This is not just a problem with The Verge. I've noticed it elsewhere all over the internet where threaded comments/sub comments are used.
Typically the first reply will have a series of other replies below it and even sub replies below them, not because they relate to the first reply, but because people want their comment seen and not somewhere 300 comments down the page where they probably won't get read because people have gotten bored and checked out by then.
Some websites use collapsable sub comments. Clicking a link to expand or collapse. This is not a bad way of doing it but it can further push the original comments down the page if those sub comments get really long. The goal is to balance the system so that sub comments are just as much work to read as scrolling down to the bottom to read original comments. That way comment hijacking will be lessened.
I'm wondering if there is a better solution.
One thing came to mind. Go horizontal. Like a page based system where a right arrow appears on a comment if there are sub comments for it. Click that arrow to go to the next comment which replaces the original in place but has a slightly different background color so you know it isn't the original but a sub comment. The sub comment would also have arrows for paging left and right and a link(perhaps a box in the middle of the arrows) that would take you back to the original comment.
This would look less cluttered and it would make less sense for someone to post a sub comment to an original comment unless it was specifically about that original comment. It's not just going to appear at the top for everyone to see so there is no reason to try and hijack that comment thread.
Another idea is to involve randomized comments. Where different comments, no matter what time they were posted, would randomly appear in different orders. A comment that was posted later on and was originally comment number 326 might appear as number 1 at the top of the comment list upon a page refresh. With the sub comments being paged inside the same box 9as explained above) this makes this idea even more possible.
Of course you should always still have the option to view the comment list according to oldest to newest, but by default randomize would be set. This further takes away the desire to game the system and adds exposure to comments that may be great but didn't come till later on.
Of course with a system like this, comments need to have permalinks both for the original comment and the sub comments inside of them. That way you can open your comment in a new tab and come back later to see if anyone has replied to it. Especaily if the original comments are randomized on a main comment list. Otherwise that would be a headache.
Another sort option next to Randomize and Oldest to Newest could be My Comments, which generates a list of all your comments so that you can quickly see the replies/recommends because the list in your profile when clicked only takes you to the comment list as a whole you still have to search through it to find your comments.
This is just an idea. What are your thoughts on it?