Don’t make me work for content.
Gawker Media is in the midsts of yet another redesign, this time updating their commenting system. The first change is the removal of the starred commenter/unapproved commenter system. I had a star on the site before, but I do agree that the system had its place and that not everything (or even most things) I’ve posted there deserved the additional prominence that the gold star ranking gave. iO9 went as far as to give all commenters stars in order to avoid commenter ranking.
The second, and more important change is the form the comment section has taken. Previous to the redesign, the commenting system was linear, in that all responses had no distiguishing elements such as padding or color to determine which response was to a particular post. Rather, replies were designated with an @username system. One would think that Gawker would opt for the rather popular threaded commenting system found on sites like Reddit, or on commenting APIs like Facebook Comments or Disqus (which is used on this site) as a simple means of designating comments as replies. Instead, the new gawker commenting system is a hybrid approach. Replies are indicated by user icon, but one now must toggle between replies in order to view a new commenting tree. This means that if there is a single comment with three replies, there are as a result three comment trees which have been spawned. This is an issue which compounds onto itself as further compounds splinter the discussion further.
In effect, the new gawker commenting system does more to inhibit conversation than it does to promote it. I personally can’t be bothered to see if a response similar to mine has already been posted if it means having to click through endless comment trees. I can only imagine how difficult this will be once a major story such as an iPhone announcement comes across the wires and the comments come flooding in.
A solution is rather simple. Replace the new commenting system with a threaded commenting system. I am not saying that threaded commenting systems are without fault, they are limited by space, however I think that a simple ‘continue thread’ button when the width limits have been reached would be far preferable to clicking icons for every alternative comment.