Posted March 26, 2010 3:54 pm by with 18 comments

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In case you’re new around here (meaning the Internet), let me just tell you: sometimes, comment boards usually devolve into vile gross-out fests attacking the content of the page, other commenters, or random political officials. (Not here, of course [meaning Marketing Pilgrim]—here our wonderful commentators always add value, and we love you for it. Comment today!)

YouTube, however, is fairly typical. It seems like the average video there receives approximately 2% of its comments on the actual content, 48% calling it various levels of ‘awesome’ and 57% questioning the parentage, politics and/or brainpower of the video’s creators, stars and/or anyone else who has ever lived. (And yes, that’s 107%—the comments are also largely illogical.) But today, YouTube is introducing a new page layout to try to change all that.

Good luck.

The new experimental layout reorganizes the comments:

Today, we’re introducing a “highlights view” of comments which summarizes top rated comments, uploader comments, video responses and recent comments in a single “front-page story” that you can drill into for more detail. You can see an example on this video and this one. We’re continuing to make the highlights better as we learn how people interact with it, so please let us know what you think in the comments below.

The comments sorted by recency are available below the “front-page story”:

The layout is the third overhaul in four months, including the Feather experiment and the new page layout in January. Inexplicably, these stripped-down layouts still included comments, even though YouTube obviously knew they were pretty much useless.

This time around, some users are “permanently opted in” automatically—meaning they can’t opt out of the highlights view. YouTube says this is to help them learn about what does and does not work about the page. You can also opt-in if you’d like.

Other changes to the layout this time around include a new “Videos I Liked” section, separating “Liking” a video and adding it to your favorites, and other improvements to the ratings system, which was also overhauled as part of the January layout change.

Overall, there may be some limited effect to the quality of comments (if only two comments are showing, there’s less incentive to see your “username in lights,” which is probably one strong motivation for the stupider comments)—but if you opt-in, odds are good you won’t know 😉 .

What do you think? Will this affect the quality of comments and discussion on YouTube? Will you opt-in?

  • kitty

    I hate the new look. I am not sure I was opted in – I think the main video page still shows the old view, but “View all comments” is new. For example, I don’t see “see all” on the main video page, but “view all comments” which brings me to a list of all comments which isn’t readable.

    I hate this feature with a passion. While discouraging stupid comments may be a noble idea, what they did made having any kind of conversation impossible. You seem to think the comments should be eliminated, but in many cases, they are part of the experience. Statistics is fine, but when you look at individual subjects, you’ll find many interesting even educational conversation.

    I don’t know about political videos, I mainly look at music videos, specifically classical music and opera (I am an opera buff). Yes, there are comments saying how great a performer is – what is wrong with that if people really like it? It provides encouragement to young performers and it’s pleasant to the person who uploaded it. Also, people often say what specifically they like. There are some intelligent comments from singers/fans/voice students who discuss quality and flaws, compare performers; question from neophites about the context, words. It also provides a way for those of us who know opera to reach wider audience. By reading comments, I learned a thing or two myself. By replying to comments I was able to tell people things they didn’t know and asked about.

    Yes, there are a number of stupid, even offensive comments. But these offensive comments can be dealt with. Just marking them down or spamming them is enough in most cases. But getting rid of comments or doing what YouTube did and making discussions next-to-impossible, hurts everyone, not just people who make stupid or offensive comments.

  • I think youtube have to keep inline with what the people want as you know they are one of the most searched sites to date.
    .-= warren shaw´s last blog ..YourNetBiz – Back Office Tour Part 1 & 2 =-.

  • Joe

    Comments are what you tube is all about, it give people a chance to share. If comments are dropped altogther then is becomes just another video site.

  • I’d hope that this new method would serve to encourage those who want to have a discussion over a video and deters those who just want to spam it with abuse, but at the end of the day if people really want to leave random questionable comments not much will stop them.

