1 Sep 2009

Navigating Your Comments

We’d like to share some thoughts and get your feedback.

Our goal with IntenseDebate is to make your comments better.  We offer a system that encourages conversation, and improves your ability to have meaningful dialogue with your readers and fellow commenters.  Comments are the icing on your content cake, and there’s real value and insight in comment sections (the icing is the best part!).  That’s why being able to find valuable comments is key.

We think it can be cool to bring in comments and social media from around the web.  That’s why we offer FriendFeed integration (where comments made in FriendFeed are pulled back to your blog), and trackback / pingback support with our WordPress Plugin.   Aggregating constructive and relevant content benefits your comment section (which is why we are checking out aggregation services like BackType and uberVU).

But there can be too much of a good thing — you wouldn’t want a cake that was all icing. Check out Matt Mullenweg’s recent post “6 Steps to Kill Your Community” (especially step 5).   Too many external scraps of “conversation” flood comment sections with retweets, and even tweets about comments on that post.  Adding in every single mention buries your comments and destroys the debate.

A real-time “conversation” aggregation system also introduces a whole new beast to deal with. Pulling in bits of “conversation” in real-time with no moderation would allow belligerent people to dominate a comment section simply by tweeting out curse words (or worse) over and over embarrassing your readers, and drowning out meaningful discussion.

Nicolas Holzapfel wrote an interesting TechCrunch post recently.  He touches on something that we’ve been fixated on for a while: there’s a limit to the number of comments that you’ll read on a post before you move on.  Let’s face it, few of us have time to read through hundreds of comments let alone Tweets, and comments from FriendFeed and Digg.

How can we make it easier to navigate through all of the comments so that you can find what you’re interested in?  We think IntenseDebate strikes the right balance: our user reputation scores, comment voting, comment sorting (by ranking), and comment/user following, are some of the ways we help bring good comments to the forefront.  We also auto-collapse comment threads (once there are 25 threads on a single post), to help navigate. There are a number of great ideas in the comment section of Nicolas’ post:

  • Add headers and topics
  • Show comments made by people within your social network (ID users)
  • Filter comments by keyword
  • Tag clouds

We keep an eye on everything and good ideas can come from anywhere. If you see something killer that we should do, let us know and if there’s enough demand or just if it’s super-cool we’ll get it on the roadmap.

What do you think?

Posted by Michael Koenig in feedback


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26 Comments »

  1. What about a UI that displays these social reactions from other sites under some kind of area that is collapsed by default? I believe Twitter is adding support for the "retweet" option to the API, which might allow you to better filter or manage those reactions as well (for instance, only pick the original tweet instead of all the RTs, which can often be spammers).

    Perhaps this UI could have separate section headers for mentions on Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, blogs, etc., and they too are collapsed with some kind of a summary, like "20 reactions on Twitter, click to expand."

    How's them apples?

    Comment by chartier — September 1, 2009 @ 6:42 pm
  2. Yep, that's similar to what I was thinking. If you have to have them, at least hide them behind a link that 99% of people aren't going to click.

    Comment by photomatt — September 1, 2009 @ 6:52 pm
  3. I would imagine these "social reaction" would be implemented via a plugin that users can choose to enable. That way it isn't forced on everyone.

    Comment by chartier — September 1, 2009 @ 6:55 pm
  4. I like them apples. We're all about putting you in charge, so something like that would definitely be opt-in.

    Comment by Michael Koenig — September 1, 2009 @ 7:03 pm
  5. I think it's a nice idea. Maybe a navigation with tabs would be a solution too, just like the Smashing Magazine's blog: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/

    Comment by Alex Frachetta — September 2, 2009 @ 3:11 am
  6. I think it’s a nice idea. Maybe a navigation with tabs would be a solution too, just like in the Smashing Magazine’s blog: http://www.smashingmagazine.com

    Comment by Alex Frachetta — September 2, 2009 @ 3:16 am
  7. Thanks for the example. I like what they've done – their tabs look good.🙂

    Comment by Michael Koenig — September 2, 2009 @ 4:59 am
  8. This is exactly what I was going to suggest. Have them, but keep them separate, keep them succinct, allow them to be expanded, if desired.

    Comment by Lisa Clarke — September 14, 2009 @ 6:25 pm
  9. * Add Headers and topics
    * Show comments made by people within your social network (ID users)
    * Filter comments by keyword
    * Tag clouds

    Adding those features would be great!!!

