The answer: yes we did. Well, we hope so, anyway.
As design and development for our final product wind down, we have begun to pool all of our thoughts and ideas from the past two months, and are preparing to assemble them for our final report and presentation.
Although we aren’t sure if/how our final product will incorporate the three commenting structures we have come up with (Q&A, short form, and letters to the editor), we chose them them as the most effective means of communication between people on the Internet. That clearly doesn’t mean they are the only medium for discussion.
Here are a couple of others we considered, but didn’t make the cut:
Live chat: In our consumer research and readings, we discovered that ease of use is one of the most important barriers to participation. A chat room is one of the simplest means of communication on the Internet, and provides instant gratification to the user, who sees his or her comment appear immediately in the dialogue box above the entry form.
At any given time, thousands of people are congregating in chat rooms across the Web, oftentimes communicating with one another from around the world. Some people are genuinely interested in meeting others to have a conversation regarding a chat room topic. Others are interested in disrupting the conversation with foul language, spam, and marketing.
Nonetheless, by giving your readership this application, articles will garner more interest, and people will generally spend more time on your site. However, to be an effective medium, a staff member would likely need to moderate and guide discussion in the chat rooms. The creation of profanity filters and anti-spamming solutions would only curb the misuse of chat rooms – not cure it.
These inefficiencies, and a desire to pursue other commenting structures, led us to exclude chat rooms from development.
Polling: One of the simplest forms of aggregating community feedback, the poll has been a mainstay in evaluating the overall feeling about a topic in a finite, numerical form.
Because of the simplicity of polls, many media organizations feature them on their site. As was mentioned previously, one of the biggest barriers to online participation is ease of use. Polls transcend ease of use. With the quick click of a radio button, people instantly receive their community’s reaction to a relevant topic.
Although there are many positives to polling, there are just as many drawbacks to its use. Our first – and biggest – concern was that polls do not lend themselves to being creative. Poll questions are created by the editorial staff, and the answers are generally dictated by the same person who creates the poll.
Apart from the creative constraints of polling, we decided that the structure as a whole was not terribly innovative, and audiences could have a more effective means of conversation using the different applications we designed and developed.
Interested in reading more about our reasoning? Stay tuned for our final report!