Why Comments Matter

I was sitting at the pool in Portoroz Slovenia this afternoon and had an interesting experience. I grabbed the weekend edition of the International Herald Tribune after the Gotham Gal had finished off the crossword and started reading the opinion section. At the top of the page was an opinion piece by a guy named Douglas Bailey, President of DBMediaStrategies, titled "Do Not Comment On This Article". It was a reprint of an opinion piece in the Boston Globe from last week. You should click through and read his opinion, but I'll summarize it here:

I’ve concluded there’s one outlet that should be abandoned: those comment forums at the end of articles on newspaper websites.


these forums are insidiously contributing to the devaluation of
journalism, blurring the truth, confusing the issues, and diminishing
serious discourse beyond even talk radio’s worst examples.


The level of commentary demeans and devalues the very product newspapers should be promoting

Around the same time, I saw a tweet by Mathew Ingram, who blogs reguarly about the news industry. His tweet said:

every blogger — or journalist for that matter — should take lessons from @fredwilson in how to engage with readers: http://bit.ly/15Tto0

And then I saw another tweet from Jonathan Landman, deputy managing editor at the New York Times, retweeting his colleague Tim O'Brien, who edits the sunday business section of the NY Times. It said:

RT @TimOBrienNYT: @fredwilson post worth reading. In comments, a rare intelligent discussion of pay-for-news. http://bit.ly/PTZHR

It's odd that all this hit me in the span of an hour or so this afternoon. But it did.

All four of these people, Doug Bailey, Mathew Ingram, Jonathan Landman, and Tim O'Brien are journalists or former journalists. And they are talking about comments, whether they are intelligent discourse, and whether they belong in journalism. This is a discussion worth having. So lets have it.

I agree that simply adding a comment thread at the end of a news story is a recipe for trouble. But it is only a recipe for trouble if that is as far as you go. An unattended comment thread will be full of garbage and many are.

But if the author of the news story, or opinion piece, or blog post, tends to the comments, replies to the good ones, signals the bad ones, chastises the loudmouth bullies, and generally runs the comment threads like a serious discussion group, a serious discussion will result.

It's an issue for the news industry because tending to comment threads is not part of a journalist's traditional job. But I would argue that it is now and they ought to get busy doing it. For one, the journalists that do it and do it well will be better read. And they'll be better informed. They'll get tips in the comment threads. They'll get constructive criticism that will help them do their job better. And they'll get leads on new stories before others will.

All you have to do to understand this is hang out in the comment threads on this blog. They are the very best thing about this blog and I have worked hard to make them great. I've had help. The disqus comment system, provided by our portfolio company Disqus, is the best comment system on the market by a long shot. It allows me to engage in the comments wherever and whenever I want to or need to. And it allows the community to easily log in with various social profiles, authenticate themselves (which is key), and weigh in.

I've also been helped by commenters like my brother Jackson, Kid Mercury, and others who have acted as "bouncers". They help me police the comment threads and make sure the conversation stays civil and high minded. Most of all, I've been helped by the commenters themselves who understand the rules, even through they are not written anywhere, and follow them.

So my advice to the world of journalism is to ignore Douglas Bailey's advice and keep the comment threads at the end of news stories. But doing that is not enough. You need to use the best comment systems out there and they are usually from third parties like Disqus, not from your CMS vendor. And you need to have your journalists participate actively in the discussions. If you do all of that, you can host great discussions at the end of your news stories and who wouldn't want that?

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Comments (Archived):

  1. bombtune

    Comments are democratic and serves as a checks and balances on the facts and even the opinions used in the blog entries. You do a fantastic job responding to your fellow commentors, we all appreciate it.

    1. ShanaC

      Agreed, but most peopel can’t do this, and if we get repeats of the last comment thread, help is going to be needed. That thread need serious curation, and I suspect that this phenonema is only likely to grow more and more often.

      1. fredwilson

        i’ve asked disqus to think about “cliff notes” for comment threads. i’m not sure how best to do it, but we need it for sure

        1. ShanaC

          I’m thinking on this,glue, and doing research on newspapers currently. I’ll get back to you about what to do. There are some secondary issues like seeing what’s popular and what’s current and getting the important comments floating to the top in a discrete manner that is clear to users.

          1. fredwilson

            That last one is a biggie

          2. ShanaC

            I agree, but it requires a lot of research, some of which I can’t say I am empowered to have on my obsessive acdemia side- it involves crazy stuff like Reed’s Law and Reactions to telegraphs and photograph when they first invented…No easy answer..and I’m turning into an analyst for you :-p

          3. fredwilson

            That’s one of the many things these comment threads are for 🙂

          4. ShanaC

            So now I am an analyst and a consultant. 😉

        2. Phillip Baker

          Not sure what your idea of cliff notes looks like (i.e. a summary of points of view vs. user selected/voted comments) and reviews are obviously different to comments but Amazon makes their reviews more useful with ‘was this helpful to you?’In fact, I may have posted a link to this article when you mentioned cliff notes once before, I know I’ve posted it somewhere before. Sorry for the repeat if it was here: http://www.uie.com/articles…NY Times comments are sometimes great too, when I’m brave enough to wade through them, sometimes there are hundreds and hundreds. They have filters for comments although they’re definitely not optimal yet.This random column has zero editors selections and 88 readers recommendations (out of 135 total comments): http://community.nytimes.co….Am sure the Disqus team will come up with something super smart, although this seems like quite a difficult problem.

          1. fredwilson

            I don’t know that they (disqus) will tackle this. But someone should. Five hundred comments is too hard to wade through unless you are the one tending to them and are doing that one by one

          2. timraleigh

            While I agree that 500 comments is too hard to wade through for the casual reader, one of the key advantages of your blog is well the discussion. The ability to search for a topic and read those comments (within the context) and build my own conclusions, cliff note (case) or opinion based on some extremely well informed and experienced folks is of great value to me. I hope you never loose that.

          3. fredwilson

            I don’t intend to

        3. Coleman Foley

          Great idea. To make Cliff’s Notes out of a long comment thread, you need to be able to summarize the comments. To summarize comments, you need to take the best parts out of them and cut the fluff. Right now you can only rank up a whole comment. You should be able to like a part of a comment, without liking the rest of it. Then, you could get through the best ranked comments faster, without seeing as much junk. They would read very jerkily, though, since they would have been taken out of context and out of order. To fix this, you could let users cluster related comments by vote. You could slot one comment next to another by clicking and dragging. Then, you would have a cohesive, concise summary of the comments.Finally, incentivize users for this valuable work by giving them points when other users like the way they grouped comments.

          1. fredwilson

            Something like this is what I want to see happen. Thanks for some great ideas

        4. ShanaC

          Some random thoughts on Disqus Here- http://www.shanacarp.com/es…A dymanic system will force more popular/well liked by a majority to the top, as well as newer to the top, but it will not make everyone happy.However, I have to say one thing, no one system is going to solve “How to get rid of people we all dislike” because we is actually a very fractured concept. There is always going to be that silent group who will agree with something said that others strongly disagree with.*sigh* I don’t think there is perfect for moderating of comments, but, you got to try or really junky stuff that is irrelevant gets through…

          1. fredwilson

            I’ll go read your post when I get to a computer. I’ve been living off my blackberry a lot in the past week

          2. ShanaC

            Don’t worry about it- though Zemanta did stop by for part 2 of their review. Of the people who have stopped by, they seem to like it: I have no idea why.

          3. fredwilson

            I’ll go read your post when I get to a computer. I’ve been living off my blackberry a lot in the past week

        5. kidmercury

          my guess is that it would need a strong manual component. however i think disqus could do some interface stuff to really make this cool. a very challenging problem, indeed, it will be interesting to see how it gets solved. i agree it is needed for your blog — you are getting too damn popular boss!

