December 4, 2011

What's so terrible about internet comments?

Rebecca Rosen complains about the structure of the commenting systems, which, she says, tend to make even well-written comments feel "more like lists of unconnected ideas than genuine conversations." In other words, chronological order is such an old, boring, and obvious order. But it's clear and comprehensible. Do you prefer comments "nested" under the comments they're supposedly responding to or comments that are re-ordered based on commenters voting on comments?

Does chronological order bother you — in comments sections and elsewhere? You know, you have to live your life in chronological order. And that's what's so cool about blogging. Like life, it's in chronological order. I used to resist chronological order. I have an old fantasy of living life out of order, having the power to reshuffle one's allotted days. But you can't do it. And if you abandon chronological order for you blog, it's not a blog anymore.

Respect chronological order. It's the order to beat. You think you have a better order? Prove it.

IN THE COMMENTS:Peter Hoh said:
There ought to be a way to highlight or star a comment like Freeman's "weird out, future man" comment.

That way, someone who is part of this community, but having a busy day, could still read a comment like that without having to plow through the whole thread.

Of course, one could do like I do when there's a long thread -- use the "find" function in my browser to see if Freeman stopped by to leave a comment.
My way to highlight or star a comment is front-paging! Now, you might think I should front-page Freeman's comment, which — I agree with you — was great, but under the circumstances — "standing between two mirrors" — it makes more meta-sense to front-page you.

161 comments:

campy said...

Chrono is best. Try reading comments over at Megan McArdle's place several times a day. After a while you have to scroll all over to pick out the ones that were posted since your last visit. It's a pain.

Fen said...

What Rosen is really about:

The New York Times has rolled out some tweaks to its commenting process this week, allowing "trusted commenters" to post without vetting,

"trusted commenters" = Winston Smith's who can be counted on to parrot Party talking points.

and

allow for comments to be sorted by a variety of qualities, including "best," based on a voting system. As a result, interesting conversations float to the top,

We've seen this and its not how it works. The "best" is voted up by groupthink, while "interesting" conversations get buried in an avalanche of ad hom and rhetorical fallacy.

Rosen isn't upset with the comment system. She's upset that people who disagree with her are being heard.

Phil 3:14 said...

I like chronological better. I get lost and confused when I read the comments @ Hit and Run.

Roger J. said...

Current system of chronological comments seems to work quite well-it seems to me the commenters can initiate "a conversation" if they want to respond to other commenters--Just my .02

james conrad said...

Agrees, its the only logical way to comment

purplepenquin said...

A good benefit of the nested comments is when you get someone making a racist remark or something equally trollish then you can more easily skip over the replies to that nonsense and move on to the worthwhile stuff.

Roger J. said...

purplepenguin--exactly. Regular blog commenters probably have the ability to know what to expect from other commenters--scroll thru and ignore those commenters you may not like nor with whom you dont agree--a blog is not, IMO, a scholastic disputation--it is mostly a way to put out our own views. Nothing requires me to respond to commenters with whom I dont agree.

Earth Girl said...

The internet has made me used to sorting things and I would like that capability on your blog. The standard could be your current system, oldest to newest. What about comments added since I last viewed? Or nested comments so I can follow a particularly interesting thread. How many times does a commenter have to identify a previous comment by name and time so that their comment makes sense? Regarding Fen's comment at 8:23, "best" usually does lead to groupthink, but what if "interesting" is flagged by Ann? Sometimes I skip reading the comments when I see 100+. I just don't have the time to wade through it.

wild chicken said...

Some of the nested comment systems drive me crazy because they start indenting farther and farther to the right, with the columns narrowing down accordingly...anyway I still get used to the comment system being used at my favorite sites, even if they are all different.

Let's face it, the establishment has a real problem with comments, period. They really, really hate it and allow it all very reluctantly.

And there are still lots of old political types who still don't know the difference between a blog and a forum, or a blogger and a commenter. They're all anonymous!!!!11! You don't know who they are! And how dare people talk back to their betters.

Marshal said...

Nested comments would be better if site functionality allowed readers to mark previously read comments and identify the threads they are part of or following. Chronological order limits the back and forth unless both parties are commenting nearly simultaneously.

ganderson said...

I like chronological- and I like them oldest first

Roger J. said...

Wild Chicken--the comments are anonymous only if commenters do not identify themselves--I never post anonymously and anyone can click on my identity and google me.

Allie said...

Chronological is logical, and lefties are the most logical of commenters, though rare here at Althouse, where logical commenters are rare.
Joke/

A sense of humor here also tends to be rare.
Not a joke/

AllenS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roger J. said...

I do agree with Allie that a sense of humor on blogs often goes unnoticed or is pounced upon as sexist, racist, pro dem or pro rebublican--A shame I think.

So an infinite number of mathemeticans walk into a bar--the first mathemetican orders a beer, the second orders half a beer and the third orders a fourth of a beer--the bartender says, you guys have to know your limits. (a joke only a math major would appreciate)

Allie said...

Oh but Allen, Althouse HATES boring. What would you all do without us shit heads? Agreeing with one another 'till the cows come home?

Roger J. said...

