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Improving the community

When we relaunched our community standards earlier this year, we said they were just the beginning of our changes. And they are.

Drawing from your ideas and our own, we’ve scoped some possible changes that we want to share with you. They’re just ideas at this stage – some will happen, others won’t – and we want your feedback. We’ve started discussing these ideas to our Editorial Board and we’ll let you know what we roll out.

But we don’t just want your thoughts on our ideas. Now’s a great time to highlight anything you think is or isn’t working. You’re here every day: what can we improve?

Comment below or send me an email to let us know.

Our ideas

Diversity

We’ve noticed our comments often lack diversity. We need more than just middle-aged white guys talking to make this a great conversation. We want a diverse range of people sharing their views and experiences – it’s one of the best ways to avoid echo chambers. We’ll need to be a safe, respectful space to achieve that.

We’ve started moderating more heavily against discriminatory posts (and posters) and this will continue – please report any examples of discrimination you see. We’ll also start approaching a more diverse collection of authors to provide comment.

Positive reinforcement

Building a better community isn’t just about reducing “bad” behaviour; you also have to encourage “good”. We have a “Recommend” button but think we could do more. This could mean getting authors or editors to get involved more often, or it could mean changing the way we use “Recommend”.

Regardless, now is a good time to start “Recommending” quality posts.

Community council

We want you to feel ownership over your community – nominating a group of you to help us steer thing could be part of that. We think an initial group of users who moderate the site, encourage constructive posting and act as a more direct link between “The Conversation” and “the community” could be useful.

Author engagement

You come here to read what academics think about a range of subjects. We don’t think that ends when the article ends. We’re looking for ways to get readers and academics talking – so far we’ve tried Author Q&As (such as Russell Reichelt dispelling myths on Great Barrier Reef dredging and Clare Collins on the best diets for weight loss) and have also commissioned comments. What other ways would you like us to get authors involved?

Collapsing replies

Scrolling through comments takes quite a while at the moment. Only showing two replies to a comment by default (and requiring users to click “See all replies” to see any more) will allow users to get to other comments without forcing them to scroll past a conversation they’re not interested in.

Limit ‘reply depth’

Comments would only go three levels deep. This means:

Someone can post a comment. Someone can reply to that comment. That reply can receive replies. But that’s it. There can’t be a reply to the reply to the reply etc.

We’ve found that the further a discussion thread goes from the initial post, the further off-topic the discussion goes. We want to keep discussion high quality and focused.

But what will stop people from just replying to posts in their own thread? I’m glad you asked.

Limit number of posts per user, per article

Users would only be allowed two posts and five replies per article. Too often do entire comment sections become dominated by one or two individuals. We want all of our comment sections to be diverse, vibrant and well considered. Sometimes you need boundaries to achieve that.

Editorial note above the comment box

Sometimes we need to communicate something to the comment section as a whole but, if we post it as a comment, it may be missed. A dedicated section above the comments will allow us to ask you questions, let you know if things are getting off topic or tell you why comments have been closed.

‘Review your post’

A lot of people have asked for the ability to edit posts. Allowing this runs into issues of people changing their post after a reply or two and doctoring their argument. We think this is the next best thing.

After typing their post, users will be taken to a “review your post” screen that shows a preview of their comment. They’ll then have the option to go back and edit something or submit the post to the site.

This will allow users a chance to change something before their comment goes live.

Ignore function

Users have asked for the ability to “Ignore” selected users. Who are we to say you have to see posts you don’t want to see?

– Cory Zanoni
Community manager

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