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).
There are three levels of comments: Unapproved, Approved and Featured. Unapproved are only seen by moderators. Approved can be seen by everybody, but a casual reader will have to work a bit to see them. Comments that moderators think are awesome—as well as comments left by star commenters—become featured, which means they're in bold, and right up front on every post. Think of it as a super version of the karma scheme that Slashdot's used forever.
The idea is this: Bad commenters (hopefully) don't get in. If they do slip in, we ban them. And the best comments, and the people who make them, are front and center, so it's easy to see the smartest (and funniest) takes on the stuff we all love talking about. We've put a lot of work into our comment system to try to elevate the comments here above the average anonymous internet crap, but we can't do without your excellent commentary. So, we're glad to have you. But let's keep it smart—not just for us, but for you too (I read on the internet reading too many dumb comments melts your brain).
Our system's not perfect (it's gotten unruly before), but we think it's part of why we have a solid community with guys like OMG Ponies and Kaiser Machead, and we're working on it all the time to make it better. If you're new, leave a comment, and we hope you'll stick around.
On a broader level, the fact that Engadget had to take such a drastic step says something quite depressing about the state of internet commentary: Assholes are getting the upperhand. If you're not one of these assholes, and you're actually an intelligent, civil commenter, come on over. We've got a nice system in place that will hopefully let you say what you want to say, while letting you enjoy comments that add to the site, not take away from it. But if you're an asshole, stay away. We don't want you either.
We're all fighting them together, so the dudes at Engadget have our support—hopefully some chill time will let them get their comments back in order.