Some Thoughts On Comments

Tereza asked me to comment on the NY Times piece that ran this weekend on news sites' decision to move away from anonymous commenters. I think anonymous commenting leads to a lot of bad behavior and it should be discouraged. But I think anonymous commenting should be allowed and I allow it here. There are enough examples out there of why someone would want to comment anonymously that I think it has a place in the online conversation.

In the world of user generated content, you are always going to get posts that you don't want. Fortunately, there are a number of techniques that can be used to downgrade or even largely hide that behavior from the vast majority of users without taking it down. I think anonymous comments should be subjected to some of those techniques.

For blogs and online publications that get a lot of comments, and this blog is on the cusp of that place, I think we need a way to highlight top comments for each post. Disqus does allow the comment reader to "sort by" most popular or "best rated" but that requires user action. I think Disqus should offer blogs with a lot of comments the ability to run a window above the comment thread with the half dozen or dozen best comments that would be automatically calculated with the possibility of override by the blog author. Some blogs are already doing this like Business Insider, Gawker, and Huffington Post.

We need to introduce game mechanics into commenting systems and I think Disqus can and will be at the forefront of this effort. Game mechanics will reward the kind of behavior the community wants and will punish the kind of behavior the community does not want. The anonymous commenter who has valuable information but can't publish in their own name will be rewarded. The anonymous commenter who leaves a hostile name calling piece of crap will be punished. And the comment thread and community will be better off for it.

The other benefit of this approach is the community can police the comment thread. I do a fair amount of that today helped out by our community bouncer Kid Mercury. Turning that job over to the community in its entirety is the obvious next step.

The comment threads on this blog are now well over 100 comments on most days and get up to 300 or more comments on the most popular posts. I continue to read every comment because it is important to me to see them all. I also want to make sure they aren't spam or hate filled crap. But you may notice that I've cut back on the number of replies. It used to be that out of a 100 comment thread, my replies might be 30 or more. Now its probably 10 or less. I make up for some of that by liking comments a lot more.

But this community is following a pattern that all online communities follow. In the beginning, I was a huge part of the threads. Now I've cut back and let the community do more of the talking. And I think that's a good thing. Hopefully Disqus will give us more features like the ones I talked about earlier in this post to take the community powered moderation and rating and presentation to the next level. I'm looking forward to it.

Enhanced by Zemanta

#Weblogs

Comments (Archived):

  1. Fernando Gutierrez

    That new feature to highlight the great comments in a frame would be great, but it should take into account replies. Some of the comments are great by themselves, but usually the are made even better by the replies of other people in the community.Also, and this one is difficult if not impossible yet, it would be amazing if the algorithm understood the comments to put them in context. Sometimes a comment is not a direct reply to another one but it’s related, so if you read them in a not chronological order you won’t fully understand/enjoy it.

    1. fredwilson

      yes, replies is a very key engagement metric

  2. Mihai Badoiu

    How about a comments service that allows voting up/down and also allows people to build “credibility” for having good comments in the past? The votes from more “credible” people should count more. The author of the blog should have a high/overriding vote. The “credibility” can also be somewhat generated across several blogs/sites. Also, based on replies you can also compute some sort of page-rank to include in the credibility.Another idea is to give people more credibility if they vote on something early on. (say if a comment gathers 10 votes, you give more credibility to the first 5 people who voted) You may look at this as a game with the right incentives — vote on something that’s good.

    1. Tereza

      the earlier weighting — that’ a really cool idea.

      1. RichardF

        but easily gamed the further east you live from New York seeing as Fred usually publishes his post early morning Eastern Time which is roughly lunch time here in the UK πŸ˜‰

        1. Tereza

          Yes true!Early commenters get more Likes, all else being equal. There is clearly an advantage. They get more exposure.But also they’re more fun because you’re seeing where the discussion is going and can even influence it.That’s why obnoxiously competitive people such as myself get so frustrated when the mobile web isn’t loading.Most of my early day comments are from mobile. Desk time doesn’t happen til afternoon-ish and at that point the game’s not quite as juicy. It’s closer to reading an (interesting) in box of e-mail.

    2. Mark Essel

      Mihai my cofounder Tyler and I are working on simple game behavior like this for tagging social streams in our reader project. The early involvement and author overrides are great balancing mechanisms to get meaningful filtering/connection. We need to go beyond tags to describe relationships into the land of semantc relationships and rdf data (probably a release or three after the launch).Solid ideas.

    3. fredwilson

      those are some of the game mechanics i am talking about

    4. robertavila

      At some point might all this become like high school cliques? with “popular” people determining who is “in” and who is “out’ although perhaps for more “objective” reasons. However, rule driven systems are driven more by the rules than by the participants, and any set of rules once in place tend to support and be supported by those who succeed in becoming “popular”under that set of rules. The “ins’ always find the system rational, while the “outs” always find it discriminatory. That said it should be noted that the lack of any rules and the need to hunt and search for what one finds worth while as opposed to what others find “popular’ is itself a set of rules…

      1. markslater

        we could ofcourse starting badging. Build me an avatar of a school blazer and start flaring me up.

        1. Tereza

          Or to get a little scratch-and-claw out of the girly girls like me, make it collectible dangly charms on a gold bracelet, and we’re off to the races.

        2. ShanaC

          Never. Not after years of religious private school. No way.

      2. Mark Essel

        Dynamic rules, periodic influence reset might helpGood points

      3. ShanaC

        I’m actually very worried about that phenonema here. Henry Jenkin’s reports vetting process’s do happen online-but at what point does it get all high school-y. Also, too much vetting and you may miss something important! “Outsiders” may have the most important information.

      4. Jared McKiernan

        They tried this at Less Wrong, and things seem like they ended up as you predicted, with a clique mentality around the highly-rated posters and commenters who shared most views, which is obviously not a success for what their site was intended to foster (essentially unbiased look at all ideas in search of greater and greater truths). The heavy participants seem to like it, but any time i read a thread, some post has been blocked due to low ratings. Which seems like it is kind of the opposite of the open culture successful communities build.

      5. sigmaalgebra

        Okay, guys, I can keep silent no longer!Popularity voting, ‘page ranking’, etc. have some fundamental, debilitating problems.Likely the biggest can be seen by putting yourself in the seat (uh, in ‘social media’ always try to put yourself in the seat of millions of other people!) of another blog reader/writer a long way away with very different background, interests, etc. So, the problem is, how well will THAT blogger like THAT post for one of THEIR interests. And, note, how well they like the post can vary a lot depending on which of their interests they are considering.For this, popularity voting, etc. are nearly useless.Or, e.g., with popularity voting for music, will end up with just the Top 40 or some such. Bummer. I HATE the Top 40; in my case, it’s especially easy: I HATE the Top 40 for ANYTHING (unless I could see a way to make money from it!). Still, I am a real music buff, e.g., can go into ecstasy listening to the ending, rising chromatic scale at the end of the prelude to the first Bach cello suite! What Heifetz does at the end of the D-major section of the Bach ‘Chaconne’ is still better (crown jewel of civilization); what he does several places in the Sibelius concerto, excellent; Bruch’s ‘Scottish Fantasy’, magic; what Wagner does with that old hymn tune at the beginning of ‘Parsifal’ amazes me; Te Kanawa’s ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ (if someone never knew their mother, then this could make up for it); and more. And the music I like varies depending on typing software, eating dinner, buying a concert ticket, picking up my violin, etc. Popularity voting just SUCKS!For something better, I urge people to get the best background they can in computer science and then pursue artificial intelligence, semantic analysis, analysis of browsing history, heuristics, neural nets, data mining, wisdom of the masses, user contributed content, graph theory transitive closure, NP-completeness, and singular value decomposition and find an algorithm!

        1. robertavila

          Yes. I agree particularly about Kiri!

        2. RichardF

          You are right voting on likes is an extremely crude method of filtering. It would be acceptable to me as one method if I could choose whose votes mattered to me ie.the likes of the people I like.Also agree about Te Kanawa I was fortunate enough to see her at Covent Garden last century, just amazing.

          1. sigmaalgebra

            I was lucky enough to see Menuhin and Milstein (separate days!) at the Kennedy Center. For Milstein my wife got me a ticket front row, center, and I got a violin lesson and saw where he did a surprising shift early in the Bach ‘Chaconne’. The uptight people would object, but his ‘Chaconne’ was fantastic. Been to some opera at Lincoln Center but never heard Kiri Te Kanawa in person. So, for her, all I have are recordings and, now, what’s on YouTUBE.For me, her singing of “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s ‘Gianni Schicchi”http://www.youtube.com/watc…sounds like it could substitute for motherhood (although as I recall that’s not what the aria is about in the libretto — helps not to read the words in the score! — ah, music is universal)!Also for some more Te Kanawa singing Puccini, it is easy enough to find, athttp://www.youtube.com/watc…Musetta’s aria “Quando men vo soletta” from ‘La Boheme’.Considering what she looked like at 50, she must have been a total dish at 20!So, the objective is to (1) get rich, (2) find a pretty woman, (3) charter a Gulfstream to Milan, have a good dinner, a little classic Barolo, and then opera at La Scala, not necessarily ‘La Traviata’ (don’t want to imply anything about the woman!). Working on it!What you said might be progress. It’s an intuitive idea. One could program such a thing, call it a ‘heuristic’ or an ‘algorithm’, etc.What the HECK to do?Gee, maybe we need “computer science” and “machine learning”!!http://news.cnet.com/8301-3…Nearly hopeless. Shooting nonsense in the dark. WHAT a JOKE.Might end up with”Halibut Saltimbocca paired with 2006 Domaine de Ferrand Chateaunef du pape”.GADS! Not a Meursault? If they can’t spell ‘Chateauneuf’, then don’t take their advice!”But, Madam, Meursault actually IS Chardonnay”.Ah, maybe after I get a few more ASP.NET Web pages typed in and load in some initial data!

