Twitter  Thought Catalog acknowledges that giving contributors the ability to publish and tweet offensive content is risky nie.mn/1oRXz07  
Nieman Journalism Lab
Pushing to the future of journalism — A project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Cake featuring the likeness of Nick Denton

For once, Nick Denton seems pleased with Gawker’s commenting system

The Gawker Media emperor, ever dissatisfied with online dialogue, seems to think Kinja is working.

Cake featuring the likeness of Nick Denton

I’m starting to lose track of which system Gawker is using for comments today, so here is a brief timeline of the evolution of Gawker’s discussion platform:

  • April 1, 2004. Nick Denton launches Kinja, a blog aggregator resembling Google Reader in functionality. (“The site is designed for people who may have heard about Web logs but are not sure how to start reading them,” writes The New York Times in Circuits.)
  • April 30, 2008. Kinja is closed. Some of the codebase is used to develop Gawker’s future discussion platforms.
  • July 9, 2009. Gawker Media debuts a new commenting system, introducing tiers and stars for high-quality commenters. Elite users gain the power to promote or demote individual comments. Joshua Benton says the system seems to be a good “balance between complexity and simplicity.” Tragically, Jezebel reports that its commenting communities had “literally exploded” in the past year.
  • April 17, 2012. Gawker kills off all starred commenters, saying its sites are overrun by cliques. Comments are disabled for a week.
  • April 26, 2012. Gawker launches a new system powered by a secret algorithm that promotes the higher-quality, more relevant comments. Elite users can no longer moderate others’ comments, but every user now has the power to moderate replies to his own thread. The system is code-named Powwow.
  • June 4, 2012. Gawker tweaks Powwow comments again, making a series of user-interface changes that are boring to write about here.
  • June 27, 2012. Gawker begins rolling out Powwow to all of its sites, rebranding it (confusingly) as Kinja.

Why do we care so much about Gawker’s comments? Because the CEO of a publishing machine that generates 7–15 million pageviews a day is obsessed with them.

Denton has said again and again he wants to treat comments as content, not metadata attached to content. He wants to kill the trolls and the snark. He wants the comments to be an inviting place for primary sources to join the discussion.

Something happened over the weekend that looked a lot like Denton’s fantasy coming true. Matt Hardigree, the editor in chief of Jalopnik, reviewed a review of the Tesla Model S by the Wall Street Journal’s Dan Neil. Hardigree argued the seasoned auto critic failed to do his job by lobbing unanswered questions about the car at the reader — questions Tesla should have answered.

At the end of the post, Hardigree invited invited Neil to respond in the comments (and invited him again, privately, in a Facebook message). And Neil does — artfully dismantling Hardigree’s argument point by point, in 1,300 words, while managing to write an extended review of the vehicle inside his rebuttal. Neil closes:

I don’t want to seem aggrieved. I know I’m the establishment and it is your duty, as bloggy gadfly, to call me out. As the great Jamie Kitman once said to me, “Do you remember when we were the young punks?” Indeed I do. Besides, anytime I’m mentioned on Jalopnik, my online numbers soar, so thank you.

Dan Neil is no Brian Williams, but surely Denton is satisfied: Here is the establishment, wallowing with the groundlings. I emailed Denton last night to ask him if this is what Kinja success looks like. He replied with a laundry list of other “successful conversations” from just the past three weeks. With the old system, he wrote, “I would have been pressed to find you one a year.”

Today’s conversation with Max. http://gawker.com/5924443/?comment=50780244 Last post in thread accuses of Max falling for a troll.

Gizmodo readers ask a former A-12 pilot anything.

Jalopnik introduces ‘neutral’ to The Morning Shift.

Timothy Burke and Max Read add footnotes to the Gawker post on the Supreme Court ruling.

Kotaku brought in two game creators for a live Q&A, the first double interview in Kinja. Two things that made the Q&A stand out: The interaction between the two developers and thevariety in their responses.

An EFF rep answers questions on the Declaration of Internet Freedom live on Lifehacker.

If you haven’t already, take a look at Gizmodo’s Chatroom tag. Each of the posts does a great job of turning quirky product releases and simple questions into interesting discussions. Here are a few of my favorites from the past 24 hours.

Would You Use This Curved Keyboard?

Spotify, Rdio or MOG: What Streaming Music Service Do You Use?

GamaGo’s Record-Shaped Placemats: Yay or Nay?

Introducing Gawker’s latest feature, Lunchtime Poll. The first question, “Is Seth MacFarlane Funny?” Gawker readers are torn.

io9 presents the pros and cons for surviving the end of the world and leaves it to the readers to decide. The majority vote no.

Gizmodo has a bike thief answering questions on the site. His advice, thick metal chains are better than u-locks.

I take that as a yes, Denton is satisfied.

For his part, Hardigree said he enjoyed the Dan Neil discussion. “Most of our writers and editors (myself included) came to us because they were readers/commenters at one point, which is the best argument I can make for continuing to break down the barriers between the two camps,” he told me.