Allie: "the cows come home" is obviously anti-bovine :)

Allie said...

LOL Roger, those dirty smelly farting cows have occupied the field and are shitting all over it. The bull has gotten loose and has raped several heifers. Call in the farmers with stun guns.

Roger J. said...

Allie: the old story about the young bull and the old bull standing on top the the hill--the young bull says to the old bull, lets run down there and boink on of them; the old bull says, lets walk down and boink them all.

Allie said...

Smart bull.Old bulls need to conserve their energy, but doesn't mean they don't know how to have fun.

phx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kit said...

I like the conversation-feel of having the comments in chronological order. It flows more like a story.

Roger J. said...

If we take ourselves too seriously life is not going to be much fun

Allie said...

Roger , you're a rare bull on this funny farm :)

Roger J. said...

Allie--thats because I am old bull and understand the conservation of energy principle :)

DADvocate said...

I want an order where my comments are always first and highlighted.

Otherwise, I prefer chrono. The "reply" system is nice, but makes it hard to figure out who said what when. At a blog that you follow regularly, figuring out conservations isn't that difficult.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

Ideally, the reader would be able to order the comments according both to chronological order (convenient when checking for new comments if he's read the first ones) and according to some sort of intelligent ranking based on popularity, or better yet, popularity of the post or commenter based on people with similar tastes or on your own past tastes for the commenter's other posts.

Roger J. said...

I think that Mr Meigs has pretty well summarized a good approach to blogs--well done sir

Allie said...

:) moooooo.......

Roger J. said...

Allie: you are incorrigable

AllenS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex said...

The single-celled entity thinks it has anything intelligent to say, but it does not.

Roger J. said...

Come on,guys, lighten up--were this blog threaded it would be some bad jokes exchanged between two commenters and nothing more. Keeping it chronological order doesnt detract from the basic point of the blog.

john said...

Chron is better. Also, limiting the number of comments to about 34 will ensure than everyone that has something to say can say it, and only needs to say it once.

Mary Beth said...

I like chronological. The only time I wish the ones here were nested is when a couple of commenters are bickering with each other about something irrelevant to the topic of the post.

Heart_Collector said...

/vote for Chrono'd Comments

Allie said...

I don't know Allen, we all can be shit heads at times, no? Alex is one at all times, he is a rare breed.

john said...

Roger J.: The bartender pours two beers and then says "you guys need to know your limits".

Jim Gust said...

Ms. Althouse, your comment system is perfect, and the new NYTimes comment system really, really sucks. Plus, you have much better commenters.

Thanks for your blog. Now I'm off to Amazon.

ricpic said...

Commenters voting on comments is the worst. Because inevitably commenters begin tailoring their comments to play to the crowd. With the exception of rh, goes without saying.

dbp said...

Chronological is best, until there are so many comments that it is no longer best. Do you really want to wade through ten thousand reviews of Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz to find the gems?

Curious George said...

Chron is fine, but it would be nice to "quote' a previous comment and have it inserted in yours. Saves time scrolling up and down the board.

Roger J. said...

OK John--if I didnt say the joke correctly, the first math guy orders one beer, the second orders half a beer, the third orders a quarter of a beer: Given the concept of limits, the barkeep will only serve an infinitesal two beers. Damn, its hell to explain a joke about limits. :)

9cfea744-c1ca-11e0-ba94-000bcdcb5194 said...

I just wish there was a standardized way to comment. each blog has different ways of commenting. for example it would be nice if this blog used disqus which I use on a wide variety of blogs

Psychedelic George said...

Inaction is the highest form of action.

All commenters...Stop.

Make no comments.

Wait.

See what happens.

Allie said...

Limits be damned! Don't give up until you've won the barnyard!

Occupy the Farm: OTF

Ann Althouse said...

"Chron is better. Also, limiting the number of comments to about 34 will ensure than everyone that has something to say can say it, and only needs to say it once."

No, it wouldn't. It would create an incentive to add clutter early.

john said...

Ann, the comment on allowing 34 comments was the 34th comment.

Having to explain it later ruins everything.

Roger J. said...

John: amen brother

Roger J. said...

As one who has added clutter to the thread, my apologies--hope everyone has a wonderful Sunday--and Professor: stay with chronological

Allie said...

Clutter is good. It brings up the hit count, it adds interest. Boring is the enemy of any blog, Althouse knows that. Without some clutter all you conservatives would bore each other to tears. Clutter must be witty and interesting though, that is Althouse rule number one.

Above all the clutter must be in chronological order, or confusion would reign.

Ralph L said...

Someone at JOM provided a way to skip over certain annoying commenters. Works on Firefox, IIRC.

fleetusa said...

I prefer "nested". The WSJ comments section works that way and it is reasonably successful.

Obviously when it gets to 6+ pages of comments it all starts to look like the chrono order anyway.

Bender said...

Every place that uses nested comments, especially those that are java-based or whatever the hell it is that loads into the page separately (e.g. Washington Post), is crap to read and to use.

Consequently, I have stopped going to many of those places, or at least stopped commenting.

A clean and easy and no-frills system is the way to go.

ndspinelli said...

