As you might've seen, our friends at Engadget have shut down their comments, which had become overrun by troll hordes. Trolls lurk everywhere, but our system—often mystifying to newcomers—is designed to keep them out. Here's why it's better.
Most comment systems let anybody comment, and have their opinion seen, as long as they have a profile that's verified as being a real human being. Often, there's a level of moderation—like digging vs. burying on digg—that hopefully floats better stuff, letting crap sink to the bottom, but there's not much of a real gatekeeper to keep the assholes out. It's a little bit different here.
There are three levels of commenters: Unapproved, Approved and Starred. You basically have to audition for the right to comment, by leaving a smart blurb—if it's good, you'll get approved by an editor, one of our moderators, or a starred commenter, and then people can see your comment. Your comment is also approved if you sign in through Facebook Connect, since it's tied to an identity. Truly excellent commenters earn stars, which grant them moderation powers, and makes all of their comments featured (more on that below).