          1. fredwilson

            Not all posts I write get 200+ comments. But the ones about comments do!

  2. Miss Xu

    I’m pro blog comments, both receiving + giving. I’ve learned so much from my readers especially when they are not outright fans. It’s an opportunity for growth. On the giving end, it’s an opportunity to learn more from people that I admire but may not have had the opportunity to meet in real life, as a result of distance, time, or other circumstance.

    1. fredwilson

      They are the most undervalued part of the blog ecosystem

  3. vvladimir

    I couldn’t agree more, one could even argue that sometimes the comments are more interesting than the article itself.

    1. fredwilson

      Most of the time they are

  4. Nathan Vingoe

    Another quite descriptive comments based blog published todayhttp://www.techcrunch.com/2…inbetween the swaering and dislike for most of the world, there is a oneliner why comments are so important, and also, a masive description of why some sorts of comments are pointless, yet would still keep the comments coming!

  5. Bob Jones

    I believe that comments are a good thing. They allow people to form a community, exchange their ideas and opinions on the subject at hand, and add additional details or sources.It seems all that Douglas Bailey is worried about is the possibility of ‘bad commentators’ influencing other readers. I don’t see why though, as a journalist you’re supposed to report newsworthy facts. If for some reason he feels opinions are contributing to devaluation of journalism, perhaps he’s writing the wrong articles.

  6. ShanaC

    Comapred to a newspaper, you are tiny. It’s affordable to have free bouncers here . :-pMajor Newspapers, in comparison run specials online only products, beyond their regular Articles for people to comment on. It’s a huge organization.The first filter to a conversation would be to pay for the right to comment right there. They could use the money to police, among other expenses…I’m guessing that is wh Salon.com cozied up with the ‘Well.And FYI, I like the business model, makes it easier to link in and out for newspapers if they want to charge a fee to comment in an official way on a newspaper website.

    1. fredwilson

      note the link at the end of the piece. the times has hired a social media editor. they need to do more than that.

      1. ShanaC

        Agreed. Otherwise they are going to have the Office situation:”I’m Ms. Preston, the Social Media Editor.””…….”It has to be an integrative experience on thier end, and I think they also need special social media tools, like a really powerful wiki that has the ability to segment into private articles, to easily track changes, and to even start moving into basic layout tools, would be easily helpful to integrating social media into the NYTIMES lives.That being said, if they get used to the presence, paying for the ability to be social right there is a model that works.

    2. kidmercury

      the times could have free bouncers too….provided they created the right incentives, and inspired the right passion. wikipedia is the ultimate example. at least for now.the fact that fred and wikipedia can have free bouncers and the times cannot, though, shows that being an organization can often be a liability in the digital media environment. crowdsourcing is the key, IMHO.

      1. ShanaC

        Wikipedia is starting to get too big for vevery specific domain level activities.It’s one of the reasons they are asking pros to do a look over.They are tired of fiascos like this one:I remember this year’s WikipediaArt.org vs Wikipedia fiasco and that the EFF decided to weigh in. Apparently Wikipedia does not like groups that use thier pages to make self referential pieces of artwork that anyone can edit, nor that borrow their name and derive a new name in order to talk about the fact that is what they do.The bigger you get, either you need to subdivide your community (aka bring in only the art people and some grammar geeks to clean up) or fall really hard] in to stupid arguments. As well as it being one of those odd moments in Art history that only the internet could provide….

    3. Coleman Foley

      Paying for the right to comment makes sense, but maybe it could at least start out as paying with reputation, since paying money is intimidating. What if you could spend Disqus points to comment, and spend additional points make the comment more prominent. You would bet on the comment. If the added attention was merited, you could make your points back, and perhaps more, by getting lots of likes. If the comment sucked, you would just lose your points, and be punished for wasting people’s time with your poor comment.As for putting some more skin in the game with money, I think monetizing comments is the future of the web. That sounds crazy, but let me explain. Money is the ultimate incentive. As good as comments already are, imagine if people were paid for making good comments and lost money for making bad ones. The way this would work would be much like what I proposed above, with betting Disqus points on your comments, only would wager money instead. You would get a cent every time your comment got liked. Obviously, this would be gamed very easily by people trading likes, along with a bunch of other dealkillers. It wouldn’t work at all, but ShanaC’s idea of charging for commenting is worth exploring. Whoever figures out monetizing UGC will monetize the whole web.

  7. brian

    Good post Fred. Personally I’d rather see commenting systems include a button to hide or display anonymous comments. Nearly all the trashy, noisy commentary originates from people who hide behind anonymity. As a reader, I wish it was easier to tune them out. (Not on AVC per se, but more generally).

    1. Ben Atlas

      But you are an “anonymous” commenter Brian. I would ban all even that have a generic or personal name like yours without any links yo your real identity.

      1. William

        I don’t doubt that you would do that, but I think that’s a mistake, one people have been making since before the web.It’s undeniable that anonymous comments are on average of lower value. The malign and the crazy certainly find anonymity convenient. But there is plenty of good anonymous content out there. It can come from whistleblowers. People with inside knowledge. People wanting to speak off the record, not wanting to involve their personal brand, or just uninterested jumping through yet another set of registration hoops.There’s a reason Wikipedia still accepts anonymous contributions, with no more than an IP address attached: there’s plenty of gold there if you have a mechanism for filtering out the dross.

        1. Ben Atlas

          It is not worth my time to read or respond to the anonymous comments with rare expeditions.Alas, this comment is no an exception.

          1. David Semeria

            There you go again! Are you attempting to corner the market in self-negating assertions?

        2. fredwilson


      2. fredwilson

        I don’t agree about banning anonymous commenters. They can be strong participants

        1. Ben Atlas

          Let me refine my comment.1. Pseudonyms or recognizable handles used for the long term sustaining membership in online communities are OK (the key here is the name is not changed (without people knowing it) ever and signals a character, a person. See the definitive essay from Clay Shirky about this.2.Disposable names or deliberately often changing names are destructive to the online communities and the general dialogue.3. Anonymity is behind the 99.9% of the MSM comments problems4. Online culture trends towards people signing and speaking in their own name, this should be encouraged strongly.

          1. fredwilson

            I agree with all of that ben. But I also agree that anonymous comments, like pornography, is better tolerated and moderated than banned. The alternative is a slippery slope.

          2. Ben Atlas

            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 required a registration to their forum to comment. 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 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 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 anymore. But we should take every opportunity to speak up about the change away from the anonymity.

    2. John Sharp

      Agreed. This is a great idea – and it should be user-modifiable, not a global setting. Discus should put this on the road map if it isn’t there already.

    3. Seth Long

      I like the idea of adding filters. A reader could select to filter out any comments from a paricular ID vendor or comments not connected to a 3rd party ID vendor. I also think that Disqus (which I use on my company’s 32 newspaper sites) needs a reputation system.

      1. David Semeria

        Hacker News has an interesting model. As a comment gets voted down it gradually becomes invisible.

        1. ShanaC

          Karma systems are old- Slashdot uses them, but I think it predates Slashdot. Technically there is one in place here, but it is unclear how it relates to the post, the commentator, the comment, the blog, etc. One that issue is clarified on a global scale, it should be a lot easier to figure out what to do.

          1. larry

            I like how boingboing “devowels” reported comments.

          2. David Semeria

            Disqus only allows you to vote up, not down. From a flame-war-avoidance point of view, it’s probably a good idea.

          3. kidmercury

            yeah, but it hinders self-expression. for instance, if someone leaves a comment saying that 9/11 was pulled off by a guy in a cave and the only way to protect americans from such nefarious cave dwellers is for them to give up all their rights, i would want to dislike that comment. i think it would be useful for information filtering and for my self-expression.disqus, if you guys read this, here’s a vote for allowing people to dislike stuff. sometimes being a hater is advantageous and appropriate.

