Comments - A Follow Up

William Mougayar is a regular reader and commenter here at AVC. He sent me this today via email:


Paul Krugman gets 1200 or more comments to his opinion pieces. First of all, that's great to see. That is a celebration of free speech, political discourse, and the power of the Internet to be the modern day coffee house. Second of all, I'll be the first one to acknowledge that no author, no matter who they are, can really do justice to 1200 comments on each piece they write.

In my post the other day, I said that authors need to tend to their comment threads. I still feel that way, but at scale, Krugman scale, they need help. Some of that help can come from interns and entry level employees who can wade through all of the comments using a moderation tool like the one Disqus will be rolling out shortly for publishers. The comment system itself should leverage community interaction to surface the best comments. Then the author can get delivered to them the best comments, via email, the web, or some other method, to respond, if they so desire.

There were several comments to my post the other day on this topic that said something like "you have no idea what newspapers and journalists have to deal with every day in their jobs". That's true. And this 1200 comments thing drives that point home. But even so, I stand by my assertion that tending to a comment thread can be done, even at Krugman scale. It takes technology, community, some internal support resources, and a committment to make it part of the experience.

It looks like the NY Times and Paul Krugman are working on it. That's great to see.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Jan Schultink

    Would this Disqus publisher tool be able to group comments that are similar using some sort of semantic algorithm? Or is this (still) science fiction?

    1. EllieSemantic

      Actually, no. This is not science fiction. Our company, Adaptive Semantics and product, JuLiA (Just a Linguistic Algorithm) responds to this exact problem. JuLiA auto-moderates incoming comments for abusiveness and generates a decision to auto-publish, delete, or forward with recommendations to the moderation staff. She moderates in real time and keeps comment backlogs to a minimum. For more info, check out our demo:

      1. Jan Schultink

        Interesting. But does it go further than predicting abusive comments? Can it group legitimate comments that say the same thing together so the moderator ca reply in one go? This looks like a hard problem to crack.

      2. fredwilson

        If I am not mistaken, disqus has implemented Julia and is working with you on this, right?

    2. fredwilson

      I think it can be done using one or more of the tools I talk about in todays postI’m on my blackberry but its called Making The Web Smarter and its at

  2. Anton Johansson

    Fred, what do you think of newspapers who outsourcing moderation of their comments? In Scandinavia a company called “Interaktiv Säkerhet” (http://interaktivsakerhet.s… is taking that type of job and have been quite successful with that, many of the largest news sites are using them both for comments and “blog comments” (that my company Twingly are selling to them,, that’s why I am so interested in this discussion).It’s both cheaper and more effective what it seems but the feeling of a discussion between the writer and the reader is truly missing. Is there any example of this in the US as well?

    1. fredwilson

      I think there’s a role for outsourced moderation but I also thing technology can do a lot upfront and I still think the author needs to be engaged with the most interesting commentsIn between the two there’s room for either outsourced or in house resources

  3. William Mougayar

    Thanks Fred. Also, perhaps we need some sort of new code of conduct for Commenting, to streamline it a bit more. For e.g., they could limit the length of comments so that you don’t get the dissertations in some of Paul’s readers comments. Some questions he received require an essay to answer. We’re asking for somebody’s time to respond for “Free”, and that’s not entirely right. (if readers want to follow “The future of news” in more depth, @thefutureofnews)

    1. fredwilson

      I’m with you on the essays. Its too much. A comment should be a comment. Essays belong on your own blog (a comment can include a link to an essay)

  4. Peter Holsgrove

    Hi Fred. Makes sense, and I’m with you on the whole ‘getting back to contributors as best as possible’ postulation. A suggestion to extend the community type solution; 1200 is likely overload for an author, its also near on 0% probabilistic that any contributor is going to wade through that many, and therefore makes it difficult to continue the ‘coffee house’ discussion beyond a point. If users could create tags for sub-topics of interest that evolve from the main topic under discussion and receive posterous type alerts when certain keywords are used, that might be a way to keep track of specific areas of discussion the user is interested in, and in turn develop the discussion where the author might not have time to.

    1. fredwilson

      Good idea

  5. Phillip Baker

    When comments get to unmanageable and unreadable levels, I think it also makes the ability to follow the comments of specific users (and hopefully journalists or other staffers) more valuable. A Disqus-like tool could help turn news/media sites into comment-driven social networks that foster the kind of engagement/community around content that media companies are looking for (as well as providing valuable data on users).

    1. fredwilson


  6. kidmercury

    perhaps a solution for krugman’s moderation woes is for him to spend more time learning real economics, maybe then he wouldn’t need 1200 people to tell him he doesn’t know WTF he’s talking about…..

