Comment registration or something like it
When we allowed comments, people told me that leaving them open for anyone was a recipe for disaster, that eventually the level of noise would drown out intelligent discussion. I disagreed.
At first, I was right. Comments rocked.
Then for a long time comments were okay. In general, the first batch was okay and then the quality declined quickly. Some comment threads ran long and excellent, others short and brutally bad.
Today, I grant those who cautioned me against this that they were eventually right. Our growth has outpaced our ability to police the comments and try and keep them worth reading. We simply don’t have time or people.
In addition, the strain that comments and many people hitting reload over and over puts on our little server, compared to the value they add, makes this choice a lot easier: would the 90% of users who come to USSM and read the articles prefer to see a database error during peak hours but get the comments, or more consistently get a page served to them without comments?
Further, from our emails and talking to readers in person, there seem to be many people besides us who have been dismayed with the decline in comment quality. And at USSM, we’re all about customer service. Well, not really, but you know what we mean.
It’s a testament to the quality of our readership that comments were able to hold out this long: as you’re well-aware, other sites have seen their discussions descend into nightmarish pits of insults and ignorance and never recovered. This won’t happen here.
I hope (and believe) that this won’t be the destruction of the user community and, if anything, should strengthen it even as it makes it slightly harder to stop by and post: it will stop entirely impersonation posts, for instance, which you probably haven’t seen because that’s pretty much an instant site ban once I figure them out. But I’m getting off the point.
Right now, registration’s required to comment, and registration’s closed until we can figure out the best way to proceed with that. The outage should be pretty short.
We may not end up going to registration, I should note. I don’t know what happens yet. We’re acknowledging that the current state of things is not sustainable, and something’s going to change.
Comments, questions, requests for articles, as always, are welcome.