          4. Seth Long

            Disqus used to allow + and – votes on comments but now only has the ‘like’ button. We used to be able to set per-comment thresholds that would hide comments after X negative votes but that has pretty obvious problems so It’s not surprising that they removed it.

        2. fredwilson

          Hacker news is great. The one thing I dislike is about HN is that the comments there about this post are not part of this discussion

          1. Coleman Foley

            I know where you’re going with this…they should use Disqus to make the comments appear here, right? I agree. Another good reason for them to use it is that Disqus’s reputation score could help them filter out unwanted outsiders, while spotlighting thoughtful commenters, since thoughtful comments is what HN is all about.

          2. fredwilson

            I wasn’t going that far. If HN would supply disqus with rss feeds of the comments by url, disqus could add them in

        3. Coleman Foley

          You could also grow the text size of comments that are ranked up, and shrink comments that are voted down, eventually making them invisible.

      2. ShanaC

        The WSJ currently has filters which can grey or hide completely certain kids of comments. Not in love, makes certain kinds of conversation hard to track. Other blogs, notably abovethelaw.com, every comment is anonymous. I dpon’t think they plan on changing it, their reputation is staked on keeping everyone that way as the tabloid of the Major Law Firms and the Major Law Schools. The filter should be what is useful versus the dumb Dymanic Karma systems work better. Disqus definitely seems to have the beginning of a Karma system, it just needs to be worked out a bit better.

        1. fredwilson

          Totally agree

      3. fredwilson

        Disqus has the beginnings of a reputation system. It knows how many comments you’ve left, where you’ve left them, and if they’ve been ‘liked’But it could and should do more with thisWouldn’t it be great if you could sort every comment thread by commenters you like and comments that were well liked up front?Disqus has part of that today and can build this out

    4. fredwilson

      I agree. Good feature request

  8. johnebbert

    Agree. I see this as interactive journalism where active engagement is encouraged between writer and reader. Seems to me that this provides a next level of checks and balances that the world of high-minded journalism should embrace if it hasn’t already. The only down side is the need for a “bouncer,” as you call it. That role can be a bit of a time suck.

    1. kidmercury

      being a bouncer is not necessarily a time suck. the more visible and prestigious fred’s blog becomes, the more people will want to be bouncers, for status reasons, for networking opportunities, for attention, for humor, etc.

      1. johnebbert

        Thanks for this, km. I like the viewpoint.

  9. deepeshbanerji

    I agree, but I think comments work best in an niche community (such as yours) where the audience is already qualified/engaged, vs. a mass market community (like a nytimes or espn.com article or hulu movie) where the audience is so large and varied.I think it’ll be very challenging for an espn.com or hulu or that sort of mass market audience to have intelligent discussions in the comments because it’ll take far too much work to manage that large audience.

    1. kidmercury

      yes! this is the biggest reason in my opinion why niche communities are the future. these big sprawling communities aren’t even communities, they are too diverse to have a unifying ideology that communities require.

      1. COMRADITY

        Context is a “self-regulator” and inspires better outcome. Which results in better party: a costume party or a come as your favorite musician party?

    2. fredwilson

      That’s a good point. I wonder if there is some automated way to manage/filter community/comments at scale

      1. deepeshbanerji

        I think Experts regulate a community. In a niche community, most ofthe community are experts. In a large community, I think you can usetechnology (via user ratings, user scores/tumblarity, all appointed bythe community, to bubble up good ratings).It’d be great for a comments/forums system to basically sort commentsby a PageRank type algorithm — # of unique votes cast for aparticular community member — that way good, reputable, relevantconversations are displayed first! Everything else is a “supplementaryresult”.

        1. fredwilson

          Excellent ideas!

  10. braker1nine

    Absolutely agreed. As long as an author tends to comments and the commenters are required to register in some way (Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) then comments are a great tool.It’s crucial to see sides of an issue or article besides those covered by the author. I’d say all of us have had some moment where a commenter brought out something good that we’d missed that was either in accordance with or completely opposite to what we wrote.

  11. gorbachev

    This is a problem I encounter at my job with every single client we have (I work in an interactive agency, or whatever they want to be called at any given time).Some of the decision makers get it when we talk to them about how to do it right, but some (a lot?) of them don’t or throw out the “we don’t have the people”, “we don’t have the money” or “what about our liability” argument. It’s frustrating at times, because you know there’s so much to gain from a really small investment.Sometimes it’s an organizational or cultural issue at the organization, too. Haven’t had the pleasure of working with AP yet, but a conversation along these lines with that organization should be quite interesting 🙂

  12. Albert R

    No, the best part about this blog is your writing! It is always just right to spark discussion (even if I don’t normally participate myself). The comments are a huge boon to the article itself and really expand it beyond the uneditable confines of the original piece. Like you said, as long as we know there is someone there who will read the “first”s etc., people are much less likely to post them, but rather say something that adds to the conversation.

  13. im2b_dl

    lol dead on

  14. Ben Atlas

    Thus issue is inseparable from the culture of the “anonymity” that prevails MSM commenting. There will be no change in the positive commenting culture on blogs or newspaper till people are accustomed to take responsibility for their own words. If you can’t sign it, than it should not be said. This will clean up 95% of the anonymous morons out of the conversation, for the better!

    1. ShanaC

      Anonymity is extremely important. I remind you that some of the US’s most important documents were published under pseudonyms, such as the Federalist Papers. I’d like to hope that I still have the right to freedom of speech, but not at the peril of sorts of risks of life, in the broadest sense of that word. Anonymity allows people to voice opinions that would otherwise never be heard because it could cause prejudices that might create injury, or loss of job, or bankruptcy. I make not like it, but I will protect it.

      1. Ben Atlas

        I will not engage an anonymous person, it is not worth my time, especially when the ideas expressed are not very sophisticated.

        1. William

          If you’re going to not engage with someone, I’d recommend you start by not engaging. Insulting them as part of a non-response is a response, and not a very gracious one.

          1. kidmercury

            scoreboard: William 1, Ben Atlas 0

        2. Mark Essel

          But Ben ShanaC is a regular commenter here, and although I haven’t met her in person I respect her right to privacy and she has always responded with well thought opinions and courtesy to fellow commenters.I don’t expect that will change your view on anonymous commenters, but I do hope you’ll consider there are different reasons for anonymity.

          1. Ben Atlas

            Mark, I run several blogs. One of my blogs has an archive on 25,000 comments. I have strong opinions about this issue that are not personal. This is a big debate and the reason I called it a “culture”. Cultures don’t change on the fly but the anonymity is at the root of the 99% of commenting junk and more. (Specially this is a plague within the traditional Jewish community that has a ‘culture of fear’ of speaking in your own name)

          2. ShanaC

            Ummm, my name actually is Shana, my last name is Carp, and I happen to like smiley faces, because they are the most derived shape of the human face, so I find them fascinating to look at. If you looked it up, you would find out that I am a student, as I claim to be. But I think that is generally irrelevant information about me. SO what? I could be a professional acrobat, and if I said something important, that is what matters. So this is very un-anonymous as I go.There is an actual blog out there in which I like to review social media products in general : http://www.shanacarp.com/essaysAnd I was thinking more along the lines of just a general right to privacy and Anonymity. Would you really want to repeat the Iran protests knowing everyone’s name and address in Iran? Or Stonewall? McCarthy? Remember that the Great Firewall of China Exists, and not everyone likes it, nor the consequences that come of it. Or places like Myanmar- when was the last time you saw a real picture from there? Be glad you have 25,000 comments. I want to see one picture from someone who grew up in Myanmar after the show trial of Suu Kyi.I protect people who want to stay anonymous because even if they are idiots, and they sometimes are, if we lose those freedoms, they are gone without another huge fight, and they are enormous. One of the major revolutions of the Internet is the desire to live freely- with that comes some desire to live in quiet, anonymously, a normal individual, unoppressed. Better to stand now and say they are enshrined in our culture than to look back and to wonder what happened when we lost them. I’m glad I live in the US where this is normal, but I stand by to make sure that those in charge keep it that way for everyone else.

