A Small Change To The Comments

David Steinberg, founder and CEO of Zeta Global, the owner of Disqus, saw my blog post last week expressing a desire to make this blog easier to manage. He reached out, asking how Zeta/Disqus could help.

I explained my frustration with the comments here at AVC and he asked the Disqus team to see if they could help.

And less than a week later, we have the first result of that assistance. AVC is running an experimental feature that Disqus is working on called “collapsed comments”.

One of the things that I find challenging with the comments is when a group of people decide to have a conversation with each other and it results in dozens of replies, one after another.

I don’t want to stop them from doing that, but I also don’t want that conversation to take up a ton of space on the page.

It is also the case that it is often in those rapid reply discussions where the flames come out.

So we are going to collapse the replies on multiple reply conversations here at AVC and it has been live since late yesterday.

It looks like this:

Behind that “Show More Replies” link are sixteen more comments, taking up four pages of screen real estate.

I am not saying that those conversations aren’t valuable. They are and people can still dive into them.

But they are not longer going to be the primary thing people see when they wade into the comments here at AVC.

I think that is a good thing and a small step to making it a bit easier to manage the comments here.


Comments (Archived):

  1. CJ

    I think it’s important to balance usability with accessibility and this seems like a good step in the right direction. I don’t always want to scroll through 4 pages of comments related to an issue that I feel was resolved in the initial one or two comments.Another issue I’ve had since I’ve been a visitor is the bigger comment threads consume a LOT of resources on mobile and tend to make the browser/phone sluggish which tends to limit my commenting to the PC or email back and forths in the type of interactions that are now tucked away. I wonder if this is an inadvertent fix for that as well.

  2. awaldstein

    Thanks!Helpful, almost metaphorically like a subreddit.It will help but not completely as the behavior of the few in this community not only engages in these long strings (which this will help with) but always the same individuals troll the comments looking to fuel more of a flame.That is simply reality.I’m wearing this on my sleeve but am as well looking for a way to enjoy the discovery without blocking 3-5 individuals (which is a bad solution) whose behavior is what forms the pervasive patterns of this community and never really changes.At the end of the day, tools help and this is a good step.But personalities are what make communities and when the top down leadership or tone, and the bottoms up mob clash, over time and on and on, well–its a deeper dynamic.

    1. JLM

      .Sally, isn’t that echo chamber sleeve of yours about worn out?Ideas are refined when they clash. It’s called discussion.People who don’t submit their ideas to the marketplace of ideas are just cowards unable to defend their ideas.Life is a contact sport.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. CJ

        People who don’t submit their ideas to the marketplace of ideas are just cowards unable to defend their ideas.Maybe not cowards – maybe indifferent due to incivility of debate on the internet. I’ve been on the internet since before there was an internet. I’ve honed my craft and it’s served me well online and off. But not everyone has that experience, and they’d just rather not deal with the often uncivil nature of internet discourse.That said, I complete agree with this:Ideas are refined when they clash. It’s like how you realize how much you know when you have to teach someone else – same with an idea. When you have to defend it, you realize how well you understand it and believe it.Some of my best friendships have been formed with folks I have a fundamental disagreement with on certain hot button topics. Because these folks were willing to discuss, defend, and acknowledge/change if appropriate. And they turned out to be good people to boot. Just ideologically different than myself.I’ve also witnessed a community flame out when all of the dissenting opinions were weeded out. It became a boring love-fest with no one challenging group think. And, while the community still exists, the engagement is much, much lower than its height. And its sad, because they’re good folks too. Just nothing much to talk about when you agree on everything.