    1. ShanaC

      One thing I hated about my college was the econ department, which was full of real economists…it may be publish or perish, but it is rarely about the quality you publish, so people often got stuck after a while in the narrow hole of academic thought. Blech. (though some people were awesome to here a lecture or two from).

    2. coreymull

      I just googled “kidmercury” and “Nobel Prize for economics” – no results. What year did you win?

      1. David Semeria

        Take the pain, Kid

      2. ShanaC

        From experience: Nobel prize does not equal nice people. Nor does it necessarily indicate Smart people, if they are too stuck on the mdoel. (Can we say Merton, Scholes, Physics!!! and Long Term Capital Management?) Some days I want to smack some economists on the head with their beautiful models (and they are beautiful, in the way that only the thing that come from math can be and say:Correlation is not Causation! Suck it up with your experimentalist, behaviorist, and information science, branches, they clearly are telling you the rest of the social sciences know something!

        1. coreymull

          No doubt, but hopefully we can agree that winning a field’s most prestigious award might indicate, at a minimum, basic competence in that field – a knowledge and understanding of “real economics”, if you will.

          1. ShanaC

            I rather see the John Bates Clark Medal then as the standard. You see who are the heavy hitters, and you see where the field is going earlier rather than crap. Black-Scholes was physics crap. Emmanuel Saez is working on inequalities and why they exist in taxation, and is still staying on the West Coast.Saltwater will rule over Freshwater in finding out how close they are to the rest of the social sciences….

          2. kidmercury

            um, no, it doesn’t. unlike yourself, i have an education in real economics. we can define “real economics” as the austrian school of economics (for real economists that may be reading this, i know there are some flaws or some debatable areas of austrian economics, but for the most part it is true — as evidenced by the fact that austrian economists have repeatedly been right in their forecasts). i have a blog that deals with real economics and have discussed this topic countless times here on is dumb/irresponsible/uneducated enough to think problems can be solved by printing money. there are only two possible outcomes from what krugman has been blabbering about for the past few months:1. a massive inflation tax, in which the stock market bubble will be reflated, but the dollar will be weakened significantly. this means if you own stocks you are safe and possibly getting richer, but for everyone else that doesn’t own much, you deal with a weaker dollar and thus a higher cost of living. i personally don’t think this is likely but now that DJIA is above 9000 i have to at least take that possibility more seriously. in either event, this amounts to a transfer of wealth from poor people to rich folks who own lots of financial assets.2. more likely in my opinion is a run from the dollar, which will result in higher prices and a collapsing stock market. let’s see how much folks like and respect krugman for using his platform to support the policies that will create this if it happens.unlike yourself i am not deceived by meaningless accolades and am more interested in meaningful accomplishments. i backup my views with speculation in the currency market, and my style is based largely in part on an understanding of real economics. i blog about my trades as i place them, not afterwards. i’ve had double digit annual returns for three years running. in 2006 i blogged that the stock market was going to crash and that we’d have a currency crisis on our hands, a viewpoint that is now becoming common (ironically i even cited krugman in my blog post, not because i like him, but because i know youngsters like yourself respect him). i’m not saying this to brag, as i don’t think these accomplishments are impressive, but rather to prove that awards are not an indication of anything, particularly in our current society. it’s actions that count, not awards.i’m sorry i had to call you out and embarrass you in front of the hundreds of thousands of people that read fred’s blog by exposing your economic ignorance, but perhaps next time you will take a friendlier tone when engaging with me here on AVC. doing so will spare you the immense humiliation you must currently be experiencing and will save me time — a win-win, something every economist likes. even krugman.

          3. coreymull

            I think all of the hundreds of thousands of people that read this blog can see the fallacy in an argument that basically boils down to “the only ‘real’ economists are the ones I agree with”.

          4. Greg Gentschev

            Wish I could have the time I spent reading those five paragraphs back. You sound like you’re 13 in this comment.

          5. kidmercury

            i’m disappointed i sound like a 13 year old to you, my goal is to sound younger. young minds are less encumbered by the lies of the world and thus can more easily discern the truth. regrettably, you sound like you are a thousand years old.i’m also joking around with the embarrassing comment, i just love getting people riled up. i know, terrible personality attribute, but sometimes i can’t help myself, especially when folks give me bait.

          6. ShanaC

            Oh You did…:-P I was about to reply that I don’t Like Krugman. (I actually don’t) There are actually a Bunch of reasons why I don’t Chicago School as a general rule, but it is a general rule, not a full blown one. Plenty of Soft Chicago economists that are fine. I generally like the testable stuff. Untestable drives me crazy after meeting some people and hearing them say some very stories.At the end of the say I would like my theories to conform to my real world life.

