be a delay of 30 minutes to several hours depending on the time of day. Not all comments will be approved for publication. In general, your post must address the specific issues related to that particular news story and not be derogatory, abusive or threatening in tone. In addition, after two weeks, the ability to comment on a story will be turned off.

    “As always, if you see an inappropriate post, flag it to have it reviewed by one of our editors.

    “We hope you enjoy the new comment features.”

    Ira Fusfeld

    April 7, 2010 at 6:18 pm

  38. Reader registrations should be tied to online commenting rights in degrees. The more information readers provide about themselves, the more rights they earn. But I don’t think we must force people to register, either. Examples:

    “No registration” You can recommend another’s post only. The NYT has a great feature called “recommend” enabling readers to endorse another person’s post. Those posts with the greatest number of “recommends” float to the top of the list. It helps limit comment redundancy and gives a voice to many of the lurkers who just won’t register.

    “Register with name, address, email” You may post a comment (or just recommend another’s post.) Keep track of the number of “recommends” each person earns and award them with a special designation when they reach a magic number.

    Other basic rules: block more than one post by the same person on the same story (easy with the registration requirements above) and block any post that contains symbols. Today, too many story comments sections are polluted with hateful, racist and offensive posts that only deter more constructive dialog from our readers.

    Jackie Schear

    April 8, 2010 at 7:45 pm

  39. Comments are important for us and for readers. They want to comment, and they already feel that if they cannot be part of the story, then they’re missing out.

    For us, they’re important because we love the page clicks. (Between 3.28.10 and 4.7.10, we had 5,687 comments; during same period of 2009, we had 2,047.) Facebook and especially Twitter only add to this expectation.

    Many fear registration because the volume of comments would decrease, but I think it would rebound. I certainly hesitate doing something if I have to sign up, but I see readers who want to sign up because they want to be heard. Registration will help us 1) protect the BRAND and 2) bring order to a chaotic system.

    Our commenters are savvy and shrewd. My biggest reason for wanting registration now is that readers become outraged if someone uses their USER NAME. If one doesn’t like The Watcher, he/she will post the opposite political opinion under the name Watcher. They want their voices heard and to keep order, we need to register them.

    We have people who continue debates from story to story (even asking why so-and-so hasn’t chimed in with their opinion on new stories), so I think they will stay with us through registration.

    The biggest issue, though, is the brand. We need to protect our brand name. We are a place to go for local news and coverage of the world as well. People like to debate politics and local issues, sports teams, and anything of interest. They will want their opinions heard. As we reach out and try to attract new readers, they will be turned off by the comments. The negativity dominates and drives away many.

    But as we push advertisers onto our web sites, instead of simply upselling from print, they may take a look at who the audience is. I’m afraid they could be shocked. We want to encourage debate, yes, but not hatred. And the haters, I feel, push away those who want to share their opinion. FB and Twitter show that those people who simply want to share and put their names on it want to be heard.

    If we go with registration, we have to use that information for eventual mobile alerts and marketing. But other than an email, it should be easy to register and not too intrusive.

    If simple volume of numbers is desired, banning people and disabling comments from controversial stories is not the answer. A long-term solution calls for trying to maintain some control of the quality.

    I LOVE the idea of forcing the worst or least constructive comments to the bottom. Wow, that would be great. Thank you for exploring this.

    Stephen Frye

    April 8, 2010 at 9:24 pm

  40. Interesting story about reader comments:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/12/technology/12comments.html?hp

    I do like the idea of ‘preferred’ commenters or a rating system. Let the rif-raf sink to the bottom by themselves.

    chris stanley

    April 12, 2010 at 3:52 pm

  41. How about this?

    Tough love: Gawker finds making it harder for comments to be seen leads to more (and better) comments. – http://bit.ly/9ZhyjU

    If anything, look at the graphic.

    (via Nieman Lab)

    Ivan Lajara

    April 13, 2010 at 6:23 pm

  42. >
    >
    > There has been a rash of murders in the city of new haven in the
    > past few weeks – primarily young black males killing other black
    > males. It has risen the policing of comments on our web site to a
    > new level. Taking down IP addresses, disabling comments, etc. don’t
    > work – the haters are a step ahead of us….
    >
    > On a daily basis – I’m doing my best to deal with community leaders
    > who want to know why we let this crap on our web site…
    >
    >

    Jack Kramer

    April 15, 2010 at 11:17 am

  43. […] The tiered community moderation is similar to Journal Register’s recent discussion on story commenting. […]

  44. Here’s a cool idea that I wish I thought of: Allow users to block other users, but ONLY on their individual computers. Basically, we put the ball back in the community’s hands. You don’t like what someone posts? Block them, and you’ll never have to read them again. http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2010/04/ignore_user_new_web_tool_lets.php

    Jeff Edelstein

    April 16, 2010 at 6:49 pm

  45. I think Jeff’s idea is AWESOME.

    Wanted also to share this link with everyone, in case they missed it:

    http://www.buzzmachine.com/2010/04/21/after-comments/

    It is Jeff Jarvis’ take on story comments, mostly in the context that we are missing the bigger problem, that our traditional system of story comments itself is an arrogant statement that readers should be involved in the process only after we are done telling the story.

    To our immediate concern, though, I like his point that the Web is a place, not a medium, and that like New York City, you are occasionally going to hear people saying inappropriate things!

    Matt DeRienzo

    April 22, 2010 at 2:38 pm

  46. […] The tiered community moderation is similar to Journal Register’s recent discussion on story commenting. […]

    Test driving Grogger

    September 28, 2010 at 2:53 am

  47. サングラス プラダ mcm リュック ピンク http://www.rocehantal.com/

    mcm リュック ピンク

    November 14, 2013 at 9:53 am


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