          3. David Semeria

            There’s a great line in the film Dark Star where an astronaut attempts to reason with a talking bomb, which is hell-bent on blowing-up the universe.At one point the bomb asks why it should even be listening to the desperate astronaut – who replies that arguments are valid regardless of their origin. It’s a very good point.Blogs should only ignore anonymous stupid comments.

          4. kidmercury

            go shana! don’t let the haters get you down

          5. still_not_me

            Bob,While I respect what you are saying, i have a few quibbles with it.- In a world with searchable internet postings, how does one balance their willingness to saying something in a public forum with their desire to have that comment permanently public and searchable? Do I want the next person I interview at work (or who interviews me) to have been able to pull up all my comments? Not really.- Sometimes comments are debates made of strongly held opinions stated forcefully. Others can be discussions and educational. Part of education is asking questions and at time revealing ones own misunderstandings and misconceptions. Personally, I don’t want to have my learning process recorded and searchable — it just creates too much room for being misquoted in the future. – This doesn’t stop at what we say. I don’t necessarily want my employer to know if i am positing on a college football blog at 3pm. – Part of the beauty of the interweb is it lets you have interesting anonymous discussions. Perhaps some forums can hold anonymous posters to a higher level civility, or make them more easily banned, but I am not even sure that is a good idea…

      2. fredwilson

        I’m with shana on this. I don’t like it but I will not ban it

    2. fredwilson

      But I do agree with this. I don’t like the idea of banning anonymous commenters but I do agree that authentication (ie signing your comment) is very important

  15. Ben Atlas

    Someone should start a movement – not to react to the anonymous commentators!

  16. frank c.

    Fred, journalists at newspapers, which are strapped for staff, do not remotely have the time to do this. If you’re arguing that their jobs should be restructured to include this, that makes more sense.

    1. fredwilson

      I can tend to 200 long comment threads without measurably adding to my workloadI think it can be done in the context of the current job description with the right tools

  17. markslater

    i dont think i would read this blog if i could not participate. Not that the blogs aren’t great, but being able to contribute and have others frame your point of view is rewarding.

    1. David Semeria

      Peter Lynch once said: “If you give me a dollar now I have it. But if you give me an idea, we both have it”.

      1. fredwilson

        Great line. Not everything is zero sum

    2. fredwilson

      Getting your (and everyone else’s) POV is also very valuable to me. Its how I get paid

  18. Mark Essel

    Any blogger who has a clue would kill for the type of energy and atmosphere you’ve cultivated here in your comments Fred. This is due of course to your attention. It is sometimes tough for me to read through the BIG comment threads (I usually get a fraction of the way through and am forced to bail due to other responsibilites/readings). But DISQUS like feature much like friendfeeds helps increase the quality of the comment I do have time to digest

  19. kirklove

    Fred, the number one reason I read your blog is because of the comments. I certainly enjoy your posts, but it’s the conversation surrounding them that keeps me coming back each day. I read other blogs occasionally and kind of casually, but find I actively engage in yours. That’s because I genuinely feel you want your readers to contribute and more importantly that it is welcomed. That’s incredibly motivating (and empowering, too) as a reader. If something like the Times did this, a little old reader like me would feel like a Rock Star and I’d gladly help subsidize the expense of a Social Media Editor.So, you hit the nail on the head in reference to your blog, and I’m not just blowing sunshine up your ass, but it’s your active engagement in the comments section and the fact you care about your audience AND respond that truly matter. People that don’t respond are just lazy or worse don’t think they can learn from their audience. I can’t stand that type of condescension frankly. They literally make me feel like my opinion doesn’t matter. The result – I stop going back. Their loss (in more ways than one).Smaller example, I really want to like Daring Fireball. John is an amazing writer with killer opinions. But, the fact he doesn’t have a comments section flat out stinks IMO. That site could be a hub for such amazing discussions. Again, I’d gladly sign up to be a paying member if he engaged in his community. Till then I won’t. That’s goes for countless other sites. They need to learn the community is the future. (Think your last post about monetizing the audience. I’m with you on that one in so many ways).Your comments are your sites real strength. Your engagement with them makes them just that much better. Thanks for that. It is the reason I visit every day.

    1. fredwilson

      Seth Godin is another person who could build a killer community if he wanted to

      1. William Mougayar

        Exactly. He wrote his policy back in 2006, and perhaps ought to revisit it.

  20. Pierre Henri Clouin

    I’m surprised someone would even make the argument that newspapers shouldn’t be engaging a community of readers, especially in times when readers’ loyalty is so critical (and regardless of spam and trolls).Comments are particularly important for the segments of the news industry that will emerge stronger from the current downturn, such as local/hyper-local news and niche publications.

  21. gammydodger

    Feels like one further struggle in the death throes of traditional journalism… the fact the original post attracted 190 comments (as I write) all of which the journalist will purposely ignore – has a beautiful irony – but also provides the answer to his issues.Taking a commercial perspective and treating the Boston Globe as a ‘brand’ like any other out there, if the readership of the Boston Globe is effectively paying the journalist, then how the audience listens and responds is surely important.However, purity of journalism seems to be what is at stake here – the journalist states “We know that newspapers made a mistake and devalued their product by giving it away for free on the Internet. Some rebuilding could begin by removing these reader forums and restoring journalism’s dignity”.The discussion therefore is about how the model of traditional impartial journalism must survive in today’s world of online, real time, user generated content that augments any news item, product release, video, photo and is shared, distributed, re-purposed and mashed-up to it’s benefit or detriment.Haven’t journalists already worked this one out? If the publication is owned by a commercial entity, then it’s editorial stance is already conflicted either by the politics of its ownership or by the needs of its advertisers. The current discussion regarding online comments is just another dimension of that set of arguments.As I ponder this problem, it seems to me that the dialog that is found in the comments section is today’s global online version of yesterday’s coffee shop, bar, lounge and salon discussion where news stories were taken apart, heroes glorified, villains vilified and feats exaggerated – it was how we the common people turned facts into stories and stories into legend and legend into lore. Did journalists feel they had to listen in to every conversation then? Why should they need to now?So my counsel to online publications – leave the comments sections in, provide as much functionality as possible and encourage your readership to participate – we value it. And if your journalistic integrity is at stake, remember that you don’t actually need to read any of the comments.

    1. David Semeria

      ..the fact the original post attracted 190 comments (as I write) all of which the journalist will purposely ignoreHow do you know that?

      1. gammydodger

        Here’s the original article with comments – http://www.boston.com/bosto… – and the author closes the piece with “By the way, don’t bother posting any comments directed to me when this article appears on the Web. I won’t see them. Instead, go start your own website or blog or buy a legitimate newspaper, or write a letter to the editor, or an op-ed (and sign your own name to it). If you really have something interesting to say, I’ll find you.”

        1. David Semeria

          Great response. I thought you were talking about Fred’s original post on business models for the newspaper industry. My mistake.

    2. fredwilson

      190 comments! I missed that. How perfect

  22. daltonsbriefs

    Agreed, especially with the part about having the original writer engage the commenters. Far too many news media are “pushing” news out, and then letting the comment sections go “bulletin board” without re-engaging and adding to the conversation.

  23. Phillip Baker

    Great follow-on from the last post. Getting journalists involved in comments is one way to get users invested early like they are at Flickr and ultimately build a community around journalists/beats/stories.Storing and seeing comments gives users a reason to register and I can envisage additional features built into the overall experience that interested/engaged/active users would pay for.

