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GAWK TAWK
April 26, 2012 10:36 PM   Subscribe

Gawker: We want to elevate the discourse about frogs who sit like humans. No matter how you personally feel about the sites, you've got to admit that the Gawker network is big. So far in April 2012, the eight sites have attracted 1 million comments on 7,500 posts from 130,000 active commenters. But with comments described by Gawker's editor A.J. Daulerio as 'a tar pit of hell', they've decided to try to reinvent their commenting system again, including a system to allow commenters to sign in with temporary, anonymous, throwaway 'Burner' accounts.

It'll be interesting, at least for folks who are interested in this kind of stuff, to see how it goes. My guess is: not spectacularly well.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, I guess fixing bad commenter behavior with algorithms is more likely to succeed than coaxing better performance from your web server with praise and promise of roomier rackspace.
posted by idiopath at 10:48 PM on April 26, 2012


Considering Gawker's comments in isolation is an exercise in futility. They reap as they sow. Additionally, if I never ever see anything about Gawker or any of their sites on the blue again - excepting closure - I will be a happy man.
posted by smoke at 10:58 PM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I had to skim like 12 paragraphs before I got to the fucking frog video.
posted by mullacc at 11:03 PM on April 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


i used to hate gawker but Nick Denton and co. are kind of growing on me

at least he isn't Rupert Murdoch
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:07 PM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Let's hope they can keep user passwords secure on this one. NO I'M NOT BITTER AT ALL WHY DO YOU ASK
posted by JHarris at 11:09 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like lifehacker and io9 sometimes. But none of the gawker sites really seem to work for for me in firefox. I always get these 'dead' pages where none of the links work, and I need to reload the page to fix it. Does anyone else have this problem? It seems like it has been like this for a year.
posted by DarkForest at 11:12 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


stavrosthewonderchicken: "It'll be interesting, at least for folks who are interested in this kind of stuff, to see how it goes. My guess is: not spectacularly well."

I don't know much about the user base there, but it sounds not unlike the one here, based on the meagre information in the article. The description of how this is supposed to work sounds like the complete opposite of how I would think a commenting system would be successful with a user base anything like MeFi's.
posted by dg at 11:26 PM on April 26, 2012


I disagree with the opinion presented in the FPP. The general thrust of the changes is to allow each comment/thread to be judged on individuals merit, rather than bias introduced by the history of each individual contributor.

They aren't at all saying they aren't going to judge those comments for content just the same as they do for any other, they can stand or fail on their own merits. This type of flexibility in moderation is the hallmark of successful online communities, big and small.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:27 PM on April 26, 2012


Let's hope they can keep user passwords secure on this one. NO I'M NOT BITTER AT ALL WHY DO YOU ASK

I know the feeling. I get 20 spam emails a day on an account that had maybe a spam message a month after their database was attacked. For some reason, I trusted Gawker enough and signed up with my real email address. Fortunately my password was unique so I didn't have that problem.

weirdest spam of the day courtesy of gawker media: An urgent message from the first lady of Syria, Mrs. Asma al-Assam. From her secret email account in Brazil, she tells me she needs my help and wants me to contact her at an account in Hong Kong.
posted by birdherder at 11:27 PM on April 26, 2012


I disagree with the opinion presented in the FPP.

You mean my opinion that I don't think it will go well, or the Gawker editor's that comments are a tar pit? I don't understand what you're talking about, exactly. But feel free to disagree with me, if that's what you're doing!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:31 PM on April 26, 2012


I think this will go well and be an improvement over their previous system.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:32 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the first link: Powwow’s secret algorithm parses comment text for length and quality and automatically tries to push the good stuff to the front, the part most everyone sees. (Human editors can intervene, too.)

This is what has me itching with curiosity. Length... and quality? I wonder what mean number of words or characters the "better" comments are supposed to have? And for "quality," I can more easily think of negatives than positives... lots of exclamation marks, all caps, bolding, IM-speak, misspellings, overuse of profanity, probably... but if there are positives, what might they be? "Harder" vocabulary, maybe?

I hope some members who know more about this sort of thing offer some possible insight. It's not at all the kind of tool I'd covet in a modly way, but it would be fascinating in the same way an automaton toy is fascinating.
posted by taz at 11:43 PM on April 26, 2012


Kotaku's comments have genuinely improved since the last comment system revision, I'll give 'em that. Risng a few inches up from a very low bar, but still.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:43 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there's a lot about this system they're introducing that I find very interesting indeed, taz, including their supasekrit algorithm™.

I almost never visit Gawker sites, myself -- I'm one of those people -- but as a massive-scale experiment, I'm interested to see how well it works, because I have always been interested in how web community (though I'm not sure if that's the right word to use for the Gawker network) scales, and how the intersection of policies, automated tools and human moderation can (or can't) keep online discussion from degrading into the stupid-people-shouting-at-each-other free-for-all that we see all over the rest of the web.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:05 AM on April 27, 2012


I like lifehacker and io9 sometimes. But none of the gawker sites really seem to work for for me in firefox. I always get these 'dead' pages where none of the links work, and I need to reload the page to fix it. Does anyone else have this problem? It seems like it has been like this for a year.

