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Ask Massively: Nick Burns edition


Today's Ask Massively letters come from David and Abionie, both of whom wrote us over the summer with comments about, well, our comments. This first one's from David:
I'm probably not the only one who is generally displeased with the state of trolls on the internet today. You know them: doomsayers, hatespreaders, the "HAHA company X is failing, finally!" types, the kind of people for whom the hatred of a video game or company has become more addictive than playing the game that company made. Unfortunately, the internet gives soapboxes to people who probably don't have much of a relationship with soap. I would like to see more moderation towards keeping an articles comments on the topic of the article. It's becoming tiring to open up an article talking about something I am interested in, only to fear scrolling down too far and inadvertently opening up the comments to see "FAIL GAME IS FAIL COPYING X GAME IS LAZY" and the many hundreds of comments like that.
We hear you, David, and not just about the soap. But also that.

Ever since AOL switched the Joystiq network to the Livefyre comment system in 2012, Massively's hits -- and our comments -- have exploded. This is great for our viability as a site, but unfortunately, it didn't come with a sack of money to pay someone to monitor every comment in every thread around the clock. (If a sack of money is forthcoming, I rescind my complaint.) Truth is, we just don't have a budget for that level of babysitting. Our budget goes toward journalism, and our moderation is done by our lead editors between their other work (which is why you'll see me and other writers dropping likes and notes and edits here and there). No excuses, just explanations for how it works behind the scenes.

What we do have is an informal system for checking the comments in situ and a formal system for patrolling comments that are flagged by users as being offensive or spammy or off-topic. In fact, we just started using a new version of this patrol system a few weeks ago, and it's so slick that it makes moderating comments almost fun. I say "almost" because it is, after all, still a list of the cruddiest crud people post in our comments, and while most of you will never have to read them, we still do, so if anyone is motivated to discourage rude comments in the first place, it's the staff, for all the sanity- and retention-related reasons you mention and more.

The system becomes wild and out of control in certain topics, however, when people are posting faster than we can read and reporting slows to a crawl because everyone's too busy getting in the last word to flag posts. That's when readers can help us the most. Use those report buttons when someone's breaking the rules. We really do look at every single thing that gets reported, even off-topic stuff, and a two-click report can often alert us to an entire thread that really could use a chop at the root. Is it your job? Nope. It's just something that helps us all keep the comments clean of the trolls who drive folks nuts and sour everyone on MMOs.

Abionie's email concerned itself less with commenters and more with the tech underlying our comments:

Every time I go read a post, I can never comment or read what others are say. The funny thing is I used to be able to see the comments no problem. Then one day it just stopped working. Sometimes it will start working, then few minutes or hours later won't work anymore. This goes for all browsers I use. It used to work great before, but when all the social media stuff came in, it got all weird.
Ask Massively Nick Burns editionThis is an old message by now, but it's a good example. Every time we get a message like this, the staff usually generates a flurry of mails. Does it work for you? It works for me. Fine in Chrome! What about Firefox? Yup FF is working. Anyone have an iPhone to test? LAWL iPhones! OK, yes iOS works too. And so on. It's not that we don't believe you; it's that we're out of tests to run, can't confirm or reproduce the problem, and don't have anything concrete to pass on to our tech team that won't result in a Nick Burns-esque retort.

If you bump into a problem with our comments or anything else, send us as detailed and substantial a tip as you can so that we can pass it along to the tech folks. They're generally very helpful and have even worked with readers before on weird isolated problems, like that time a reader claimed our site was delivering porn ads but he'd actually been infected with malware from another site (ouch!).

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 Just ask!

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