Last summer, Gawker announced a new comment system for all their sites. The change meant that comments wouldn’t be displayed solely based on ratings or timing—instead, they would be ranked according to the popularity/usefulness/awesomeness of the commenter. Particularly popular/useful/awesome commenters would even get the power to promote comments by lesser beings to the higher tier. Unapproved commenters could get their comments displayed on a case-by-case basis.
Sounds like a recipe for rebellion, doesn’t it? You’d think people would be less interested in contributing to a site that apparently no longer wanted their comments—especially since they also abandoned the existing system of giving commenters with more followers more clout. But not the case for Gawker: since they implemented tiered commenting, after an initial decline, comment participation has skyrocketed.
Of course, Gawker also made some other changes. They enabled users to edit their commetns for 15 minutes after posting and changed the display to reverse chronological order (on par with Twitter and Facebook, they said) other than in replies. Some also say that Gawker’s announcement that not all commenters with more followers would remain as retain their privileged starred status was quickly reversed.
But still, the environment doesn’t exactly seem as friendly to comments. So why the growth? Says eConsultancy:
Gawker shifted the incentive structure with tiered commenting. By placing new comments on top of old comments and letting the best comments (at least according to the sites’ editors) float to the top, Gawker encouraged commenters to do better work for them. And these numbers show it worked.
What do you think? Would tiered comments work on other sites? Or are Gawker properties a one-off?