Comments 2.0

May 2, 2009

Blog and page comments need a makeover.  The current approaches don’t scale well.  Bigger properties are typically overrun by a handful of heavy users talking amongst themselves, and usually not about the topic at hand.

Case in point, my last link:  The post makes an important argument about the meaning of socialism, and contemplates the very controversial idea that America is just as socialist as Europe (albeit in a different way).   But the commenters miss the point entirely, with the same 5 users discussing whether more Europeans want to emigrate to the U.S. or viceversa, or whether massive inflation is coming, or the usual ‘Wall Street is stealing our money’ meme.

Even sites with scoring don’t fare much better.  Just check out any article at Politico or Marketwatch.

The problem is that 90% of the noise comes from a handful of users, but reviews (when available) are done on individual posts.  Reviewing users would work much better.

If I could block a user with one click I would only need 10 clicks to cut out most of the noise for ALL posts of a blog (even older ones).

Better yet, allow two levels: A tentative block, which highlights that user’s comments prominently, and a full block for when I’m sure they are consistently not adding value.

Block information from all users can be aggregated so blog can filter out 5 (or 50 or 500) most blocked users by default for casual visitors or non-logged in users.

Lastly, show all comments when post is marked as ‘open thread’, in which case a more free-form conversation is actually desired.


January 8, 2009

Ridiculously simple idea, great service: View a new blog post as it is added.  Sit back and let the blogosphere come to you.

If you have a new blog do youself a favor and add it at

The coming news coverage gap

December 14, 2008

Will micropayments save the day?

The recession is accelerating the inevitable: Papers are dying all around us.

Whether you view this with a sense of nostalgia, disbelief or excitement, and however you feel about new media, I see a big risk in this changeover.

You see, Arianna is happy to point out that blogs are starting to break the news, as in the case of Obama’s infamous ‘bitter cling to guns’ comment. Some bloggers do get scoops, especially around political news. And they’ve covered uprisings and natural disasters where the press wasn’t allowed or couldn’t reach.

Still, 99% of investigative reporting still comes from traditional news organizations, and blogs simply add an editorial and social layer on top.

Also, only a handful of bloggers can expect to make a living from their high-traffic sites.  Those who blog about niche or local issues don’t have viable businesses under the current advertiser-supported model.  They usually have a day job.

After all eyeballs move to the web advertising dollars will go farther and support more and more properties.  But in the meantime, what happens when the papers go bankrupt and city, Washington and foreign bureaus are shut down? when AP and Reuters aren’t there anymore? Will laid-off journos start blogging while waiting tables to pay the bills?

This process will be abrupt and messy, which is feedstock for innovation.  Solutions will be found.  So I’m not worried about the long term.  Encouraging models are starting to appear.

But in the short-term it would be so much cleaner if we had micropayments.  $0.05 for a news piece, $0.10 to read a feature article.

The concept has been tried before and failed, but perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to give it another go.  I hope someone is pitching this right now and will have a solid product in 09, just in time.