          2. ShanaC

            And here I thought Madam Meursault was a character from Camus.And I still stand for earlier pieces of music- though Kiri re Kanawa has a lovely soprano. Bring on the Palestrina!

        3. Toma

          I hope I’m not too late to the party…I recently founded a company called Veracious Entropy that has done exactly what you’ve requested. We’ve built an algorithm around weighted credibility that is earned entirely through crowd verifications where this credibility is contextually filtered and constantly in flux. Consider it analogous to your financial credit score, but in the commentary/content generation space.We are nearing the end of our seed round of investment, about to release a private alpha of our web-app “HowTru?” and toolbar, and hope to take misinformation and those who perpetuate it, maliciously or not, head on.We hope you’ll check us out. Stay credible,-Toma BedollaFounder Veracious Entropy

    5. daryn

      Disqus does have “points” and “likes”, it’s all very crude right now, but a step in the right direction.I also like the idea of authenticated anonymous, where the commenting system, and perhaps the blog owner, can see identity – or at least tie multiple comments back to a single account, but the person doesn’t have to publish their real name. Certainly for different use cases you want different capabilities, and sometimes you may want real anonymity, but I think that’d go a long way to allaying people’s privacy concerns while also holding them accountable for their words.

    6. Kevin Vogelsang

      Disqus does allow “liked” comments to float to the top. I find this very helpful on my blog (on the few posts that have a lot of comments that is.) Most comments aren’t hateful. A lot of comments lack real substance.

  3. Mark Essel

    I saw this trend happening last year as comments grew, even though you (Fred) mentioned your monthly uniques were pretty stable. It’s part disqus (we like commenting more because it’s easier and connected), but I’d put money on blog readership growth.Very cool of you to build a bridge and hop out of the way. Saves you time, and plays on the psychological engagement of autonomy.Distributed moderation is something friendfeed did very well. Anyone can label a spam comment or spammer and if that number grows you’re likely a spammer (a moderator could review flagged & filtered content).Kid Mercury is doing a pro job, as I hardly ever see really negative vibes here.

    1. Tereza

      Yeah Kid rocks!

    2. Joe Siewert

      “we like commenting more because it’s easier and connected”Yes, I never did much commenting on any blog because I hated creating accounts/profiles at every site. It’s so powerful to jump from blog to blog and leave connected comments.

      1. Mark Essel

        Plus I can look at your disqus profile and see what other blogs you visit and find value in. And when I stop in and comment I automatically have a friend there. Connecting comments across blogs is a big deal. Hope other blogging platforms all get Disqus enabled (Tumblr, Posterous, etc).

  4. RichardF

    It will be interesting to see what the effect of you reducing the number of comments that you make will have.

    1. fredwilson

      i’ve already done that and so far it doesn’t appear to have had much of an effect

    2. Mark Essel

      He’s already done so for a few posts Rich. I haven’t noticed a change in commenting, have you?As an aside Fred you may wish to reply to first commenters here as a sort of welcome (I think you already so this). I recognize them now by being new to disqus or having no avatar image, but another visual cue would be nice.

      1. fredwilson

        i do try to do that but how do i know when they are new?

        1. Mark Essel

          I’m confident Disqus can identify new visitors. My wibiya bar does it with a welcome message (with JavaScript and cookies I think).A color outline around avatars or comments would be a good signal.

          1. fredwilson

            excellent suggestion marki know the disqus team will be all over this thread

          2. Mark Essel

            Last but not least. Virtual goods like avatar upgrades to make our comments stand out would be interesting (as long as bloggers could turn them off).I’d pay a few bucks to have “laser beams” fire out of my disqus avatarWe’re a demanding lot on Daniel Ha and team’s time. But they’re in the pole position to revolutionize the role of commenting.Ps instant loading on mobile trumps any other utilities

          3. Tereza

            I want little green dollar signs churning out of my avatar. But only if they’re tastefully done. πŸ˜‰

          4. Mark Essel

            If disqus allows animated gifs I could set that up for you now πŸ˜‰

          5. Jared McKiernan

            Could Disqus build a way for bloggers/community managers to set up semantic filters for the specific types of comments and interactions the community intends to foster? I’m working on a community which brings together left-liberals and libertarians to discuss their common political themes which are continuing to be ignored within the main parties; but in specific areas the two could be an independent force to pose a real threat to insider politics; i’m in chicago (and originally from WV) so we’re focusing on these two areas locally to start, albeit the WV angle will be mostly covered by those who have moved away from the coal-propaganda filled state which suffers a serious brain drain with no end in sight.Couple ways I’m wanting to assign points are that if you get a fair number of similarly-toned replies, points can follow your contributions to shape the discussion, rec’d posts for points and rec’d posts by top users are more valuable still; on the negative side, any term deemed politically charged against another user will subtract points automatically- including things as common in political commentary as liberal, conservative, socialist, etc. as adjectives, including links to biased sites could be used to subtract points, obviously spam and the usual as wellParticipating in real-world events, or off-site posts which provide add’l strong members with knowledge of the community could be used to allocate bonus points.Very loose model as of right now, considering we’re just starting to build the site and initial content, hope to play around with it over the next month or so and get a decent community base.

          6. Mark Essel

            Sounds like an interesting site, give a shout once it’s live πŸ˜€

          7. kidmercury

            how has wibiya affected your site speed/performance? i was thinking about installing it, but got scared due to site performance issues.

          8. Dror Ceder

            Let us know if you need any help, it shouldn’t affect your site’s performance (you could also enable the function that loads the Wibiya bar after page load).p.s. Great post Fred, I think this is a really important issue and as I know Ro and Daniel they will do a great job.DrorCEO & co-founderwibiya

          9. kidmercury

            hey dror, thanks for your reply. i didn’t know i could set it to load thebar after the rest of the page loads — i think i will try that.

          10. Mark Essel

            Thanks Dror for jumping in! I’ve been enjoying wibiya on my blog for a few months now.I think the translate function was one of the biggies for me to jump in and try it (the pluggin I used to use was really limited).

          11. Dror Ceder

            Sure Mark, its my pleasure. We have some very exciting news coming very soon, let us know if there is anything we can help you with in.

        2. Fernando Gutierrez

          Maybe that could be another feature for Disqus on the blog owner’s side: live stadistics on your community of commenters.If you do a couple more post on comments the people in Disqus are gonna hate us all with all our wishful thinking in front of their investor!

          1. Tereza

            Hey Fernando I think you just unwittingly came up with a great new term.Stadistic = Statistic + Sadistic. The new Freemium.I will use this one!

          2. Fernando Gutierrez

            LOLI’m afraid my punished brain is mixing English and Spanish (Statistics in Spanish is EstadΓ­stica) again… I need more caffeine!

          3. fredwilson

            ooh. i might have to pull a freemium on this one

          4. Jared McKiernan

            I’d like to see the ability to develop a wide range of true statistics about the community, rather than a package of counts which looks nice but doesn’t allow the community to be shaped dynamically in response to the manager’s goals. If that makes sense?

          5. ShanaC

            Isn’t that available already for premium users?

          6. Fernando Gutierrez

            I don’t know, my blog is on Posterous and I can’t set up Disqus (I tried, but they don’t allow Java Script on the user side…).

          7. fredwilson

            comment analytics are coming

      2. RichardF

        I had noticed a reduction in Fred’s comments on a couple of posts but had put that down to either he was busy with the day to day stuff or didn’t have anything to add (or he was in Paris enjoying himself too much;) )I do wonder in the medium/long term if it will have an effect, I’m sure it’s a case of getting the balance right, which is trial and error I guess.

        1. fredwilson

          it’s a bit of bothi’ve been very busy or on vacation lately (one is the result of the other)

        2. Mark Essel

          My take is that his blogging/commenting has grooved a pattern that many of us have taken a liking too. If we stray a little too far from where Fred would like his comments to be, I expect him to jump in.Plus if we write something he has a strong opinion on, you can bet he’ll join the conversation. Like I said, we already flood his inbox

        3. Fernando Gutierrez

          My guess is that it will have some effect. I’m quite new here but I already enjoy quite a lot with the rest of the community. However when you arrive here and start commenting, getting a response from Fred is quite a boost. As Mark Essel has said somewhere else in this thread, giving some extra attention to the new people could compensate that.

          1. Tereza

            I agree! The welcome to newcomers is a high-value thing.It’s like at a cocktail party. A good host/ess welcomes the new person in, introduces them to people, makes them feel comfortable.If you’re an old friend, you help yourself in with your own key and help yourself to the beer in the fridge.Wait….what I meant to say is that the old friends should also help welcome the newbies.

