It’s decided. As Stuart noted one of the super features we are beginning to develop is comment structures. 

This week Stuart and I are designing a question and answer structure for comments. We decided to tackle this structure first because it has come up so often in our class discussions that we had to take a longer look. Whatever we come up with by Friday will then be passed off to Brian and Ryan, our programmers, who will build the system next week.





We will likely be designing three additional structures throughout the next few weeks. We have a lot of great, innovative ideas for different comment structures – and that is the problem. An argument could be made for any of these ideas, so what we really need is feedback.

Here are the comment structures up for consideration:

Letters to the Editor (much like the model)

Users would write a headline and more formal letter-style comment. Could include an option for editors to highlight the best letters to feature prominently on the website or in the print product. 






This comment structure is designed for people who don’t have a lot of time. One to three questions at the end of the story, users submit their votes and see results. 


 the brownhorse/flickr

the brownhorse/flickr



Quick votes by users. Giving stars, thumbs up/down, or points to comments. The top rated could be displayed prominently. Users could also choose to display only those comments with a rating of 3 stars or higher.

Moderated by user (much like the Slashdot model

Users post comments. Other users (or users with special moderating privileges) give points to those comments they deem interesting, intelligent, etc. Users can choose to only display comments with X number of points, or “interesting” ratings. 

Short format (much like Twitter)

Users are only allowed 200 characters to make their comment.

Opinion disappears

In an effort to foster intelligent discussion, not based on opinion rants, this structure makes comments containing unsubstantiated opinion disappear in a shorter amount of time than other comments, such as anything supported by a citation or reference and questions. 


Waffle Whiffer/Flickr

Waffle Whiffer/Flickr


Mad Libs

Users leave comments in this format: “I feel _________ about _________________.” Could feature a drop down menu of choices. 


Allows users to make a comment or site an additional source at a specific point in the article. 

One-click comments

Users click buttons at the end of the story with general statements about how they feel about an article. Examples: “This story frustrates me,” “This article offends me,” “This is awesome,” and “This is well-researched.”


Allows users to choose the format in which they leave comments. Could include replying via video and/or audio. 

Live chat

Registered users can see other users who are logged into the site and begin a live conversation with them about a particular story. This comment would be visible to the public and displayed on the side of the article. Other users could jump into the conversation at any point. 

We want your comments on every blog post, but we especially NEED your comments on this post. What’s interesting to you? What are your top three? Why? Are there any models/ideas out there that we missed?

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9 comments until now

  1. Aron Pilhofer

    I’m a fan of slashdot-style comments, for what it’s worth.

    Unrelated question though: I’ve read a lot about features and personas and such, but I have not seen your one-sentence synopsis (ala. Getting Real) of what this application actually is. Maybe I missed it.

  2. Top Four:

    1. Mad Libs
    2. Slashdot model
    3. model
    4. *Required* citation/annotation/ibid

    Bonus unsubstantiated opinion:

    Ryan Mark should run for president because he has outstanding hair.

    this clip says it all:

    Ridiculous? Yes. But it’s funny watching people fall on their face.

  3. Hey — good summary of options. I responded to your ideas over at my blog, which will be merging into the new Nieman Journalism Lab site next week.

  4. […] response to Kayla’s post the other day, we were called out for not getting real enough. Aron’s right. In the rush to start building, we got ahead of ourselves. Team Crunchberry […]

  5. I, too, think this is a good summary of options. Here are some of my thoughts.

    I would be very interested to see an experiment that limits the amount characters in providing feedback on such things as articles.

    I think rewarding good comments, as stated by Josh, would be a very positive way to keep the conversation at a higher level. That would help weed out some of the noise.

    I think, absolutely, that the users should be the moderators, but I also think there has to be some interaction with writers, editors and so on that can add to the discussion. Too many times, they are afraid to join.

    I never really thought of structuring comments as data, but it makes sense. It is content, and sometimes it can be very valuable.

    Those are my top four or five. Good work, and good luck. I can’t wait to see what comes out of this.

  6. My top three are rating, user moderated and free format. I’m not sure the slashdot idea will work, but it’s one of the better ones. What about threaded comments? Is that on the radar, as well?
    And I’m with Jason, reporters, editors and etc. here need to get involved with the comments we’re already getting, as well.

  7. […] Medill grad students at the Crunchberry Project have a good post examining the various ways of getting comments from readers. Interestingly (and smartly), they […]

  8. Personally, I like Disqus.

  9. […] am thinking of structure more in terms of a specific task than more data, though I agree with the Northwestern students that less anonymity for commenters results in […]

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