Comments Section Q+A with Equality NC

Just about every news story and op-ed has a comments section, and the discussions that go on there matter. Or they could matter. One of the first steps is to have good comment system architecture–and I’ve thrown around some ideas about that already.

In the mean time, SpeakUp NC is working on comment section innovations that will help experts (in this case, nonprofit leaders) weigh in on important discussions in an interactive and substantive way. Our comments section Q+A, inspired by Reddit’s AMAs, is designed to organize discussions around questions posed by readers to experts on the issue at hand. It’s also designed to bring people into the comments section who do not normally comment–we don’t want to have a discussion with the occasional troll, but rather with a wide group of interested people to have a meaningful back-and-forth about the details and implications of the actual issue.

Our first go at this was even better than I could have hoped. The brilliant team at Equality NC jumped at the chance to try something new. Their executive director, Chris Sgro, submitted an op-ed about the tax rigamarole North Carolina puts legally-married same-sex couples through. When the op-ed was published, the team posted the following comment in the comments section:

Over the next few hours, a few comments trickled in–about what you’d expect for an article on a hot topic in this particular newspaper. At 3pm on April 1st, there were 7 comments, three of which were from Equality NC. Between 3 and 5pm, however, was a different story. Due to Equality NC’s active network, and SpeakUp NC’s own email blasts and social media outreach, comments started pouring in at 3pm. Not only were there a lot of them (106 by 5pm), but they were substantive, thoughtful, and enlightening. While Shannon and I were behind the scenes, coordinating and advising Chris, Jen, and the rest of the Equality NC staff, the discussions under the article were inspiring. Here’s one exchange as an example:

Imagine a world where you could actually learn from the comments section! We plan to do this Comments Section Q+A strategically and with other specific nonprofits in the future. Stay tuned.


Originally published at deliberhetor.com on April 2, 2014.

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