          2. Mark Essel

            Yeah totally agree with Tereza and yourself Fernando. The warm welcome makes the entire experience.

          3. ShanaC

            FYI welcome. I agree about the extra attention- but don’t freak people out too much- give them choice.

        4. ShanaC

          Interestingly, I’ve noticed that the amount of comments haven’t changed at all, the community has shifted to talk among itself…

      3. Ro Gupta

        Thanks. Have also heard that some sites – Cafe Mom I think is one – appoint greeters from the community to welcome new commenters. Do you think only the moderators should have visibility into who the first-timers or should it be displayed more publicly.

        1. Tereza

          That would be a very female thing to do.Which is why it’s brilliant. πŸ˜‰

        2. Mark Essel

          It’d be cool if we all could notice and say hi

          1. RichardF

            that would be a nice etiquette to introduce Mark. I’m a member of a (non tech) forum where that happens and it’s a nice touch

        3. ShanaC

          I’m in the camp of moderators- some people are shy. It is kind of like how do you get moderators to tier and pull community discussion and highlight new people without telling them they are doing this (that’s a good hostess trick, which I wish I knew better) It is really essentially you don’t push someone too early and yet don’t leave them out either- I worry so much about that here.(and thanks so much for asking Ro, this is a huge deal about how to build a community in the long term)

    3. Tereza

      I would suggest to possibly counterbalance that, have visibility into whether Fred/the Moderator was one of the Likers.We used to have visibility into Who Liked a comment and it disappeared. Why?I think it’s fair for us to know if Fred liked what we said. But we don’t.But really, it’s a lot more than Fred. I am dying to know who my Likers are. I want to follow them, reciprocate, create relationships.Can Disqus bring that back??It’s way more valuable to me to learn about my Likers than shut down Haters.

      1. RichardF

        I agree, I thought I was dreaming that the facility to see who liked comments was there once!

        1. Mark Essel

          I keep half expecting Disqus to send me a bill in the mail for all the likes I spread over blogs I frequent. Shaping information is terribly addicting.

          1. RichardF

            maybe you just hit on a new revenue model for them Mark πŸ™‚

      2. Mark Essel

        I think they rolled it back to reduce reciprocation and promote meritocracy for likes.I assume everyone loves my cheery, yet substance lacking comments (they get more likes). It’s a form of intellectual grafiti I enjoy

        1. Tereza

          Yeah, Mark — you’re probably right. Your unflagging kindness was really distracting me from the core conversation. πŸ™‚

      3. Adrian Palacios

        I second this, and like Richard I’m glad I’m not crazy…it’s something I would love to have back.Or, at least the ability to sort by which comments were even liked…something like that.

      4. CJ

        But really, it’s a lot more than Fred. I am dying to know who myLikers are. I want to follow them, reciprocate, create relationships. – I approve this statement.

        1. ShanaC

          People tend to like more the people who like them- it actually probably build’s community in the long term (they’ve tested this on couple’s in early stages of falling in love- you are more likely to like the other person if you know s/he likes you)

          1. CJ

            I can see that, what I think is that it gives you ‘some skin in the game’ so to speak. You start to feel that some people care about what you say and so consciously or subconsciously you try not to disappoint them so you participate in more discussions and also try to contribute better quality comments. Eventually the avatars become people and discussions become conversations and the commentators become a community.

      5. kidmercury

        great point tereza, i just liked your comment. or did i? you’ll never know for sure…..

      6. fredwilson

        i’d like that feature

  5. Akshay Mishra

    “I think Disqus should offer blogs with a lot of comments the ability to run a window above the comment thread with the half dozen or dozen best comments that would be automatically calculated with the possibility of override by the blog author. “Sorry – couldn’t get the “automatically calculated” part – this is based on user ratings, right?Can the comments be allowed to have tags as well? I have always thought some are as good as blog posts- so why not make them as searchable/categorizable as blog posts?(As an aside, I think Disqus does an amazing job in the comments domain)

    1. fredwilson

      yes, replies, likes, etc are the metadata that would be used.great idea to add tags

      1. RichardF

        The game aspect doesn’t really interest me but I understand it appeals to some.What does interest me is filters, tags and bookmarks – I wish Disqus could somehow integrate with Delicious.If you are going to “like” more rather than comment then being able to see that you liked the comment is probably a worthwhile feature for Disqus as a light way of interacting (perhaps with an automated email informing the commenter that you liked the comment)

        1. fredwilson

          digg, hacker news, twitter, tumblr, etc all use game mechanicsthey just don’t feel like game playing very muchgame mechanics are very powerful drivers of behavior

          1. daryn

            This is a good point that is always missed when people discuss game mechanics.It shouldn’t be about overtly turning the action into a “game”, and a mechanics framework shouldn’t make you try and just rack up points, but you should be rewarded for positive actions and encouraged to engage in certain behaviors that make the system better.

          2. ShanaC

            So it is game mechanics or social mechanics that we are trying to replicate in a very mediated form?

          3. fredwilson

            i think they are the same thing

    2. Mark Essel

      Tags and relationship data from active participants is where web social data is going. At least I’m betting on it as part of the way the web will respond to users attention and virtual presence.

      1. Akshay Mishra

        Agreed.Based on tags, Disqus can probably build up a profile regarding user-tastes/ideologies etc.If the analytics are done well enough, Disqus can very well be a recommendation-cum-content-discovery engine – helping you to find people and ideas.

        1. Mark Essel

          Right on Akshay!

          1. Jared McKiernan

            Might help if the tags are defined by Disqus rather than by the bloggers/users as most systems i’ve used allow completely open tagging which tends toward “cutesy” tags which show the blogger’s personality through clever (or silly) tagging.

  6. Satish Mummareddy

    The comments served two purposes for me: 1) Of course share my thoughts on the piece and get involved in a group discussion 2) A light weight way to have a conversation with Fred and know his point of view on my thoughts. πŸ™‚ So yesterday was not the same for me as a day that Fred was actively involved. πŸ™‚ Good but not great.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, yesterday was tough. i was in meetings from 8am to 9pm, non stop.i went home and crashed

      1. Satish Mummareddy

        Totally understand. I assumed that yesterday was probably a killer day for you until I read today morning that you were backing off comments. πŸ™‚

        1. fredwilson

          i am not backing off comments, just dialing it down, and i’ve been doingthat for a while now

          1. Satish Mummareddy

            Fair Enough. :)After taking a few mins to think from a different perspective, it is actually amazing that you pull out so much time and make the effort to show up daily no matter what and be there in the comments as much as you have. And we need to appreciate that a lot. :)Of course it might have been a lil fun too. πŸ˜›

          2. paramendra

            On many posts here I have made a point to read not only the post but also every comment beneath it. I suspect I am not alone among the regulars here to do that. This quality conversation I don’t even get at the NY Tech MeetUp after party, and that is a really, really good event.

  7. kidmercury

    damn i gone pop now…..another link in the body of the post…..fred wilson remains the only VC brave enough to consciously link to a 9/11 truth/NWO site……is there another VC brave enough to challenge fred for the title of bravest VC in the history of the world?????? if you are a VC who has consciously linked to another 9/11 truth/NWO site, please feel free to reply to this comment to share your braveness with the world. if you are looking for a site to link to to prove your courage once and for all, i always recommend http://www.patriotsquestion911.com. but until then, fred is the undisputed champ…..thoughts on comments:1. i remain skeptical a typical blog setup — i.e. moveable type, wordpress, blogger, tumblr, posterous, etc in their current incarnations — can be sufficient for blog stars. blog stars are really community builders and need a community CMS IMHO. i am of course preposterously biased because that is what i am working on, though i think ning, socialgo, etc are CMS systems closer to the right idea.2. i’m also a bit skeptical disqus can pull of game mechanics, primarily for one of the following reasons: (1) their natural inclination may be to try to make the game disqus-centered rather than centered on the specific blog community which will result in a lower quality game IMHO; (2) if they do try to make the AVC game, it may be difficult for them to make it sufficiently unique to the community (i.e. the AVC game needs to be dramatically different than the kidmercuryblog.com game) unless they can get a great development community going that embraces their API and (3) game mechanics is not merely a technology thing; it’s a cultural thing. as such i think value will be shifting towards game designers as open source communities increasingly allow for software development to be crowdsourced. can disqus make it simple enough for a blog star to create a game, can blog stars create good games, if not is there a third party that can come in and make it happen….critical questions IMHO.3. i think we will see that more often than not game mechanics and commerce are closely linked, especially in a blog star environment.4. this is an area where i think the integration benefits of closed systems is more apparent. having comment data, original blog data, user profiles, and basically all the content on the blog able to be accessed and interpreted by a centralized system will allow for a greater game. this is why i favor the approach of using an open source CMS and apps that are a part of that CMS’s ecosystem — this ensures tight integration. combining lots of SaaS APIs will result in weaker integration as well as a greater ability of any of the SaaS APIs to throw everything off by breaking/altering their API.

