Why news Web sites may want to rethink comments


Comments may be less valuable than we thought. (premasagar/Flickr)

Here are five ideas that affect the way we live, work and play.

1. Do online comments hurt Web traffic?

Here’s some fascinating research. The thinking has long been that to engage your audience and be truly digital, news sites had to be interactive and acknowledge that on the web, stories are conversations, not monologues. So these results from National Journal, which recently eliminated comments on most stories, are surprising. Via the Atlantic:

If anything, user engagement has increased since the comment policy changed. Pages views per visit increased by more than 10 percent. Page views per unique visitor increased 14 percent. Return visits climbed by more than 20 percent. Visits of only a single page decreased, while visits of two pages or more increased by almost 20 percent.

Adam Felder, the associate director of digital analytics at Atlantic Media, did a survey in which readers were asked their opinion of a story. Some saw comments as they read it, others did not:

Respondents who saw comments evaluated the article as being of lower quality—an 8 percent difference. In other words, authors are judged not just by what they write, but by how people respond. … Unmoderated comments appear to have a small, but real deleterious effect on readers’ perception of the sites on which they appear.

2. A Tinder account to improve men’s health.

Here’s a brave case of attempting to use the popular dating app to encourage men to take better care of themselves. “For the month of June, [Nurse] Nicole is enduring terrible pick-up lines, facing extreme male desperation, and talking dirty to dirtbags in the name of men’s health,” explains the related Web site. Two students launched it as a side project, which they discussed with PSFK:

We gravitated towards Men’s Health Month because we thought it was a great cause and also fairly unknown among men. Using Tinder as the platform to raise awareness only seemed right, because we knew there were so many guys on it, especially in a place like New York City.

3. A robot with a sensitive side. Via the Next Web:

[Softbank] is moving into robotics with an “emotionally-aware” humanoid called Pepper. Pepper was unveiled at a press event in Tokyo, and it is designed to perform a range of tasks, from customer service to helping out with family jobs, all while gauging the emotions of people around it. The robot uses an ‘emotional engine’ developed by SoftBank. … It won’t go on sale to consumers until February 2015. Interestingly, founder Masayoshi Son says Pepper units will be priced at 198,000 yen — which is just over $1,900 – to keep them on a par with the cost of buying a computer.

And it appears to like to dance, which you can see at about 18 seconds into this video:

4. How fish can fight global warming. Via Quartz:

Bottom-dwellers transfer more than a million tonnes of CO2 a year from surface waters of the UK and Ireland, helpfully storing between €8 million and €14 million ($10.9 million and $19 million) a year in carbon credit value, says a new study (paywall) by a University of Southampton team. Killing too many of those fishes, as well as the ones they feed on, risks damaging the ocean’s ability to store carbon, leaving more CO2 in the atmosphere.

5. Google Maps takes another step toward moving indoors. Google has released a tablet that can sense its surrounding in 3D for mapping purposes. Via the Verge:

Its biggest addition is its camera and depth sensor, which lets the tablet discern its orientation and begin taking measurements of its surroundings, allowing it to build out a map of indoor locations. Google has thrown out a lot of different ideas about what this ability can be used for, but the key focus appears to be creating maps inside of public buildings.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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