Yeah, I run into this on io9 all the time. Sometimes refreshing doesn't work and I end up having to delete query values from the URL. What with the whole blog concept being hammered out over a decade ago, you have to try pretty hard to break it.
posted by brundlefly at 12:25 AM on April 27, 2012


io9 is in fact the only Gawker site I hit, occasionally. Did you know that you can just hit http://blog.io9.com/ to get an old-school, regular blogstyle version of the site? Because you totally can. And it's about a thousand times easier to read. I recall seeing that there are similar workarounds for other Gawker sites since the egregrious redesigns a while back, but I don't know the details offhand.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:36 AM on April 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


And now, instead of depending on humans to promote comments to “Featured,” a computer will do it. Powwow’s secret algorithm parses comment text for length and quality and automatically tries to push the good stuff to the front, the part most everyone sees. (Human editors can intervene, too.) A new URL structure also makes it easier for individual comments or subthreads to be shared on social networks.
They could help save people's time and automatically generate comments. Users could push "Sucks" or "Awesome" buttons, perhaps type a few adjectives and have the machine spit out a well thought out response, perhaps even customized to the reading level of whichever user is currently viewing the page.

I've never read gawkers's comments. The few times I've glanced at them, they seemed to be full of dumb snark or something. If I were working at gawker I'd try to get moderation to work on different 'channels'. You could rate things for best snark (which, obviously people who visit gawker enjoy) on the one hand or for insightful comments.

They could also force everyone to take an online course in philosophical logic and then let people filter out comments from people who failed.
posted by delmoi at 3:13 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was a great example delmoi!

How long did it take you to write the algorithm?
posted by PissOnYourParade at 3:37 AM on April 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, let's teach everyone philosophical logic, because that's a completely appropriate way for people to express their ideas and opinions in natural language.

Even if that were somehow possible (it's not) it would take the collective trolls of the internet all of ten minutes to discover that "anything derives from a contradiction." It would be exactly like now, except even worse because not only would everyone be convinced that they were right, but also that they had "proven" their statements to be capital-T-True.

Anyway, from what I have seen of the new system at Gawker, it also allows commenters to moderate their own threads by rejecting "off-topic" comments (which go somewhere else? i'm not clear.) This seems like a pragmatic but depressing idea - if people can reject dissent, they won't spend all their time dissenting. It seems rare for anyone on Gawker to change their mind or admit mistakes about anything though, so maybe the staff there is on the right track.
posted by newg at 5:42 AM on April 27, 2012


In case anyone is wondering, the frog video in question was posted and deleted here.
posted by Edogy at 5:51 AM on April 27, 2012


It's impressive how much Gawker has been able to monetize trolling.
posted by drezdn at 6:08 AM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm often confused by what appears to go on in Nick Denton's head, but his new approach to comments seems so sideways-skewed-ass-backwards-off-base bizarre to me that I don't know what to say. The one thing that seems clearest, in light of the ridiculous redesign they tried last year, is that they'll be tweaking it just enough so that when it fails they won't have to admit it's failed.
posted by mediareport at 6:18 AM on April 27, 2012


I'm one of those "The Spiers reign will never be topped!" people but I have to say that I find the Gawker Empire as a business endlessly fascinating.
posted by josher71 at 6:22 AM on April 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'll be curious to see if the trolls get more bandwidth than the rest of commenters. I get the idea behind "short comment=bad" but their idea of short is very short, and sometimes a one liner is super-pithy.

I used to read multiple Gawker sites daily because I admit, I like to snark, but about six months ago, I just couldn't deal with their stuntposting and exploitative stories anymore; Daulerio definitely changed the tone when he took over--I mean, Gawker wasn't exactly The Atlantic to begin with. These days, I stick to io9 almost exclusively: great writing, well-modded, and a generally cool commentariat. I'll wander over to Gizmodo from time to time, but I've decided I just don't want to deal with the rampant misogyny in the comment section (I gave up Kotaku years ago for the same reason; hell, sometimes the misogyny was in their FPPs).
posted by smirkette at 7:24 AM on April 27, 2012


I've been a regular Gawker reader; when new editor AJ took over, it began to feel like Zombie Gawker. The week without comments felt like Ghost Gawker. I hadn't realized how much I enjoyed reading the comments there. And I'm not sure my old brain will "trust" the new commenting system. I like being able to pick and choose the comments I want to read, rather than comments being censored or artificially ordered.
posted by armacy at 12:56 PM on April 27, 2012


Let's hope they can keep user passwords secure on this one. NO I'M NOT BITTER AT ALL WHY DO YOU ASK

It wouldn't be because you foolishly used the same password the one time you commented on Gawker a jillion years ago as you also used a jillion years ago the one time you used the iTunes store, and forgot that either one of those things existed, only to be reminded when some shitstain bought himself an iTunes gift card on your credit card, which iTunes somehow managed to save all the details of, would it?

Oh wait, that was me.

Yes, I'm dumb and it was my fault, but still. Grrr.

Now I look at any Gawker site maybe once a week, tops, and I am no more tempted to throw a comment into that sewer than I am to fish a meal out of a real one.
posted by Fnarf at 1:06 PM on April 27, 2012


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