Some chump writer recently wrote about the end of anonymous online commenting at the CBC’s news website. Other news websites have considered following suit, and some, like the BBC, simply don’t have online commenting.
But it might not matter what these websites do or don’t do. A Vancouver start-up called Commentica is giving readers of websites the ability to easily comment on just about any webpage on the Internet and read the comments of other users. It’s even got some social bookmarking aspects, displaying pages most commented on.
Frank Worsley is the man behind Commentica, which launched this week out of Vancouver. He explained his rationale for creating the service on Commenti.ca:
The creator of Commentica was inspired by the poor commenting systems he found on two of his favourite websites.
In one case a news website always disables comments when a story is controversial. However, this is exactly the type of story where one wants to read the comments to see the viewpoints of other readers. The comment system used by the web site also lacks basic features such as threading and uses a very simplistic comment rating system.
The other case is another news website that does not offer comments at all.
Commentica is a simple solution that allows anyone to comment on these and other websites, regardless of a website’s own commenting system and moderation policies. The hope is that this will further encourage open dialog on the web.
I’ve been trying it out, and it’s really quite easy to use. You type in your comment, then choose whether to post anonymously (anonymous comments require you to enter an email address, which remains hidden to other readers), or with your Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo!, Disqus or OpenID account. You can read the comments of other readers and post feedback, or give them “Likes.”
As I’ve written before here on Techvibes, I’m not crazy about anonymous commenting on news stories. I think they make people braver than they ought to be, and make news websites a haven for trolls. If, for example, you could make a post with Commentica on a website with a valid Twitter or Facebook account, maybe that would be the best of both worlds. Or if websites could choose to only accept comments from a valid external account the trolls and libellers would be put in check.
Regardless, this is a great idea, and for publishers of news websites looking to implement a commenting system for their stories, this couldn’t be much easier. Well implemented, easy to use, fast — what else could you want? I strongly recommend giving it a try. Kudos to you, Mr. Worsley!