  24. Farhan Lalji

    The comment system is nice, but engaging in the conversation is key to turning the comment stream from fluff and self promotion into solid and value adding. The newspapers could use discus or intense debate or anything but if they don’t engage then it’ll continue to be pointless.

    1. fredwilson

      I agree

  25. Emeri Gent [Em]

    I think the word “comment” is a problem. It packs many meanings that are not necessarily the same. It would be interesting to have a qualifier to that word. Is it thinking, is it rebuttal, is it information i.e. what is the context of the comment.I utilize comments to think about the piece I have just read, not necessarily to export my POV. It is more to import my thinking i.e. to think about my thinking. I think comments will go through evolution over time but we are at the beginning of this process – and yes …e.g.,Comments are so Important.

    1. fredwilson

      Right. Engaging and writing is thinking outloud. Its a key part of how I think and learn

  26. shw3nn

    I find it hilarious that he thinks comment sections had anything to do with the loss of integrity in journalism. Anybody who believes reporters, “…work hard gathering information dutifully trying to raise the debate on issues or inform the public on a burning topic,” stopped paying attention about eight years ago.Journalist sit back waiting for the government to issue press releases.Journalist all engage in the same debate. There are never more than two positions.The way he writes about the readers, we hoi polloi who should should only sit complacently absorbing the information we are fed, only confirms what I already knew. The media has nothing but disdain for its readers.Oh, and since this is a comment section, I should add that I do find it pretty cool that Douglas manages to be a cunt, a prick and an asshole simultaneously. That way, if he fucks himself, which he desperately needs to do, he has so many options.

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t know how this comment made it past my ‘four letter word filter” 🙂

  27. Jay Fallon

    After reading Mr. Bailey’s piece, I’m not surprised that the Boston Globe can’t find a buyer. I wouldn’t get too worked-up about this; it’s like discovering your Creedence is missing along with your car. A minor detail.

    1. fredwilson

      Missing my creedence is a big deal!

  28. DorothyP

    News should be free, but you would have to pay or subscribe to comment. And pay double to comment anonymously.

    1. David Semeria

      With cash?

      1. DorothyP

        MSM could use subscription model, others PayPal. Or you could buy a CommentSpeedPass, through Disquus or Typepad or WordPress, and that would let you comment on all blogs that accepted the pass.

        1. ShanaC

          Where, and should some places be free to comment? Should the newspapers, being their posture is to be places of record, have payment to comment, and blogs being blogs, be free spaces? Or blends?

          1. DorothyP

            Bloggers who make money from ads are glad to lots of comments, as that drives up page views, but MSM sites are looking to replace their subscription models, so the comment subscription could replace the payment for content.Lots of blogs have tip jars.

          2. ShanaC

            Little lost on that, because MSM a lot of the actual value from subscription model actually has to do with penetration for advertisement- or how many faces their print editions will be seen by and therefore how valuable any ad will be.Back to the blog model for the MSM, they seem to be stuck in an in between world- their value as media is high in a networked world, but not when it comes to monetary payment.

      2. COMRADITY

        This is a great thread to pursue – what are the interactive features we would pay a premium for?

    2. fredwilson

      I’d get no comments and therefore no education if I did that

  29. Jan Schultink

    The best thing that platforms like Disqus do is maximize non-anonymous comments. A real name, a real picture, and people start paying attention to unwritten rules.Crappy newspaper comment streams are full of anonymous commenters who pass by once, never to return

    1. DorothyP

      What’s a “real name”? Do you really think I’m Dorothy P?

      1. Jan Schultink

        OK, OK

    2. fredwilson

      Yes. That’s why the best comment systems should be adopted by newspapers. I am biased of course. But if not disqus (and it should be!), then one of the other solid third party systems

  30. marshal sandler

    I like your approach to the folks that follow you ,a professional always respects people who acknowledge their efforts-comments good or bad are a complement to a blogger-I like when a Blogger answers a comment this is a very smart approach to building an Audience ! Enjoyed reading about Gotham Gal and You in Slovinia, ” I even Made A comment on Her Blog !” Since my favorite dish Polenta was mentioned, when we communicate we bind why not !

    1. fredwilson

      We are headed home from slovenia and europe. Bittersweet as always

  31. rajneesh

    with online “comments” fields, i have’nt come across any software (social networking) that accomodates the following options;1. Like2. Do not like3. Agree 4. Disagree5. Agree to Disagree6. Need to provide additional detail (as in this tweet)

    1. fredwilson

      Disqus offers like. Look at the lower right

  32. Jonathan Landman

    To be clear (which I guess I wasn’t): I didn’t intend the tweet Fred mentions here to address whether comments “are intelligent discourse, and whether they belong in journalism,” as Fred puts it. I’m a big fan of comments. They add a great deal to nytimes.com. It’s quite true that they could be better, that writers should participate more (though there are only so many hours in a day) and that the existing filters are sub-optimal (but so are lots of developing things on the Internet). All I meant was that I don’t see a whole lot of intelligent discourse of the precise issue Fred was addressing in his earlier post, “Monetize the audience …” — whether news Web sites can successfully impose fees. There’s lots of ideology and moral posturing but a lot less real analysis. And even less in comment threads. At least that’s my view.

    1. DorothyP

      Remember the story of Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake? The most interesting news about them was found in the comments fields of the blogs that linked to the stories in the press. Lots of people won’t talk to a journalist, but they’ll leave breadcrumbs in comments. Same thing is happening with the Laura Ling/Euna Lee story.

    2. fredwilson

      Thanks for stopping by and joining the discussion. I’m flattered to be honestAnd thanks also for your clarification. It makes senseI am encouraged by much of what I see at the NY Times these days. I don’t envy anyone who is involved in turning a huge ship in a different direction quickly. So I appreciate what your challenges areAnd to be honest, a five hundred long comment thread is a mess to deal with tooWe need more investment by more people in this area. Not just money but time, effort, technology, and new ideas

  33. Chuck Taylor

    It doesn’t appear that anyone here has actually worked in the news business. Tending to comments is extremely time-consuming. Fred has a popular blog but hardly one with the traffic of your average New York Times or Boston Globe article. His readership also is unusually thoughtful and doesn’t need a whole lot of policing.In contrast, your average news reporter is working on two or three stories at a time, is answering the phone, answering e-mail, talking to editors, going out of the office to report, following the developments on his beat, trying to write, rewriting when the editors kick a story back to him or her — and in his or her free time hangs out and “tends to the comments, replies to the good ones, signals the bad ones, chastises the loudmouth bullies, and generally runs the comment threads like a serious discussion group”?I think the real reason news people are resistant to the idea of interacting with readers is there isn’t any time to do that and create actual journalism. I’m not sure anyone who has not actually worked as a reporter could ever understand that. Just as few who have never actually worked in the news business truly understand what’s involved in creating truly original content.

    1. William Mougayar

      But that’s exactly where they need to make that change. Online commenting should be part of their job description, going forward.

    2. Ro Gupta

      Having worked in msm/online news, agree that the way a lot of large media orgs structure work flow make it hard for their editorial people to tend to comments regularly..but as William notes, that’s something that can change and is starting to change. We’re already seeing so many reporters making time to engage with their Twitter or FB communities. Tools like Seesmic/Tweetdeck/etc are also making this easier. In fact, Fred and many others using Disqus are as busy as they come, but find they’re able to stay well connected with their conversations by taking advantage of the read/reply/moderate-via-email features, letting them engage directly from their inbox or bberry. User ratings and other filtering technologies are also helping to signal which contributions may especially warrant attention.Thankfully, a lot of news orgs. are starting to appreciate all this. Certainly helps when folks like Patricia Cohen at NYT and Peter Kafka at WSJ/AllThingsD lead the way and show it can really work. We’re also excited to push forward on some things that will continue to drive both quality and efficiency, and as always would love to hear more thoughts and ideas.. ro at disqus dotcom

    3. fredwilson

      With the right tools, it can be done. I can tend to 200 or 300 long comment threads without much effort. I do have a day job and often am in meetings from 8am to 6pm with no breaks

    4. fredwilson

      With the right tools, it can be done. I can tend to 200 or 300 long comment threads without much effort. I do have a day job and often am in meetings from 8am to 6pm with no breaks

    5. Anal_yst

      I think traditional journalism is too focused on quantity, publish-or-perish if you will, which often has every X type of reporter in Y geographical region basically covering the same stuff with usually little value-add or difference. Stop wasting time trying to cover so much and do a better job at covering less, and not just ending the gig once the article is published, but following it up with the discussion. That’s how we learn, and understand.

