Ask Massively: You get a gold star

re Firefly Online
Since the introduction of the new "featured comments" highlighting in Massively comments section, several community members have inquired about how it works, who selects the comments, and what the point is other than to give seemingly random people a mild internet ego boost. These are excellent questions whose answers do affect our community, and I posed several of them myself in a meeting with a Livefyre rep just a few weeks ago. Let's talk about how it all works in today's Ask Massively and create a convenient link to add to our growing site FAQ.

Who selects what's featured?

The lead editors of Massively, the ones flagged "moderator" in the comments. Also several Joystiq editors and tech folks, who will probably never use said powers. Contrary to a few claims I read, Massively's regular writing staff does not have moderator or featuring powers; our contributing editors and columnists have the same commenting and reporting features as everyone else. [Update March 2014: We have changed this policy; some of our regular writing staff now have moderating powers. This was implemented as a result of budget cuts and staff reductions and our desire to continue fair and consistent moderation and avoid toxic comments. All staffers with such powers will be flagged visibly as moderators in the comments. Only our two lead editors retain ban authority, however.]

Why are there only two features per post?

I assume because more than two would be overkill, especially if they are long. We can feature more than two, but only the first two will display above the comments.

What's the intention of features?

Livefyre intends the system to help site-runners set the tone for comment sections. You know how when you go to most forums, people often respond only to the couple of posts at the very top? And when those posts at the top are nasty and flamey and hostile, people respond in kind? The idea here is to ensure that the posts at the top are good posts to encourage our fans and frenemies to respond thoughtfully rather than sink to new lows in attacking each other. Do we have to do it that way? Nope, not at all, but it's sensible, and I know you guys are capable of amazingly positive and helpful threads when inspired, so why reinvent the wheel?

How do you decide what to feature?

We're looking for smart, well-written, hilarious, detailed, or inspirational comments in major articles (not every article will wind up with highlighted comments). Those that offer a different perspective, flesh out information about the original article, or inject some much-needed humor into a bitter controversy are even better. They need not necessarily agree with opinions presented in an editorial -- even we will rebut our own articles from time to time, after all -- but whenever we do promote an opposing view, it will always be well-argued and without flame. To do otherwise would be counterproductive. Repeatedly spamming our comment sections with off-topic demands that we promote things you like or undermine our own writers is a good way to be bozo'ed.

Why don't you just feature things with lots of likes?

The "like" system is already little more than a popularity contest that is relatively easy to corrupt and sockpuppet, and there's no point to running two such contests per thread. More importantly, posts with lots of "likes" aren't necessarily the best or most constructive posts in the thread, especially when external communities have parachuted in to distort or derail the conversation. And since posts go on getting "likes" long after the ideal window for featuring has closed, we'd have people complaining to us that a featured post has 12 likes when some other post has 13. Seriously, someone would do this, and I'm not wasting our staff's time counting "likes" all day.

Is there ever going to be a "dislike" button?

I am told no. Long-time Massively commenters will remember how horribly a similar up/down voting scheme was abused years back under our old comment system. Livefyre's purpose is to encourage discussion, not silent voting, and I'm not sure I'd turn it on if we could anyway. Unpopularity contests are equally dumb; no one learns anything from a pile-on. If something is worthy of a "dislike," post and say so -- and preferably, say why. Just please don't break the rules because having to moderate rulebreakers is a waste of your time and ours.

What should you play? Where is the MMO industry headed? How does Massively operate? Has Lord British lost his marbles? Why is the edit button on a timer? Should "monoclegate" be hyphenated? Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce submits to your interrogations right here in Ask Massively every other Thursday. Drop your questions in the comments below or ping us at ask@massively.com. Just ask!
This article was originally published on Massively.