Gawker Comments Are Made of Stars

The new Gawker commenting system is here. And, if everything works out as planned, it will let us highlight the brilliant, witty and informative comments. Welcome to a new hierarchical era.

When Gawker first introduced comments, they were an exclusive club. As we've grown, we've opened up the doors more and more, and our comments have become, to be charitable, more freewheeling. Today, we the editors are taking control back with what we're calling "featured comments" as the place directly under posts to gather the best of the best, as decided by your tireless editors and star commenters.

But before I get into that, a few other changes:

  • You have 15 minutes after you leave a comment to edit it. So, please, no more comments pointing out your typos.
  • There are new tools to easily upload images and YouTube videos. Use them!
  • Comment threads are only viewable by reverse chronology, just like on Facebook and Twitter.

Now about those star powers. The editors are the only ones who can give you a star, and we'll be giving them out to the commenters we trust the most. This means that many people who have stars now will be losing them. But for those who keep their stars, your comments will automatically appear in the featured comments, and you will have the ability to promote non-star comments up to the top level. In fact, just replying to a comment will bump up to the front page. You'll also see all of the unapproved comments left by new users and can approve the ones that you think are up to snuff. But use your powers wisely. We're going to be taking a closer look at who's doing what. Use your star powers to make mischief, and we'll take them away.

So what kind of comments are we looking to feature? We're giving more prominence to the featured comments because we've realized that they go a long way to setting the tone of the site. So, we want them to be an addition to what we post, not just an open-forum place to rant. We want to feature comments that are first and foremost about the post they're left on. They may add information, be a well-reasoned critique, a particularly funny line or, if you're named in the item, a rebuttal. Oh, and proper grammar counts. What we're not looking for: snark for snark's sake, comments about Gawker, IM-like conversations, attacks on your editors, comments pointing out how stupid other comments are (do not engage the trolls) and basically anything else that we don't like.

There are no doubt going to be plenty of glitches and bugs, and please email those to me. As for any other questions, ask away in the comments.

For reference, here's our overlord Nick Denton's rundown on the new changes:

Six months later, we're finally ready to go live with the Ganja power commenting system across the nine sites of Gawker Media. Here's why we've overhauled the comments — and a summary of the key changes you'll notice on the sites later today. There will be some glitches and many complaints — but the new system is elegant, already rich in editorial possibilities with so much more to come. It's an enormous accomplishment by the tech team in Budapest, New York — and Kansas City.

1. THE PROBLEM

As a site gets bigger, the comments tend to get busier — and sometimes more annoying. Our titles are no exception. Deadspin's had to contend with a war between the daytime and nighttime users; Jezebel editors battle for control with a politically-correct mob; perceptions of Gawker are set by a small group of glib and bitchy commenters. All sites that are growing as rapidly as ours have something like this problem — and one that can't be solved simply by banning the offenders or applying more strictly our approval process.

It can't be solved because the most pernicious comments don't come from trolls or spammers. Those can be easily identified and barred. What ruins a good discussion is what we could call the chatty commenter. They may be a devoted reader, someone we don't have the heart to ban. But they only occasionally contribute something to the sum of human knowledge. And the chatty commenters — because there are so many of them — set the tone. Their presence puts off the subjects of items — or other people with something interesting to say.

So we need to introduce another level — the power commenter — to the hierarchy. We used to refer to our comment environment as a club — with a velvet rope to keep the riff-raff out on the street. Well, now the club is too busy. If we're going to maintain credibility, we need a the equivalent of a VIP room. We'll populate the VIP room by giving special privileges to star commenters. They'll get prominence and space — as will their guests. And — we hope — it will be this salon that sets the tone of discussion.

Our comments have stood out amid the illiterate abuse and empty-headed wittering of the rest of the internet; we're going to make sure it stays that way as the audience continues to expand.

2. THE KEY CHANGES

* Privileges for star commenters (see below)
* Image and video embedding in comments
* Comment threads switched (like Facebook and Twitter) to reverse chronological order
* Related stories show to the right of each post (and a few other design changes)
* Comments can now be edited (for 15 minutes after publishing)

3. RIGHTS OF A STAR COMMENTER

* A gold star next to each commenter's name (as now)
* Comments given priority and published immediately after post
* A star commenter can see comments even before a moderator has approved them
* By replying to any comment, a star commenter can give it priority
* Promotion of another's comments to the featured section

4. THE FUTURE

* Many more items such as interviews, live chats, live blogs, contests and photo pools
* Web submission and publishing of tips
* Discussion forums around personalities and topics
* Commenting via Twitter
* Rebuttal rights for the subject of an article
* Commenters able to call on friends or colleagues for support in an online discussion