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Gawker Adds Comments to Three Blogs

Posted By Darren Rowse 24th of September 2005 Blog Networks 0 Comments

Megablog, Gizmodo, has decided to allow comments at last. It’s been a pretty long time coming and something that many have complained about – but the time has arrived (they’ve done the same thing on Gawker and Lifehacker blogs also).

Interestingly they’ve decided that only invited guests will have commenting privileges at this point – something I’ve not seen on any other blogs before.

They explain this on their Comments FAQ page by writing:

Anyone who has been invited, either by us or by a friend. The invite system works like Gmail. We’ve invited a bunch of our favorite gearheads, bloggers, and frequent tipsters to comment, then given them invitations to share with their friends and colleagues. That way, the burden of inclusion, and exclusion, is shared.

Why are comments by invitation only?

Most online communities are like Apple Stores and hip bars—they quickly get overrun with tourists, thus lowering the overall quality of the experience. The same thing will happen to us eventually too. But we’re going to try to put off that moment for as long as possible.

I can hear the critiques of this move already – there will be some who say its elitist – but I wonder if this could be a smart move. Commenting rights could become hot property on their blogs – this could limit comments to more manageable numbers (I don’t bother with comments in blogs like Slashdot these days due to the numbers) – in the short term this will help limit comment spam (although it will get harder as more are invited) and if they are choosey about who comments they could end up with some really knowledgeable and high profile people featuring on their blogs.

Of course it could all go horribly wrong if the masses don’t like the fact that they are being locked out and/or if the competition starts playing it up that they have a completely free commenting system.

It’s definitely something to watch.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Yes it’s elitist. “Come and read my blog, and the viewpoints of the people that I have chosen worthy to comment.”

    It stifles free speech and threatens viewpoints that oppose the author (mind you, it’s about gadgets so it’s hardly life-threatening stuff)

    IMO you should either leave comments off altogether, or allow anyone to comment.

    Registration is a different matter, though it does limit passing/informal comments.

  2. “Free speech” doesn’t have a place on any professionally run comments area.

  3. Perhaps it illustrates the point that some blogs are in a position to be elitist… ;)

  4. Marketing yourself as elitist is something that can work very well depending on the target audience. It sure works well for some elitist clubs where lineups extend through a couple of blocks and everybody wants to get on the VIP list.
    However, after a while most elitist fabs fade away, and just like with Gmail the curiousity is no longer there. (I’ve even seen a few blog posts where bloggers asked if anyone wanted an invite to Gmail.)

  5. Ron Atkinson says: 09/25/2005 at 2:14 am

    How long before a major blog introduces a charge or subscription fee for commenting?

  6. I dont’ think it’s elitist. I think it’s a matter of do they want 145 spammy comments and 5 good ones? Plus, the invites are not entirely exclusive; right now they are, but you get one free invite to forward to your friends.

  7. I actually think it’s a smart move. With the amount of visitors they’re getting, it does allow them to manage the comments and start ‘slow’. Plus it keeps the spam down and the ‘quality’ of the comments up.

  8. I’m with Andy on this one. Anyone can have a good website using blogging software, but don’t call yourself a “blog” if you don’t allow comments – be them “spammy” or “good ones” .. pretty soon you will have sites like … http://www.juicyfruit.com/ popping around the ‘net with their own “Blogs” (if you can call it that) saying .. Look at me! I’m a blog! Let me inflict my opinions on you but, not give you a chance to agree or disagree.

    Price for fame and fortune. Comments can be monitored, moderated, etc and there are several spam blocker plug-ins available. This is one of the 3 reasons that I don’t add the RSS feeds of Gawker to my Bloglines or read them, unless someone else I’m reading points them out for a reason.

  9. I see where Gawker is coming from and, overall, I can agree with their point. I think saying they’ve invited a few of their “favorite” people to comment is where they cross the line to elitist though. If they like what these people have to say so much, give ’em contribution space on the actual blog and give the comment section over to the masses.

    Blogcritics.org gets a zillion comments a day and yet they manage to keep things under control.

  10. It will be an interesting experiment to watch. Perhaps, by inviting people whose opinions they respect, they hope that those people, in turn, will invite peope whose opinions they also respect. I don’t think it’s so much elitist as it is an attempt to find a way to involve people who are going to provide valuable and interesting commentary. It might take a little longer to build up a community of commentators, but since this is already an established blog, time is on their side and they are giving themselves an opportunity to improve the quality of the comments on their blog. Besides, if it starts to turn ugly for them or starts to affect their normal readership… they can always just open up the floodgates and let everyone in.

