HuffPost rolls out advanced commenting system

HuffPost Conversations offers better navigation, comment URLs and ads.
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The Huffington Post has begun rolling out updates to its commenting system-- HuffPost Conversations--which introduce changes like comment threading, unique URLs for comment threads, and even advertising in threads.

Updating a commenting system may not seem like a huge deal, but when you have as many comments per day as The Huffington Post, finding a way to organize them and surface the best ones is important, says HuffPost CTO, John Pavley.

"We get more than 200K comments on an average "slow news day" and much more during big events, like elections, natural disasters, award shows, and even celebrity mishaps. We probably get more comments in a day than many other major news sites and services get in year. Our core user base is unbelievably engaged. Our comments are not only one-liners but deep and detailed responses to our articles and blog posts," Pavley explained.

He says when you have that many comments, finding the best ones becomes a challenge for readers. "When you have an article with 10,000 comments it's hard for a reader to find the most interesting and powerful comments and conversations between our bloggers, pundits and community members. Conversations uses machine learning algorithms (our Julia system) to discover the best comments and identify conversations in near real time, and float those gems directly up to the users through our new Conversations UI elements." You can see an example of this below:

Pavley said it's important to make these conversations more accessible. "We believe that these conversations can be just as valuable and interesting as our articles to readers. That's why conversations can also now be shared (with a unique URL), and the content can be advertised against."

Advertising in comment threads presents some unique challenges though, especially given how aggressive and even obnoxious some people can be in these online conversations. Will advertisers want to be associated with them? "Some will and some will not," Pavley said. He adds, "With conversations we weed out the noise so advertisers will be more comfortable and users will find more value. We believe that by focusing on user value, we will provide unique and enormous opportunities for our advertisers."

We'll see. I can just imagine how an advertiser will feel if his or her ad fires against something controversial. But advertisers may get to be associated with known commodities, such as super users or community pundits, who have status based on the number and quality of their posts.

The threading should help people follow conversations better and the Julia system should help surface the best ones (however that's determined) from a very crowded field.

For now, the update is only available for the World, Books and Gay Voices sections, but it should be rolled out across the site over the next few weeks. 

For more information,
- see the Huffington Post blog post announcing HuffPost Conversations

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