    1. Kevin Vogelsang

      When it comes to game mechanics and reputation systems, there is an interesting tug-of-war between inciting activity and reducing noise; most bloggers want more comments, but readers primarily want quality discussion and community. Features that strike the balance or provide control to the users are important.When it comes to new features, keep things simple. The “like” button is a simple feature that helps with all these things. It identifies quality comments, get’s rid of worthless comments like “great comment! good job JarJar1023!”, incentivizes better comments, etc.

      1. Tereza

        Too bad we can’t do Likes on mobile yet.The tug of war analogy is very apt.+1

        1. ShanaC

          Opera. Opera allows it.

      2. CJ

        Personally I think a reduction in noise almost always incites activity. However, TechCrunch is a prime example of where the two don’t always come together. The comment system there is much too noisy (and archaic) to drive decent discussion, so while you get a lot of activity because the place is crawling with people, you hardly ever get any insightful discussion, because the technology doesn’t remove the noise.

        1. ShanaC

          No moderation does to keep people polite- differences of opinion and psychology also incites activity. (see gawker’s huge jump in comments)

          1. fredwilson

            arrington does participate actively in his comment threads. i totally respect that.

          2. markslater

            yeah he does but he is usually carrying a stick and fighting like he’s in 28 days, poor bugger.

          3. ShanaC

            Hey does, but he doesn’t manage to bring his community (beyond the writers)into the same activity- as you said above, in theory, with some planning,you could take a day off and the community could take a hand at doing themoderation.

    2. Tereza

      Hey Kid — a lot going on in your comment I need to process — very rich — but for starters wanted to say I think you’re spot on that the game scoring needs to correlate to the community rather than Disqus. Disqus can reCk across communities and that’s nice info, but to the user it’s most useful within the community.We need to be playing on the same court…drinking at the same bar…

    3. ShanaC

      1) congrats2) I have an inherent logic problem with number 4- In the noise, there are other signals that may become important over time and affect the current signal you tune into. Too much bubble and you measure the wrong thing, you don’t remain flexible, ect, ect. It’s a situation ripe that you will be slammed into by some unknown outside effect- I want a little noise so I will know about something when that something comes at me.

    4. Mark Essel

      Fearless indeed. I wouldn’t even agree to the captcha O_oNote that my cognitive dissonance and distaste for controlling Apple didn’t stop me from buying a MacMini or iPad.You describe something of a dedicated social community tool, with a customized “game” system based on the needs of the group. I know of no such tool, or at least an easy to setup one.What’s the vision / driving focus of the blogstar. Talk about Hidras, we represent thousands of various points of view, many conflicting. What can we rally around?

      1. kidmercury

        you bought an ipad??? voluntarily??!?! oh man. my condolences. i apologizein advance for when crapple cuts the price in half in a couple months. youdeserve better. but alas, so do all apple customers, developers, andshareholders.IMHO the game needs to be customized to the social community, but that isnot necessarily a function of technology, or is perhaps a partial functionof technology. much of it is game design — who structures the incentives?how are the incentives awarded? who is the referee?think anyone who can use a blog to build a community is a blog star. to makethe analogy technical, the blog star is like the platform, the communitymembers are like the apps on top of the platform. like the best platforms,the best blog stars will encourage and enable the creativity of communitymembers, who grab the API (i.e. the blog star’s original post) and extend itand build upon it (like we’re doing now!). also like the best platforms,blog stars should clearly communicate the rules for their community, so asto build trust required for commenters to invest in building a reputation inthe community (much like how developers need trust to invest in a platform).ultimately, like platforms, the blog star is in control — the blog star isthe boss (just ask the boss!). community members can vote with their feetand move to another blog community (i.e. platform) if they don’t like theblog star’s rules. as platforms evolve and as blog star communities get moresophisticated to involve things like badges, virtual currencies, tieredusergroups, both will need more precise governance systems. at which point,we may find that the governments created by platforms/blog stars prove to bemore effective at coordinating society than nation-state governments……

        1. Tereza

          Should’ve asked for Fred’s. He doesn’t use it.

          1. fredwilson

            josh uses it to play labyrinth

  8. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    If there was a “like” comment for posts — there is one in Google Reader, actually — I would click it.Particularly like the game mechanics + comments idea.I have nothing more to add.

    1. Tereza

      +1 on the “like” for a post.Then you can route the comments to email on the go.That’s until they have the mobile app.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Aren’t the “reactions” — where scores of folks regularly retweet Fred’s posts — “likes” in effect?

        1. Tereza

          Yes, for sure. But, functionally, I want to kick the comments into my email queue if I’m running out of the house for the day.Far as I know, the only way to do that is to throw in a comment early to start the forwarding. (my Disqus email setting, for now, is for all comments)Is there some other way to initiate the process at the beginning of the day….or automate it in its entirety?

          1. Fernando Gutierrez

            That would be great.Also some more options regarding email notifications. If you are involved in a few threads at the same time from the beginning you are gonna get 150-200 emails a day from Disqus. It’s not a big deal on Gmail, but on my Blackberry it can be. I’ve thought about setting filters and even creating a dedicated Gmail address, but I haven’t found a solution yet. Does anyone has the same problem?

    2. enrolled agent exam

      I’ve got a “like” button. :o)

    3. fredwilson

      howard lindzon has been asking daniel for a like button for posts for at least a year

      1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

        Not surprised. Howard is smart. :)PEG

  9. Tereza

    Wow, thanks for the post, Fred. I’ve gotta update my blog after that juicy link.AVC is incredibly collegial, and sets the commenting community apart and above others.Several of my favorite commenters on this board are anonymous (Kid, JLM, others). But the sucker punches usually come wrapped in anonymous comments.To me this is like a daily pick-up basketball game. There are regulars, floaters, and newbies. You try to learn their playing style and can start playing off their strengths, interests.It’s when someone throws an elbow or kicks someone in the teeth. Can knock the wind out of your sails.Got my first Hater comment ever last week. After 30 seconds of shock, it got me thinking….if you’re really trying to push the envelope of the conversation, this is an occupational hazard you have to deal with. A rite of passage!Can’t wait to see Disqus’ sorting/gaming features roll out. I think they’ll handle about 90% of it, and am personally addicted to tracking my point score here (and am yearning for analytics behind it, too) — so Disqus, bring it on.The other 10%? An occupational hazard I can live with.

    1. fredwilson

      do you play basketball?

      1. Tereza

        Actually volleyball is (was) my game. Div 1 at Penn — 1989 ivy champs, baby!But no one gets the VB references so BB is easier.Now, at mid-life, I’m a B-level tennis player with a killer serve. πŸ™‚

        1. PhilipSugar

          Now I realize why I recognized your picture. M&T Penn ’90

          1. Tereza

            Get outta here!!Now I know why you’re smarter than me.

          2. Tereza

            Aw man, I don’t have a 1990 yearbook. Not fair.You need to post a pic on your Disqus profile — or at least an oil-on- canvas portrait like Fred’s — so I can match a name to a face. πŸ™‚

          3. Dave Pinsen

            Are you sure you’d recognize him 20 years later?

          4. Tereza

            I’m like Rainman with faces and phone numbers.

        2. onsip

          Do you play in NYC? I played in this league for a bit, and it was pretty good http://www.bigcityvolleyball.com – Nicole @OnSIPOh and great post, Fred!

          1. Tereza

            Hey Nicole — I have not, but do have former teammates who met their husbands through that league!(hint, guys — great place to meet some cute leggy Single Ladies)

          2. onsip

            Small world !

          3. Adrian Palacios

            hahah, for a moment i thought you wrote “teammates who met their former husbands through that league” πŸ˜›

        3. fredwilson

          you are dating yourself with that comment tereza. should i delete it?

          1. Tereza

            Don’t you dare. I put my name behind what I say here at AVC.com.I have big plans: to transform the Mid-Life Crisis into a money machine.No one is better qualified to do that than Moi.

    2. markslater

      just wait the death star called prokofy will descend upon you shortly….

      1. Tereza

        LOL

      2. Mark Essel

        I appreciate the counter view of Prokofy, although I thought she was a guy O_othey posted more early last year

        1. Dave Pinsen

          It’s that James Spader-looking avatar.

          1. Mark Essel

            And now I believe Dave is a horse that likes smoking

          2. Dave Pinsen

            What’s funny is that an earlier version of this avatar totally looked like a horse.

      3. ShanaC

        I think that happened in my first week of being here, I got called a techno communist. And I don’t think she is a a death star, she’s made some excellent points- though she is definitely having trouble with some other web communities…

      4. kidmercury

        lol, a prokofy joke…..thanks mark

    3. Dave Pinsen

      What was the hater comment? I must have missed that one.

      1. Tereza

        It was: “You are an idiot”, on Twitter Inflection Point day.Fred came to my rescue though with a zinger about taking that kind of behavior to where it belongs….TechCrunch.LOL.

        1. RichardF

          LOL – I missed that, great comeback

        2. Dave Pinsen

          Very chivalrous of Fred. I’m surprised someone would call you an idiot, but I’m also a little surprised he’d put down TechCrunch — TC seems to offer a lot of valuable publicity for USV portfolio companies such as Foursquare.

          1. RichardF

            yeh but I’ll bet Arrington would admit privately that the comments section on TC is rubbish. Also Fred doesn’t play that game even with TC

          2. Tereza

            I think it was the comment threads he was talking about.