    Comment by Andrea Torre — September 1, 2009 @ 6:58 pm
  10. Tag clouds for comments. Brilliant!

    Comment by Chris — September 2, 2009 @ 1:31 pm
  11. While I love the concept of additional navigational options for comments, the UI would have to be super carefully developed — 90% of my users don't even log in to leave a comment, and the prospect of overwhelming these kinds of non-savvy users with navigational options could feel like UI overload…

    Comment by OffbeatAriel — September 1, 2009 @ 7:07 pm
  12. Yeah, that's definitely a concern. You don't want to lose the simplicity of commenting. Any future designs will have to be carefully thought out and tested – this isn't something that we would do overnight. We welcome your input.

    Comment by Michael Koenig — September 1, 2009 @ 7:30 pm
  13. Use the Slashdot method to an extent. Allow comments to be rated by their type, such as 'interesting' or 'funny' at a single click of a button. Then a comment that has been voted on the same category many times gets a prominent position (ie automatically expanded while comments with a low vote count start hidden).

    I've suggested a way to go about this here

    Another idea is to allow the admin of a site to select comments he considers most interesting and "distinguish" them. This would mean that such comments (and their threads) would float to the top and be the first thing someone reads. Same can be done for subreplies as well.. Actually, I'm going to suggest this as a formal idea in GSFN for you😉

    Comment by db0 — September 2, 2009 @ 4:48 am
  14. I like this idea…rating the type of comment to further categorize. I may only want to read funny comments, sexy comments, positive comments. All could be represented with a set of icons the blog author plugs in with a few options for how their are displayed or how the icons are designed.

    This would be one step beyond the up/down rating and I think it would make the commenting system more active by an order of magnitude. It could also help separate spam.

    Good stuff.

    Comment by josh — September 2, 2009 @ 6:27 pm
  15. I like this idea…rating the type of comment to further categorize. I may only want to read funny comments, sexy comments, positive comments. All could be represented with a set of icons the blog author plugs in with a few options for how they are displayed or how the icons are designed.

    This would be one step beyond the up/down rating and I think it would make the commenting system more active by an order of magnitude. It could also help separate spam.

    Good stuff.

    Comment by josh — September 2, 2009 @ 6:27 pm
  16. Both are very cool ideas. I believe the NYTimes does something similar where the admins can select a couple of comments to show first.

    I'm checking out your GS feedback. Thanks! 🙂

    Comment by Michael Koenig — September 4, 2009 @ 5:20 am
  17. Personally I think its fine the way it is, but thats just me.

    Comment by KainTheReaper — September 2, 2009 @ 9:07 am
  18. Hmm, another comment of mine missing. Caught in moderation?

    Comment by db0 — September 2, 2009 @ 4:59 pm
  19. Yep, it got flagged. I'm looking into it.

    Comment by Michael Koenig — September 2, 2009 @ 5:14 pm
  20. Your comment came through as a WP comment. Did you post it in ID or WP comments? It's approved now.

    Comment by Michael Koenig — September 2, 2009 @ 5:27 pm
  21. ID naturally

    Comment by db0 — September 2, 2009 @ 5:30 pm
  22. The plot thickens. Thanks for the info, we're checking it out.

    Comment by Michael Koenig — September 2, 2009 @ 5:32 pm
  23. There should also be a reply from Josh (I just got an email about it) under my first comment.

    Comment by db0 — September 2, 2009 @ 6:51 pm
  24. There should also be a reply from Josh (I just got an email about it) under my first comment. I think your auto-moderation is very aggressive

    Comment by db0 — September 2, 2009 @ 6:52 pm
  25. You guys are doing a great job! Appreciate it. Any prospects of creating a page for aggregating and displaying the community of commenters of my website? Where commenters and their avatars can be displayed and then comments listed? I was using an fbconnect plugin that had this feature and I thought it was a great enhancement. Example: http://www.bestupnorth.com/upperpeninsula/?fbconn

    Thanks

    Comment by NorthGuide — September 25, 2009 @ 4:20 am
  26. […] Recentemente, adicionaram suporte a Trackbacks e Pingbacks, pelo menos para quem usa o Plugin para WordPress, o que matou metade do problema. Fiquei muito feliz quando descobri que estavam abrindo para que a comunidade traduzisse o Intense Debate, o que mataria o outro problema e deixaria o sistema perfeito. […]

    Pingback by Intense Debate em português- BrPoint — October 1, 2009 @ 5:17 am

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