          7. fredwilson

            I’m not a fan of Krugman either. But the last time I bashed him on this blog, I got a ton of hate coming my way. He’s got his fans, like Apple

          8. ShanaC

            I don’t hate hate him. He is a good trade theorist- I think the column is a distraction from his work that revises sections of Ricardo. That work is important but doesn’t really come up in his column. Mankiw’s column on the other hand, feels like the testing ground for his textbook: which is a 101 econ book for undergrads.

          9. David Semeria

            I’m sorry i had to call you out and embarrass you in front of the hundreds of thousands of people that read fred’s blog by exposing your economic ignorance, but perhaps next time you will take a friendlier tone when engaging with me here on AVC. You’re supposed to be breaking up the fights here Kid – not starting them!

          10. kidmercury

            lol, too true, i was waiting to be called out on it :)but in my defense i was not the initiator, and did encourage a friendlier tone….sometimes bouncers have to give a little tough lovebut you are right i will strive to not fall for the hate bait next time

          11. David Semeria

            I grew up in England and the bouncers there confer pain at will. Compared to them, you’re the very epitome of restraint.

          12. Mark Essel

            I enjoyed the thread and was well educated for it. Be nice to bouncers in England.My personal experience with a nobel prize winner, just a little bit holier than though. But I guess you can’t blame them, modern research makes winning one seem like you’re a rockstar and beyond questioning. What a load of horse pucky.

          13. David Semeria

            Richard Feynman nailed the paradox surrounding prizes long ago. Basically, those who deserve them don’t want them, and those who don’t do.

          14. Mark Essel

            Ah David you distracted my coding with reading up on Feynman Diagrams, shame on you sir.I’ve been out of physics for 14years, you’d think the old interests would rest.

          15. David Semeria

            Ah, Feynman – so seductive… His greatness is very well documented, but my own personal favourite (sic) is the period in which he found his office at CalTech uninspiring and so relocated it to a local strip bar. When the bar was threatened with closure by the police, he was only patron who went to the hearing to speak up for it. He even told the confused judge he held a Nobel Prize for physics, and the bar’s future existence was essential to his research. Quality.Edit: A great Feynman video in the first 5 minutes he talks about why he dislikes honors and exclusive clubs.

          16. Mark Essel

            Haha, that’s an awesome story, never heard of it before but it’s a great one.

          17. ShanaC

            Famous professors are interesting Characters for the most part. I don’t think they get famous for Just the research, that would be too boring.

          18. fredwilson

            Man this comment thread is turning into a classic!

          19. William Mougayar

            That was a hillarious exchange. I think your head got too big after Fred called you ‘bouncer’ 🙂

          20. kidmercury

            lol, well i was going for humor, not big headedness….only pretending to be bigheaded because i think it’s funnier that way 🙂

      3. FactoryDirectLinen

        There’s a big difference between a smart academic and someone with practical experience in economics (e.g. a business owner). Krugman may be great at the former, but from what I’ve read of his work he’s atrocious at the latter.P.S. Sorry, Fred. I know your point has nothing to do with politics or ideology, but you had to know you were going to get some of this when you used Krugman as an example 😉 I agree with your assertion that, “tending to a comment thread can be done, even at Krugman scale. It takes technology, community, some internal support resources, and a commitment to make it part of the experience.”

    3. markslater

      haha – i know peanut gallery – but that was pretty funny.

    4. adultoxygen

      haven’t you heard? economics was an inside job. just dropped some truth on you, bro.

      1. kidmercury

        you know it! thanks for droppin’ truth, always needed.although to clarify i think it is keynesian economics that is an inside job….it’s always here to give the “logic” of why government must intervene, and must expand in the process….9/11 was an inside job,kid mercury

        1. adultoxygen

          if truth is corn on the cob, you’re a kernel, homie. cuz you obviously haven’t discovered that JMK wasn’t even a real person. just a straw man to trick the masses into believing that economics wasn’t an inside job.allow yourself to see the truth — it’s a bumper crop for the oxygen

          1. kidmercury

            i’m not sure i follow….can you point us to any info to back up your assertion that JMK was not a real person? i do agree he was used to create the phony logic that would get people to accept stimulus packages, central banking, and the idea of what is basically a centrally planned economy. keynesian logic results in currency crises, just ask argentinians.i’m always down for seeing the truth, and welcome all to help me see it. you know that’s the way i roll!

