Please do not feed the trolls… well, maybe just a little

TechCrunch recently rolled out a new commenting system in an effort to reduce ‘trolling’ on their blog. How’s it working out?

You are reading: Please do not feed the trolls… well, maybe just a little

Trolls, in general do not provoke positive emotion – unless you are perhaps an ogre. Or a dragon.

Please note that in this post we are not referring to trolls in the ugly, malicious, cave dwelling bearded monster sense (well, maybe in some cases), but to trolls of the internet kind.

By Wikipedia definition, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. You know the sort.

TechCrunch recently rolled out a new commenting system in an effort to reduce ‘trolling’ and the anonymous comments they receive on their blog.

The popular tech blog is trialling Facebook comments as an alternative to its usual comment system – Disqus. A recent post by TC shared some points as to why Facebook was the comment system of choice;

  • Real names and identities greatly reduces the number of trolls and anonymous cowards in comments
  • Social virality boosts traffic by creating a feedback loop between Facebook and participating sites.  Friends pull in their friends, creating a social entry point to your site
  • Automatic sign-in if you already signed into Facebook elsewhere, lowers the barriers to commenting
  • Most “liked” comments get voted to the top.  It also knows who your friends are, so you will see those comments first

Of course, there are also cons;

  • No support for Twitter or Google IDs, which leaves out the other half of the social Web
  • No backups and other lock-ins will make it hard for sites to leave
  • If you work somewhere that blocks Facebook, you are out of luck
  • Your friends might be surprised to find their replies in your Facebook News stream reproduced on another site’s comments.  Expect a backlash
  • Moderation bugs, no view counts at the top of posts or ways to highlight site owners/writers in comments

So how’s it working out?

A blog posted by TC yesterday suggested so, “is the system actually working? Well, yes — the real question is: is it working too well?”

Previously, the blog received hundreds of comments on every post, but generally more than half of these were useless.

With the new Facebook system, as you would expect, the overall number of comments has fallen dramatically. However, the quality has generally improved.

In fact, TC claim that the once trollish garbage that used to infest the comment section has been replaced with quite the opposite. Many people are now leaving comments that “gush about the subject of the article in an overly sycophantic way”.

Evidently the TC community has some mixed opinions about Facebook comments;

One reader expressed; “I like it. There’s no good reason to want to be anonymous when expressing an opinion – which in itself is only really valid in the context of the person making it.”

Another said, “I surely like removing the trolls, but I’ll be leaving much fewer comments now, since I don’t want people investigating my personal life because of a controversial comment I left on TechCrunch.”

There lies both the problem and the solution.

By essentially banning all anonymous comments, you are segregating a huge amount of readers and potential ‘commenters’. After all, not all anonymous posters are trolls and let’s not forget that not everyone has a Facebook account.

Yes, being required to post with Facebook reduces trolling but it also excludes anyone who has the slightest sense of privacy.

It’ll be interesting to see how long TC stick with the Facebook commenting system.

What do you think? Are you a TechCrunch reader? Good move or bad move?

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