Threaded Comment System Critique

July 28, 2007 at 9:06 pm (offbeat)

There has been a lot of talk about web 2.0 websites for the past 2 to 3+ years. Most people seem to think that web 2.0 is just shiny graphics and JavaScript. Scratch that. . . A LOT of JavaScript. The idea of nested, or threaded, comments has been around since forums first hit the web.

Browse to just about any popular site and you will notice that 90% allow some form of user interaction via voting or comments. The websites that do allow comments, maybe 1% to 5% have threaded comments . Look at myspace.com, facebook.com, youtube.com, espn.com, and flickr.com. None of those sites even ATTEMPT threaded comments. So then what sites do use thread comments?

Most of the sites that use threaded comments happen to be social new sites. Lets take a look at some of the bigger named sites: Digg.com, Newsvine.com, Reddit.com, and Netscape.com. These sites are all about user input, so their comment systems should be cutting edge and very user friendly. I’m going to also include Slashdot.org, although its a bit different than those mentioned. I will grade their comment systems on a scale A – F.

  1. Digg.com – C+. Comment system is unorganized, needlessly complex, and frankly… abuses javascript. (Show/Hide anyone?) It is impossible to follow a conversation because of various bars of blue colors. The site has been credited as leading the social news website revolution, yet just recently made their first attempt at true threaded comments. They promise to make more changes, but I highly doubt the site will ever clean up their system enough to satisfy most users.
  2. Newswine – D-. Comment system is readable but is not truly threaded. It seems as though comments can only go 1 thread deep. There doesn’t seem to be a way to hide comments with a negative score either. It is ugly and too basic. Sorry, that won’t cut it.
  3. Reddit.com – B+. Conversations are fairly easy to read and they have a markup language that users are able to utilize. It looks as though threads can go as deep as they want. I would give this website an “A” if the comments didn’t have so much whitespace in between them. If they tweaked it visually, then it would be just about perfect. The best feature for me is the fact that users get notified when someone replies to their comment.
  4. Netscape – A. The model which other sites and developers should look towards to developing a proper threaded comment system. Threads can go as deep as they want on this site as well. Readability for a conversation is very good and with plenty of comment options. Perhaps the amount of text and icons on the right side can make a reader feel a bit overwhelmed at times? Despite that, I am very impressed with Netscape’s comment system.
  5. Slashdot.org – B-. This reminds me of an old school type threaded comment system. There is nothing wrong with that, but just not my cup of tea. A user has to click on reply-to threads that loads another screen to read the comment. Also, the header of the comments is a bit too big and doesn’t really help with the flow. Their unique take to critique comments as “Funny”,“Informative”, etc is a great addition.

Let’s not send me hate mail just yet because your favorite site got a bad rating. Or perhaps I omitted your favorite site? In case you are wondering… I use both Digg and Reddit. Keep in mind that I do not consider myself an expert. If anything, I am barely a competent amateur programmer/web designer. However, I have developed my own threaded comment system from scratch. That is essentially the reason why I wrote this article. I had plenty of time to study what I liked/disliked from other comment systems. I would rate my celebrity gossip’s comment system but it would be impossible for me to be objective. So why don’t you guys go ahead and do that 🙂

 

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This is why Digg sucks

April 5, 2007 at 7:22 pm (offbeat)

I came across a story on digg today that was located at http://digg.com/offbeat_news/What_the_hell_is_Hillary_looking_at_2 . I thought hmm, thats weird, two stories with the same name cant be a coincidence. Sure enough, its the exact same story but the second time around it was much better because a top digg user submitted it.

http://digg.com/offbeat_news/What_the_hell_is_Hillary_looking_at_2
Submitted: 14 hours 14 min ago, made popular 3 hours 44 minutes ago by MrBabyMan

http://digg.com/offbeat_news/What_the_hell_is_Hillary_looking_at
Submitted:1 day 3 hours ago by clogger3030

Okay, so maybe it became popular because he put it in the right category, whereas the other guy didn’t? Nope, afraid not. Both are identical. Though, the story that became popular has a better description.

So lets take a look at who voted for MrBabyMan’s story at the start:

· skored

· johnfreeholdjohnfreehold

· gmark13gmark13

· PawfootsPawfoots

· mac26mac26

· jstohlerjstohler

· liza21liza21

· MythosMythos

· Hawker400Hawker400

· gta3mobstergta3mobster

· decepticratdecepticrat

· jekamtorjekamtor

· lienielienie

· mrad01mrad01

· rentovskirentovski

· MrBabyManMrBabyMan

What do I deduce from that dugg list? I don’t know because I didn’t look that far into it. I can bet you that they are all friends and all digg each others crap. Personally, I can’t fault the Digg team for not picking up the duplicate links. Theres only so much you can do. But I do fault the Digg team for their shitty promotion algorithm. There’s a couple things you can do here to alleviate this problem.

1.) Severely limit the impact of a friend vote for promotion. Perhaps even have it hurt promotion.

But then, even if you do limit it, people will see that the story got 25 votes in 5minutes, so may vote anyway.

2.) The real solution, eliminate friends.

A stranger who votes for your story does it because he/she likes the content. It is a purely unbiased vote that should count significantly more than a friend saying “vote for this!”. We want tech news where everyone has a fair shot to get their stuff dugg. Plain and simple. Best way to ensure that is to eliminate friends on the site.

As most of us already know, Digg is going in the opposite direction. They are developing a way to see stories of similar tastes by other users. In effect, making Digg more of a social site with friends where users can interact. Will this be good or bad for the site? Time will tell.

The Digg site at its current state is broke. So why spend the time on other new features that don’t relate to fixing the site’s core functionality? Where are true conversational threaded comments? Where is comment notification? Where is story promotion notification? Where is “Check if Link is Dead”? These things aren’t hard to code.

Speak up digg users.

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