In the rainbow of diversity we have here at the Cranach blog, opinions vary on all sorts of topics. But virtually everyone agrees on one thing: Not liking the Disqus commenting system that we’ve been stuck with. Patheos, who hosts this blog, is considering adopting a new commenting system, which is called the World Table. And we have been chosen to try it out!
One of the problems with Disqus from my point of view is that it is very clumsy to moderate. Reportedly, 28% of online commenters are trolls, interested only in disrupting conversations and insulting the people trying to have them. We don’t have that high of a percentage here, but we get our share. And it isn’t just trolls who are dragging down the quality of onine discourse. Other commenters may be serious participants, but instead of offering arguments and insights, they try to score points against the people they disagree with by battering them with ad hominem attacks and what they consider clever put downs. I’ve met loyal readers who never comment because they are intimidated by the nastiness they are afraid they will encounter. We used to be famous here at the Cranach blog for our high level of discourse and, more than that, the strong sense of community that we built up. Now, not so much.
I have tried to deal with these problems, to little avail. Disqus lets people people flag and counterflag each other, but I just don’t have time to keep up with all of the comments in a timely manner, and when I finally do my moderating, to the point of banning somebody, it is often way too late, after the damage has been done. What World Table offers is a “self-moderating” system. Actually, it’s more of a “community-moderating” system. You sign into it, via Facebook, Google+, or, if you must, Disqus, which allows you not only to comment but to rate the other comments, as to how respectful, helpful, honest, and likable the comment is. If the score reaches particular levels of lowness, the comment will be collapsed (invisible unless you click it) or be deleted or the commenter will be banned. If you yourself have a record of highly-rated comments, your influence in the other people’s scores will be greater. If you have a record of low-rated comments, your influence will be less. And there are safeguards built in to keep people from ganging up on someone to just give opponents lower scores. Also, appropriately for a Christian blog, there is a “forgiveness factor.”
There are other features: Even though registering makes the interaction less anonymous (the source of much online obnoxiousness), your privacy will be protected. The comments will be presented chronologically, as the discussion unfolds (as opposed to Disqus, which handles each comment as an isolated saying to be voted up or down, oblivious to the context and the flow of the discussion). And more features are being developed, such as the ability to edit one’s comments. Perhaps the most important feature at this point, since both Patheos and World Table are using this blog to try out the system, is the “We’d like your feedback” link at the top of the comments box. Use that to communicate what you like, don’t like, suggestions, or what you’d like to see added.
After the jump is a video about the World Table system and a link for more information. Also, if all goes well, the new system might be in place TODAY. On this very post. You can use the new system to discuss the new system.
UPDATE: On the webpage, posts are listing “0″ comments, because that’s keyed to Disqus. There actually are comments, using this new system. And even if you don’t post comments yourself, please sign onto World Table so that you can rate the comments you read. So far, you are making very helpful suggestions. I’ll pass those along, but also convey them via the “feedback” link, so they will be sure to go to the people to need to hear them.