Rethinking The Comment System
Commenting on the internet can be annoying. To find meaningful conversations below articles you have to wade through a host of other comments, some of which are entertaining while others are garbage.
The internet has come up with a few different methods to highlight what the community deems a good comment. The Verge uses a flag/recommend approach. The major advantage is comments are highlighted while keeping their context. The disadvantage is it's difficult to give exposure to a comment that's not near the top, and it allows trolls to hijack a good discussion.
Reddit uses a thumbs up/down approach. The major advantage is the aforementioned "garbage" comments are downvoted to oblivion. The disadvantage is the most insightful comments might end up under 10 animated gifs. Also the mob mentality of downvoting/upvoting does not always result in great discussion, especially with polarizing topics.
What do you want out of the comment system?
Here is my simple wishlist for a comment system:
1. Highlight meaningful conversations regardless of how far down the comment chain they occur, while keeping the context of each comment
2. Highlight funny/entertaining comments in a different way than meaningful conversations.
3. De-emphasize trolling comments, comments irrelevant to the conversation (thread hijackers), and (less-so) comments that don't add value to the conversation.
TL;DR? Skip to here:
My Solution: Promote to Discussion Button
The current Verge system does well at highlighting popular comments, but it doesn't differentiate between a funny GIF and a good discussion. And if your great comment is the 100th comment in the list, most people will never read it.
My solution adds one more button next to a comment. This button says "Promote to Discussion" and is designed to recognize a comment for spawning a meaningful conversation. When enough people promote a comment, it becomes a separate discussion (after being approved by a moderator). And when you scroll to the bottom of an article instead of saying "There are 100 comments" it will say "There are 100 comments and 3 discussions." In this example, the top three links above the comments will have the original promoted comment along with a link to that discussion (which happens on a different page). Ideally discussion comments will be more heavily scrutinized to stay on topic and void of trolls.
There are a lot of details I've thought through (and I'm sure some I haven't thought of) that would have to be worked out in this system, but I hope you can understand the overall idea.
I'm interested to hear what people think. Does this give you what you want out of a comment system? If not, what's missing? What are the biggest hurdles for this system to be successful? Or do you think this would never work and the internet is destined to be ruled by trolls forever?Still TL;DR? Then please don't comment.