  34. Jeroen de Miranda

    excellent article! I see a similar but gradual shift happening also in communication sfrom government away from a unidirectional to a dialogue form…mostly on the municipal level, but also increasingly on a country level (the Netherlands).

    1. fredwilson

      Yeah. That’s a huge deal

  35. Jeroen de Miranda

    excellent article! I see a similar but gradual shift happening also in communication sfrom government away from a unidirectional to a dialogue form…mostly on the municipal level, but also increasingly on a country level (the Netherlands).

  36. GlennKelman

    There is a general tendency for everyone in a community to adopt a common discourse. If you’ve ever read Bill Simmons’s mailbag on ESPN.com, you know what I mean: everyone asks him which MTV Real World star Ron Artest is most like etc etc…And here, through your engagement and restraint, you’ve taught everyone to be thoughtful and civil; it’s one of the only places on the Internet where that happens on such a broad scale, which is why we all come.

    1. fredwilson

      But does it have to be?

      1. GlennKelman

        No, definitely not.

  37. William Mougayar

    I like to think of this as “online conversations”, not just commenting. Great comments by engaged/concerned readers + consistent author engagement lead to amazingly rewarding online conversations (this blog is a perfect example). The real signal of change will be when newspaper writers, reporters, opinion contributors & editors will be required to participate in online comments as part of their job description or contract. And I will repeat it here, and echoing DorothyP that I would pay to participate in a Premium commentsphere with the NYT’s top writers. If they want to control it a bit, they could have someone do light filtering to weed out useless stuff if it appears, and they could close comments- say 48 hrs after publish. Or the writer should be required to respond to 10 of the best comments he/she can pick. So there are many ways to do this gradually if they wanted to.


      Bingo (again). Wouldn’t you pay to manage with whom you converse? @shanac would you still want to be anon if you were talking to people you choose?

      1. ShanaC

        I am, and I feel very un-anonymous. I through a very polite fit (and if I am ever in SD again I will bring cookies because of it) over the fact that I could not claim my name in English for about a three week period with Disqus. My comments are very revealing of who I am, my approximate age, my personality in life, and what I do and think about .The image is either this or one of my nude drawings as of right now. I am of the personal opinion that as much as I like being an art student and I like doing nudes, and think they are very important, they are not appropriate icons, except in the most limited of senses. I’m attached to anonymous faces as an art student, you see. They have intrinsic meaning to me on psychological levels and artistic levels. Not as just a commentator. You would have the same problem with an icon by my own hand. 🙂

    2. fredwilson

      There’s a good idea in there. But paying to comment strikes me as problematic

      1. William Mougayar

        True that implementation isn’t straigthforward. But it could be offered as a premium add-on, sort of an “exclusive” offering. It strikes me that some incentive is needed to bring these hot headed columnists to start being part of online conversations instead of giving us a monologue. The publisher could pay them a bit more as part of the proceeds from this add-on service. I suspect that only a segment of upper echelon users will bite into it, but it’s worth doing as an experiment if I was a publishing executive. The irony is that many of these writers are being read online more than in print, but they aren’t engaging online.Maybe Disqus could have a “paid” module when I can “add” “Discussion Club” access to Op-Eds at NYT, WashingtonPost, etc… (almost like a Kindle add on). Publishers plug that module with Java code, and only approved members get entry, whereas free subscribers can read, but not write comments.

    3. fredwilson

      There’s a good idea in there. But paying to comment strikes me as problematic

  38. Jason

    who wouldn’t want that? people who don’t want to take the time to defend objections to their opinion, or people like Seth Godin who probably don’t have the time to… both of which are fine, yet the time you spend makes you a sort of hero on the topic… and many people will follow your model leading by example.awesome.

    1. William Mougayar

      Jason- I don’t buy that people like Seth won’t have time to participate in comments. But the discussion here pertains to the traditional media publishers/writers. Back in 1999/2000, I used to write a monthly column for Business 2.0 and had a readership of 500,000, but the commentsphere didn’t even exist then. I would have killed to engage with my readers online, in the ways this is possible today. Instead, I used to receive up to 50 emails on a good column, some of which are people I did business with, or still know today.

      1. kirklove

        I agree William. I like Seth’s blog. I’ve even written him and he replied very quickly, so I don’t think it’s a matter of time. He just chooses not to operate that way (his words). As a result I have little interest visiting his site regularly. He’s speaking (or preaching if you will) to me. Not engaging with me. There is a big difference. As a result it leaves much to be desired. For me at least.

      2. Jason

        as for what Seth thinks, i’ll point here – http://sethgodin.typepad.co… – rather than write what i think Seth’s thoughts are.i agree that engaging with the audience is a must, especially like your idea above for writers choosing 10 top comments, and furthermore especially as it pertains to traditional media publishers/writers, yet to believe that every writer would appreciate the commentsphere, even if it meant extra minutes (sometimes hours) out of time with their family, other responsibilities, and/or things they like to do… is out of the scope of my knowledge and experience.all i know is that i appreciate Fred for taking the time to share and engage, and also appreciate Seth just for taking the time to share, simply because time is the one asset that is always going to 0 for all of us.

        1. William Mougayar

          Seth’s policy implies that he has nothing to learn from his readers,- a position pretty close to that of Douglas Bailey from the Boston Globe article. And I don’t buy that one has to write so differently if you are to accept comments. Fred purposely ends with a question or a challenge to spur the discussion, but readers will respond even if they aren’t asked a question.

    2. fredwilson

      There isn’t such a thing as ‘don’t have the time’.I think its ‘don’t value it enough to make the time’And that’s fine. But we should just recognize it for what it is

      1. Jason

        better said. and because you value it enough to make the time, you’ll know before twitter when it’s built, my way of showing appreciation for all your time here.

    3. fredwilson

      There isn’t such a thing as ‘don’t have the time’.I think its ‘don’t value it enough to make the time’And that’s fine. But we should just recognize it for what it is

  39. @CascadeRam

    Good points, I hope the guys at Apple take this to heartThe app store has a review/comments section for customers who purchased iPhone/iPod-touch appsUnfortunately, the comments-section doesn’t let developers respond to any of these comments

    1. fredwilson

      That’s like yelp not allowing merchants to participate. Its not the right approach

  40. benjaminjtaylor

    When I read the opt-ed piece “Got a comment? Keep it to yourself” my immediate reaction was of disbelief, and to call him out as just another “old media” hack journalist that just doesn’t get it. Childish I admit, but part of the goal of opt-ed pieces is to incite, to make sweeping, provocative statements that don’t always include every nuance. It’s a way to make a point effectively, or as in Douglas Bailey’s piece, ineffectively, in a short window of time.I read the article again, as I often do when I strongly disagree with a viewpoint in a blog post, opt-ed piece, or news articles posted online. I took a step back. While I don’t agree with Baily, and his viewpoints exist under a very narrow lens, if you look at unmoderated comments on many online news articles you’ll see the lowest common denominator.One of the best features about Disqus is the public record, at least for those people registered. Yes we can edit, delete etc.. but if you participate in online communities your comment index becomes part of your social stream. I participate in communities, I want my comments accessible to those communities, and if anything, it forces me to take a step back, no matter how much I disagree.I agree with Fred Wilson, with the right approach, fostering a healthy discourse is now a valuable part of the new discussion i.e. “run the comment threads like a serious discussion group, a serious discussion will result.” Difficult at first to support in our changing business of reporting the news, but one of many necessary steps if they have any hope of truly engaging their readers/customers.