        1. JLM

          .I only really want to talk with folks who do not agree with me or who have entirely different life experiences and thus a different viewpoint.Isn’t that called “diversity”?We are all in favor of diversity except for diversity of viewpoint.And, yet, it is the intellect that informs everything else.Be well on this Presidents Day.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. CJ

            The inability to tolerate diversity of viewpoint without ‘slander’ as defined by @amar:disqus above. The inability to have conversation is precisely the reason we’re where we are in this country.Once we finally realize that conversation is not zero-sum, then maybe we can move forward as a nation. That the goal isn’t to ‘win’ or rather that ‘winning’ isn’t proving someone wrong, but understanding the other person’s perspective – even if you don’t agree.I guess that’s why empathy works so well. And I guess that’s why not everyone can be a hostage negotiator(not everyone has it). You have to be able to understand a person’s viewpoint, sympathize with their struggle, all while possibly thinking they are DEAD wrong. But, their objective is immaterial, the result – getting the hostages out safe, is all that matters. You can’t do that without empathy. I’m rambling.I hope my point was made somewhere in there. LOLBe Well JLM.

          2. jason wright

            “Once we finally realize that conversation is not zero-sum”https://www.youtube.com/wat…Many of the exchanges wouldn’t go this way if they were face-to-face. It’s a young medium. We have much to learn.

        2. Amar

          Some of my best friendships have been formed with folks I have a fundamental disagreement with on certain hot button topics. For me, it is folks I fundamentally disagree with on “specific ideas” but agree with on so many other things including the joy of having a spirited debate. The latter is key. It is easy to disagree but very very hard to debate while assuming (some) responsibility for the other side’s dignity.I was listening to a sermon yesterday (by Tim Keller- one of the top 5 reasons for me to visit NYC) — where the pastor made the point. Slander does not necessarily imply lying. Slander is often observed when one speaks the truth but with an intent of revenge or tearing down the other person instead of trying to educate or engage the other person.There is debating and debating while also caring for the counter party. The latter may lead to life changing friendships.+100 onIdeas are refined when they clash.

      2. fredwilson

        Not everybody agrees with you about that JLM and that’s the problem. Many people don’t like to play contact sports and are more comfortable playing bridge or chess.

        1. JLM

          .Bridge, a four player in two partnerships card game, was invented by British soldiers in the Crimean War. The name comes from a famous Istanbul bridge, the Galata Bridge.It was literally the outgrowth of war.In my first class year at VMI, I used to play bridge until 2:00 AM every night. It was a contact game, though not a sport.Most of the contact is with your partner who couldn’t understand why you bid what you did. My bridge partner was also my boxing mate.Chess is one of the only games in which the players can see the opponents strategy. There is nothing hidden.Bridge and chess are games. Life is not a game.Ideas are not games. A good discussion offers the same competition and rigor as bridge or chess. It’s an analogy.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        2. thinkdisruptive

          It’s true that many are conflict avoidant, and only wish to talk to those they agree with. But there are just as many who relish honest debate and the opportunity to learn from those they disagree with. Why should either way of experiencing the world be forced to conform to the other?Filters and user-configurable default settings can allow both to have things the way they want them without impinging on what others value.In the end, isn’t this more about negative ways of expressing disagreement (sarcasm, condescension, gaslighting, other forms of disrespect) than about disagreement itself? @Amar expresses this well below. http://disq.us/p/1ztvgjd

          1. JLM

            .Fair play.Whether we are in a boxing ring or playing chess, we are in conflict.There is nothing inherently negative about conflict, as you note.It is only through conflict and persuasion that we develop or evolve our views on anything.When we are not in conflict, we are in an echo chamber.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        3. JamesHRH

          In the end though, contact happens whether you like it or not.

    2. JamesHRH

      Are you suggesting that most regular commenters regularly change their MO while a few never do?

      1. awaldstein


  3. Jim Grey

    I tend to read first-level comments and skip all the replies, so this will make the comments *way* easier to scan through. Thank you!

  4. William Mougayar

    It’s like going from a fire hose to multiple faucets. You can eventually drink the same amount of water, only by opening more faucets.Great way to “discover” more comments as time permits, or pass by to get a sip without drowning. One small change to the comments, one giant leap for the community 🙂

  5. Frank Traylor

    Kudos to Disqus. Very helpful.

    1. fredwilson

      I agree

  6. falicon

    Feature is cool.Choice of example thread is cooler. 🙂 (even though it kinda implies that it devolved into a flame war — which I don’t think that specific thread did)

    1. fredwilson

      It did not

  7. DJL

    That seems like an ideal solution. Nicely done.