I think we should all be required to take IQ exams and have the scores submitted to the professor. Then, when we post, the brightest will be first and the dullest last.

Or, we could just submit penis length and breast size and use that as a criteria. Chrono is boring.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, the comment on allowing 34 comments was the 34th comment. Having to explain it later ruins everything."

Sorry I missed the humor. The clutter of people going back and forth with short insults was distracting me.

The people who are the problem know who they are. I'm going to have to put my time into beating back some of this junk. Now that I've said that, people who are causing the problem and care about the comments community should stop it. People who continue I can presume don't care. That will make me feel less bad about deleting, which I don't like to do.

Example of what I'm talking about that appears in this thread:


Allie said...
:) moooooo.......

12/4/11 9:17 AM


Roger J. said...
Allie: you are incorrigable

12/4/11 9:18 AM


AllenS said...
Allie,

Do you consider yourself a shit head?


Stop doing things like that. It's not amusing. It's not cute. The fact that someone else started it and you're not the instigator... I don't care. It's boring. It drives substantive commenters away.

Lyle said...

Chronological order is the best, I agree.

... or create a mini-forum for each post, a la Bloggingheads.

Allie said...

Wow, Trooper York has the right idea about this place. What is boring is unimaginative self satisfied conservatives who want to be thought of as liberals. DULL.

Delete away.

Roger J. said...

Althouse: I issued my apology before you checked in with your crap

this isnt your IL class--dont like blogging then dont do it or deal with the consequences.

Mumpsimus said...

"it would be nice if this blog used disqus..."

Ack! No it would not. Disqus is just awful. Check out Megan McArdle's (otherwise excellent) econ blog for a horrible example.

edutcher said...

It might be interesting to be able to sort comments alphabetically, so you could skip the ones you don't like.

Of course, if you lived life that way, sex would come after old age and before youth. That would be weird.

Bender said...

Disqus is one of those crap platforms I was talking about.

As for clutter, yes, it does get rather tedious when two or three people start to use the combox as if it were twitter or an instant messaging chat room.

T J Sawyer said...

Ann @ 10:12

Should be a new post.

And, make it sticky.

(It's so far down in the comments that too many people may miss it.)

ndspinelli said...

Wow..a public scolding of 2 commenters I find generally good natured and sometimes amusing! Maybe the professor should just set a unilateral pecking order and a post will be listed accordingly.

Oligonicella said...

"And if you abandon chronological order for you blog, it's not a blog anymore."

Says the apparent blog-master of the world.

Get a grip.

"Stop doing things like that. It's not amusing. It's not cute. The fact that someone else started it and you're not the instigator... I don't care. It's boring. It drives substantive commenters away."

This from Titus' biggest fan.

Hypocrite.

Bender said...

As for me, I'm not saying that the above two were guilty of using the combox like a chat room, but go look at some of those 100-plus comment postings and much of it will be filled with such.

Alex said...

Hey Althouse is bashing the single-celled entity, I'm not complaining.

Allie said...

It seems to me that intelligent commenters should have no difficulty wading through comments, even ones that clutter.

What is happening here strange. Althouse leaves up comments by Titus and J, yet slams clutter with mild humor. Then blames her lack of humor on the distraction of clutter comments.

That is fucked up.

glenn said...

Boomers always want something different from what's working right now.

john said...

Just thinking out loud, but I wonder if there is a hybrid comment method, something that incorporates advantages of both chron and nested comments.

Perhaps something like a cloud, where certain key words (or topic names, or commenter names) grow in size with the number of hits or comments. It might provide an option of following either the chronology or some topic thread.

I admit I don't know what I am talking about.

john said...

Weather conditions for Madison seem to be continued dreary, with a forecast of gusty and stingy rejoinders.

LakeLevel said...

This is the internet. You are looking at it on a computer. The fact that we can't choose to view it first to last, last to first, nested or not is a travesty.

Browsers in the future will be more active in helping the viewer to organize comments how they want to see them. Why not? Get on it Google, Mozilla and Microsoft.

Roger J. said...

Been a fun ride for four or five years--thanks to all time to move on

Bruce Hayden said...

I like the threaded/nested commenting - until it blows up, by scrunching everything narrower and narrower as you go down. Often making things worse, junk, like advertising, blog rolls, etc. is stuck on the right side, making the area for threading/nesting even that much narrower. And, that is where chronological works better, when you get Althouse sized comment lists. Now, when you get WSJ, etc. level lists, nothing works, because no one can remember much of what has gone on before, due to the high volume.

I normally hate the voting, but it might work this time, as we vote some of the more inane leftist trolls off the island.

What seems to work well for me these days are the Volokh block quotes. A nice feature is supplied for block quoting someone, and actually linking back to their comment. This makes a more consistent and easy approach for showing what you are commenting on - a lot here don't seem to know how to make links, italicize, bold, etc. here, and as a result, it is often harder here than at volokh.com keeping track of who said what.

B said...

Ralph L said...Someone at JOM provided a way to skip over certain annoying commenters.