  41. Defcon5

    This is part of the reason I added comments to my site. I wanted people to discuss the content. They can give you insight and ideas you did’nt think of about the subject, and helps you and your site evolve.

  42. name

    Something that should seem obvious is that online comments are pretty combative. How would you expect 1 journalist to have a discussion with N readers? Troll Fest. Stupid Idea. Why don’t journalists today hold town-hall type meetings where they squabble over the minor points of their Arts and Entertainment article? Hint: because that’s retarded.

    1. kidmercury

      no, the reason journalists don’t hold town hall meetings is because the cost of doing so is prohibitive. the internet lowers the cost of meeting/collaborating, so it is not prohibitive, and so it happens. also, it is not a conversation of one to many, but rather many to many (i.e. commenters talking to each other and the original journalist)

    2. fredwilson

      Using the word retarded in a serious conversation is exactly that

  43. Belinda

    Try Echo, much better than Disqus.

    1. kidmercury

      yeah echo looks like it is going to be hot. disqus has a serious first mover advantage here though, which i think is important for lots of network goods.

      1. fredwilson

        What do you like about echo? I’d like to see disqus incorporate the good ideas in it

        1. kidmercury

          i should note i have not tried it since they are still in their limited run, but from what i’ve seen here’s what i like:1. interface. for me this is huge for disqus and its competitors, i.e. sezwho, intensedebate, etc. disqus has by far the best interface IMO. however i like echo’s interface (at least from the screenshots i’ve seen) a lot. the one beef i have with disqus’ interface is that i was not sure if i can enter HTML, or what type of HTML….echo makes this clearer because of its WYSIWYG editor, which i am a fan of.2. integration with other identities, more so than disqus. i suspect disqus knows how important this is and will continue to make it a priority, though i think integration with things like google friend connect, facebook, twitter, etc is extremely important and i think echo is one up here at least in the short term because they let you login with your identity on a wider variety of services.3. most appealing to me is that js kit, makers of echo, have lots of other community building services, like rating comments on a 1-5 star scale, adding polls, etc. basically it seems like they are better positioned to take a non-social site and make it a powerful community. they even include revenue sources for publishers via their advisor product. from a business model perspective i have a lot more confidence in this route. i wonder if it displaces the need for a more robust content management system for managing a community? i doubt it, and i hope not because that could shatter my business dreams, but js kit is coming the closest, in my opinion.anyway my $.02 fwiw

    2. David Semeria

      This is exactly the type of comment which should not be anonymous. How do we know you don’t have an interest?Not that I’m implying that Echo is not interesting (it is) but calling a product ‘much better’ (without saying why) and doing so anonymously is bad form in my opinion.

    3. fredwilson

      Why do you like it better? The folks from disqus will see your thoughts and will likely incorporate them

  44. Tom_Nocera

    Comments add value while providing a free and convenient overview of the community of readers.

  45. lawrence coburn

    I read TechCrunch all the time, yet rarely comment over there. It feels like all anons, spammers, and trolls. That’s not a group I want to be associated with, despite the generally high quality of the reporting.AVC is a different story – I comment here all the time.It’s hard work to steer comments and community towards quality. I wonder if there’s an opportunity for Disqus to go big(ger) and tack on some Keibitech like content moderation services?

    1. fredwilson

      They have a moderation tool that is pretty good. Some media companies are trying it out right now

    2. Coleman Foley

      There is no reason TechCrunch shouldn’t use Disqus. They’re not too good for it–Mashable is bigger than them now, and they use it.

  46. CharlotteAnne

    I was marveling at the value (and civility) of the comments under “Monetize The Audience…” yesterday, while being dismayed at the lack of those attributes (by some of the same commenters!) over at CJR (http://www.cjr.org/the_audi….I think Bailey, CJR and others represent a legacy media, top-down, “I’m-telling-you” attitude that doesn’t contemplate the Web-enabling notion that stories can be conversations that live on and grow better over time.Many folks in today’s newsrooms have forgotten that a huge part of their job is to listen to people. I say that from spending more than 30 years as a journalist, including the last 10 years online at places including the original “Freemium,” TheStreet.com.Yes, dealing with comments is like tending a garden. Neglect it, and the weeds will overrun you. Engage and cultivate, and the result is something quite special for all of us.

    1. fredwilson

      Somehow I don’t think we got freemium right at thestreet.com

  47. babydragone

    hi fred, your friend stephen c. (named truncated for privacy purposes!) sent me your .fm station, it’s awesome, i am listening now …curious to know what you think about the polyphonic idea:http://www.nytimes.com/2009…would be interested to hear your thoughts on the business model.

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks for the kind words about fredwilson.fmI’ll check our this link and let you know my thoughts

  48. Kevin Cimring

    Comments often reflect the respect that readers have for the blogger and his/her audience. The fact that the comments on your blog are of such a high quality speaks volumes about the respect your audience has for you and their fellow readers. You have cultivated a great community from which we all continue to learn a great deal.

  49. Kevin Chan

    Basically I agree with most of what everyone has mentioned here. The comments for this blog are one of the most civil and engaging that I’ve ever encountered.Much of it, I believe is due to culture and participation rather than moderation. I don’t think the fear for the so called bouncers trawling the comments section with a big stick had much to do with the folks here being civil.I would also like to add that, I do not believe that anonymity makes the value of comment any worst off than someone that is signed-in and does not contribute much at all.

  50. Venkat

    LOL! You oughta provide more than technology pointers to things like Disqus. Bailey is right about one thing though: on newspaper sites, the level of commenting is typically godawful, with a few exceptions like Pogue’s column in the NYT which seems to attract decent comments.The reason is that these old-school writers don’t know how to write in ways that foster good comments debates. They do what I call “defensive” writing: finishing, closing off and cauterizing all major branches of discussion. The professional “voice” does not help either. When there IS conversation, it is a fishbowl with other journalists.No self-respecting commenter with valuable things to say would inhabit these countries as second-class citizens.The best journalists of course, don’t hide behind such excuses. They can, and do, lead the discussion through force of demonstrated authority, rather than ascriptive status as the “professional” herding the child-like amateurs with an indulgent smile.

    1. fredwilson

      Interesting points.

      1. Venkat

        Err… why the heck is your reply posting 4 times identically on this and on my other comment? Something wrong with disqus I think. My inbox is getting spammed with repeated alerts about responses to this thread and the one on content monetization.

        1. David Semeria

          Just guessing, but since Fred is travelling I think he replied offline to the comments via the Disqus email alert functionality. Obviously something when wrong when the emails were eventually uploaded, it’s probably not a Disqus issue, but they should improve the ability to trap duplicate comments from the same user to the same thread.

          1. lawrence coburn

            I think he’s *sneakily* trying to set a comment record on his post about comments. Sorry, but there will need to be an asterisk if this post sets the all time comment record for AVC.

          2. fredwilson

            Don’t worry. I’m gonna delete the dups (or quints)

          3. fredwilson

            You nailed it. My blackberry went nuts on me when I landed in paris and fired away the same emails 4-5x

        2. fredwilson

          Its my blackberry’s fault. It went haywire when I landed in paris and sent out a ton of email. I’m sorry about that. I didn’t realize until it just now

          1. ShanaC

            So that’s how you reply from email notification, huh.

  51. Phanio

    I think I have said it before here and will say it again. I like comments. I tend to get more out of the comments then I do the piece being written. Each of us have our paradigms which can really add to any discussion. Even the rants and bullies can show the emotion behind a topic – just have to read between the lines. Plus, most comments are not based on an agenda (the journalist’s or the editor’s) and usually come from a stright forward reaction.

