This post is from Stephanie Ogilvie, dayside delivery editor and leader of the engagement team for the redesign of roanoke.com.
One of the big questions we’ve been tackling at the start of our website redesign is commenting, which is part of our bigger company discussion about engagement in general.
When our engagement team gets together to address the commenting issue, we keep hearing similar metaphors: That we liken our role to that of a dinner party host. And we aim to provide a cordial, safe place to chat, like a front porch.
We want to offer a forum to readers — and to allow anonymous comments, as we do now — but still moderate for civility. We’re also considering including comments from your Facebook and Twitter accounts, where you’re already talking to your friends.
Besides the conversations happening on our numerous blogs, we’re looking at different ways to incorporate your voice — and to host conversations about what’s going on across our valleys.
We’ve done that in the past, using the technology that was around at the time — Remember our Forums section? — but we’d like to take advantage of what’s around now, and create the kind of space that best accomplishes the “front porch” feel.
That doesn’t have to mean comments at the bottom of every story. Perhaps we should consider an open, daily forum for discussion that might be organized by topic or story? Similar to The Atlantic’s Open Wire or the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Vent, suggested previously on this blog.
These days, most of the discussion on our site happens on our blogs, where communities have formed around everything from the nuances of weather to shopping for the best deals around town to anything and everything about Virginia Tech football. Comments are moderated by individual bloggers, and folks in each of those communities have, more than once, told us they like the idea of chatting with each other in a place that feels congenial and respectful and rich with ideas — even when they find themselves disagreeing with each other. Another bonus: Folks don’t have to log in to comment.
It hasn’t always been that way.
You might recall that, a few years ago, we tried out a forums tool that allowed readers to respond to a question or discussion topic unfettered, without moderation or flagging by other users, and despite our best efforts, it didn’t gain much traction. Registration was required to add your two cents. It could get a little unwieldy or confusing at times. On its best days, though, it gave our readers a space to discuss and debate and connect with each other over the most pressing issues in our communities. Some folks loved it and used it all the time, most stopped by to check it out and didn’t come back — and some bots loved to troll it.
But that’s why we’re trying this again — fresh — with our redesigned site.
And we’d love some input as we continue our discussions. Here are some questions to get you started:
1. What do you like/not like on other websites that allow comments?
2. If given the choice, would you post anonymous comments? Or use your Facebook/Twitter account to share your thoughts? Why?
3. What other ways would you like to engage with us? For example, would you participate in live chats with reporters/editors/photographers on particular stories? Any other ideas?