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Hanging out in the virtual peanut gallery

December 16, 2013

group discussion

Photo: Michael Coghlan (CC)

Most of us don’t have big comment communities, and likely never will. That’s OK: They can be troublesome to manage and rife with infighting, spam and nastiness.

But, oh, how fun they are when they work.

I look at content for info or entertainment. But I study the comments for genuine laughs and opinions. My favorite comment communities allow users to display their wit and have deeper discussions, while self-policing for trolls and spambots.

For example, Gawker and its sister sites trade in provocative posts. What’s great about looking at a post on io9 or Jezebel is seeing how the regulars will respond.

And fortunately, they can respond with text, GIFs and videos in threaded comments. They can give points to their favorite comments.

I like to think I’m a comedy snob, but really, a clever screen name is enough for me. The responses on this post, “Oklahoma Legislature Opens Door to Satanic Monument on Capitol Grounds,” are fairly typical.

Another place I’ll spend time reading and laughing is the A.V. Club, the Onion’s pop culture site. Specifically, the robust TV Club section.

The A.V. Club recently switched to the Disqus commenting system, which apparently has caused some dissension among the ranks. The current settings don’t allow any embedded media, just up votes and down votes. Disqus allows readers to sort comments by date or by up votes, but I rarely switch it up.

The site not only keeps track of active TV shows, but also classics. I enjoy popping in for the occasional retro-review of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” but what I really love are the capsules from Rappin’ Jake Sisko. Take in the poetry from this recent analysis of DS9 episode, “Inquisition.”

My final example is an old standby, What’s Alan Watching? on HitFix, another TV blog. Critic Alan Sepinwall posts news items and reviews almost daily. I’ve long admired his simple comment policy which keeps life easier for blog writer and blog readers.

I enjoy reading viewers’ reactions to the latest episodes of my favorite shows, so I’ll stop by daily to see what comments pop up. They always see things I miss, or, at the very least, run through my favorite quotes. HitFix recently added the Like button to comments, but no sorting or no embedding allowed.

Check out the discussion below Sepinwall’s latest review of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

Vibrant online communities make good blogs great. Even if the posts are mediocre, the comments keep me coming back. I’m content to read and laugh along, rarely putting in my own 2 cents.

Make it easy for readers to leave comments and interact not only with you but also each other. Give them room to play, and watch how they help your site flourish.

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