  8. Mark Gavagan

    This change seems like a good step forward.I wonder if readers would pay $.25 (25 cents) for each comment up to 240 characters, with 100% of this revenue going to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit?Perhaps this small barrier would cause people to comment a bit more carefully.

  9. Pete Griffiths

    Good idea.

  10. PhilipSugar

    Is it my poor memory? Wasn’t this a feature before? I seem to recall a feature that limited the number of threads shown below a main.I liked that feature as it prevented people from glomming onto the top ranked comment to have their comments towards the top which crowded out later comments from interesting people from different time zones.

    1. jason wright

      Perhaps a blog’s default setting should be that comments display in their chronological order of submission and are not promoted up the thought chain simply because they attract approving votes, which has become a distorting form of power law of distribution effect.

      1. creative group

        Jason wright:The majority of the comments are usually based upon popularity verses content. We have witness the regular comment posted and a popular contributor just agreeing to the comment and they get ten upvotes. Just the normal.This is high-school 3.0Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

        1. jason wright

          Ok, so i have an idea for that one. The number of votes a comment or reply has already received is only displayed to a reader after they have cast their own vote for the comment or reply. Blind voting. Promotes independence of action, and less herding?

      2. Vasudev Ram

        Good point. Forum creators could take a tip from Usenet message boards, where the default format for hierarchical threads of comments is to have them vertically down the page (not marching off to the right across the page, making you squint or get a wry neck), and it is quite readable, just by people observing netiquette, consisting of a few conventions about quoting, such as judicious minimal use of quoting of the comment you are replying to, and not top-quoting.Example screenshot below, from a thread on the D Language forum: https://uploads.disquscdn.c

      3. Mark Essel

        Amen, dig this and @philipsugar’s idea. I love the regulars but enjoy seeing a variety of opinions

  11. Anne Libby


  12. Richard

    Wasn’t it Yogi Berra who said “When you come to a fork in the comments road, take it.” LGM!

    1. Anne Libby

      He also said, “Nobody goes there any more. It’s too crowded.”Hopefully the new format will add some space to the place.

      1. Richard

        Love your screen name. They are the first names of my grandmothers.

      1. Vasudev Ram

        Although I like these that they said he said:The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase.If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.It gets late early out there.Pair up in threes.We made too many of the wrong mistakes.

  13. JLM

    .Brilliant. Total game changer.Happy Presidents Day to all.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  14. Guy Lepage

    This is so much better for everyone. I feel cutting off one level further would be even more helpful. and highlighting the show more replies. Here’s a simple css hack..https://uploads.disquscdn.c… background-color: lightgreen; border: 1px solid green; border-radius: 4px; padding-top: 12px; padding-bottom: 14px; margin-left: 45px; padding-left: 25px; color: green;

    1. fredwilson

      That’s cool. Thanks

    2. jason wright

      a bit ‘bright box neon’? just the text in green?

  15. Adam Sher

    Most posts have comments where the sub-comments receive more upvotes than the primary comment. In other words, many commenters find the details of a conversation more “valuable” than the original comment. Most of Fred’s posts garner less than 100 comments, so it’s easy for someone to get through the entire discussion.Or, the few people who are involved in a side-bar will continue to be notified about updates and the rest of us won’t see them.

  16. smackdab

    Awesome. But shouldn’t the default state be fully collapsed to the top level, with some indicator for those top level comments that have replies under them? Maybe an icon with the number of replies, to show which threads are most active (could be a signal about which to read or which to avoid, depending on how you view these matters). I don’t think the first few replies are so special that they deserve screen real estate vs. later replies . . . .

    1. fredwilson


    2. jason wright

      How about……a reader can only reply to other comments after they have first made their own comment to the original post? It’s almost too easy to reply to comments – ‘bouncing off’ behaviour.

  17. Bruce Warila

    Nice innovation. Seems that delayed up voting (e.g.: 3 hours after publishing) would also change the dynamic here.

