Have something to say? Use the comments. Photo: Kimba

The vigorous community of commenters on Berkeleyside is, we believe, one of our strengths. It’s unsurprising that there are fiercely held opinions in Berkeley, but we’re happy that — for the most part — people find ways to express them civilly on Berkeleyside.

To improve our ability to moderate comments, and to provide a better format for discussions, we’ve switched to a new system for comments. We’re now using Disqus, a local company, to provide our comments platform.

What do our readers gain with Disqus?

We now offer threaded discussions. You can comment on a post, as before, or you can reply to a specific comment. That will be shown visually. You can also “like” a specific comment, or flag it for moderation if you think it violates our rules. You can choose to look at the comments on any post by oldest first (the default setting), newest first, or by “best rating”, which depends on readers liking comments.

Disqus also brings a new identity system to Berkeleyside’s comments. Commenters can sign in with their Twitter, Facebook, OpenID, Google, Yahoo or Disqus identity. If you want to remain anonymous or pseudonymous you can do that, too, by posting as a guest with whatever name you wish to choose.

For commenters who do have a registered identity, readers will be able to click on their names and see previous comments they’ve written on Berkeleyside and other sites that use Disqus.

Let us know in the comments what you think of our new comments.

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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46 Comments

  1. Disqus is a little unclear for this old guy who thought he knew how to write html. I first noticed Disqus on Paul Solman’s NewsHour blog. There it seems to suggest I had to sign-up is Disqus, FB, Twitter, etc to make a comment. So I went to Disqus and you only sign up if you want your own site to use it. (At least it seems that way to me—once again I am over 60 so bear with me.)

    Anyway, I am only hoping Berkeleyside’s comments stay easy to use (unlike Solman’s apparently). It is becoming an important voice in this community and I often forward articles to other older neighbors.

  2. I want to echo others’ comments that I greatly enjoy the comments section of Berkeleyside, except when it devolves into two people having an extended argument, which I can easily skip now with the new threaded comments function! Excellent!

  3. Hey, Kim: Might you please help Berkeleyside with the not-quite-right links in the “recent comments” box on the front page? The links don’t actually take you to the comments. I think there must be something trivially wrong with the URL construction for that list or something, but someone more intimately familiar with Disqus can probably spot the problem in a snap.

  4. HEY, something broken:

    The “recent comments” things is working better than at first but it still doesn’t take you to the actual comment itself. In combination with threading, this is a disaster because the “recent” comment may not appear at the top of a “newest first” listing.

  5. As @Kim says, It appears that you can “Unlike” something.

    However, the word switches from “Liked” to “Like”), but the little thumbs-up icon never goes away. That is confusing.

  6. I’m very happy with the comment moderation that goes on here. The moderators are extremely fair, and only change or delete comments that are over-the-top personal attacks, racism, etc.

    I don’t see why this new comment system would be seen as encouraging censorship.

  7. IMHO, the main draw of Berkeleyside is the comments section where, at times, there are lively and candid exchanges which far exceed in interest the rather dry news reports or feature stories. Since Berkeleyside has limited resources and professional reportage, the content is often thin. Consequently, the real “debate” of note takes place on the comments section. That’s the main draw, I suspect for many readers to check the site regularly. We follow the passionate and honest debates in the mostly anonymous comments section and sometimes contribute as well long after the original news story or feature has lost interest.

    Yes, the comments may need occasional moderation and may prove too “edgy” and candid for some, especially those in Berkeley who live in a cacoon like echo chamber where they are shocked to discover that soto voce, not everyone in their community shares their lockstep perspective. If this new comment feature does not end up inhibiting the range of dialogue, all the better.

    However, if a subtext of this change is to blunt the expression of unpopular opinions, including or perhaps especially some which could be construed as “racially insensitive”, then it will end up greatly diminishing the appeal of this news source. It’s no mystery, that, for various reasons, most comments sections end up trending to the “right”, even in the liberal Bay Area. SF Gate wages a relentless war of censorship to banish expression of views and opinions which leftist journalists find unpalatible or distasteful, if not downright abhorrent and “sinful”.

    The Bay Area News Group newspapers (Oakland Trib, CoCo Times, Merc. etc), recently switched to a FB connected comments system explicitly designed to narrow the range of expression and opinions. And, for the most part, it has worked. The comments on that site are sparse and mostly dull and unrevealing. I hope that in order to adhere to liberal pieties, Berkeleyside does not fall into the same snake pit.

  8. Looks like Safari shows the button for Twitter and Google, but not Facebook … screen shots below

    Perhaps a bug, but could be a feature.

    Ira

  9. Simpler is betterer. This is a test by angry old guy befuddled by technology. I take it all back if this actually gets posted.