          3. fredwilson

            yes. their posts are generally good unless they are blogging about me or one of our portfolio companies πŸ™‚

          4. fredwilson

            i am not smart when it comes to putting down pubs. it’s a weakness. TC’s comments are full of haters.

          5. Dave Pinsen

            Like calls to like. To that extent, I guess, commenters reflect on the blogger.

        3. Mark Essel

          I didn’t catch that negative comment. I would have had an instant comeback, “Tereza’s the most brilliant idiot I’ve ever met.”Followed by this link “I do not think that word means what you think it means”

          1. Tereza

            As always, Mark, you are a gentleman. Very much appreciated.I think this was a little odd because it was about 2 days after the post.And maybe that’s another dynamic to consider — after a certain period does the comment quality drop, or do malicious comments rise?Just curious if anyone observes a relationship there.

  10. Dan Ramsden

    The success of a comment thread, and the value of comments on a blog, ultimately depend on the moderator. As the kid pointed out, Fred lets (actually, encourages) even the most countercurrent commentators to have a voice, which makes the blog and its comments interesting. The issue with many blogs, and even the likes of the New York Times, is that they fall into group mentality. When mobs gather, abuse of the solitary is not far off. And this is not about anonymity or voting, it’s about leadership. The New York Times falls short.

    1. Satish Mummareddy

      That is actually a great point. You can lie anywhere on the spectrum with everything including political & religious views and not feel out of place here.

      1. fredwilson

        some of my favorite commenters are in violent disagreement with me half the time

        1. Satish Mummareddy

          Lol. I was nostalgic and was digging up the political posts from 2008 where JLM, Andy Swan, Dave in Hackensack and Steve Kane would go ballistic. :PFunny that JLM was the first (if not the only) one to write a guest post on avc.

          1. Satish Mummareddy

            Here are a few moments:andyswan 1 year agoWhen Nancy Pelosi smiles, my natural reflex is to check my wallet.JLM 1 year agoI agree with all of your observations. Right now, the Obama administration is pregnant with possibilities. I have always thought that President Obama’s greatest challenge was going to be Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and their fellow Democratic henchmen. This is Moe and Larry looking for Curley and they think President Obama should play the part. Don’t do it, Mr. President!JLM 1 year ago in reply to markslaterGM and the automakers have devolved into a purely political problem — can the Democrats hang onto control if they “sucker punch” the UAW? This has gotten down to a raw political confrontation.UAW: “WE put you in office, Mr President.”Pres: “You are going to cost me my freakin’ job, fellas. And I like THIS job.”UAW: “WE can put someone else into your job.”Pres: “Not if I put the American automakers out of business and you don’t have any union dues to collect.”UAW: “You don’t have the damn balls to do that, Mr. President.”Pres: “Hey, boys, I’m from Chicago and I’m capable of anything. Go ask my buddy, Reverend Wright.”Typical Mexican standoff. Big hint: What have you heard lately about “card check”? Hmmmm, President did not mention it last night, did he?I think ultimately bankruptcy court was invented for businesses to reorganize IF THEY CAN. I think the ship has sailed on GM, et al. It’s pretty damn telling when 90% of the folks on the big “car committee” drive foreign cars.Good luck, GM! Ooops, gotta run, taking my Hudson in for service today!JLM 1 year ago in reply to fredwilsonA guy or gal who is willing to swim the Rio Grande, trek through brush country and risk starvation has the “stuff” which deepens the American gene pool.Mexican immigrants bring a penchant for hard work, strong families, Catholic moral values, entrepreneurial zeal, great ambition for the next generation, laughter, love and chiles rellenos. This is a very stong package.Someone needs to tell Obama the campaign is over. I understand this will be difficult, seeing as he has done little else in his adult life….but at this point, it’s time to throw down.druce 7 months agohow are the uninformed supposed to become informed without discussing anything?that was a good discussion on health care.now I’m only confused because both the government and the free market apparently want to take my money and then kill me.andyswan 7 months ago in reply to druceNo…the government wants to kill you (reduce deficits), the free market wants to keep you barely alive (increase revenues). :)druce 7 months ago in reply to andyswanwell, if this debate has taught me anything, it’s that I should move to Canada. (leaving the option open for medical tourism in a free market like India)(I understand that the market wants to keep me barely alive, at least as long as I have money left, but haven’t seen any evidence the government cares about deficits. Rather, the government wants to keep me alive enough to vote, as opposed to alive enough to sign the checks. So I guess that might tip the balance in favor of government-run health care.)JLM 7 months ago in reply to druceI just keep thinking we should just go ahead and annex Canada and Mexico for that matter.Everybody in Canada wants American healthcare; and, everybody in America wants to fish in Canada.Everybody in Mexico wants to come to the US and work; and, everybody in America wants a Mexican yard guy, maid and nanny.Who doesn’t love Mexican food?Why don’t we all just merge?I live in Texas and I think we already are part of Mexico; or, maybe Mexico is already part of Texas?

    2. Scott Carleton

      I find the group mentality in web commentary to be particularly interesting. I have been in a position where I actually felt ‘ganged up’ on during a discussion. This forced me to ask myself, how? How can I feel pressured in text form? Of course, this is just a reflection of all discourse and web commentary is no exception. This goes to show that gang mentality is also not exempted and can pilot the discourse downward. I believe that good moderation, game mechanics and other devices can improve such discourse and allow for better, constructive discussions.

      1. ShanaC

        The web body- you do exist here. We’re just not sure how.

  11. LIAD

    I used to be heavily into game design and game mechanics theory.A well regarded thinker in the field was a guy called Peter Kollack who taught in UCLA and wrote a paper in **1994** called “managing the virtual commons – cooperation and conflict in virtual communities”.5 of his 7 rules come into play when thinking about anonymous commentsIn order for an online cooperation to occur it must be likely that two individuals meet again in the near future. So, ongoing interaction must be promoted.Individuals must be able to identify each other as well as be informed about the other person’s behavior. The provision of durable records of events and history of the online group is advised.The rights of the community members to devise their own rules must be respected to some degree by external authorities.A system of monitoring the members’ behavior and sanctions should be carried out by the community members themselves.Low cost conflict resolution mechanisms should be in place so that members can resolve their own disputes without outside interference.

    1. fredwilson

      Wow. Great stuff. I’ll suggest to daniel that he go read that 1994 paper. I should read it too

    2. Tereza

      Awesome, awesome comment.I’m even going print it out for future reference!

    3. obscurelyfamous

      Yes!! I read this paper some time ago — way before Disqus, actually. Thanks for reminding me of this. Here’s the paper for anyone interested.I’m still fascinated with game design wrt to virtual communities. Any more pointers on where to be looking, LIAD?

      1. LIAD

        Daniel,I’m not massively up-to-date on this stuff anymore but I remember enjoying reading Amy Jo Kims writing – http://bokardo.com/archives… and learning a lot from the first few chapters of the 2007 Casual Games Association White Paper (yeah I know, sounds like a hoot right) http://www.wiki.igda.org/Ca…Theres also a guy called Gabe Zicherman, based in NYC I think, who developed a concept called Funware which he defines as ‘using Game Mechanics to Engage, Motivate and Thrill Communities’ he writes about it on his blog – http://funwareblog.com/

        1. Tereza

          You kidding?? This is brain candy! Thanks, LIAD

          1. Jeff Lu

            Wow. This is great stuff.

        2. obscurelyfamous

          Amy Jo Kim is great. I try to read as much as I can from her. Thanks for the links.

        3. Matt A. Myers

          Wow. Thank you. I knew I would work game mechanics into my projects – but having the information all in one spot just blew my mind!

        4. fredwilson

          LIAD is schooling us all today. so great to see.

          1. markslater

            just purchased to book on the funware blog

    4. HowieG

      Very nice discussion here. Most of the posts here are very adult, even though many have diverse views. The key point from LIAD’s post was people being able to come back together,either on the same post or future posts, even if anonymous posters. Random drive by posts meant to offend or hurt others are never part of a community who continue to post in that community.And this bring me to Fred’s view on anonymous posting. Like the Free Press who keep sources private in case of a backlash to that source, it elevates the level of discussion if there is methods to freely post potentially controversial viewpoints should the topic merit them.

    5. fredwilson

      hey kid mercury – is LIAD’s comment the most liked ever on avc?

      1. Tereza

        Aw shucks. He edged out my brainfarts comment by one single Like.I am crushed.L1AD, I’ll see you back on the court tomorrow. Wear your mouthguard.

      2. HowieG

        He had front running position so your point about a window for the best comments being in the first page is right on. AND it will help incentivze us to step our game up. Incentives are good right? BTW his post was great it has nothing to do with prime position in this case.

      3. kidmercury

        the record is 26 by ed freygoygle, so LIAD is still 10 shy at the time of this writing. LIAD’s score is impressive, especially given the length of the comment (probably the longest comment in fredland history to get double digit likes) but the title remains ed’s.

        1. Satish Mummareddy

          Would appreciate a link to the ed comment if you have access. πŸ™‚

          1. kidmercury

            here it is:http://www.avc.com/a_vc/201…i previously said the comment got 26 likes, but actually it’s 28 at the timeof this writing

          2. Satish Mummareddy

            Thanks Kid. That was funny. 29 now. πŸ˜›

          3. markslater

            LOL – quality! i’m sure fred chuckled at that – one more like….

      4. Doug Kersten

        Funny, using game mechanics to get everyone competing on likes…lol

  12. kirklove

    First. ; )Joking aside, I really welcome improved comments across the web. For instance, I love the site Gizmodo, and while the comments there could really elevate the site, they just drag it into the gutter. AVC is a rarity in the comment world and the quality of the comments is the main reason I visit each day.

    1. ShanaC

      Some of the comments are quite good but again- there is no modeling no community interaction.

      1. kirklove

        I’m not sure it’s designed for a full-on community. It’s not a forum or a meetup group, it’s comments. Plus, the topics switch so frequently that there is an ebb and flow to the commenters. That’s natural. I will say this though, that through AVC I’ve made several connections with folks in the comments section and those connections have spilled over to places like Tumblr and even real life. That’s community to me.I think another offshoot to this is that a lot of folks here want Fred to respond to them. He’s the rock star and we are all just groupies. What I mean is that you don’t get nearly as much interaction from two commenters as you do Fred interacting with commenters. IMHO that tide is shifting though as I’ve noticed Fred backing off a bit on comments – and that’s a good thing because a sense of community and commenter interaction should develop from that.

        1. ShanaC

          I think this gets at the heart of one of the difficulties and strengths ofsocial media- what does it do exactly- it seems to work in funny ways. Idon’t mind the ebb and flow, it is a natural pattern to me. I’ve madeseveral connections and yes they are spilling into real life. And it iswonderful, I do like the people here. I have a strong community ethos.And actually this may sound strange to a lot of people: I only had a vagueidea what was going on when I came here. I mean I understood there wasimportant discussions and important people here- reality was I found theconversation fascinating and I found the post facinating and I wanted to”win” somehow- I thought I could be that smart too- Fred actually factoredin semi marginally, though the extra attention helped in the beginning (itmade me feel like someone was listening). I remember having to do a ton ofresearch in the beginning too. It was great!It may be then Kirk that arrived after that point, because by then I wasalready seeing some community interaction, but I definitely see more now. However, I got a ton more information off those posts at times (a lot moreone time people maybe?)

    2. Rocky Agrawal

      Agreed. AVC seems to have some of the best comments. I think a lot of that has to do with a well established/high frequency community. The comments that are disruptive more often than not come from drive-by commenters who have no interest in the community.Would be interesting to see Disqus offer a filter of “regular commenters”. Could be defined as some combination of longevity on the site from first comment and number of comments. Of course there’s always the risk that it leaves out thoughtful new commenters.

      1. fredwilson

        the “drive by” comments sometimes stir up the most interesting discussionsthough

  13. William Mougayar

    Well said. Comments analysis, ranking & curation are the way to go for anything popular blogs. Also, a quick semantic analysis to extract the key themes or issues being discussed would be a bonus.Here’s a feature I’d like: Extract the links being passed in the comments and show them in a separate box. (In addition to the comments themselves & discovering new people, links that get mentioned are important.)

    1. ShanaC

      larger issues- links are a great way to passSpam, Spam Spam Spam! (I feel like singing today…)

      1. William Mougayar

        Most links from comments here are excellent. I don’t understand the spam part.

        1. ShanaC

          That is here- this is one data point, assume system wide.

  14. Guest

    Oh, God, there is not basis for comparison at all – have you read the non-moderated NYT comment streams? Or for that matter, almost any other major news outlet? They are quite right in banning anonyms, but you are right not to do it here; this is a very civilized and high IQ community.

    1. tgodin

      I agree, and its one of the reasons why I come here so often. Whether its germane to this topic, I don’t know, but I remember reading the comments on this site to Fred’s post about the Dodd banking bill, and thinking that they (the comments) got more personal than is usual – because politics entered into the conversation more than usual I think.

      1. fredwilson

        we like to argue politics here. but it is relatively civil.

  15. William Carleton

    Fred, I had been leaning in the anti-anonymous commentator direction but your suggestions for Disqus improvements really make it seem like a manageable system to include anonymity should be within reach.

  16. yogi_3333

    I am fascinated, appalled, riveted by the unadulterated stream of consciousness flowing like diarrhea from America. Finally, the banality of politically correct everyday face to face communication has been supplanted by the raw hatred and unapologetic bias – the true colors are finally revealed and you seek technology to hide it and make it palatable? I say let it all out – the racism, fascism, mysogony, anti-semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-gay, anti-French?…let it all come pouring out. It will either lead to a massive implosion or become a catalyst for a cleansing that will transform the nation.

    1. Scott Carleton

      One can say the same for any sort of regulatory structure. However, it would appear in the course of history that anarchy does not represent the best course for constructive gov’t (others might say it hasn’t had a real chance). I believe the same is true for moderation of comments. With correctly instituted game mechanics, anon moderation and so on, comments can become a collective that is greater then the sum of the parts. It can lead to quality discussions. Still, no matter what happens as it evolves, i’m sure one can get involved in a flame war somewhere to get the lead out πŸ™‚

      1. yogi_3333

        Wouldn’t it be ironic if maybe the greatest technological advancement in human history spurred on the devolution of civilization as we know it? The uncontrolled id runs rampant on the web, starts to manifest itself in the real world and the pillars holding together social structure collapse. Evidenced by Congressman, once viewed as patriotic civil servants, suddenly denigrated, assaulted and threatened with violence for voting their conscience…

        1. Jared McKiernan

          pretty sure people have been saying this will happen with each new iteration of the greatest technological advancement in human history. yet we’re still here, advancing on, with all that has changed really is our access to both the highs and lows of human culture and intelligence

    2. ShanaC

      Look, I am going to say fairly similar things to when I first came here (and got very deeply grilled about it): anonymous comments & blogs have the power to change communities- in some communities it is a necessary because without it, no one will speak out.People are scared of massive change, and we live in a time of massive change: They go anonymous in order to figure out what is going on. Lashing out is one possibility. Sometimes it is community growth. The vast majority of people are just readers or occasional commenting/ blogging.This is from practical experience.

      1. RichardF

        I understand where you are coming from. I also think that in the last 5 years the way people use the internet has changed. Previously it was normal to float about the net anonymously and a lot people enjoyed that, now they are just starting to get used to the fact that online and offline presence are merging.The added benefit of coming out though Shana is that you can point Albert and Fred to your profile on Disqus if you want to apply for a job at USV πŸ™‚

        1. ShanaC

          Actually, I was referring to this blog, I grew up here:http://orthomom.blogspot.com/(it's no longer active)and this lawsuit that got thrown out of court:http://www.citmedialaw.org/…That’s the school district my parent’s house is in. There has been massive demographic shifts in my school district (SD 15). A lot more orthodox jewish people moved in: Lawrence, Cedarhurst, and Woodmere is mostly Orthodox Jewish, and the houses that come onto the market in that area tend to be sold to Orthodox Jews; Inwood is now being sold to Orthodox jewish people and has a couple of Yeshivas; Hewlett has a sizable population but not in that district; Altantic beach, although not part of the 5 Towns, is part of the district and the only area where this demographic shift has not occurred. The Catholic Dioceses recently has shut down it’s School in Cedarhurst, it’s been a bit profound.For a while the district was bankrupt for mismanagement reasons as far as I could tell (this was before I was even able to vote). Beyond a guy named Asher Mansdorf, the Orthodox population tended to stay out of politics because a lot of people were children of survivors and were brought up to stay away from politics for their own good. Then their taxes shot up radically because I think the emergency fund of the public schools went kaput at the same time Yeshiva bills for a large chunk of the neighbor went up.An anymous blogger named the Orthomom stepped in to report lots about the situation around many school board elections and many school budget situations (which often were voted down, so we went to the state minimum for many years, so this made the neighborhood very acrimonious)At one point, an anonymous commentator called a board member up for re-election a bitch and this prompted a defamation lawsuit of the commentator, the Orthomom, and Google (her host), because Google had to unmask her.Bitter. It was bitter.Since then we have passed a budget. it took forever though, because there is nothing like a group of really pissed off people writing anonymously about a school board in an area that’s changing to make things both happen/not happen.It’s still a bit bitter around her, there have been near lawsuits over the selling of half empty school buildings: We’re forced around here to be so much more honest.Having seen this, and voted in a number of the related elections: Identity is huge pushover factor unless you reach out and try for something more. And it is a huge reason why people stay anonymous. Because identity is so deeply personal and it hurts when you attack it.*I’m also so much more careful about my politics now.*there were a number of really poorly represented quotes in the nytimes:http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%252fgst%252ffullpage%252ehtml%253fres%253d9903EFDC1231F934A2575AC0A9609C8B63%2526sec%253d%2526spon%253dand here:http://www.nytimes.com/2006

    3. Guest

      Isn’t this a typical overshoot response to years of highly suppressed public discourse? I saw something similar in the Eastern bloc 20 yrs ago. The question to me is, what made America so suppressed for so long? I remember in 2004, Gov. Howard Dean’s presidential campaign was torpedoed by a speech that was just a bit overexcited. Afterwards they went for the ultimate boring stiff (Kerry). I distinctly remember all the put-downs, the sarcastic comments, the late-night jokes, the eye-rolling… I never got it, the guy was just excited, he wasn’t hateful or anything… Odd. But now, you are right, it’s “everything goes”… going from extreme inhibition to extreme lack of restraint.

      1. RichardF

        It’s funny you should mention Howard Dean, they showed part of that speech last night here in the UK.The context was that we are having our first televised party leaders debate tonight here in the UK prior to the upcoming election. I hadn’t seen Dean’s speech before but they were using it as an example of how certain behaviour in a televised speech can affect voting.

      2. ShanaC

        See above, really: We’re really suppressed, and we really like public discourse.

  17. Razvan Tirboaca

    Fred, my company (AdCaptcher) can help Disqus with anonymous commenting issue. Can you introduce me to them?Thanks

  18. Pete

    If Disqus introduces game mechanics into comments, then the game should reset for every blog post. An expert in healthcare may be a star commenter on a post about healthcare web start-ups, but may have not much to say on other days. Awarding badges or points over time is clutter on an otherwise clean service, and irrelevant to the quality of contribution to any given conversation.

    1. Tereza

      +1

      1. Jared McKiernan

        Hmm, interesting- how many categories should exist clearly within a single community?Maybe something around 5-8 is manageable for most topical mixes. I could see more becoming a bit unruly for newcomers, and a bit too much like an appeal to false authority. But if there are only a couple, it is obvious before long…this blog being somwhat unique due to how most topics are grounded in most of the same material, with additional slight variants popping up all around on other related topics.

  19. paramendra

    “I continue to read every comment”I think that is a big deal.

    1. zackmansfield

      agree – it’s the “secret sauce” that makes this community different than the “communities” that are TechCrunch, NYT, etcThere has to be some inflection threshold of users/pageviews etc where it tips from being ably moderated by an individual(s) – AVC clearly fits into this sweet spot right now. But, I might add, only because of Fred’s dedication to cultivating the community.I think it’s only natural for him to step back a bit on the comments – there are clear conversation leaders now who are the most invested in the comments of almost every single post (tereza, JLM, Kid, Mark Essel, PEG, etc) that this community is self sustaining (with Fred’s continued, albeit more limited, involvement). If you ask me, that’s a more impressive feat than mere pageview or user growth.

      1. ShanaC

        If this was an in person Salon circa the 17th century, you probably would have the same sorts of issues. With the same sorts of people doing the same activities.

      2. paramendra

        I agree.

    2. Satish Mummareddy

      I think I invest myself into some of the blog posts depending on the content & my schedule and then for those blog posts I read all the comments and engage all day.

  20. obscurelyfamous

    I love this blog’s community because it’s full fledged web community as typically found in a forum. I want to bottle up what you guys have here and spread it around the rest of the Disqus network. We have two challenges here: good communities that need better tools and mechanics to foster its growth, and nonexistent communities that need to get to where you already are today.The latter problem is the bigger, or at least more widespread, one. There are sites on Disqus that don’t any comments, but their audiences are interacting in other ways. Disqus needs to use this and apply the AVC success story to other places. I think it’s already happening with the intrinsic network effects, but we need to really dig into the network and make it work.The good thing is that these two goals aren’t at odds with each other, and the stuff we need to release soon will inevitably begin addressing both.

    1. Satish Mummareddy

      The single biggest reason that this community is active is Fred’s involvement. The key to DISQUS tackling the second problem( with respect to blogs that already have a decent sized audience) is probably very closely tied to providing incentive to bloggers to stay active in their own comments section. Can DISQUS create incentive through leader boards etc to get bloggers to compete in creating active comment threads? daily, weekly, yearly winners in different categories?There is the other problem with creating communities around blogs that don’t yet have a large enough audience. How can DISQUS collaborate with Zemanta to drive traffic into those blogs & comments sections? πŸ™‚

      1. RichardF

        I don’t think you can underestimate how important a part Disqus plays in driving up the comments here. When Disqus has been down and Fred has gone to back up I can’t be bothered to use the alternative and I think that’s been the case for others, on those days the comment numbers have been far fewer.Fred’s blog is the only blog I read on a daily basis and I’ll turn up probably before feedly tells me there’s been an update because I know he’ll have posted something worthwhile reading as are the comments from the community.In my opinion anyone who wants to create a successful blog needs to come and get some of Fred’s secret sauce. It’s the gold standard.Switching Disqus on is obviously not enough although I have to say it’s got to help. I was on a blog a little while ago noticed it had Disqus and because it was easy to do so, made a comment, it was the only comment made on that topic. The author never responded. Now even if my comment wasn’t a great one (which is always possible) if they had been that interested in starting to engender conversation on their blog you’d think they would have come back with something, you have to start somewhere. Who knows, maybe they are just paying lip service to their comments section and think they have to have Disqus on their blog but if they are serious about building up their comments and community then they have to play to their audience.

        1. Fernando Gutierrez

          Yes, you have to show up before feedly tells you there is a new post oryou’ll miss most of the discussion.

          1. RichardF

            ha ha – true – but for most blogs it doesn’t matter when you turn up because there is no worthwhile discussion – that’s why I still use RSS over Twitter most of it’s not time critical and there’s no noise.

          2. ShanaC

            Not necessarily, I learned I enjoy listening this way.

          3. Fernando Gutierrez

            Yes, that can be nice too if you have time to read it all together. But in my case, if I find +100 comments when I arrive sometimes I feel lazy and I don’t dip into the discussion as I would if I were involved since the beginning. If I come early I can do it in three or four batches through the day, depending on my workload. In the weekends and late nights my attention span is longer, but in working hours it’s more difficult for me.

          4. ShanaC

            that’s true for everyone, it is why you see a lot of people reply in batchesand funny layering. But it also takes away from the joy of listening. Which I am suddenly developing.

        2. fredwilson

          you have to engage with the commenters. why use disqus if you don’t want to do that?

    2. Satish Mummareddy

      Can DISQUS come up with best practices for bloggers who want to build communities using the comments section?Can DISQUS come up with metrics that help bloggers measure their performance in terms of following the best practices?

    3. ShanaC

      I’m not sure why that happened though-though that is definitely one of the sweeter comments I’ve heard in a while.

    4. Pete

      Daniel, it might be interesting if you could help an existing community interact around the web. For example, we’re all here reading AVC and interacting based on Fred’s publication of new blog posts. But there is no reason why this community should only exist on Fred’s blog, or go on hiatus if Fred skips a day. There are many people here whose opinions I respect, and we all clearly have some common interests. I would like to know what else this community is reading and commenting on.Some type of a follower model? Not that I need another feed, but if done right, it could easily beat Twitter for new content discovery. Maybe a Netflix-type algorithm that can predict what I may be interested in, based on my contributions on Disqus around the web, matched up with the interests and contributions of others who are participating alongside me in the same Disqus threads.If Disqus would intelligently surface content to me based on what I do on Disqus, I could end up reading a very relevant (to me) but low traffic post on some new blog, and then exchange comments there with only a few other people, some of whom I met on AVC. And that very action would attract others from AVC to come and take a look. As an infrequent blogger with a low traffic tumblog, I would appreciate a distribution system that puts my content out there intelligently, to only people who actually might care.

    5. Aaron Klein

      Daniel, this is a very good point. I’ve done my best to try to move discussion about my blog to Disqus, including direct appeals to “comment below”, etc. Yet I still get most of my comments on the Facebook item linking to my blog post.Which is weird, if you think about it. The user is clicking to the post, scrolling down and reading it, hitting the Disqus comments box, and then clicking the back button, waiting for the page to reload, and then entering their comment.My best guess is: they want to avoid registration, and they think clicking Facebook Connect will publish their comment back to their own Facebook page without their permission.Any thoughts on this?

      1. obscurelyfamous

        Yup, plenty of thoughts on this. The comment box is super simple on Facebook. It’s just a box and a post button because you’re already logged in. It’s rewarding to you because you’re using an account that this comment will be attributed to.Big theme for us. Commenting must be simpler and it should be valuable for anyone who does it. We haven’t solved it yet but I think we have a really good idea on how to (some parts of this is already in the works — I can only say sorry for taking so long).

        1. Aaron Klein

          Cool! Looking forward to the results.

  21. Dave Pinsen

    Regarding the NY Times, they aren’t just banning anonymous commenters — they don’t allow any comments on some articles (e.g., recent Tom Friedman columns, including one you blogged about here recently).Regarding community-powered curation: I’ve got a system for that set up on one of my sites (I just need to build the community). But here’s how the system works:There are two kinds of commenters, non-paying, registered users, and paying, premium members. Either can leave messages on the message boards, but only premium members can give a star rating to messages (premium members also get access to a couple of web apps on the site).Comments that get the highest star ratings (on a scale of 1-to-5 stars) rise to the top of the page (similar to Disqus). Comments that have an average ranking of below 2 stars after several votes get deleted.Because only paying members can rank posts, non-paying members can’t manipulate these rankings by creating multiple identities to give one star votes to posts they don’t like (as happens on other message boards).The challenge so far has been that the premium members so far tend to be investment professionals, rather than recreational investors, and haven’t been much interested in sharing their ideas or comments on message boards. I’m thinking of launching a comment contest to spur some posts on the message boards. I think the community curation system will highlight some intelligent posts once this gets critical mass.