If that is the program I recall, it's geared to the administrator, not the reader. I've looked for add ons in the past that allow you to collapse or in some other way at least visually flag comments from posters you consider a waste of time but I've never seen anything that works well.

I knocked together a script of my own a while back when I was goofing around with Firefox development tools. I could enter a list of commenter's names and a deliminator (on this blog that would probably be the xx/xx/xx date format) and not display their comments on earlier versions of Firefox. Very unwieldy, needed to be customized for each blog, slowed the page display considerably, and doesn't run with newer Firefox versions. Always intended to get back to it, but it would be a considerable task to really get it working and the payoff for my time just isn't there. Would love to see a dedicated addon by someone who knows what he's doing that would do that though.

Until then, I'll continue to just scroll past posts by the usual suspects. The downside there is when posters whose comments I do value start to answer their nonsense. I stop reading more and more threads because of that.

It would be nice to for Althouse to have something in place to control a thread at least when it's fresh. I'd personally comment more instead of visiting less and less anyway.

But...It's Ann's joint.

B said...

One thing on comment thread structure. I can't appreciate comment threads where the latest comment is the first one you see and usually avoid reading comment sections that use that format. Working back trying to find out which the hell comment someone is answering makes those threads more trouble to follow than they are worth.

Allie said...

B, when one is unwilling or sadly unable to interact with those they consider beneath themselves or those they don't agree with politically, in any other fashion than derision , they have lost an essential part of being human.

When RogerJ, or Spinelli, Scott M, or one of the commenters who couldn't disagree with me more on politics, can't trade good humored barbs and jokes, it's a sad blog and world indeed.

So now you even disparage anyone who interacts with those you hate, you are one sad angry man/ woman.

Chip S. said...

It's boring. It drives substantive commenters away.

I can't speak on behalf of any substantive commenters, but what I find boring and off-putting isn't something like the little exchange you chastised, but the posting of repetitive comments that just repeat themselves and restate what other commenters have already said and belabor the obvious and go on and on and on like that, ad infinitum, without limit, leaving the rest of us to beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

That sucks.

Synova said...

I like chronological order, although I can live with nested replies. People don't have to read all of the comments before posting, but often enough all of those comments, and not just the specific ones being replied to, inform following comments regardless of what part is being specifically responded to.

I don't really care for voting a comment to the top or up and down dings. I suppose in huge, thousand comment comment lists that voting some to the top makes sense. I don't see any reason at all for up and down-dings. The pressure to try to make sure you get up dings is, to use one of my most pet peeved of phrases... chilling.

sorepaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Synova said...

On google groups (I have one usenet group I check back to regularly anymore) I can decide if I want to read nested or chronologically. After the first read I have to go chronologically or it's pointless.

Big Hollywood nests replies and I find that I can't even find my own comments back again. It's annoying. They do the up and down ding thing, too, which stifles conversation. If people simply down dinged those who were actually abusive it would be different. But they don't. The down dings go to simple disagreement.

Synova said...

As Fen said... groupthink.

virgil xenophon said...

Ann, hie thee over to the milblog "Neptunus Lex". IMHO he has the best of both worlds in that one may post chronologically OR by direct reply to previous posts (like some on PJMedia site.) Unlike PJM, however, one is alerted to recent replies/posts by the moving "hot mic" sidebar listing last 10 posts with the commenters' name and topic heading which, if clicked upon, sends you directly to the comment. You ought to srsly check it out..

ndspinelli said...

I wonder if the professor's crankiness is tied to poor Amazon sales? She said she takes notice of them. She could use a few lessons from some of you marketing people out there.

Chip S. said...

I'm opposed to any change in the system that makes it harder to find comments by AllenS.

And on the subject of commenting, the current Althouse front page has all sorts of Carol Herman bait, but no sign of CH. I hope she's ok.

wv aliallog: A comment-thread sidebar with Althouse's on-site nurse. (N.B. contraindicated)

Freeman Hunt said...

Do you prefer comments "nested" under the comments they're supposedly responding to or comments that are re-ordered based on commenters voting on comments?

NO.

I hate those systems.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Voting is a bad idea if you are allowed to vote comments off of the thread.

In another blog that I like to look at, they got rid of the ability to vote people's comments off because there were malicious trolls who spent all day just voting down all comments that he/she/it disagreed with. It caused chaos.

Chronological is the best (oldest first), IMO because you can follow the course of the conversation. However nested comments can be good too when you want to follow or contribute to a certain sub thread. However, as pointed out the screen view gets narrower and narrower.

Chip S. said...

Voting is a bad idea if you are allowed to vote comments off of the thread.

Agreed. Also applies to moving comments higher or lower. But a simple "thumbs up" (no need of a "thumbs down") system would allow people to express their agreement with a comment w/o posting "I agree with DBQ".

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Numbered comments would be nice so that when you want to refer back to a certain comment, you can just state....comment number 34.

Currently to reference, we need to say the name of commenter and the time stamp on the comment, or cut and paste the relevant part of the comment.

B said...