  • kitty

    @Luci – exactly. Unless they have some kind of natural language processing engine that distinguishes discussions about the video from questionable comments, whatever changes they make are bound to hurt both.
    What they did right now is made any kind of discussion where you want to see comments in context of a discussion. One reply is OK, but something like:
    Person A: asked a question about the video or said something that is not exactly correct.
    Person B: answered but maybe not exactly correct.
    Person C: wants to correct B, but wants the comment to appear in context of Person A question.
    Person B: doesn’t agree with C or has something new to add.

    In the past, the indentation showed all of these as part of the same conversation. Now, you can add @user, but this doesn’t necessarily help other participants. Given that between each of these questions/answers there have been other posts, it makes the whole thing impossible to follow. This happens whether or not the discussion is related to the video or not.

  • I think some of us don’t quite understand the new feature. As it says in the article, highly rated comments will be displayed in the highlighted comments section, as will responses from the video’s owner. If they’re really that helpful, comments should show up there.

    The old comment layout just displayed the ten most recent comments by default–which has an even lower chance of containing helpful content. Yes, you could arrange them by rating, but this new layout does this by default.

    If you want to read the recent comments, it does display a few of those, and the rest are one click away (just like the highly rated ones were before).

  • kitty

    @Jordan, maybe highest rated comments have a better chance to contain helpful content, but it’s a small chance. The highest rated comment is simply the most popular comment among particular group of readers on a given week. As you may know, popularity is not the same as greatness or even goodness, some pretty bad people were very popular in their lifetime and there are many less popular artists that are better than some very popular ones. A highly rated comment is a popular comment i.e. it’s the one that displays a prevalent opinion. So while it’s more likely not to be insulting – true – it’s also more likely to be along the lines of “This is great., this performer is the best in the world ever”. If the particular performer is not good, often any comment even somewhat positive e.g. “nice tone but some pitch problems” is usually voted down whereas “Oh this is amazing” is going to get highest rating. With some exceptions: there was a week or two when a group of trolls decided to attack a specific dead performer (one of all times greats) and during these week any positive comment got ratings as low as -30, whereas all negative comments were voted up. But usually, you’ll see “this is great” as the top rated comment whether or not it’s great.

    But the main problem here is the lack of ability to see a threaded view of conversations with indentation with all answers to the original question grouped under it – everything else I could live with. I don’t see how removal of conversation control trolls – trolls will post no matter what. Sure their comment can be voted down, but I noticed in the past with one troll in particular, they have friends or create multiple accounts. But the ability to discuss, is important, especially in some of the classical music videos I normally watch. Yes some discussions may be not exactly about the video, but they are still relevant, and people still enjoy them. I have learned about reading the comments in the past and so did other people.

    @original-poster is not enough. It doesn’t help when there is more than one question/answer or more than one person involved.

    Ability to view all comments on one page is important as well as ability to control first/last or last/first look that you tube doesn’t want to give us. If answer is for something that was posted 5 days ago, the original question may be on another page and difficult to find.

    I also found it annoying that when you click reply you no longer see the window opening under the post you are replying to, but you are switched back to video page with a tiny comment window on top.

    In summary – comments view now is a complete mess. It may or may not discourage trolls (I doubt it), but it discourages any kind of discussion or comments at all.

    • I still don’t see how having the ten most recent comments listed by default is somehow better, but clearly that doesn’t matter. In the end, this really isn’t the forum to air all your frustrations with YouTube’s comments—it’s not like we can do anything about it here. YouTube asked for feedback.

      • Paint It Black

        Well gee, you posted an article about YouTube’s new way of dealing with video comments, Kitty posted her opinions regarding this, and you say “This isn’t the place to air your grievances about YouTube”? She wasn’t complaining in the sense of expecting YOU to do something about it, she made her point about how pointless it is putting the highest-rated comments first in order, you couldn’t understand why, so she further explained to you the cons of doing that, so your reaction is basically “I still don’t get it, so quit bitching about it, I don’t run YouTube.”