Not every staffer is so happy to dive in to the comments, not the least of whom is Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio, who described Gawker comments in April as “a tar pit of hell.” Any journalist writing for a highly trafficked website knows what a miserable time suck that can be. But that’s their job now. Gawker staffers are essentially professional commenters now — or maybe commenters are amateur bloggers. Denton does not even like the word “comments.” Supposedly he imposed a $5 penalty for any employee heard using the word. “These are posts,” Denton told the Observer in June.

Not all commenters are happy, either. And who would expect them to be? Something changed on the Internet. The other day Jezebel had to warn the masses: “Don’t feed the trolls.” One dissatisfied Kotaku commenter created a Google Chrome extension that restores the previous design, which makes it easier to skim all replies to a thread. The Chrome store says 7,500 people are using that extension, and a small development community has sprung up around it.

But those are not the kind of users Denton wants in the comments, people who come just to skim. He wants readers to be generators, too.

Photo of cake featuring likeness of Nick Denton made up of faces of Gawker commenters by Raj Taneja used under a Creative Commons license.

                                   
What to read next
BuzzFeed HQ
Caroline O'Donovan    Aug. 11, 2014
With a new round of investment from Andreessen Horowitz, the viral giant aims to get even bigger. One step down that path: making it more clear to readers what kinds of content BuzzFeed really offers.
  • http://twitter.com/ryansholin Ryan Sholin

    You had me at “Photo of cake featuring likeness of Nick Denton made up of faces of Gawker commenters”

  • Snertly

    You should include February 2011 as the transition from Gawker Classic to NuGawker.

  • Dr Emilio Lizardo

    Here’s the problem. If I’m Neil, or a Tesla exec, all I have to do is reject all comments negative to me or my product. I can also create an infinite number of “burner” accounts to agree with me.

    Bingo! We are not having a discussion, we are having an advertisement.

  • Mn

    Here are a few of my favorites from the past 24 hours.

  • sizegenetics results

    He wants to kill the trolls and the snark. He wants the comments to be
    an inviting place for primary sources to join the discussion.
    http://www.buysizegenetics.org/guarantee.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/Todd.N.Gilbert Todd Gilbert

    My primary use for the comments was to look at all the diverse answers people come up with in the “questions of the day” posts on blogs like Jalopnik. 

    With this new design – it is frustratingly difficult. Yes you can click the little >> glyph – but there you can only skim text. People often post responses to these questions as pictures. 

    Take for instance a post like this: http://jalopnik.com/5927381/whats-the-lamest-new-car-on-sale?tag=questionoftheday

    Where I used to be able to just scroll down and see ALL of the replies and diverse answers – now I have to click on 1 of 9 tiny little 20×20 icons to see the first (I guess?) 9 replies – or click the “See this discussion” at the bottom to see just one more thread.

    I’d love to find out:
    1) For these QOTD or COTD type posts that are likely huge drivers for you – have you see the # of comments go up or down?
    2) What about the diversity of answers? That, I’d argue, make posts like that compelling content.
    3) Do the moderators of the threads have to view them one at a time? Or can they scroll through them and bulk approve? I wish I could still “bulk view”.

    Love all the Gawker blogs – frequent literally every one of them daily. I just cannot see how this is a positive user experience. And yes - I do actually do UX for a living.

  • Sorry, It’s Over.

    Short answer — Gawker used to be fun to read.  Good writing, snarky commenters. 

    Now it is terrible.  Mediocre writing.  Transparent page view lust.  Barky dumb comments. 

    Sorry, it’s a fail.

  • eric zhu

    After watching the Blade and soul video ,I think Blade and soul is so amazing.Just as the bns news said, the game style is so beautiful.The game players will be attracted by thebalde and soul artworks.

    After reading the diablo 3 news, I have searched more about diablo 3.Now I have watched the diablo 3 videos and downloaded some diablo 3 wallpaper .They are amazing.

    After reading thedota2 news, I have searched more about [dota2. Now I know more about the dota2 heroes. I have downloaded the dota 2 wallpaper.It’s amazing.

    After watching the guild wars 2 video, I think guild wars 2 is so amazing. Just as theguild wars 2 news said, the game style is so beautiful.The guild wars 2 wallpapers are also worth collecting for the game players.

    The wow patch 5.2 has been published and themists of pandaria is marvelous You can have a direct visual experience from the wow videos and wow wallpaper.

    I start playing League of Legends and have known more about LOL S3 champions.Now I have had some lol s3 masteries . The league of legends artwork looks bravo.

    Have you ever attended a starcraft 2 match ? A GSL about starcraft 2 will be held in a few days. As a big starcraft fan, I really look forward to it. I have downloaded many starcraft 2 wallpapers.

    After watching the games video about the new games 2013, I think, just as the game newssaid, the game style is so beautiful. The game players will also be attracted by the related game wallpaper hd.

  • faceINbaku
  • Guest

    Slm

  • Guest

    Slm

  • http://www.wherecaniwatchtv.com/ jason

    Its crazy.

    onlinetv