          2. adultoxygen

            i usually only deal in “truths” rather than “facts,” but you asked and now you shall receive: oxygen

          3. kidmercury

            well you can believe that if you’d like, although one of my favorite sources for real historical knowledge is spartacus. here’s spartacus’ entry on JMK for those who may be interested:…the third to last paragraph illustrate how keynes’ logic was used to justify the creation of centrally planned economies like we now have. it is this logic that resulted in the currency crisis in argentina in 2001, which is why this logic, still espoused by krugman, is dangerous.

    5. fredwilson

      There is no truth. He’s entitled to his opinion. As are you

  7. RichardF

    “It takes technology, community, some internal support resources, and a committment to make it part of the experience.”Bang on Fred if the NY Times or any other newspaper want to make the jump to having an online presence that interacts with their users then they are going to have to accept the fact that comments are something that their readers want, enhances reader experience and therefore they are going to have to put some serious resource into it.Anything else is just an excuse for old media not embracing the new simply because it doesn’t fit with the way they work and currently interact with their customers.

  8. Adrian Bye

    It’s not a big deal – actually its a big opportunity. The NYTimes should implement a slashdot style community moderation system for comments and feature them.A large percentage of the the comments on slashdot are better than linked-to article, which given the already high standards of the NYTimes means well organized comments could be a welcome addition.

    1. fredwilson


      1. GlennKelman

        Well at least on the NYT you can vote comments up or down as being more or less useful, which has spurred an increase in quantity and quality, particularly if you compare the NYT community to the WSJ community.

        1. thompsa6

          I like the sound of this approach. I’m not a NYT reader but crowdsourcing the relevance/value of your comments seems to make sense, ratings system(ish).If blog = community AND comments = discussion, then it seems reasonable that the community would police it’s own discussions for what should bubble up. Thoughts?

          1. JamieEi

            I like this too. People would love the recognition of being NY Times “super users” or whatever they want to call those who have earned the reputation points to moderate.

      2. Lawrence Wang

        There are all kinds of algorithms they could play with. For example, how about:Once the thread gets to a certain length, you have to vote on the quality of 3 other posts before you can leave one of your own.This not only provides an incentive for community moderation, but it reduces the rate of low-quality posts (by setting a low barrier to submission, and by increasing the chance that someone who was going to make a redundant post will notice that what they wanted to say has already been said).

        1. Mark Essel

          Great idea Lawrence, I like deeper engagement/interacting required before increasing the size as a buffer against drive by commenters.

        2. fredwilson

          I love it!

        3. David Semeria

          Great idea

    2. Dan Gehant

      Nurturing a community would be a win/win for NYT and its users.I recently saw the community manager from speak – she’s a rockstar in terms of empowering the community (It’s job #1 for her), but more importantly she values the personal connection. Responsibilities aside, it’s interesting to compare that view to that of other journalists who consider community management or moderating comments as a “waste of time.”I seems like a new form of journalism, where embracing your community (as opposed to dictating to isolated readers), could lead to some great discoveries for NYT. The stronger and more refined that dialogue becomes, the more they could learn about their core/dedicated users…

  9. Ben Atlas

    Fred, I didn’t see this new post before I left this comment to the other post. We are thinking along the same lines, so I would repost the comment on this thread.Let’s say we are advising a Sheboygan Telegraph on comments.1) I would link your post and encourage writer participation2) I would also be cognizant of the fact that Sheboygan Telegraph is now profitable and they pay an author a fee for an article. Therefore I would send them to read chapter from Dan Ariely’s book on how ‘free and paid’ don’t mix and suggest that a writer’s time to tend an article might required a fee in addition to the article fee. Unlike blogs that are written without a fee.3) I would tell Sheboygan Telegraph that they might appoint a full or part time “community moderator” to tend the garden.4) I would tell Sheboygan Telegraph that anonymous junk comments are killing them and they might require a registration to their forum. Even HuffPost require a registration ( NYT I believe also requires a registration), there is no other way if you volume reaches an occasional 100 comments an hour (not 100 comments per day like Fred’s blog)5) I would tell Fred that Disqus should enable a registration to a forum. I.e. you have an account with Disqus but you need a permission to join Sheboygan Telegraph forum to comment there. This is where the ‘freemium’ kicks in. Disqus will be charging Sheboygan Telegraph a fee for the walled forum.6) I would then conclude by saying that anonymity on the internet has deep cultural roots, geek handles, etc. But everyone who cares about the online conversation should speak up about the importance of an authenticated conversation. Till people feel comfortable with their own name online, we will never get rid of the spam.7) Like Fred said the tolerance for anonymity is compared to a tolerance for pornography but there might be a different culture about it in Stockholm for example. This culture is slowly changing, people are not as afraid to sign their posts. But we should take every opportunity to speak up about the change away from the anonymity.