I think the PJM comment organization succeeds as much because of the single page option as it does the comment organization itself. You can display the comments there on a single page, a very useful feature when you want to scroll up or down to see a bit more info in the comment under discussion. It works even for very long threads since you can also search the page when its in single page display to get to that info quicker. Something you can't do when threads are broken up into pages. (The 100 comment limit per page here on Althouse is far better than some blogs though.)

PJM would be a good model to work from, though I doubt google gives you that much control. The everyman type of format by definition has to be simple and standard. Have to be a different hosting service I expect.

Freeman Hunt said...

Numbered comments would be nice so that when you want to refer back to a certain comment, you can just state....comment number 34.

I wouldn't like having to scroll back and forth. I like how people just quote the relevant parts. The name and time aren't really necessary since one is responding to the idea or line being quoted.

Freeman Hunt said...

The numbers would be helpful for keeping tracking of what one wants to respond to while reading a long thread.

Lionheart said...

Chrono is better, nested can work also. This site is nested by topic.
Whispering: I thought "Moooooo" was a bit of levity but ......

Ann Althouse said...

"Wow..a public scolding of 2 commenters I find generally good natured and sometimes amusing! Maybe the professor should just set a unilateral pecking order and a post will be listed accordingly."

FIrst of all, there were 3, not 2, commenters in that excerpt I did.

Second, it's not specific to those 3. That's just the interchange that jumped out at me in this thread. I'm talking about a type of back and forth that is, as someone just said, like Twitter. I mean, like Twitter feeds I wouldn't subscribe to.

My point is that I want -- as it said above to compose window -- for people to "Be interesting or concise. Or something!"

You have the opportunity to be creative and interesting in all kinds of ways. You have the opportunity to reach a fairly large number of readers here. Demonstrate that this resource means something to you and contribute to making it a better resource.

I'm not against different points of view or humor or anything. I'm against clutter and boringness!

This isn't your personal chat-board. I'm tired of seeing a back-and-forth between the same 2 or 3 commenters when they are not going back and forth about any substance but only taking swipes at each other. It's like stooges slapping and slapping back. It drives out better stuff.

If you want to argue with me, you need to understand what I am talking about.

Ann Althouse said...

"Whispering: I thought "Moooooo" was a bit of levity but ..."

You know, maybe it was, but Allie is a commenter who got on my boring list long ago. I don't take the time to figure out what she might be trying to say. I don't know if it's clever or not, because she drove her reputation to hell in my book by posting a lot without ever catching my eye with something that seemed worthwhile. I often see her name over and over in posts that have lots of comments that a general reader, dropping in, wouldn't want to bother with.

Sometimes I read straight through comments. Sometimes I skim. I look for names that I've been happy to read in the past. Or I just read randomly. There are many different ways of having value here, but if you want to be valued commenter, you need to build your reputation. Or make what you are writing now very good.

ndspinelli said...

Dudes love the 3 Stooges. That's one of the reasons we pretty much still rule the world and own everything. We get silly and slapstick..and we get war also. Women are generally in the mushy middle, being nit picky and huffy about "2 or 3."

Ralph L said...

If that is the program I recall, it's geared to the administrator, not the reader
IIRC, one of the commenters created it. Called the "narciscolator", after another commenter, several people swear by it, because JOM has been plagued by two idiots who c&p long tracks all day.

Personally, I just SOB (scroll on by) certain people. Carol Herman would kindly put her name on top when she was at JOM, where the name appears at the end. Thankfully, not a problem here.

Ann Althouse said...

"Unlike PJM, however, one is alerted to recent replies/posts by the moving "hot mic" sidebar listing last 10 posts with the commenters' name and topic heading which, if clicked upon, sends you directly to the comment. You ought to srsly check it out."

That would make the page slow-loading. I've tried it. I have the capacity to do it, but it has side effects.

Bruce Hayden said...

I like the numbering of comments too. Lets you very quickly indicate who and what you are commenting about, and much easier, I think, to implement than the linked block quotes at Volokh.com.

The one issue there might be when comments are deleted, either my management (Ann) or by their author. As long as that still shows as deleted, the numbered comments would I think work great.

And, I would guess that I am not the only one here who could modify Ann's Blogger template accordingly should she ever wish to try the numbering of comments.

Ann Althouse said...

"Dudes love the 3 Stooges. That's one of the reasons we pretty much still rule the world and own everything. We get silly and slapstick..and we get war also. Women are generally in the mushy middle, being nit picky and huffy about "2 or 3.""

There are 3 Stooges. You are not one of them. I wouldn't recommend going through life acting like them. It won't work. Don't delude yourself. The 3 Stooges are, in fact, all dead. Notice how no one has ever replaced them? There's a reason for that.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

A local newspaper has online comments that allow you to vote a commenter or comment as being insightful.

The commenters rack up points over time and their name shows a ranking. The comments aren't changed in any order or anything. You are just able to see what commenters are being more favorably ranked by the community.

I don't know that this is necessarily a good thing since quite often the community is a homogenous...or group think type of community so that only those who fit into the group think pattern are getting the "insightful" votes.

I really don't like ranking each other in the comment sections. The commenters will stand or fall on their own merit.

Plus....if all you want to do is vote for people you agree with, you will miss some pretty good exchanges and debates.

Ann Althouse said...

