Suggestions for Revamping Comments?

Suggestions for Revamping Comments? March 30, 2013


Well, the comments that followed my post on ‘A Week’ and the adjectives besides atheist that people choose kind of spiraled off into flamewars about gay marriage and other unrelated comments.  This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I’d like to get people to help me brainstorm some solutions, from the technical to the more honor culture-y.

Here are a couple things that have occurred to me:

Culture Changes

  • Periodic “Take it Outside” threads – when an off-topic conversation is heating up, I can paste the old comments in reply to the most recent “Take it Outside” thread, post the link, and all subsequent replies and sniping that are out of place will be summarily shot.
  • Periodic “Oh heavens, you’re going to fight about this anyway” threads – topic-specific posts on topics that people don’t seem to be getting better at fighting about, but are very intent on arguing about anyway.
  • The above, but with me feeling a bit snarkier/more helpful – Here, the long-running argument thread has a Meta Strategy Thread at top.  You need to reply to this comment with a link back to an older fight of yours, and add some thoughts about why it was unproductive and what you plan to change on this go-round.  No post in the meta thread means I’ll delete your comments in the general scrum that follows.
  • More structured threads – I could have said that the only relevant top level comments on the ‘A Week’ post were direct replies to my question.  We’ve had some really productive threads with tighter rules before, but I don’t know if that’s just because I only use them in special circumstances.
  • More of a general willingness to walk away from fights – We actually don’t so much have a problem with drive-by flamers.  But people to tend to take the bait when an unproductive fight is about to flare up again between regulars.  Having more of a culture of commenters saying “No one has had a productive convo in response to this jibe the last six times, so we recommend not replying” might be useful.  Or it might be a different way to flame.


Tech Changes

  •  Vote comments up or down
  • Ability to sort by these vote results
  • Ability to give an ‘off-topic’ tag to a comment – enough of these, and the comment drifts to the bottom of the thread
  • Ability to give an ‘on-topic!’ tag to a comment – enough of these, and the comment goes to the top of the thread
  • Ability for me to highlight a couple comments per thread as exceedingly awesome and worthy of discussion (instead of the boring smackdown you’re going to rehash).

I don’t actually know how to do any of the tech ones (and those changes go through Patheos), so I’d appreciate people’s additions to the wishlist as well as actual links to plug-ins that do these things.  And I think at least some of these are bad ideas, so do feel free to propose other bad ideas (best comment of the month gets a pony!) so people can tweak them to see if they spur good ideas.

(And if anyone turns this post into an unrelated brawl, I shall look at you most sharply!)

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