    1. ShanaC

      Investment professionals have a lot to lose- it’s interesting the mix here, because some people are professionals and some are not. A lot of modeling of behavior is used here- are there people you can tap for modeling?

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Not that I know of.One idea I’ve considered is eliminating free users from the message boards and making them non-public. Maybe that would spur more use of them. Maybe I’ll just e-mail my current paying users and ask them if they would be more inclined to use the message boards if they weren’t public. If not, then maybe I’ll aim for a different audience with the boards.

        1. ShanaC

          There may be some regulatory issues with that.

          1. Dave Pinsen

            I had an attorney with securities industry experience review the site and supply the relevant disclaimers for it.

        2. Tereza

          Could you have that part go all free but by invitation only, where your paid users, as part of their privilege, each invite their favored peeps (e.g. their customers, prospective customers and colleagues). Then you’re helping them interact with people they have relationships with anyway.They can each get a limited number of invitations, to keep it scarce, and then spot-reward more invitations to the customers who emerge as your power users, or ones you need to make more happy for some reason?That’s just a random thought…..I can’t see the whole thread but seems like a more gamey dynamic.

          1. Dave Pinsen

            That’s an interesting idea, Tereza, thanks. Let me let that one marinate a little.

          2. Tereza

            Dave, DM me if you want to talk through it further.I think it could work; turn the value equation on its head.Free is good but it needs to be working for you….bringing in high-value/high-conversion prospects.

          3. Dave Pinsen

            Thanks a lot. I’ll shoot you an e-mail later tonight.

  22. Jonathan Wu

    I don’t think the issue with anonymous comments are any different than those faced whenever you have large groups trying to freely communicate or even work together in a single medium.Having been part of a large number of forums and virtual communities for many years now I’ve seen the same basic patterns develop. Communities with a focus to specific topics begin extremely useful for areas of debate, discussion and learning. Whether it’s technology, poker, sports or even politics the initial group of people are able to have relatively normal discourse even if their opinions disagree with one another. As growth continues so does the useful contributions until an inflection point almost inevitably occurs. Soon the overall utility of contributions as whole starts to fall until there is so much noise that the state of the community is nowhere near as useful as it began. The communities on popular blogs/sites are almost always past this point.One thing that definitely changes is that smaller forums/communities form with users expecting to engage in give and take. Users expect to express themselves and ingest the opinions of others. As more people are active in threads/comments the discussions become very difficult to follow to the point where most individuals are concerned less with ingesting another persons thoughts and more concerned with expressing their own.A bunch of interesting studies have been done regarding maximum size of stable communities. There was a piece on it in one of Malcolm Gladwell books. Google Dunbar’s number and topics related to it.While game mechanics obviously effect behavior I’m not convinced applying incentive structures to behavior resolves the underlying issues. If the users themselves have an impact on the incentives then the same “noise” in comment contributions inevitably go into your metrics. The other alternative is to have a heavy weighting towards the admin/moderator in which case you might as well just moderate comments yourself. A number of forums and communities with ratings systems for its users/comments always seem to end up with huge amount of group think or a few lines of thought shouting at one another.The truth may be that while we would like to consider shared online spaces a community, at some size it simply stops being that.

    1. RichardF

      I think you are right about the size effect which is why I think Disqus will need to come up with filtering features.

  23. keithrdennis

    As a passive participant (reader) of this blog for some time I agree that the quality of discussion here is superior to and unlike that which I have witnessed anywhere else.I believe there is significant value in allowing for anonymous posts provided the problems associated with them can be mitigated while keeping the cost of moderation low. One form this might take would be a social-grid driven reputation-system which supports anonymous personas portable across the social-web. Such a system would require flexible, community-driven feedback controls and the ability to determine that a persona has not been hijacked.

  24. Tom Limongello

    the best, simplest moderation for blog comments that I have seen is on the Business Insider, where they have a section called ‘The Bleachers’ for racy comments. The have a picture of a viking with a beer and that picture even flows through to their iPhone optimized site. It’s not game dynamics, but it does make you feel like you are at the game πŸ™‚ http://j.mp/bVbxwP (scroll to the bottom of the page to see).

  25. rick gregory

    I don’t comment here that much, but when I do I end up reading a lot of the comments which are usually high quality. Why? I think this is the key – “I continue to read every comment because it is important to me to see them all.” We know that you’re reading and involved here. Yes, it’s your blog but being involved in the comments lends this blog a MUCH different feel than blogs where the blog owner posts and rarely or never interacts with the commenters. This feels more like a salon where you’re the person starting the topic, then we all use that as a springboard.

  26. rklau

    Fred, fantastic post. I threw up a reaction post here:http://tins.rklau.com/2010/…A point that a co-worker made after reading the NY Times piece was that the primary issue with newspaper site comments isn’t that they’re anonymous, it’s that there’s no community. Consequently there are no real norms to enforce, and things rapidly devolve to the point that there’s no value whatsoever. Contrast that with your site, or that of other highly-engaged communities, and I think it’s an important counter-point to the papers’ moves.

    1. Ro Gupta

      Heh – that troll dissuasion / fundraising anecdote from the Dean campaign in your post is interesting. And yeah, “no real norms to enforce” is spot on. The combination of neglecting or burying guidelines in a policy link (Tim Ferriss does a pretty good job of avoiding, e.g. scroll up a tad here: http://www.fourhourworkweek…, not having a consistent ‘voice of authority’ present and not having a strong overall sense of commenter identity–even if some choose to remain anonymous–can make for an uphill battle in many cases.

  27. robertavila

    I am not a big commenter, If I have nothing to say I tend not to say any thing, BUT I like scanning what is being said and finding the odd insight or the unusual thread. My suspicion is that even with a popularity rating there would be those who would use the rating as a guide as to what to avoid.

  28. Cody Swann

    I know this sounds like a horrible idea, but I think it would be worth a try implementing a feature that allows users to temporarily ban other users.Two things:1) A rating system. Super users who reach a score, automatically can ban someone for 24 hours.2) Crowdsource. If enough users vote to ban a user, he/she is banned for 24 hours.Commenting is a big struggle. I’ve dealt with it for years at ESPN

  29. Doug Kersten

    Anonymity is such an interesting topic, especially since it is a right defined in the first amendment. Groklaw has a really interesting article about decisions related this right and the Internet: http://www.groklaw.net/arti…I am wondering, as social sites (like Facebook) that don’t allow anonymity gain in strength and reach whether they will be required by the courts to allow anonymous speech. It is something that a bunch of smaller websites probably wouldn’t have to worry about. As long as there was a venue for anonymity I could go to that venue with similar impact. However, when a site that allows speech between parties refuses to allow anonymity and has more than 400 million active users can this site legally refuse me the right to anonymity? Hmmmm…

    1. fredwilson

      twitter sort of allows it

  30. Doug Kersten

    Just a thought…points and scores, in and of themselves, are pretty boring. It is what you do the get the points/scores that is interesting and drives everyone’s actions. The points/scores are just a way of keeping track for me. Beating your friend to the hoop is fun. The two points just keep track of how many times I’ve done it and that only matters at the end of the game. A lot of sites forget about the end of the game, where the points really matter.

  31. Craig

    There tend to be way fewer offensive comments from people who use their real names. Read through the AVC comments and almost everyone uses their real name or some (maybe truncated) version of it. But halting anonymous (or comments from users with a handle) commenting can stifle the conversation. That’s the balance to strike.One idea is to augment a comments service using something like Amazon’s Real Names (since they have your credit card, Amazon knows who you are – a higher level of knowledge than Disqus Verified which verifies you by your email). This service could store a user’s real name and any number of handles that person wants to use. It would not disclose a user’s identity but could verify that a banned/offensive user was trying to comment under a new handle.This allows for anonymity with responsibility. Anyone is free to use a handle but in a controlled way (if the community/moderator shuts that person out, he/she would not be able to get back using another handle).

  32. Militant Moderate

    Good post and an important topic. Let’s face it, regardless of political party, there are always individuals posting crazy, racist, outlandish, unsupported, and/or poorly reasoned arguments in the comment sections. They simply take up space and lower the quality of the conversation. Subconsciously, they just generate anger and frustration, preventing the rest of the community from having a healthy and substantive debate about important yet controversial issues. This doesn’t benefit anyone. The online community needs a system that allows for large-scale participation yet focuses on both quantity AND quality (as determined by the community).

  33. Tereza

    +1

  34. Dave Pinsen

    +1 for the Ghostbusters reference. I want to encourage Charilie’s humorous side.

  35. Matt A. Myers

    Accountability I think is actually where the issue lies; Being able to sue someone for defamation and have a place with legally binding or judge reviewed results (if it comes to that) to proves the comments as defamation or finds them to having grounds – and then allowing people to refer to those if someone posts an identical comment (so ‘victim’ can post link to the judgement)… etc

  36. fredwilson

    i am down with the bonfire but sacrificing is not for me. beer songs, on the other hand, are right in my wheelhouse

  37. Doug Kersten

    My understanding is you have to prove defamation before you are allowed to bypass the right to anonymity. You can not violate the right to anonymity in order to prove defamation. That is, if you want to follow the courts interpretation of the first amendment.