UPDATE: The survey was accidentally closed, but we’ve re-opened it. Please provide your responses here, as we’d like to hear from you.
I know this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned it, but I think having a comments section is a very mixed bag for us as a publication.
Some people love leaving comments and getting into very, ah…animated discussions.
Far more of our readers never leave a comment at all, though we really don’t know how many of them “lurk” – read without posting.
To give you an idea, yesterday (May 7th, 2018) 1P5 had 22,408 pageviews. From those visitors, we received 115 comments and 163 votes (when you up or down-arrow a comment, that’s a “vote”.)
For my part, I stopped having the time to peruse the hundreds of comments a day — many of them nearly as long as a post themselves — a long time ago. I’ve asked volunteer moderators I know and trust to step in and help out, and they do so when they can. Many of them take a lot of heat for it. (There’s one person, in fact, who sends strange letters and post cards by mail that single out one of our comment moderators for criticism and abuse.) It’s a thankless job.
What this means is that many offensive comments go unmoderated. Arguments between commenters spiral out of control. There’s a near constant background noise of bickering that goes on on almost every article we post. I know, because every single comment that comes in sends an email to my inbox. (There are currently 105,098 comments on the site going back over 4 years, so…you get the picture.)
Yesterday, without even giving it much thought, I turned off the comments on future articles. Mostly, I just wanted to test it out to see if it would work, but since I hadn’t published anything later in the evening, I completely forgot I had changed the setting. Today, I heard from some people about how our article on Communion in the Hand had no commenting available. So I decided to address this issue by reaching out to all of you. (For the moment, comments will stay off.)
I’m not a huge fan of our comment boxes. I’ll say that outright. I worry that for new people coming to look at the site, or one-time readers who may be linking in for some reason or other, they are not exactly an example of us putting our best foot forward. We have regular arguments over our comment policy. When we are forced to ban people for violating that policy, we get very huffy and indignant emails. The sheer volume of comments clogs up my inbox.
BUT — and this is a big “but” — I know that for many of you, comments are extremely important. They give you a place to work this stuff out, they keep you coming back to the site, they help you (through the related content links) to find other articles you may have missed, and so on.
I am actively working on the next site design for 1P5. While the current look is simple, clean, and attractive in many respects, it has also left many people wondering how to find older content, where they can search for articles, and so on. It has also limited our ability to offer advertising slots to good Catholic companies, which is a disservice to all of us.
As I am working through the process of considering how to organize our content going forward, comments are something that we really need to address. I ask that you please take the time to answer questions on this brief survey to help me make an informed decision on this critical piece of the puzzle.
There is a possibility, by the way, that if we shut off comments we can move the discussion elsewhere – to a Facebook group, to a forum somewhere on the website, etc. There’s a question in the survey about that, so give it some thought.