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More thoughts the Facebook comment system

By Scott Tibbs, May 10, 2017

After four months of Facebook as the system to leave comments on Herald-Times articles, I have a few additional thoughts on the switch.

One annoyance is that you cannot see your own comment history. That was a nice feature in previous versions of HTO comments, but is not possible now. Technically, comments should show up in your "activity log" on Facebook, but my experience is that they usually do not. Unless you remember which threads you commented on, there is no way to track a discussion without manually saving a link. (Although Facebook helpfully provides notifications when someone likes your comments or replies to one of them.)

Probably the biggest flaw is it removes the ability of all H-T subscribers to comment. Not all H-T subscribers have Facebook accounts, and some subscribers I know personally are actively opposed to having a Facebook account. Therefore, a feature that they paid for monthly for a decade (comments launched in 2007) is now disabled unless they sign up for a new service. Meanwhile, non-subscribers can comment.

It seems that moderation is not as strict as it once was, but comments generally have been more civil since the new comment system was implemented. That could be a flaw in the system, or it could be the moderators themselves, but some comments that clearly should have been removed (such as defamatory accusations of felony criminal activity) have not been removed and probably would have been a year ago.

Some have criticized the system because there are significantly fewer comments than before. That is definitely true, but I do not necessarily think the comment system is to blame. I have seen Facebook comment sections (usually on Facebook pages) with hundreds upon hundreds of comments. People generally are clearly willing to comment using Facebook. I think the best measure of comments will be a year from now, once people have gotten used to the idea of using Facebook for comments.

The primary reason for the switch was to mandate the use of real names for comments. I applaud the decision to eliminate anonymity and I have been calling for that change for years, but it was not necessary to completely change the comments system to do that. A rule change would have done the job.

Flaws aside, the comment system is working well, though the comment system used from 2007 to 2013 was a far better system than the platforms that followed. It is too bad that Old HTO is gone forever.