Comments Can Be Good If You Let Them

One could argue that “don’t read the comments” is a good piece of “Internet advice.” I’d normally agree, but I’ve seen the light. It is distant and flickering but it’s definitely there, and we’re moving towards it.

When Digg launched Dialog in October we felt ready. Our community guidelines were short and clear, we agreed internally on what makes a comment “good” and decided that pre-moderation was the way to go.

Three months into Dialog, I’m excited to say we’ve succeeded in creating a well-lit place for thoughtful, live conversations between the Digg community and the people who make the best stuff on the Internet. We’ve hosted some amazing Dialogs! Our users have surprised me, a former don’t-read-the-comments believer, by submitting great, thought-provoking questions and comments. Here’s the thing: Clear community guidelines work. Pre-moderation works. And most of all, the amount of personalized attention we’re willing to give each user has had a direct effect on the quality of conversations on Digg. Out of all the submitted comments since launch of Dialog, I’ve only had to reject 4%. To put another way: 96% of comments submitted to our website are good comments. Every single rejected comment triggers an email to the user explaining why that specific comment was not approved and encouraging them to do better. A simple message telling a user that their good point is being overshadowed by their abusive language works. Literally: “Hey, you have a good point but maybe you can express it in a way that doesn’t involve calling someone else an asshole?”

It seems so simple, but the reality is that we forget comments are authored by people. People who might generally feel that the Internet is a big black hole and that no one will ever see what they’ve written. Well, this part of the black hole has moderators, and we’re going to tell you when you’re being mean or when we think you can say something in a better way.

Since launch we’ve learned that Dialog can be used a bunch of different ways:

  1. A conversation between journalists and Digg community
  2. A conversation between journalists, their subject and the Digg community
  3. A conversation with journalists on a controversial topic
  4. A live advice column
  5. Humor!
  6. Open conversation centered on a live TV event
  7. Open conversation centered on a trending topic or story

I wanted to end with some of the incredible feedback we’ve gotten from journalists and publishers who participated in Dialog. Here are some of my favorites:

“We cut our comments section last year at the Daily Dot, but if we could regularly host thoughtful, engaging conversations like the one we had on Digg Dialog, I’d bring them back tomorrow. The opportunity allowed us to really delve into an important story with our ideal readership. It surfaced some interesting anecdotes from the reporters (and their subject), and shed some light on the creative process and all that was left on the cutting room floor. I look forward to doing it again soon.” — Austin Powell, managing editor of the Daily Dot

“The Washington Post’s police shooting database was the product of a lot of work. It’s scope inevitably means lots of data. The Digg Dialog was a great platform to expand upon and explain that data, especially considering all the smart content Digg creates and pushes. The questions from the community were curious, challenging and they offered some great feedback. Not to mention that it helped bring some of our most important work to more readers. We certainly look forward to working with Digg more in 2016.” — Gene Park, social media editor at The Washington Post

“I know the web isn’t perfect, but it’s thought-provoking exchanges like the one with Digg this afternoon that remind me why I love the Internet so much.” — Adrienne LaFrance, staff writer at The Atlantic (Humans Of The Internet Are Smart)

If you want to talk more about Dialog or send someone a gross GIF please email me ([email protected]) or tweet at me (@heyveronica).