It's been a bad week for web trolls. On Monday, Gawker Media's Nick Denton revealed changes to the site's Kinja commenting system that will allow "intelligent discussion to take place more easily," he told GigaOM. On Tuesday, YouTube announced a new strategy to promote relevant, quality comments, by connecting them to users' Google+ profiles. And that same day, Popular Science explained that it would be shutting down comments on its website completely, due to research that suggests negative responses change a reader's perception of the whole article.
Comments sections are famously terrible places, which has long inspired a debate on whether sites should moderate or eliminate comments. According to Claire Rasmussen, co-president and content strategist at The Nerdery, businesses should be thoughtful about whether to enable comments in the first place.
"It's always worthwhile for an organization to think about why they want to have comments, what the purpose is, what business goals it helps to accomplish and what value it provides to users," she says.
If you don't have the resources to properly monitor conversations, or you don't think that customers or readers will actively participate, it may not be the right choice for your company. "A mistake a lot of organizations make is saying, 'Okay, we've enabled comments. Now we're done.' There's a major pitfall if there's no participation," says Rasmussen.
You also have to consider whether "you have the staff resources to actually manage the comments and respond to positive comments," she says. If something requires a response from the company, it's important to have someone aware and available, or else it may tarnish your brand.
Rasmussen notes that similar concerns apply to e-commerce sites, as just a few negative reviews can affect product perception. In any situation where feedback or discussion is enabled, it's important to dedicate the company resources needed to monitor it and respond.
In the case of Popular Science dropping comments altogether, Rasmussen says, "Moderation might not have been affordable. I’m guessing they took into account the kind of resources they have available. You have to weigh the cost and reward."
What do you think about comment sections? Let us know ... in the comment section below, naturally.