Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Disappearing" reader comments on our website

A reader today questioned in a Web comment whether the Freeman had removed reader comments from a story overnight.

"Last night when I read this story there were already 6 comments. This morning there are none, where did the comments go? What are you doing Freeman, editing the public response as well as your own stories?"

The answer is no, in most cases, we don't edit the public, with the exception of approving all comments before they are posted, as we always have.
So, what happened to the comments?
In most cases involving "disappearing" comments, a given story has been published more than once on our website. In the case that vexed our reader today, the story "New Paltz woman locked cat in hamper, SPCA says," was published twice to our site -- once Friday afternoon as the story developed, and again at 3 a.m. today, which is when the new edition of the Freeman is published daily on the Web. When a story is republished, the comments do not carry over to the "new" story. The earlier comments can still be viewed, however, with the story that was published on Friday and new comments can be added to either version.
Infrequently, we are prompted by readers to revisit a comment that has been posted and review it for appropriateness; sometimes this does result in removal of a comment. But, in the vast majority of cases, instances of what seem to be "disappearing" comments are a result of the publication of more than one version of the story, as detailed above.

4 Comments:

Blogger derek said...

It seems like the website software should be updated so that there's one "canonical" version of the story that gets updated, continuously-as-necessary, until "e-Press time", at which point that story can be "locked in", and a new one started, with a new headline, etc.

June 11, 2011 at 7:56 AM 
Blogger Tony Adamis said...

Derek:
We have the ability to stop comment on any story, so we could close comment on an older version of a story. That would have the disadvantage of stopping an ongoing discussion. There's no way with our current system to roll the old comments into a completely new version of the story, but, if you could, you would sometimes run the risk of running outdated comments into an updated story.
That said, yes, we hope new software now being designed will give us more options for encouraging conversation.
Thank you for your observation.

June 11, 2011 at 8:09 AM 
Blogger jbover23 said...

You guys delete comments all the time if they dont agree with your agenda

June 11, 2011 at 8:53 AM 
Blogger derek said...

Tony:

Easy solution to that problem:

- Make sure all comments are time-stamped visibly
- Make sure every time the story is edited, there's a one-line addendum added something like "(Edited on Jan 1, 2011 12:34 ET"

Then, on the rare occasions where a comment is no longer relevant to the story (which is admittedly going to be rare), it'll be clear that it was posted before an edit.

So the timeline might go:
- You post the online story @ 01:00
- Someone comments @ 01:30
- Someone comments @ 01:34
- You update the story, adding an "edited on" line to the bottom @ 2:14
- Later, the story is "finalized" by giving it a last edit timed to the release of the daily paper at, say, 05:00

At that point, that story is never updated/copied again. If there's new news, a new story is created with a new headline, like it was prepping for the next day's edition (which, realistically, it is).

Why wouldn't that work?

June 11, 2011 at 11:37 AM 

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