A few months back, we rolled out a new comments system. This was, in the words of Douglas Adams, widely regarded as a bad decision.
But hey, every time we've changed commenting systems there's been a strong reaction. The negative response wasn't a surprise. There are bound to be some bumps in the road with any project that affects user engagement, but we knew we were creating a bigger and better way for readers to interact on Engadget.
Recently, we've realized a few things: The first being that much like the work your contractor is doing on the kitchen, this grand plan is going to take longer than initially expected. And second (but more importantly), the comments have largely stopped fostering intelligent, informative conversations.
Now, clearly, not every comment or commenter is the same. But we've increasingly found ourselves turning off comments on stories that discuss topics of harassment, gender or race simply because so many of the replies are hateful, even threatening. Articles that mention Apple deteriorate into arguments of iOS vs Android, replete with grade-school name calling. Articles that don't make mention of Samsung often include comments claiming that we are shills for Apple. Some commenters plain attack our writers or editors or other commenters. Some are outright threats. And that's not even getting into the spam problem.
The thing is, we like having a comments section. It gives our readers a place to share their experiences, point out mistakes we've made, offer up different perspectives and provide more information. Our comments section can be an incredible place to visit, and we value that our readers take the time out of their day (often repeatedly) to participate. But we can't take pride in a comment system that isn't offering you the features you need to participate; that runs amok with racist, sexist or homophobic slurs and threats; or that takes joy in in-fighting and provoking fights.
A quality comments section should make it easy for users to contribute. A good comments section has users who feel a sense of duty and kinship, who act as a community. An exceptional comments section informs its readers, corrects authors and provides worthwhile insights in a polite and constructive manner.
This is not, by and large, what is happening in our comments section today. In order to reassess and push forward with a better system, we're going to take a comment break. For the next seven days, none of the articles on Engadget will have an open comments section.
If we're spending the majority of our days moderating comments, zapping spam and slaying trolls, we're not spending that time improving the section for you. We want to make sure that our readers are getting the very best experience in our community. A week-long breather will give us the time to refocus our efforts.
We know there will be a lot of feelings about this, so let me try to anticipate some of your comments and questions:
Is this just censorship?
No -- and no for a few reasons. One, we are not attempting to restrict your speech; you'll still be able to comment via Facebook or Twitter, or share your deeper thoughts on Public Access. And two, this is our house. You can think of the comments section as a party we're throwing in our own living room. When our guests start flipping over tables, spitting on the floor and insulting the guests, the party's over.
You're just doing this because because we disagree with you.
Again, no. We have zero issue with disagreements. It's 100% okay with us if you disagree with our opinions or want to point out something we've overlooked or think there's bias in an article. We rely on our commenters and community to holler if they see something amiss. There's really no point in a comments section where everyone agrees. But we are 100% not okay with is insulting, demeaning, disrespectful, harassing or threatening behavior.
In the meantime, comments are open on our Facebook posts, and stories can always be shared on Twitter or via our tumblr page. If you see something that needs to be corrected, you can let us know here. If you have a tip for us please use firstname.lastname@example.org.