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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