Noozhawk will be switching our reader comments platform next week, and I wanted to give you advance warning about the change, as well as some insight into our reasoning.
Earlier this year, we began experimenting with Disqus, a relatively new platform to handle story comments. We added it to our Business, Nonprofits and Obituaries sections, and have been pleased with what we’ve seen. On Oct. 28, we’ll be expanding it to the rest of Noozhawk.
Pronounced “discuss,” the progam should lead to more interaction among our readers, who can reply to individual comments and even track other commenters throughout the Disqus universe. You’re able to vote up or vote down comments from fellow readers. And — not that this would ever be needed on Noozhawk — you can flag comments as “inappropriate” if you find them offensive.
The fast-growing, third-party program allows readers to sign in using various social-media accounts, including Facebook, Google, OpenID, Twitter or Yahoo. If you don’t have one of these accounts, or choose not to use one, you can register directly with Disqus and comment away.
What you no longer will need to do, however, is register with Noozhawk, or use your Noozhawk login. Disqus will be handling that for us as of next week. Although Noozhawk logins will be scrubbed from our database, previous story comments will be retained under their original screen names. The related notification feature may be a casualty, however.
Noozhawk runs on the ExpressionEngine content-management system, a very powerful publishing platform. One of its features has been both a blessing and a curse, and that’s the system’s insistence — for legitimate reasons — that each registered email address can only be assigned to a single user name and member group. Because some of our users also need access to special features customized for our very large nonprofit community, we were encountering far too many who had registered to comment but then were blocked from posting on the nonprofit side.
After assessing our options over the last several months, we realized Disqus was an easy solution to the commenting conundrum. As I mentioned, it goes live Oct. 28.
Meanwhile, please permit me to make a couple of points about story comments in general.
One of the Internet’s greatest advantages for journalists and readers is as a tool for interaction, and Noozhawk is uniquely positioned at that digital nexus. Although many of our readers communicate with us directly by email, Facebook and Twitter, they also use our comments section to add details and perspectives to our stories. We appreciate that and encourage it.
Other readers engage in vigorous, sometimes sharp-elbowed debates with fellow commenters, especially when politics are involved. We support that, too.
But, as I’ve heard my old friend, Bob DeLaurentis, say many times, “About 10 percent of users treat the Internet like a bathroom wall.” Bob may be underestimating the figure but the observation is dead-on, and I regret to say that Noozhawk is sometimes victimized by those of that ilk. While we generally take a libertarian view of free speech, just because you have the freedom to say whatever you please, doesn’t mean that you should.
Story comments are important to Noozhawk, but it may behoove the casual reader to remember that they often are instantaneous reactions to what was just read. Don’t confuse them with old-school letters to the editor, which usually involved some forethought while you dragged out the typewriter and sent off your comments by snail mail.
We hope you’ll actively participate in discussions about Noozhawk’s stories, and we think the Disqus platform will make it easier for all of us. If not … leave a comment.