    1. fredwilson

      I’m not sure I’m totally with you on this but I do understand why you think this is the way to go

  10. marcelofrontiereconomy

    It’s an interesting dilemma — Krugman himself doesn’t scale conversationally, but there should be a way to scale what makes Krugman interesting. Division of labor: I’d rather have Krugman do what he does best, which isn’t necessarily tending to a community (perhaps this should be a job position, Community Stoker?).

    1. Chuck Taylor

      This is a key point. Besides cutting into time they could be spending doing what they do better — writing about stuff or digging up information no one else can or has bothered to dig up — making a journalist tend his or her own comments forces him or her into a role that might not be suited.There are some excellent reporters and commentators out there who should keep their human interaction to a minimum, for the benefit of all involved and the brand of the purveyor. And yet they perform an essential, unique service.Some writers are going to dive into the fray, and do it well, and that’s great. But not everyone should. Your average junkyard dog is necessarily antisocial. Doesn’t make sense to have that dog also spend time cuddling with stricken children at the hospital.I’d also like to reiterate something I mentioned on Fred’s earlier post, regarding the time suck that is comment-tending. Fred counters that he can do it despite all his other obligations. Noted. But tending to 200 comments on this blog doesn’t even come close to the challenge of tending to a comparable number on a mainstream news site.”I agree” and “thanks, I’ll check out that link” don’t really compare to “here’s why I deleted your comment” or “I omitted that information from the article because …” or “while I suppose it’s possible I am a racist, I should mention that I have two adopted kids of different ethnicities …”AVC is rarefied atmosphere. You need to bring a street game to the mainstream world.That said, better tools indeed are desperately needed in the news business, and not just for handling comments.

      1. marcelofrontiereconomy

        > You need to bring a street game to the mainstream world.I agree. Most of us can give at least a token response to most people who want to interact with (praise, question, flame, etc) us, but when that demand grows beyond a certain level, this becomes impractical. Ultimately, the level of direct involvement is a personal strategic choice, not something that can be demanded (while still being true that writers who do engage their readers will probably gain from that).

        1. fredwilson

          Yeah, but just recognizing the comment is a big deal

          1. marcelofrontiereconomy

            I agree; it’s definitely a big deal and something that would reward the reader and make it more likely for her or him to interact with the writer. My concern is that at five seconds per acknowledgment (an optimistic lower bound for anything not cut-and-paste, I think), that’s more than an hour and a half of nonstop work to nod to 1200 comments, and a realistic estimate would probably be much higher. Granted, more than a thousand is at the high end of number of comments, but even at the lowest possible level of engagement, it’s still a sizable commitment, and it didn’t take into account the time needed to read those comments (if he isn’t going to read the comment, his acknowledgment of it would be hollow, right?) The time investment is surely very worthwhile in some cases, I agree, but not necessarily in all.It might be thought of as a tragedy of the commons: Krugman’s attention span is finite (only so many hours in the week, after all). Getting two minutes of his time would be great for me, but if every one who commented on his columns got that, he’d have no time to do the other things that make him Krugman.

          2. fredwilson

            Technology and entry level employees (or outsourcing) are the answer.

          3. marcelofrontiereconomy

            But doesn’t that nullify the value of the response? (I’m not saying that using tech, entry level employees, and/or outsourced employees to enliven and organize a comments thread isn’t a good idea, it’s just that it’s a different concept than interacting with the author.)

          4. fredwilson

            My point is they (tech and people) filter the comments so that the author can deal with the most insightful or discussion worthy comments

          5. fredwilson

            My point is they (tech and people) filter the comments so that the author can deal with the most insightful or discussion worthy comments

      2. fredwilson

        Well that’s why I wrote the follow upBut I still don’t agree with you because you don’t have to reply to every comment with something insightfulThanks, I’ll check out that link is often good enoughIt says, ‘I read your comment and I appreciate what you just gave me”That’s a big deal

  11. Dorian Benkoil

    What about a Gawker-like approach: Elevating a select group of commenters and giving them privileges to elevate or demote other comments. Technology can move comments into categories or “buckets” based on their subject matter.

  12. drm10506

    Interesting post relative to your post about monetizing th newspaper brand the other day. The Krugman/Times brand combination achieves topicality, engagement and reach in a way that should drive economic value. That alone should be incentive to the newspaper to commit the resources to make commentig a rewarding consumer experience. Another example of the legacy brand process missing the boat in terms of allocating resources?