"I like the numbering of comments too. Lets you very quickly indicate who and what you are commenting about, and much easier, I think, to implement than the linked block quotes at Volokh.com. The one issue there might be when comments are deleted, either my management (Ann) or by their author. As long as that still shows as deleted, the numbered comments would I think work great."

I often delete and remove the trace of the comment. I don't like clutter. I think cutting and pasting the quote is best, because if you used a number instead, people would need to scroll up looking for it.

I'm satisfied with the cleanness of the way the comments look. Not on the page with the compose window, but the way they look on plain white when you click on the post title. It's simple and easy to read in the most obvious, natural order of things: time.

I don't really want anything more. I think the comments work really well here, except for the fact that I need to do some deleting.

Ann Althouse said...

"The commenters rack up points over time and their name shows a ranking. The comments aren't changed in any order or anything. You are just able to see what commenters are being more favorably ranked by the community."

That might be an acceptable feature. I like the way on Metafilter you can "favorite" comments and see the number of "favorites" a comment gets.

ndspinelli said...

The Stooges were unique and irreplaceable. Would you make the same argument about Laurel and Hardy or the Beatles? You need to try and access your inner child.

Ann Althouse said...

"I really don't like ranking each other in the comment sections. The commenters will stand or fall on their own merit."

It would become a game. That might amuse some people. But I basically agree with you that the comments should stand or fall on their own.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I like the way on Metafilter you can "favorite" comments and see the number of "favorites" a comment gets.

Yes. Like that plus the commenter gets a ranking by their name. On the paper's forum it is a little light bulb (incandescent of course) with a number inside it to show the ranking.

Obviously, more prolific posters will more easily gain higher rankings by fact of sheer numbers.

purplepenquin said...

Notice how no one has ever replaced them?

You never saw the Jackass TV show/movies, eh?

Allie said...

Well Ann, your blog gets damn boring at times and without me , your hit count wouldn't have been nearly so high, or interesting. What you deem as boring may actually be interesting to others, your loss. Trooper had you pegged.

YOU Ann are a smug narcissistic BORE, who wants to be thought of a liberal, no wonder you were listed as a conservative blogger in that Law Blog list.

A conservative who is ashamed of what she is.

Delete at will. I was getting ready to dump this farm a while back. Gawd what a waste of my time spending the last couple months here.

Paco Wové said...

"...Allie is a commenter who got on my boring list long ago..."

Ouch! Anyhow, given the range of what seems to be available on the web these days, chronological, oldest-first, is the way to go. (first-newest comments read to want ever anybody would Why?)

The only nested comment system that I've ever seen that was worthwhile was the thread-tree widget in Threaded Read News, or TRN, a Usenet news reader from back in the Stone Age of the Internet. It put, at the top of each screen (so you could easily navigate back and forth) a little ASCII-art representation of the whole comment thread. It also kept track of what you'd already read, so that you could easily find new branches and replies. For whatever reason, I've never seen anyone successfully replicate that idea on a web browser.

Ralph L said...

I often delete and remove the trace of the comment
Get some hob-nailed boots, it's a slippery slope.

I believe I mixed metaphors into oblivion there.

Chip S. said...

If you want better comments, how about paying for them?

You've told us that you've got a little list, so here's what you can do: Maintain your own private ratings of comments, then every month or so just ping the top 5 (or whatever) to let them know you're going to cut them in on a couple of those 7 Amazon percentage points for the coming month. Maybe just let them designate a charity to send the megabucks to. Grand prize would be that, based on cumulative rankings from Nov. 30 of one year to Nov. 30 of the following year, your fave commenters (or their preferred charities) would get a cut of your December Amazon revenue.

The cheap alternative is just to send the pings w/o the money. The main thing is to keep it private--I don't want to start resenting the top commenters more than I do already.

Ann Althouse said...

@Allie You're simply showing that you do not value this blog or the platform it gives you to reach readers. Yet you presume to step up on this platform and declare yourself interesting. That is bad faith in my book.

Ann Althouse said...

@Chip Nice idea, but I've already handed out the prize for best commenter of all time.

Chip S. said...

Heh.

ndspinelli said...

Paid, professional commenters! That's an interesting concept. But can a commenter union and commenter agents be far behind?

B said...

There are two themes in this thread (at least two).

One is how to present information in a way that promotes meaningful and interesting discussions. Meaningful does not always preclude being ribald, lively, even vociferous by the way. That can raise the interest level - a reasonable tradeoff in many cases. I don't see any reason why the reader/commenter should not have to do a little work ferreting through the thread for information either. Certainly no one would argue against doing that versus a slow page load. There is also an upside to being obliged to see the information in context. You have to present that information so that it is relatively easy to access, but a lively comment community isn't going to die over having to work a bit.

The other theme in this thread is what information is there in the first place. How much bandwidth available to meaningful discussion do you sacrifice to what ends up being embedded sidebar debate. The fall out from allowing too much of that is a decrease in the numbers of focused commenters when the white noise of sidebar debates begins overwhelming the information bandwidth.

ndspinelli said...

Today will now be known as Bloody Sunday!

ndspinelli said...

