By Molly Hulsey
Managing website comments and finding ways to glean important threads of conversations are among the top challenges for those seeking to strengthen brands and loyalty among brands and audiences.
Led by computer scientist Ryanne Dolan and supported by RJI, a team of convergence journalism seniors designed an interactive tool to change the way readers interact with stories.
Why are comments so important?
- Comments create useful content for both readers of news and the organization itself.
- They are additive—it’s free additional content that editors don’t have to pay for.
- They are measurable—comments provide a way for a company to use analytics.
- They create relationships—between readers as well as between readers and editors.
What makes a good comment interface?
A good comment section on a website has three main characteristics. It is:
- Easy—any casual reader should be able to input their name and information without having to poke around for minutes.
- Fast—the comment section should be readily visible and not involve a lot of complicated log-ins or time-consuming information requirements.
- Compelling—the interface should look interactive and easy, and should be designed to make readers feel welcome to share their input.
Editors say… “readers are discouraged because they can’t figure out how to comment.”
Readers say… “commenting takes too much time.”
How do we fix it? The Pacific
The team designed an interface, The Pacific, which simplifies commenting. Highlights:
- The comments are located beside the story in a fixed sidebar that remains with the story, but not in the way, so it’s always readily available.
- The sidebar shows other users comments in real-time, similar to a Twitter feed, as they are submitted.
- Registration is simple… once you type in your comment, the interface will simply ask you to type in your name. Comment first, then authenticate.
- You can “pin” sections of a story that really inspire or interest you, by scrolling over them and clicking the “Pin” highlight that appears. That portion is then saved into your “pins” file.
It’s all about connections
- The Pacific maps relationships between users: it prefs the comments of your “friends”—people you interact frequently with on social media or who seem to have similar opinions to yours, showing you those comments with priority.
- It also finds negative relationships—users who often have opposing viewpoints—and sometimes shows those to offer you valuable other viewpoints.
In a perfect world, comments would be…
- Deeply analytic
- Integrated site-wide
- Live coverage
- A part of the story