The New York Times announced some significant changes to its commenting system last week as it began offering internet readers the chance to earn “trusted commenter” status. Under the current system all comments to the newspaper’s online articles are moderated, and must be reviewed before they are posted. The best of the sites regular commenters will receive invitations to receive trusted commenter status, which will allow their comments to bypass moderation and be posted to the site immediately.
In addition to the statement outlining the changes, a fuller description of the process of becoming a trusted commenter was also provided. Requirements for the program include “a lengthy history of comments that are thoughtful, discuss the issues politely and address the topics covered in the article or blog post.” Those who receive invitations must also connect their NYT commenting proflie to their Facebook accounts in order to verify their name and location. Also, as one might expect, the Times reserves the right to revoke users’ trusted commenter status if it sees fit.
Other changes were announced as well, though they are somewhat more minor. Comments will now be on the same page as the article they are associated with, and commenters will have the ability to respond to one another in threaded form. Social media sharing options have also been added to comments.
Though the reaction to these changes has been generally positive, not all users are happy. The largest sticking point is Facebook integration. Several users - some of them already with the “trusted commenter” moniker - expressed their displeasure in the comments section of the NYT announcement.
One user commented yesterday afternoon that “NYT personnel should not be placed in a position to filter... screen comments,” apparently forgetting that comments to the site have always been subject to moderation anyway. Another user complains that privileging the comments of those with “trusted” status “will... reduce the quality and range of comments that you receive.” Yet another user responded with what has become the battle cry of disgruntled users after any website changes its format: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Twitter reactions were a bit more even-keeled. Some expressed concern over the required Facebook integration,
While others were enthusiastic about the idea.
Though the backlash seems extreme, it is likely another example of users’ frustration with changes to any site they use, much like the reactions that were everywhere on Facebook after its most recent redesign. Despite some users’ threats to take their ball and go home, it seems likely that most aspects of the redesign - including the “trusted commenter” program - will ultimately prove beneficial.
What do you think? Will offering trusted commenter status cut down on trolling? Should Facebook integration be required? Let us know in the comments.