Penguin, I never have watched Jackass but my son and his buddies love it. Good analogy

Chip S. said...

@ndspinelli--The unionized commenters would grow fat and lazy, and their blog hosts would have to lobby for government support.

Meanwhile, at the entrepreneurial blogs...exclusive commenting contracts! A bidding war for Freeman Hunt!

Althouse smartly locked up Meade with a long-term contract.

Allie said...

Ann you are correct, I do no longer give a rats ass about this blog, it was interesting for a while, but YOU Ann made it a boring place today, too bad.

And you wonder why liberals don't hang out here, hmpfff.

E.M. Davis said...

SBNation has the best commenting system I've used.

Nested, but with a 'z' function to mark read, and a Shift+A to mark all read. If it's yellow, you haven't read it. Each thread also lets you know how many new comments there are at any time you visit

Shortcuts for HTML, which Blogger has never implemented, despite it's ubiquitousness elsewhere.

Freeman Hunt said...

Eventually the blog will be recognized as an art form. This blog will then be recognized as a masterpiece. The comments will be part of it.

I'm putting this in the comments now to call it on record. We'll all be dead by the time it happens.

Someday someone browsing this thread at a museum will say, "Hey, look at this. Some chick in a baseball cap said this would happen. That's funny. Now I'm all weirded out though like I'm standing between two mirrors."

Enjoy the weird out, future man.

MadisonMan said...

This whole thing makes me wonder: Is althou.se ever happening?

FWIW, I like chronological. I sometimes reply to two posts in one. Try threading that!

gadfly said...

Chronological order can imply "first to last" or "last to first order.

So Ann, has it occurred to you that Blogger only permits the first to last order? Adding comment nesting, sorting and edit capability for posted comments (we do make typos afterall!) would greatly improve the Blogger product.

Weellll, what a dummy I am! I guess that you really did have a look at all comment formats out there when you were contemplating the Althou.se site.

Freeman Hunt said...

Plain, chronological comments read like a conversation.

Threaded or vote counted comments read like a database.

Peter Hoh said...

There ought to be a way to highlight or star a comment like Freeman's "weird out, future man" comment.

That way, someone who is part of this community, but having a busy day, could still read a comment like that without having to plow through the whole thread.

Of course, one could do like I do when there's a long thread -- use the "find" function in my browser to see if Freeman stopped by to leave a comment.

Synova said...

I don't mind rating comments up with a rating system, but I dislike the systems that allow rating up and down.

I'm pretty tough skinned. I don't mind getting into it with someone in comments but for some reason the vote downs feel more negative than someone actually engaging in a disagreement.

I think that it enforces group-think and conformity to have that anonymous vote down for any idea that someone feels doesn't toe the line adequately.

The plan may have been to have a way to identify abusive comments, but that's not the way it ever works.

Jennifer said...

You know, maybe it was, but Allie is a commenter who got on my boring list long ago.

Oh man, I knew there must be such a list. Still, I've always held out hope you found us all fascinating as well as more attractive than is likely.

I really don't like nested comments. Nor do I enjoy tedious pseudo flirtation or the beaters of dead horses. But, Althouse remains the only blog on the whole of the Internet whose comments I read. There's usually a lot more substance and wit than clumsy cyber flirting and inane repetition.

Jennifer said...

Plain, chronological comments read like a conversation.

Threaded or vote counted comments read like a database.


I like this.

ndspinelli said...

ChipS, Since when have marriage contracts been "long term?" I've been married 34 years but that's very rare.

garage mahal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
garage mahal said...

I've always said the best internet commenting system is one with me in it. Chronological. Nested. No matter. It just needs ME ME ME.

Jose_K said...

You think you have a better order? Prove it.
Did you read the Time´s Arrow?
Most literature since the 20´s of the last century has been about changing the order of narration.
Yoda.

Synova said...

"I've always said the best internet commenting system is one with me in it. Chronological. Nested. No matter. It just needs ME ME ME."

;-)

True enough. I've never understood the concept of "lurker."

Ralph L said...

Since when have marriage contracts been "long term?"
In Britain, it took an actual act of Parliament to get a divorce until the ~1860's.

Gene said...

I like indented comments so it's clear which earlier post one is responding to and you don't have to re-quote the preceding poster in order to make your response make sense.

Also, if you don't happen to like that particular thread, you can easily skip to the next one.

Ann Althouse said...

"I really don't like nested comments. Nor do I enjoy tedious pseudo flirtation or the beaters of dead horses. But, Althouse remains the only blog on the whole of the Internet whose comments I read. There's usually a lot more substance and wit than clumsy cyber flirting and inane repetition."

Thanks. And "flirting" is putting your finger on it. I can see that's what was happening some of the time, and I understand why people who are called on it feel hurt to hear it called clutter, but it's important to get the message that it is tedious.

Ann Althouse said...

"I like indented comments so it's clear which earlier post one is responding to and you don't have to re-quote the preceding poster in order to make your response make sense."

But it's usually not that neat. The blog post itself is what's being responded to. the idea that within the comments there are sub-posts that are getting commented on... that implies a degree of regimentation that doesn't really exist.

