Readers' Representative Journal

A conversation on newsroom ethics and standards

Category: Technology

Testing a new system for online comments [Updated]

Having our site built on different content management systems provides some hurdles. One is our commenting system -- there’s not much uniformity.

Some of our stories require registration; some do not. Some of our comments appear right away, while others languish for a moderator to approve or deny. Still others disappear after one day, never to be seen again.

It's not a good practice to make you wait to see your comments. It's also not a good practice to have your comments vanish from an article. All issues we're dealing with.

We need uniformity. And reader engagement is a high priority. Can we get some uniformity? What's the best way to get there?

Facebook has a new commenting system that we're interested in. It allows for "right away"   commenting while providing an authentication system no one else can match.

Both are important. By allowing comments to go up in real time, it provides instant interaction among readers. By requiring a Facebook registration, it will cut down on the mean-spirited, profane and sometimes useless responses because one's friends will also see the comments in their newsfeeds.

Sites that have initiated this commenting system have received criticism for being Facebook-centric.  The comments have also been seen by critics as being much more sterile.

We're going to test it on two blogs: Technology and the Fabulous Forum. These are two of our more active blogs, and the editors are willing to be guinea pigs. Technology is going to go first (sometime Tuesday), with Fabulous Forum later this week.

Will this move be a "troll-killer" or will it make our blogs seem hollow? We don't know, but we're going to give it a shot. You tell us.

[Updated, June 29: Facebook comments have been added to nearly all of The Times' blogs. Readers and editors weigh in here.]

-- Jimmy Orr, managing editor/online

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