Five Ways to Fix Digg’s Comment System
What role, if any, should Digg play in this? The comments could be a place for great discussions on the story, but usually they degrade into the musings of lunatics. When do comments stop being free speech and start being serious threats? These are the questions.
Netiquette in public forums has a lot to do with the content around which the community is centered. Lifehacker’s posts set out to help folks, so in kind, our readers want to help us and each other back. Digg is a popularity contest of oneupmanship. Gawker is all about making fun of things, so its readers mock each other and it right back in the comments. Karma’s a boomerang.
Digg’s inherent nature explains why the comment sections are judgmental flamewars rather than discussion and enhancement of the story. Surprisingly, Digg has a solution for this already in place:
- Block/Report User: If you find that a user is someone you don’t want to read, you can filter out that user (site-wide) by clicking the block user button. With enough user blocks the offending user is reported to the digg abuse staff. (March 2006)
You can block/report a user by clicking on the circle with a line through it beside their username on a comment. You can also bury specific comments but there doesn’t seem to be any penalty for users whom the Digg community has marked as continually adding nothing valuable to the discussion.
Here are my suggestions to how Digg can add more feedback to their comment system and make negative comments have a negative impact on user accounts.
- Keep a running total comment score of someone’s total negative/positive comments and display that publicly on their profile.
- Top 100 positive commenters list. The top 100 submitters did wonders for getting people to devote huge amounts of time to improving the site, top commenters could do the same thing. Of course, this will never happen.
- Display someone’s comment score to them while they are logged in. Make them conscious that people are reading and reviewing what they write.
- Comment karma where if you have been identified as a negative contributor any new comments will start out with a negative value. So many negative comments are click-bys where the user doesn’t return to see the results of their actions.
- Temporary automatic bans from commenting if someone’s comment score becomes too low (for the extreme conditions — or maybe automatic reporting of the user to the Digg staff).
Negatively rated comments would have no penalty so long as the user also adds positively rated comments. The pieces are already there with the comment voting system, Kevin Rose and Digg only need to close the loop and make writing stupid, obscene, irrelevant comments (as voted by the other Digg commenters) have a negative impact either through public display or temporary bans.
As things stand Digg has no negative reenforcement for making an asshat of yourself. Having the most buried comment on a story is actually a way to stick out from the rest of the commenters and draw attention to yourself. The existing report/block mechanism certainly doesn’t seem to be working.
UPDATED after 1 hour: I missed the block/report user icon the first time around. Thanks, Dan.