  18. obarthelemy

    I’m not utterly on board with collapsed comments, nor for that matter with threaded comments. The issue with collapsed threaded comments is that replies have very low visibility, so good commenters get punished for replying instead of starting a new thread, thus everyone gets incented to just start threads.Collapsing would be fine if threads didn’t suddenly become interesting 2 3 4 levels down. But sometimes they do.Case in point, in the previous post I wrote up a nice answer about desktop docks for smartphones. Because it’s a 3rd level post, it doesn’t even show. I won’t bother next time.

    1. creative group

      obarthelemy:your comment appeared Trumpest.You assumed on your own that your reply to smartphones 3rd level post was interesting and Making Post Great Again (MPGA) .We couldn’t resist. Hopefully you realize we are joking.Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

      1. obarthelemy

        “obarthelemy:your comment appeared Trumpest.You assumed on your own that your reply to smartphones 3rd level post was interesting and Making Post Great Again (MPGA) .We couldn’t resist. Hopefully you realize we are joking.Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT”I’m sorry, but to me, trumpest is- dismissive borderline insulting- too many caps and boilerplate and trigger words- self-agrandizing- not very smart- seriously ill-informed (have you looked at my “nice” comment before dissing it ?)And… that’s you, not me.I’m joking, of course.<insert tagline=”” and=”” hashtag=”” here=””>

    2. thinkdisruptive

      I had the same thought about visibility and the probability of gaming the comments and losing the threads. If the real problem is that some/most of the sidebars are not of interest to many, or that some find some of the commenters offensive/tiresome and don’t want to see them, why not simply make it a setting that the reader controls. i.e. let me choose to suppress or expand threads by default, and to hide certain people who you’re tired of disagreeing with? Different strokes for different folks, and no one has to lose what they want (except for simplicity).

  19. David A. Frankel

    I want my money back, Fred.

    1. fredwilson

      You can have back what you have paid 😉

      1. David A. Frankel

        You strike a hard bargain but…okay…. ;)I think I speak for many when I say thanks for the years of daily inspiration on a number of levels!

  20. Vendita Auto

    Good on Steinberg: The Importance of Being Earnest

  21. William Mougayar

    Hmm. Is that a bug / new behavior? Disqus often logs you out and forces you to re-sign in. I think it could be seen as a security feature.

  22. John Herron

    This is a not a step forward for me. I love the comments section and its frequent messiness; I scan it very quickly until a response pulls me to ponder. I doubt I’ll take the time to click ‘show more replies’. Perhaps I don’t understand or value the need “to manage the comments”. Please consider an enhancement to identify multiple upvotes in a compressed thread.

  23. thinkdisruptive

    I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about this innovation until I began trying to review the comments on this very subject below. Too much is hidden, and the link is low contrast and inconspicuous, making it too easy to miss things you may have wanted to read. Some of the best comments in this discussion are 3 and 4 levels deep in a thread, and they are being lost.

  24. Banet

    Regardless of whether or not this is a useful change, the “show more replies” link needs to be more noticeable. Likely simply holding it is all that’s needed.

  25. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Love it.It would be cool to see Disqus explore some more new ways of displaying and managing comments threads.Some ideas:- display discussions in a left <> right alignment (like text messages on our phones are displayed)- compartmentalize threads even more by displaying a ‘leaderboard’ type indicator under each one (ala Discourse — screenshot attached) https://uploads.disquscdn.c…- once I’ve clicked “see more” provide an obvious way to re-collapse- any/all links should open in a new tab/window- all image uploads should be resized to a max width/height- support markdown 🙂

    1. Russell

      Great feedback and yes please – text message style display would be great.

  26. Mario Cantin

    Great improvement already.

  27. sigmaalgebra

    It’s a hierarchy. So, why have a serial representation instead of a top down hierarchical one? Sure.

  28. K_Berger

    Looks like a great change. Good balance of hiding and showing comments.

  29. Mark Essel

    I missed that disqus got acquired, super cool old news

  30. jason wright

    I still think that limiting the number of comments an individual may submit in a specified time period would work. so much to do, so little time.