  13. rajjr_tx

    One of the most impressive things about your blog, is that it appears that you read every, and respond to most of the comments left. Even if that’s not exactly true, perception is reality.I personally find that your effort in not only writing the post, but responding as you do, builds a in me a sense of loyalty and in a strange way the beginning of a relationship. In a way, the topic you write about is of secondary importance (although the topic is always interesting).

  14. Geoff

    The solution did seems to work well, each blog post creates a discussion thread in a forum – the forum is moderated by ‘ Steve selected fans’ and Steve contributes to the discussion.

    1. ShanaC

      That site looks amazing, has to be said.

  15. David Semeria

    Guy Kawasaki has ‘helpers’ who give him a hand in managing his tweet flow. But there appears to be some confusion over who is writing what, and some people only want to interact with the main man. Special prize for the first poster to spot the subtle freemium opportunity hidden therein 🙂

  16. JeremiahKane

    We know they can’t charge for access to the columnist, but maybe for the “select” super-high-traffic columnists they should charge for the comment real estate. Doesn’t have to be a per-comment basis but they could auction off 100-200 monthly “comment pundit” slots. You could still moderate on top of that if need be (w/refunds etc).Often online we don’t have to confront scarcity issues since the marginal costs of things tends to be so low, but the scarcity of readers attention can be competed over.

  17. John Minnihan

    Hey Fred – do you have a pointer to where the new/upcoming Disqus moderation feature is described?

  18. dgulbran

    The *Times* can’t even afford an _intern_ to moderate comments for a Nobel Prize winning economist? Wow. Newspapers really are screwed.

    1. ShanaC

      I’m minded to think that say, Freakenomics Steven Levitt teaches Undergraduates and I think also graduate students(The famous line from his course- “How much are you paying for pot”,….finally gets an answer…”you are paying too much”)It may be a matter of of other duties, or finding an intern who understands his schedule, ect. Krugman probably does other things beyond write for the NYTimes. An intern needs to work around that as well, unless it is the NYTIMES economics moderation intern. (In which case s/he better be fair to everyone on every side of the economics battle)

  19. John Stack

    It is quite apparent that the most popular bloggers are the ones that engage. To the point of having significant comment / conversation volume, (Being a former Loti,) I like the idea of thread spawning to understand and split the conversation and take it to its (many) logical conclusions. I wonder how many folks might pick up Wave or Connections for this very feature. I suspect; however, at some point, as a few have mentioned here, the discussion – at least for the regular poster/blogger starts exhibiting diminishing returns. No silver bullets, I guess!

  20. kenberger

    no comment.

  21. Max Kennerly

    1200 comments.Hundreds or thousands of users refreshing, refreshing, and refreshing. Captive. Proven to be interested.There has to be a way to make money off of that.

    1. David Semeria

      I would offer a prize for both the best comment on any given post, and (importantly) a bigger long-term prize for the people who most frequently vote comments which turn out to be best. A bit like Disqus meets Covestor.

  22. krdennis

    I think anyone who’s ever read or participated in online discussions has experienced the often banal, ill-informed and offensive mixed in with the insightful and engaging. I (like others here) believe that accountability would go a long way in skewing the discourse towards the latter.Full disclosure: my company (AssertID) develops social-network based identity verification solutions so this comment is self-serving. Although we’ve not targeted this use case as yet it has always been in our sites. If participants in these discussions had a portable identity or persona which followed them in their web discourse, this could easily morph into a reputation system that could be employed to separate the wheat from the chaff, simplifying the moderation process and giving voice to responsible posters.

  23. daveknipp

    wouldn’t anyone responding to the comments other than the author dilute the value of the responses?I would fear that the responses would become ‘canned’ answers, such as “Thanks for your comment, we’ll get back to you if we can!”

    1. fredwilson

      I agree that having a moderator reply is a bad idea

  24. vfilings

    regardless of his demeanor the man provides an illustrious service that a lot take kindly. thats arae in today’s world where everyone enjoys bickering from behind the black veil of the web (see below/or any comment page). i say keep doing what you do Paul

  25. ChuckBerry

    Where is the cool (Fred Wilson backed) startup that is doing Comment Wall n.0? Surely a plain list of comments, while simple, just breaks when over 20 or so. Who has got a neat way to keep it in chornological / thread order, but highlight the interesting bits? When you respond to a comment, should that appear somewhere else rather than as a comment on the article? you have on this one article an interesting (?) diversion which risks putting off users that want to make a simple comment on the original piece….

    1. ShanaC

      Technically you are using it right now, It is called Disqus, they are working on it. Top Priority for them.

