About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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« I Read the News Today—Oh Boy | Main | Not-So-Nutty Professor »

March 01, 2008



Good points, Mark.

A few critiques of the system you've implemented:
- There's no way to see all of the comments by one person. If you're focused on community building and unique identity, it'd be useful to click on a comment you like/hate and see what that person has had to say on other stories. Link those comments back to the other stories and you've got a recirculation generator.

- It seems a bit heavy handed to require people to sign in to report abuse. You're dramatically limiting the pool of people who can help you police.

The biggest issues with comments I see (not just the Philly.com implementation) is that the conversation dies based on the news cycle.

Would love to see someone develop a topic oriented discussion that layers in related news stories instead of just having threads on each story.

Mark Potts

Thanks, Rocky. We'll be adding the ability to see all of a member's posts in a future implementation. I think that's an important element as well. We just couldn't get it done for this round!

Rich Gordon

Nice work, Mark (and team).

For more best practices on managing online comments successfully, check out (disclosure: I wrote this report):


For what it's worth, I did not make the decision to release it in PDF form, in 3 separate sections ...

Rich Gordon

Angela Connor

Mark: I believe in moderation, and I believe in moderating every.single.comment. I don't find it to be a resource hog but I certainly see how you perceive it that way. I did too, until I hired part-time moderators. I manage a team of them and yest, their job is to moderate all comments. It is also important that they do it in a timely matter so as not to stifle the conversation. I think the idea of the community policing itself is a theory. Does it happen in some places? Yes. But news sites are inherently different and we have a unique set of issues that Linux or AOL or slashdot do not have. We have a brand that means something in the communities we serve and that's important. Hillary Schneider of Yahoo spoke valiantly about self-correction at ONA last year and how they were able to convince Pontiac to allow comments on a microsite becasue of this. Well, it does not work that way on news stories, and if and when it does it takes too long to come to pass. My goal here is not to hijack your blog so I will stop here. We've been there--choosing only certain stories for moderation and that was okay to a certain extent but it's been better since we opened them all. We know what to expect and some days are killer for the moderators. But you know, we are writing the rules along the way. And maybe that's what the newspaper industry finds stifling. Creating the tules as you go, as opposed to having set rules to follow from the beginning.

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