Joel Johnson took over in the new year as editorial director at Gawker Media. His weekly review of the best (and worst) stories has been going out in email a few weeks now. It's now accessible to a wider audience, here on his Kinja blog.
Let's talk comments, community, collaboration, and Kinja.
We deployed Kinja 1.2 on Valleywag a week or so ago, including both the "Tiger" interface redesign and the "Group chats" update to comments. Our intentions were, if no bugs or interface confusions were identified, to roll out 1.2 to all the sites starting next week. (We also added the "Preview" links on all the sites, which I like quite a bit.)
We found some issues. That's a good thing! We should all be heartened that Nick and the product team listened to the feedback from editors and commenters alike and realized that 1.2 isn't fully baked. Expect the 1.2 rollout to be postponed at least a couple of weeks while UX (user experience) and a few lingering bugs are fixed.
We got more than just tech or design feedback on product.kinja.com. There were some philosophical questions from readers about what their role is in the future of Kinja, how they should expect to be treated, and what (if any) redress they have against bannings or perpetual "in the grey" status.
The ideal community would work like this: paid editors start conversations, either through curation of others' content (in and out of the Kinja ecosystem) or by original reporting. Users, given the same tools as the paid editors, expand on, fact-check, or challenge the content of paid editors and their fellow Kinja contributors.
So far as described, that's the dream of any user community on the web.
What Kinja aims to do is to identify and elevate the best user contributions, while effectively hiding the worst—automatically. It aims to facilitate discourse to discover the truth while discouraging trolling or any other impediment to real discussion. It aims to combine machine intelligence with natural social intelligence to short-circuit the subconscious primate need for dominance. Kinja aims to make having a bad conversation impossible.
This, obviously, is tricky.
One of the things that we, as paid editorial staff, now have to do is learn how to best shepherd communities towards that ideal. We have power, as people who get paid, that the user community does not. We have power as the dominant conversation starters with the largest access to the audience (through posting on our core sites' home pages) that inherently stack the deck in our favor, especially when coupled with Kinja's ability (available to all users, but practically only paid contributors at the moment) to ban or dismiss comments that challenge our positions.
We have to be really careful with that. We have to be overly generous. We have to be good hosts; even patient parents, who teach the ornery how to talk purty. And when we ban someone permanently, we have to be clear and fair why we brought down the hammer.
Maybe we could call a user's status page CheckYourPrivilege.Kinja.com.
I've got some ideas of how best to address this beyond temperament. I'd like to see some functionality added to Kinja that makes it clear why someone was banned, showing both their commenting history and the specific post for which took them over the line. (Not unlike Something Awful's forums, actually.) We need more transparency for everyone, as well as a way to communicate with flip or dumb commenters that won't elevate their conversation into the main stream of discussion. (It's a Catch 22 right now.) I may even set up a monthly opportunity for banned commenters to appeal their case. Perhaps to me.
But I'd also like to hear what you find the most challenging as writers and moderators of your own sites. Asking you to deal with commenters as part of your job descriptions is fair, but it's also fair for you all to expect that to be as pleasant and edifying as possible.
And lest you thought I spaced it, some of the more notable stories for the week:
BOB COSTAS RULES — I like this guy. I'd drink a beer under him.
A LOVELY HISTORY OF HOMOEROTICISM AND THE OLYMPICS — All sports are gay, and this explains why.
DRAGONLANCE SHOULD BE A MOVIE SERIES HECK YEAH — Sorry, nerd kid here.
IS GOLDIEBLOX DUMB? — It's such a good idea, these STEM toys, but this one is awfully pink.
SWAROVSKI CRYSTAL HEADSLIGHTS I'M LIKE WHAT — "Ban cars." —Max Read (RIP)
OLD DALLAS SPORTSCASTER PWNS THE HATERS — There are cool old men in Texas!
NITASHA CAPITALIZES ON THE IMAGE OF HOT ATHLETE ORGIES IN READERS' MINDS — Social fucking apps are apparently a thing (said grandpa, sighing).
CAITY x DEEN SPRING '14 COLLECTION — Consider the lobster, Caity. Caity, did you consider the lobster? Was this a lobster cruise, I'm asking? Caity?
BASICALLY KINJA BUT FOR POKÉMON — This is a really goofy nerdy thing, but image if you were all playing a video game collaboratively in Campfire, and that you all hated each other.
IS IT A PROBLEM IF HE EATS TRIPE? — The Hungarian Prime Minister's dinner gets a stern consideration.
And finally, a deep thought.
"Blogging has moved from being based around powerful main pages to being based around powerful pain mages."