This morning, I came across the Monkey See (NPR’s culture blog) review of the trailer for “One For the Money,” which is a Katherine Heigl movie based off a Janet Evanovich book. It probably won’t do that well, although you could argue the entire point of even making the movie is to turn it into a franchise (there are 18 of these books, I believe). That’s neither here nor there, though — the review is predominantly about how the franchise won’t do that well, and who Stephanie Plum is, and why Hiegl is a bad choice to play her. For a while, most of the comments are about similar things. Then some dude sneaks in and basically tries to restate the entire point — “She appears to be using a New Jersey accent here, yes?” — as if he read absolutely nothing that preceded it.
I’ve worked on websites for a while now, and comment moderation is always an intriguing topic. A couple of quick thoughts before I get to the heart of this matter, though. First off — “older generation” media types (read: people from newspapers) and “hardcore media types” (read: journalists who value the sanctity of the profession big-time, and also talk often about their Twitter follower count) absolutely define the term “love-hate relationship” when you speak of them and comment threads. They love comments on their work — the more comments, in their view, often means the more successful an article has been (even if it’s three people posting 30 times each) — but they absolutely hate, and want immediately scrubbed, any comment that’s even moderately offensive.
So, it’s a tricky line. I started to think about comment moderation more, and do a little research.
This is a good article to start with — it mentions the company Pluck, in Austin, TX; Pluck appears to do comment moderation for a number of newspaper websites, and some corporations. Here’s the official Pluck website. Their customers include the NFL, USA Today, Best Buy and more. There’s also ICUC, which seems to run NPR, Starbucks, Chevron and more.
Here’s the backstory on the JuLiA system by Adaptive Semantics, which runs comment moderation on Huffington Post; as noted in that first article (MarketWatch), Huffington Post actually went out and bought Adaptive Semantics. Not all that glitters is gold, though — this Yahoo! article details how the Huffington Post comment moderation really isn’t all that great.
Speaking of Yahoo!, in March of 2010 or so, they brought back comments on their news stories, as detailed here. There are apparently “seven levels” of technical comment moderation. This thread seems less-than-thrilled with said layers.
BabyPips.com, which is a beginner’s guide to foreign exchange trading, employs forum moderators — in this piece, one gives a nice and detailed description of her job. Here’s a similar post for another website series — it seems like the main focus of these types of articles is, “If the community is inherently strong, it will be a relatively easy job.”
I’ve reached out to a couple of these joints to see if I can get an interview with a comment moderator or software developer — i.e., how do you design a program that keeps out anonymous human ranting? — and hopefully will get one in the next two months or so. If I do, I’ll cross-link it here.