Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dear PaidContent: Facebook comments suck

(Edit: The Facebook logon is used for their PaidContent50) For years, I've been leaving comments on, a popular news blog for digital media. The topics interest me, the reporting is generally good, and I usually have some opinions to share.

Until recently, Most of the time, PC uses Disqus for comments. It's not a perfect solution (I especially don't like that the link to my name under a comment I leave takes users to a Disqus profile, instead of my own blogs), but it was flexible, and worked across many sites.

Today, I discovered a change on one of their specials: Leaving a comment on PaidContent now requires authentication through Facebook. Not good, as I explained in an email to PC's executive editor, Ernie Sander:
Ernie, a comment, and a question, about comments:

I have no problem with leaving my real name on PC comment threads, but I do not want my Facebook identity used here. I am hardly alone in this regard: PC is part of a professional network, and FB is purely personal, and there are very good reasons for keeping them separate.

I certainly don't want friend requests from random people, or my comments here showing up in my FB profile (yes, I know comments appearing in news feeds can be controlled, but frankly the rules and processes change so much I can't honestly remember if I set them up the right way, and can't be bothered to hunt down the latest checkbox in FB to figure it out).

Question: Is there any other way to leave a comment besides Facebook, such as LinkedIn or Twitter?

Thank you,

Ian Lamont
An issue that I didn't touch on is why PaidContent (and other publishers, including TechCrunch) have turned to Facebook comments:
  • It provides a real name (most of the time), which cuts down on trolling, flamewars, and low-quality comments
  • It hooks into Facebook users' networks, by sharing the comment on their feed (unless, as noted above, the user manages to figure out how to turn off the feature). It's free advertising for the publisher brand and can result in more clicks (and therefore more ad revenue)
  • For those publishers which have used installed commenting systems it potentially saves technical staff (and sometimes editorial staff) the trouble associated with securing and maintaining these systems. For instance, if the publication uses Drupal, installing and maintaining Akismet (a spam-fighting system) can be a pain)
Twitter authentication is possible, but unfortunately not many people seem to use real names/variations of real names on the service. However, I see a huge opportunity for LinkedIn (see What is LinkedIn?). Like Facebook, LinkedIn is a system that (usually) has real names of users. Furthermore, users of professional publications may want their comments fed into their LinkedIn profiles. LinkedIn apparently offers such a feature, but I have yet to see it used on the news/information sites that I read.

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