        Newsflash, someone posting a disagreeing comment =/= having a bitchfest in the wrong forum. I find it kinda rude to dismiss your readers’ comments like that simply because you don’t understand or agree with what they said.

        • John

          Great reply. Obviously Ms. McCollum doesn’t understand the importance of comments on YouTube, as she admitted in an earlier of her articles about YouTube: “[…] You’d probably assume that the first thing to go would be the comments—the one part of YouTube 99% of us could probably do without.[…]”

          YouTube won’t earn money just by showing videos, it is talking about those vid’s that keeps people on the site.

      • F33bs

        “YouTube asked for feedback.”

        Currently there is a 20 page long thread on YouTube’s Help Forum demanding that YouTube revert the changes. That’s what I call feedback, and it seems that Google refuses to acknowledge what its consumers and uploaders want.

  • jon

    Only someone who has never made and uploaded a clip would think comments are unimportant. Numbers of comments are already down since we receive the clip in our channel and have to click twice to read them. I admit I spent minimal time on YouTube while I had this layout during the trial and have hardly been there since it was enforced but I haven’t yet seen a clip where the so-called ‘story’ made sense. On my clips I have replies minus the question, half conversations and an ancient comment as ‘best’ because it’s been there longer. None of the clips I visit, mine or others, have ever had problems with trolls and pointless messages.

    I haven’t done like/dislike since Primary School and it will in any case be meaningless. There will be constant random clicks just to read the ratings. Since it’s said that only 13% of clicks before were less than 5 stars, even less than that will be 3 or less – so if people do watch and vote, the majority of clips will be ‘liked.’

    I’ve already not uploaded 5 videos I had ready for this weekend. I won’t be commenting as it’s a waste of time and I won’t be ‘rating’ – in fact I won’t be using YouTube any more.

  • F33bs

    I find people that constantly attack message boards, forums, and threaded comment sections on grounds of “trolls” or “useless posts” to be somewhat beating a dead horse.

    Have you looked at regular, mainstream YouTube lately? It’s nothing but stupid, trite garbage by half-talented clowns desperate for an ounce of short-lived attention. I don’t even know who is supposed to be popular on YouTube these days; I stopped caring at the time when LisaNova, Smosh, and Fred were spamming crappy videos every other day in a mad-dash for subscribers. As far as I know, that is still going on.

    I have been on YouTube since around 2005, and have left literally thousands of comments on videos I enjoy, and have had hundreds of engaging, thought-provoking exchanges with other people regarding the subject matter. Why did it needed to be changed?

    Trolls only migrate with the crowd, you almost will never see a troll on a YouTube upload of a debate between David Wolpe and Christopher Hitchens for instance, because all the trolls are too busy trolling Lady GaGa’s or Justin Beiber’s channel. And the hilarious part is nobody watches Lady GaGa music videos on YouTube to have an actual discussion, they do it to watch it and move on. Trolling is to be expected and ignored in that case. That’s not the same for people like me who thoroughly enjoy talking with people about meaningful content.

    YouTube’s policy of eliminating the best parts about YouTube WILL kill the site. Mark my words.

    Without feedback and collaboration, YouTube is ultimately just a worse version of Hulu.

  • aKindofHeart

    Thanks to this update, I use 90% less time on Youtube, so taste my venomous gratitude with lethal amounts of sarcasm: “Thank You(tube)!”

    P.S. Of course most of the star ratings were 5 stars: people are probable to watch videos they LIKE. I think that most ratings now will be: LIKE.

  • I think youtube should fix the size of the video. I must wait for a night long to watch single video.
    .-= grant´s last blog ..2010 HAYEK ESSAY CONTEST =-.

  • It seems a shame that it’s coming to this….
    .-= Rob Chandler´s last blog ..MakeMoney Selling SEO Services. =-.

  • is right.

  • Sam

    I think comments are important and it’s good that youtube doing this.