Internet Trolls are Chasing Away Your Good Customers

I just finished reading the article Internet trolls take pleasure in making you suffer, new study says and found myself thinking about the nature of trolling and it's effects in the comments and forums. The realization I had was our metrics for what is a "good" story may be off. Why are page views such an important part of the equation? As user "Dams" put it, "The good question is : does sites like the verge really want to remove the trolls and lose all the ad views they generate ?" I think they should care, because those trolls my be helping your bottom-line in the short-run, but they're chasing away your high-dollar customers.

Trolling is toxic. It's gotten to the point where I've mostly stopped commenting, and honestly, stopped reading articles if they've got a 200+ comments count. When TIMN first launched, I felt part of a community, rather than alienated by it. I almost immediately stopped commenting at Engadget, and eventually, stopped reading.

This is obviously a big problem, and tackling it not an easy task. One thing that immediately comes to mind is the sorting method. Currently, the first comment is at the top, and all others fall below. This creates a situation where some people (particularly trolls) are given the incentive to rush to the comments before reading. I can't count how many times I've seen either a.) first comments that are trolling in nature or b.) first comments that misunderstand the articles content (because they did not read said article). Both of these situations are bad, because while you might get a few extra page views from all the responses of "You idiot, RTFA!" or "STFU troll.", you are losing many more. Not only that, but I suspect the customers you're gaining are not as profitable as the ones you're losing.

Another solution is to ban users from commenting in the first place. Now, I'm not saying ban any user that blows off steam, but there are times when I click through on a trolling comments user only to find a full page of trolling comments. These folks should be banned. If they're reliably doing nothing for the conversation, then why have them in the first place?

I think Ars Technica also has a great solution for comments in that their editors can highlight a comment that they feel addresses some of the weaknesses in their story in a polite way or otherwise adds to the discussion. It's a sort of opposite tack to the ban hammer in that you're supporting positive comments rather than crushing negative ones.

In short, I think there are serious problems with the comments here, and hopefully some of this will be taken to heart. Be well Vergers.