As Freeman said, chronological order makes it conversation. It's good to be conversational.

Chip S. said...

C'mon, Althouse.... Maybe Allie was just hoping to emulate you in finding Mr. Right on your blog.

I mean, from the pix you've posted it looks like her pickings are pretty slim in Madison.

ndspinelli said...

Only the boss gets to flirt, kind of like male pols. Maybe instead of linking to Amazon there should be links to Match.com. If you want to raise revenues one needs to find the correct revenue stream.

Pam said...

I enjoy reading comments but rarely comment myself. I stop by every day. The chronological order works for me because I skim and look for those names I associate with great thoughts. Ann is correct, however .. I hop,skip, and jump right over comments by those three regulars that spin nonsense

ps. My word verification is chommit. There is one some of the WV translators might love.

Paco Wové said...

"those three regulars that spin nonsense"

Three? You have a much higher threshold of nonsense than I.

Kirk Parker said...

Curious George,

"but it would be nice to 'quote' a previous comment and have it inserted in yours."

Sorry no; this is a cure that is worse than the disease. Go over to someplace that offers this feature (like volokh.com) and see how often it's abused by the inconsiderate (who "quote" an entire long comment just to make one small reply to it,) and the clueless (who do the same but in addition their reply is so vague you can't even tell what part of the long quoted comment is being addressed.)

Coketown said...

I think the two systems--chronological and nesting--are each appropriate for a different audience. Chronological is great for the regular Althouse commenting community, where everyone is familiar with everyone else's name/picture so can peruse comments quickly, giving special attention to those they like and skipping those they don't. (I always stop to read the girl in the baseball cap, the cow's face, the foliage, and the porcelain(?) bird, among others).

But a 'nesting' system is best for people unfamiliar with the comments section but who are curious about what others are saying. I would put myself into this category for sites like engadget.com where there are literally thousands of commenters for any given post and there isn't a single one I could pick out across multiple posts. In that instance, being able to follow the conversation rather than the individuals behind them is most important. For example, someone referred here by Instapundit probably doesn't care who's commenting but rather what they, and others, are saying.

And I think Althouse's blog already has two merit systems built in: 1) Ann picks out comments and front pages them, and 2) a great comment will be mentioned or responded to many times throughout the thread. I don't like the "starring" or "plus-one" treatment of comments because it just makes it into a game. I like that in the Althouse comments people draw attention to smart or controversial comments by responding to them.

rcommal said...

It used to be, here, that one could just respond and not necessarily provide within the response comment that to which one was responding. Not only is that half a decade ago, it never was a good habit. Much (though not all) of what people object to in terms of being able to follow conversation has to do with those conversing not providing, in quote form, the reference provoking their response. Well, then, employing the discipline to provide the reference is what we all ought do.

Yes?

rcommal said...

Also, Freeman Hunt and Peter Hoh have been great favorites for well over half a decade. It's a bit of a thrill to seem them front-paged--together even!--on a blog post, anywhere. About time; well overdue; great gobs of gratitude to Althouse for that.

Scott M said...

For my own $.02, chronological order seems to work better. Numbering the comments, as others have said, makes people refer back to the numbers (causing following readers to scroll...not fun). It's far better to see clean, interesting comments that refer to earlier posts using italicized quotes.

Freeman Hunt said...

... for well over half a decade.

Whoa, it really has been that long. Now I'm standing between two mirrors.

Scott M said...

Now I'm standing between two mirrors.

What do you do in the face of fourteen years of bad luck? And which one makes you look fat in those jeans?

Brennan said...

The best commenting system I have ever used is called "ja.zz" written by Sander Pilon. It's chronogological and nested. You can downvote and upvote comments. You can set modes to hide downvoted comments. You can show all. Just tons of features so everyone can set their view differently.

The only site that I know that used it was shacknews.com

Freeman Hunt said...

And which one makes you look fat in those jeans?

I am nearly eight months pregnant. All mirrors have this effect.

Kirk Parker said...

Brennan,

"The best commenting system I have ever used ... The only site that I know that used it was shacknews.com"

The world has voted that you have unique taste in commenting systems.

Kirk Parker said...

Brennan,

"The best commenting system I have ever used ... The only site that I know that used it was shacknews.com"

The world voted that you have a unique taste in commenting systems.

Peter Hoh said...

Congratulations, Freeman!!!

rcommal said...

Congrats, Freeman! #3! (Right?)

Freeman Hunt said...

Thanks, and yes, number three.

Scott M said...

Congrats, Freeman! #3! (Right?)

Three, four, and five, if she's standing between those mirrors.

Kirk Parker said...

Congratulations, Freeman!

Three is a great number; it's when the kids outnumber the parents that the fun really begins!

Lionheart said...

Alan Sepinwall's TV blog on HitFix has the best comment section because he only allows one reply level - no replies to replies. So, comments spaced over hours/days are nicely grouped. Such conversations are impossible here since 10 comments spaced among 150 would never afford a cogent conversation.

http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/whats-alan-watching/posts/boardwalk-empire-under-gods-power-she-flourishes-i-want-my-mommy

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