    I applaud them for trying something outside the box.

  11. I think that star system for commenters that WeblogsInc uses is better than “comments by invite” – web traffic (according to Alexa) proves it at least.

    Anyway: “comments by invite” prevent occasional commenters from providing deep insights. Generally: firstly Gizmodo was 3-4 years behind competition with comments and now they are 2 years behind competition with commenting system. Result: Engadget has 3-4 times more webtraffic than Gizmodo.

    And I said all this despite the fact that I don’t like WeblogsInc! D’oh!

  12. I’d imagine their audience can be divided into three categories: those who don’t care, those who are trying to get invited, and those who are disgruntled about not being invited. The middle will tend towards the latter, and there’s the possibility that many people will take this move as a message that they aren’t wanted there. Perhaps another site with a more open policy could take some of their visitors.

    Modesty and my desire to maintain a G-rating at all times prevents me from telling what would happen if they opened Wonkette to comments.

  13. Leave comments wide open but moderate with a good moderation policy.

  14. First – it’s their blog, they can be elitist if they want to. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I personally don’t like the “invite only” commenting system.

    I’ve seen Gizmodo compared to Gmail, however, there is one major different – Gizmodo is not a service. I can see using invites for beta testing a service as Google did, but beta testing comments?

    If they really want to limit the comments while still including everyone who has an interest in their blog to participate, then they should require commenters to register/login before they comment.

    They can also take it a step further and do what WIN does and require the commenter to click on a confirmation link sent to them via email before the comment goes live.

  15. Sure, they COULD do that, but I don’t think that’s their goal. I think their goal is to not just keep spammers and casual posters from posting, but to actually allow only “good” posters, whatever that means. I think it’s going to be interesting to see if their comments are more salient or insightful than say… these here at problogger (which I can’t imagine), or other sites (which I can). If they are, then I’d say their experiment is a success. It could turn out to be a great idea.

  16. You know sometimes a bit of elitism is a good thing. I’ve never quite understood the belief that I should let morons attach their inane rantings to my blogs just because they want to.

    This is not a freedom of speech issue. Its an issue of providing your reades with an experience that is free of spammers, trolls and the generally stupid.

  17. Totally agree. Some might call it “elitism”, but I’d say it could be more like “intelligent selection”. Unless they are themselves stupid. In which case… well… let’s just hope that’s not the case. LOL

  18. Why do people think they have the “right” to say what they want on other people’s websites?

    As someone who runs several decent-sized communities I’m dealing with this non-sense all the time – people who feel I’m violating their free speech rights by moderating their input on my sites.

    My sites, are just that: mine. They’re businesses, which rely on quality content. To be successful, one must weed out the content, which does not improve the quality of the site.

    I think what they’re doing is totally acceptable. They could let everyone post, then edit out the crap, or they can do invitations and only have people putting quality content on their site. Easy choice for me.

  19. Andy said: “It stifles free speech and threatens viewpoints that oppose the author.”

    Yes, but no more so (actually, probably less) that not allowing comments at all.

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  21. Hey, guess what – I don’t read their stupid blog anyway. :D What the heck of any importance could anyone have to say about such petty nonsense?

    Or does that put me in the disgruntled and excluded category…?

  22. Political Junkie says: 09/26/2005 at 12:39 pm

    How do they implement their comment system?

    How would you recommend doing it with MovableType or WordPress?

  23. One thing I’ve learned is that there are many good leaders/managers/bloggers/techheads/whatever out there who are unrecognized and this will limit their voice to be heard. In all honesty, a lot of the tech elite say the same thing. I want to hear new voices.

  24. There are plenty of places and ways that anyone who wants to be heard can avail themselves of. It is not as if they are gagging people. They are simply trying to ensure good quality commenting on their own site. Given that the site has been successful with NO commenting, They’ve got more to lose by allowing garbage to be posted than ruffling a few feathers of people who are not invited to comment. And besides, if you get your hackles up because a bunch of tech-heads won’t let you play in their sandbox, you’re probably exactly the person they don’t want posting there anyway.

  25. Better to let everyone comment.The important things about blogs and the networks that have grown up is that they given everyone a voice.They have also let us out here sort out which are valuable. Going back to the old “letter to the editor” routine doesn’t seem like a good idea. It’s a reversion to a different model of involvement. which stifles the very ideas from left field, you might want.

  26. I agree with Gawker. I would restate the reasons why, but they have basically been mentioned above so I won’t waste your time (and Pro Bloggers) time on the issue as well.

    On a further note, some people have already abused the comment system, so it only confirms the need for such a feature.

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