      1. ChuckBerry

        Fred always blogs with an angle, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has invested in an Eastern Europe tour operator too.

        1. ShanaC

          I’d like to think that I have a little bit of good reason to not speculate in public. While he may blog from an angle, and while this is definitely, in some senses, a community that does end up causing free consulting advice, the secret sauce of why and how is best left undisclosed and undisturbed lest the ecosystem that causes it is destroyed for everyone.

        2. ShanaC

          We’ll just have to wait and see. We don’t get to be privy for some very good legal reason (Yes I know, Kid you’ll disagree with me on this one)

        3. fredwilson

          I agree with this comment 100pcnt.Except I don’t invest in tour operators.

    2. fredwilson

      I’d like disqus to be that company

      1. ChuckBerry

        IMHO, one needs to make a jump from just writing on a wall that is sorted in a particular order. I’m thinking how Minority Report triggered the iphone interface, there is a better way to do this when you have 10s of responses and responses on responses.

        1. fredwilson

          I agree. That’s why I’m pushing for the ‘cliff notes’ of comment threads

          1. ChuckBerry

            that’s still a book with linear text though…

  26. benjaminjtaylor

    Comparing 60 comments to 1K or 10K is apples to oranges agreed, but there is a cost of not engaging the user. It’s a disconnecting experience when the primary author doesn’t participate. I still feel comments on news articles are important. It’s where the audience will be most actively engaged, on either side of the fence. However I understand the inherent challenge with engagement and moderation on all published news items, even opt ed on the New York Times.Respectively Fred, managing AVC is a different business than managing a newspaper – print and online. There are absolutely no hard deadlines for posts on AVC, not in the traditional sense. That position affords a certain amount of time and flexibility to respond and actively engaging the readers’ comments. However, with that said, comments are open on most online versions of newspapers, they have been for a long time. Authors have no choice but to engage the reader.From my own personal experience, I agree with your assertion that tending to comments can be done, interns perhaps, not my first choice, but engagement AND moderation can be done at relatively low cost. I work for a large entertainment company holding multiple brands across multiple demographics. And with continuous on-air calls to action to participate and discuss online we receive a high volume of online UGC content.Let’s just focus on text, comments on blog posts/video comments/text on community profile opt-ed etc.. from users). Engagement and moderation exists on multiple levels from the participation of the primary author, to freelancers and interns servicing moderation and enforcing terms of use. Not to mention the community doing a fairly good job of policing itself; this approach works.Additionally there are a number of third party companies that offer moderation services – if needed. This approach allows the primary author to engage, which is part of their job, but leaves moderation to a third party. This is not a new concept in the new media entertainment business, and works, even when you multiply that 1K number by a factor of 10.

    1. fredwilson

      Great comment.As an aside, there are no hard deadlines, but I post once a day almost without fail

  27. Guest

    1,200 is a lot, however keep in mind we are talking the most influential columnist here: other journalists/blogger would have much lighter comment loads.

    1. fredwilson

      I’ve got a goal now 🙂

  28. Dave Pinsen

    A similar conversation took place recently on Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Atlantic blog. Coates has vibrant comment threads, and he frequently participates in them, but some commenters were asking why his Atlantic colleague Andrew Sullivan didn’t allow comments on his blog. Coates’s answer was that Sullivan simply had too many readers, but I agree with Fred here that there are ways to manage scale, either by using interns or technology.

  29. Emeri Gent [Em]

    These are rhetorical questions to elicit thought over the long term than a mad rush of answers in the short-term: Why should the power law curve apply to comments if our own thinking is the one thing we can control? Are comments a commodity or they a personal expression of who we are?Isn’t 1200 comments to Paul Krugman really still many-to-one? If comments are a commodity, then if a social community really cares about farming human expression, then just as wikipedia gathers its information, then why not a “commentpedia”? or why not produce a comment “mind-map” – i.e. lets fundamentally change the meme of how we look at comments. Is it a right brain approach to dealing with comments a fundamental or impossible shift in how people think?If comments are a commodity, is the thinking I am doing right here, right now, is that disposable? And then who is disposing of it? The instant porridge answer for that is that it is I who am disposing it because it I who have turned into a disposable consumable.Since my comments are personal, the first place they go is to my own personal relational database, where I decide how and why I am going to file them. After that step, then I have thrown my words in the community and there I want to be an invisible force, I don’t want to be His Masters Voice, or the Expert or even deem to declare that I know what I am talking about. My victory is in the change made in my own brain/life because I have exposed myself to a new or smarter ideas.What I am saying here is comments currently do not possess lifetime value. They should. What we do instead is anoint comment makers, crown new kings of expressions and here comes the crunch: we then have new media being operated through old media mindsets. We need new media that we learn to see through developing our own “new media mindset” – that is a revolutionary thing and not simply social education. It is turning comments into seeds of intelligence and planting them in new ways to create new energies.Actually, thinking out aloud is going to submerge me unless this particular comment invokes respectful silence. Because if it invokes silence, then in much like an Alan Watts way, we are finally thinking artfully rather than pouring out multi-colour brushstrokes of our thoughts.Apologies for the long comment, but it will go right into my database and I will return to it, not in terms of days but over years. Comments today have tribal value, but they have to be more evolved than that tomorrow especially in a semantic web universe and beyond …e.g., Innovation[Em]