  10. Hi Sharkey and Lance – You should just be able to click “like” again to “un-like” a comment. Please let me know if you have any trouble, or if it’s not working for you! (I know that currently, you may still see the thumbs-up icon after “un-liking” a post. This should be resolved shortly)

  11. Funny, Ira. I just tried it on Mac OS X 10.6.6 and Safari 5.0.3 and had no
    problems logging in via Facebook. Let me know if you continue to have
    problems.

  12. Tech Problem: Can’t log in via Facebook … anyone else?

    Running Safari 5.0.4 on Mac OS X 10.6.7 – Twitter login worked fine, but when I tried logging in on facebook, it told me to click a button which never appeared. It seemed to be a “popup” problem, but that didn’t seem to work.

    Anyone else? Will try with Chrome or Firefox next time around.

  13. I don’t think you need a third-party cookie to comment as a “guest”, do you? It’s only to login to a Disqus (or other) identity.

  14. I have a problem with the 3rd-party cookie requirement. In general I won’t enable all 3rd-party cookies, but if Berkeleyside can provide details on how to enable the cookie for just this single 3rd-party site that would be helpful.

  15. Here is an example of a “recent comments” page that I think works well. It doesn’t illustrate threads. It does illustrate the utility of subject lines. It also shows how you can have a system in which slow-moving discussions aren’t obliterated by faster moving discussions.

    Note that when any topic gets a new comment, the whole topic goes to the top of the list – so “hot topics” do tend to stay at the top but slower-moving yet active topics stay just beneath.

    Also note that if you are “logged in” this page has extra annotation that helps you keep track (roughly) of what recent comments you’ve seen and which you haven’t.

    http://lambda-the-ultimate.org/tracker

    From what I remember of the Disqus functionality, it should be pretty easy to put together a page kind of close to that for Berkeleyside, perhaps taking the first few words of a comment and eliding in lieu of subject lines.

  16. Here is an example of a “recent comments” page that I think works well. It doesn’t illustrate threads. It does illustrate the utility of subject lines. It also shows how you can have a system in which slow-moving discussions aren’t obliterated by faster moving discussions.

    Note that when any topic gets a new comment, the whole topic goes to the top of the list – so “hot topics” do tend to stay at the top but slower-moving yet active topics stay just beneath.

    Also note that if you are “logged in” this page has extra annotation that helps you keep track (roughly) of what recent comments you’ve seen and which you haven’t.

    http://lambda-the-ultimate.org/tracker

    From what I remember of the Disqus functionality, it should be pretty easy to put together a page kind of close to that for Berkeleyside, perhaps taking the first few words of a comment and eliding in lieu of subject lines.

  17. I’m really glad that you’re not making me log into facebook or yahoo to do comments, like TechCrunch is beginning to.

  18. In fact, at the moment, the “recent comments” box doesn’t seem to be working. We’ll try to figure out what’s happening.

  19. More of an addition than a reply. I like the recent comments thing. I want to add that I find the comments on Berkeleyside thoughtful and considerate, very unlike, for example, the SFgate site’s vitriolic comments. SF gate censors sometimes seem a little over-enthusiastic, in that they censor a lot of stuff as if we are in ‘puritan land,’ while allowing all sorts of nastiness. That said, I often find links to great info in comments sections.

  20. Censorship is a rather incendiary word.

    We do actively try to moderate the comments. Based on what readers are writing, a handful think we do that too vigorously, and about the same number think we don’t do it enough.

  21. Bravo!

    Wishlist items – maybe something to ask Disqus to consider:

    With threaded comments – and, generally with active discussions on multiple posts at once – the “recent comments” list is less than helpful. Rapid fire comments on post A shove slower comments about post B off the list too quickly. It is hard to distinguish from just the recent comments list which comments are replies to earlier comments and which are new. “They oughta do somethin’ about that…”

    Disqus seems to have some kind of long-standing religious objection to the notion but I think comment systems are often better when comments have “Subject” lines like email. It makes “recent comments” lists easier to read and I think it also has a psychological effect that helps people to make more focused comments.

  22. Yes. You can add photos or even video to comments. While we’re taking the measure of that, all comments with media attachments are held for moderation.

  23. Good decision I think. Keep Berkeleyside comments respectful and useful. Recent comments that have been full of generalizations or jabs at other commenters have been dragging the feel of the community down lately for me, especially when the user remains anonymous.

    That being said… can users post pics in comments now? Testing here with the current view from Lawrence Hall of Science. Yay for sun!

  24. I accidentally “liked” a really trollish comment when trying to reply to it.
    Is there any way to un-like a comment?

  25. Looks like using this comment system requires enabling third-party cookies.

    I like that it allows posters to comment using their Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc.