Heads up: The commenting structure on Jezebel – and every other Gawker Media site – is about to undergo some major changes. Today.
Over the past year (or more), the commenting communities on Gawker Media websites have literally exploded (in fact, of all the Gawker Media sites, Jezebel consistently holds the title - if you can call it that - of "most commented.") But, as with any massive increase in quantity, the quality of commenting threads on all of our sites have suffered. In order to gain some more control of the comments, and to present the best (funniest, thoughtful, intelligent, well-argued) to readers who have neither the time nor energy to wade through the more mediocre contributions, the comment threads will be broken up into two sections, or "tiers": Tier 1, which will appear directly below each post and house only the contributions of starred commenters, and Tier 2, which will house the contributions of everyone else (those without stars). To view Tier 2, click on the directive "Show all comments on this post": you will then be able to see all the comments – Tier 1 and Tier 2 together.
Stars will no longer be given out – or retained – based on the number of followers a commenter has. Instead, they will be granted to readers who have proven themselves to be engaged, intelligent, humorous, fair-minded, thoughtful, rational, etc. (I could go on.) Although there will FAR fewer starred commenters - a cull will commence today and continue for the foreseeable future - those starred commenters who remain will have more control over the commenting sections, essentially functioning as mini-moderators.
Specifically, starred commenters will be able to:
•Promote a well-written, thought out, intelligent and/or otherwise notable comment in Tier 2 to Tier 1 in order to give it a higher profile. (In addition, when a starred commenter in Tier 1 responds to a commenter in Tier 2, the Tier 2 comment will be moved to Tier 1.)
•View unapproved comments from new commenters and approve them so that they appear on the site in Tier 2. (Approving an unapproved comment does not mean the commenter herself is approved: the approval is for one-time only and does not give the commenter full commenter privileges).
Starred commenters will not be without oversight and are still privy to the commenting guidelines and rules: Commenter administrators can – and no doubt, will - override a Tier 1-promoted comment and push it back to Tier 2 at any time, for any reason. In addition, if starred commenters use their new powers to abuse other commenters, break commenting rules, or approve/promote/respond to Tier 2 commenters in order to start or highlight unnecessary arguments, their stars can and will be taken away. Shorter: Using starred status to respond to trolls or obnoxious comments is STRONGLY discouraged.
Note: In addition, the site will be giving out partial administrator status to a few commenters, giving them broader powers in terms of moderation. More on that later after we finalize the names/duties.
Good news: Readers will now be able to edit their comments… even after publication. For 15 minutes following the publishing of a comment, the commenter – using the little "pencil" tool that will now show up underneath each comment – can modify her comment in order to fix spelling/coding/grammatical/etc. mistakes.
Another bonus: Image and video uploading has also been made much easier; see the actual commenting form later this afternoon for more on this.
Comments, like those on Facebook and Twitter, will now be displayed in reverse chronological order - newest on top, oldest on bottom - except within comment threads, where replies will be presented in chronological order. In addition, the company has decided to do away with the site's "expanded view" option, as many have already noticed, and stories that relate to each post will appear in a column on the right hand margin of each permalink page, meaning that the width of our photos and stories will narrow somewhat.
Many of you have noticed that open threads have been disabled a day after they went up. Although the open threads have proven very popular, they have unfortunately, contributed to threadjacking and the treatment of the comments on "regular" posts as a messageboard. To remedy this, we will now post two open threads per week, one on Friday and one on Saturday nights. They will be disabled on Monday mornings.
In addition to previously articulated commenting rules - here, here, here, here, and here - I'd like to address a few issues that seem to have cropped up lately in the comments, issues that will not be tolerated.
Thread-jacking, however minor or well-intentioned.
Complaints about what we are or are not posting about; no one is forcing anybody to read anything, and if you have suggestions for posts, you can email them to the editors. Although we can't often respond, we do read our tips!
Jumping to conclusions about and/or engagement in meta discussions as to the decisions, motivations, and psychologies of the site's staff, other commenters, parent company, the site itself, etc. Reasoned response to opinions and assertions presented by staff and other commenters is encouraged; accusations, insinuations, nastiness, sarcasm, etc. is not. If you have concerns and/or problems, they can and should be emailed directly to the site's editor(s)…the comments are not the place for them.
Piling on other commenters or derailing of the focus of a post by nit-picking and going after (perhaps) ill-advised statements made by others. This is a major problem, and not only will commenters be banned if they participate in it, the thread(s) itself will be terminated. There are far too many commenters on this site who do not give others the benefit of the doubt and the chance to explain themselves before jumping on them. A little generosity is in order.
This last point is perhaps the most important. It is imperative that we remember that the commenters on this site come from all age brackets, cultural backgrounds, maturity levels, education levels, and political and religious stripes. Although the site's editors subscribe to what some might call more progressive points of view - and hell, we do not always agree with one another! - we do not demand that the comments following posts adhere to those points of view. Our more vocal commenters shouldn't demand it either. Debating passionately but politely in the comments is one thing: piling on, belittling and mocking are another, and the latter does nothing to advance readers' knowledge or, for lack of a better term, change the hearts and minds of those you disagree with. Instead, it contributes to the much-mocked echo chamber on this site that we are determined to do away with.
Last, But Not Least
I have no doubt that this new commenting system will create confusion, frustration, and, for some, outrage – among both editors and commenters alike – for a period of time. But we're excited about and committed to the new system, and ask that you please bear with us as we reorient ourselves in the service of making our already-vibrant and engaging threads even more so. Questions? Leave them in the comments here, and we'll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. If you are seeing glitches, email them to us with an exact description of the problem, the type of computer and exact operating system you are using, as well as the browser you are viewing the site on.