  52. Aaron Klein

    Not agreeing with Bailey’s piece, but I also think this issue is a little more challenging in the political realm than it is in the tech realm. Here, we’re adding value and discussion to each other on tech and media issues, and most reasonable people can agree or disagree without vitriol.Contrast that to politics, local or national. I sit on a community college board. We’ve made some tough, controversial decisions to turn three years of budget deficits into four years of surpluses (so much for that this year — the State of California is now cutting our revenue by 8%, so we’ll use some of our new reserves to mitigate that situation).During this period of time, comments attached to newspaper articles could have made Daily Kos seem like a tea party at Buckingham Palace. If you had believed what was written there, I was a white supremacist nazi porn star. (No, I’m not kidding — the white supremacist part was amusing, since I’m an adoptive dad of a multi-racial family. I tried not to dignify any of this trash with a comment back.)All that being said, maybe a better commenting system would have helped, but newspaper editors are squeamish about denying anyone their free speech rights, even those who are lying and aren’t contributing to the discussion one bit. And I understand that.In any case, I chose to enter the public arena, and I can handle it. But I think this issue is a lot more challenging in the worlds of politics and religion than in the worlds of tech and media. 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      So true. Read the comment threads on my politics posts and you’ll see a very different discussion

  53. andrewgoodman

    Agreed that laissez-faire fails in online conversations as it does in so many other systems. Those newspaper comment threads are indeed terrible, but maybe you’ve put your finger on why.

  54. Emeri Gent [Em]

    I would add also learning to feed off the energy in the virtual room and not being too invested in who you are. The only way comments change the fabric of your own DNA is when you access the nucleus of participative energy. I guess we do think alike though the real key is enjoying the diversity, celebrating our differences – it is these differences that I particularly learn from.e.g., Active Learning

  55. sweller

    In the article, the author implies that newspapers made a mistake by using the Internet as a distribution mechanism, as if someone was forcing them to. Newspapers never made a mistake by using the Internet as a distribution mechanism. It is simply the free market that has forced the valuation of newspapers into the toilet. The whole machine that is a newspaper, from journalists, to editors, to printers, to ad sales, to truck drivers, to street-level vendors is all part of something that most people find increasingly less necessary to obtain news. It is the distribution mechanism that is failing them, not journalistic integrity.IMHO, newspaper’s days were numbered immediately after the emergence of 24-hr news channels, such as CNN.

  56. Mike Rowland

    The 275 comments posted already in a single day speak to the power of comments and interactive media.We work with major clients like AARP who have huge volumes of articles published on their website with the ability to comment. We advise them to have their authors interact with the audience. But that doesn’t always work, so we’re hired as moderators to police the comments.On a large scale, big brand site moderation is a must. Our ten years experience in this area has shown us that no matter how transparent or engaged the author is with the audience there are always a few people who want to abuse the abilty to discuss a point. While the use of the author to interact cannot be stressed enough, too few companies/organizations do this.While I’d like to get more organizations to understand this basic principle, Impact Interactions does get a lot of business moderating comments for organizations because they don’t believe their authors should interact with their readers.

  57. kirklove

    Fred are you trying to pad your comments count in relation to this article. ; )

    1. Aaron Klein

      I have a feeling that the mobile carrier in Paris isn’t quite as good as his connection in NYC for some reason. 🙂

    2. fredwilson

      No. I did a lot of replies on the flight to paris on my blackberry and it went a little nuts when I landed. Sorry about that

  58. goldfarbcenterandy

    The author of a written piece posted on an online blog or newspaper has the ability to read and respond to comments like those above. The author of an article for a traditional newspaper does not have that luxury. The news industry is changing rapidly, and this article and others are creating a lot of discussion about it. Check out http://www.colby.edu/lovejoy to read the blog. It’s quite thought-provoking.

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks for the link. I”ll check it out

  59. Zack

    Great Article! As a new Journalism major I couldn’t agree more that commenting at the end of articles is a crucial tool authors can use to get feedback, understand their readers, and most importantly make themselves better writers. Plus, who doesn’t like a little ego boost every now and then when someone like me comments that they liked your article? 😉

  60. William Mougayar

    I went back to Douglas Bailey’s article and was surprised to see190 readers Comments! Most of them disagreed with him, of course. I liked this one:”Why does Mr. Bailey think that journalists should be artificially protected from the same type of organic challenge presented by internet media?”

  61. Turdwaller

    Along with the PR industries refining of their ability to pump out massive amounts of disguised disinformation comes our inability to buy into anything we read in main stream media. The success of the PR networks to bury “news” under mountains of propaganda has made the week and questionable comment sections the last vestige of believability.Sort of sorting comments is a good idea if it can work.Reading through a bunch of comments give one the same kind of feeling as does poling people at a party. Both heartening and scary as hell.

  62. Marcy Webb

    Thank you for your post.I’ve been thinking a lot about this very issue myself lately. Especially with respect to the racist vitriol which gets spewed re: the President and the First Family, and, most recently, Dr. Henry Louis Gates on so many newspaper and magazine blogs. There is nobody minding the proverbial store, and, is thus a train wreck waiting to happen.Which is why I thoroughly enjoy reading through the comment threads on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog. He has worked hard to create a culture where his readers work hard to craft their comments with thoughtfulness and intelligence. It is also a culture where the readers hold each other to the same standard. I am glad to read that you encourage a similar culture here on your blog.Speaking of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog, I have re-printed the comment of Los Niños del Maiz, who responded to the post, ‘The Root Flooded With Racist Comments.'”As for the whole Roots thing though, I wouldn’t ever worry too much about whatever comments show up on an Internet message board. It acts as a megaphone for the cranks, conspiracy theorists, nutjobs, etc. And these people were always with us. They used to have to mimeograph their newsletters and hold conferences where they all just nodded at each other. Now they can all hop onto the ‘Net and spew. Even if we were in a completely post-racial society, whatever the definition, we’d still have a group of hardcore cranks polluting the Internet with their rantings. They all just seem louder now with insta-posting, instant messaging, cell phones everywhere, etc….”Yep. That addresses the question.

  63. Ryan Chittum

    CharlotteAnne,Please see my extensive and time-consuming responses to commenters on my post at CJR. I don’t know if I’d call it tending my garden (this particular back-and-forth anyway!), but it is what it is.http://www.cjr.org/the_audi

  64. Victor Agreda, Jr.

    Wow, lots of comments on a post about comments. I’ll admit — I didn’t read them all. Instead, I noticed the inevitable “Cliff’s Notes” idea and wanted to mention Voices Heard media, who have an aggregating system for QA’s on live web shows. I don’t work with or for them, but there are companies out there working on aggregating content based on language algorithms. Maybe it’ll work…As a guy who runs a few “big” blogs, lemme say that this is where newspapers could kick blogs’ arses. Seriously, a reporter who is a full time employee should dedicate a portion of their time to tending the conversation. Bloggers do this naturally, but as the content scales (blogs are more about quantity, some might argue), it becomes more difficult. Having at least a few researchers doing duty as moderators not only educates the audience but presents unique learning opportunities for the paper itself.But they won’t, as there seems to be more discussion about the liability of comments than their value… a discussion the internet had some time ago.

    1. fredwilson

      Its best to move on from discussions lawyers initiate as fast as possible

  65. imrananwar

    Great topic, and even greater value in the comments. One of the simplest reasons, the fact that you make it easy for non-troll users to leave a comment. Supporting OpenID and similar login credentials makes it far more likely people will add the value they want to than sending them away with forced registrations on a site they may never visit again.

  66. fredwilson

    There is a method to the madness

  67. fredwilson

    my blackberry went nuts on me and sent out a bunch of extra emails when we landed in paris