  30. leonpaternoster

    Be interesting to see how disqus can do the job of a human moderator

    1. fredwilson

      It won’t do that. It will make the human moderator way more productive

  31. Guest

    …continuing the theme about the value of good comments, this comment at TechCrunch is probably one of the funniest things I have ever read:

  32. Prokofy

    I’ve long objected to the Times comments policy — not the actual moderation decisions — that’s a separate story — but the *method* they use for moderation.As you can see from Krugman’s note about the moderators being “off” on weekends (not entirely true), the ability to have comments literally depends on the literal physical time of this small cadre of perlustrators who read each and every comment and decide to let it through or not.This isn’t some big staff, but from what I can tell, a few people. And they literally decide, based on how many hours in the day they have to work, allowing for breaks, what they can and cannot open up for comments.That sucks, big time.I’ve repeatedly objected that they constantly close the comments on all the tech stories way too early, and unfairly, given that they let Krugman have 600 or 1000 comments, but close a controversial story on Google or telecomes off at 7 comments, usually all of them positive and agreeing with the tekkie authors. I’ve noticed other areas like health can also get cut off very early, and you have to get up before 5:00 AM EST to leave the comments sometimes as they quickly close.And after repeatedly complaining about this, I got answers: that the mods feel that tech stories just don’t have as much interest from the readership, so to conserve their limited modding time, they shut down the comments on tech and health and other stories that aren’t as widely read and/or controversial, and save their modding time for the deluge coming into Krugman. And that’s unfair, because it means that he’s eating up the lion’s share of the mod’s time and it’s shorting other stories that never have comments opened up at all, because the mods can’t cope, or they decide after a few comments and not much activity on a less-read story to shut its comments. Unfair.Of course, they could work all this very differently, allowing self-governance, and only powering up their mod activity when responding to requests to remove comments, and also doing some spot checking. But so fearful are newspapers of lawsuits and harassment of journalists, I guess they won’t do it that way. And maybe it’s a good thing, because there is nothing more nasty than a “self-governed” board where the fanboyz flashmob people whose ideas they hate and get the mods to lurch over and use the banhammer.I am totally repulsed at the method being used at Beth Noveck’s White House page for the Office of Technology now, which is to “vote up or down” like slashdot and make posts people don’t like “disappear”. They also sequester ‘flagged posts’ and its not clear if they are deleting some. What that sort of policy does then is unleash thousands of angry birthers to deluge in posts even more, and complain of censorship. And frankly, even though their views are loony, they’re right. It is censorship, and I have to keep asking everybody around here: where do you think the First Amendment *will take place*?!There are people who have the time to read every single one of the 1000 Krugman comments and even vote you up or down there (they have a ratings system at NYT, too, but fortunately not one that disappears you from view like the memory hole). But most people then read only the “editors’ choices” or the “readers’ picks” and these are naturally skewed. It’s almost better to take your chances running the gauntlet of the hard-to-get-into letters page than disappear among the 1,000 comments under Krugman, 90 percent of which is people cheering him on lustily.This is why I have a simple solution that would make this more rational and would help newspapers. The attention of mods is a scarce quantity. So is the attention of readers and editors. So charge for it. Subscribers to the Times get commenting privileges. Others don’t. Fair enough. That will cut the numbers way down and only those willing to pay something like $7.95 a month would get to post and be seen by both journalists and other readers.

    1. fredwilson

      We’ve finally found something we can completely agree upon! That’s progress

  33. NatMich

    Currently you can “like” a comment in Disqus and people in the Disqus community over time build up points, so there is some community feeding/rating already going into the system. Maybe there needs to be an algorithm to take into account these two things… or perhaps something entirely new needs to be added? This crowd sourcing, ranking stuff is a really interesting issue (lol, tho I have a biased interest too b/c we deal with this issue where I work too :).

  34. fredwilson

    I knew I’d seen that phrase before