After earlier revolt, Digg users embrace new comments system

Update offers faster load times and options for showing comments of users and their friends

Almost a year after a new comments system prompted a user revolt, Digg Inc.'s social news site appears poised to roll out another system that is so far receiving warm feedback from its notoriously volatile customer base.

A Digg-produced video detailing features of a new commenting system, said to be "coming soon," was posted today on the site's home page. In the video, Digg founder Kevin Rose said the first thing users will notice about the new comments system is speed.

"Comments are loaded as the page is displayed," he noted. "That means no more AJAX loading. You click a box, and the comments expand."

Slow load times for comments was a major complaint of users when an updated comments system was launched last June. Just hours after Digg posted that update, complaints began pouring in about long load times and a new requirement that users click to read replies to posts.

Rose went on to say that the new layout of the comments system is "superlight" with no boxes around nested comments. "We've added two new filters to the top of the site: 'Only Mine' which shows just your views of the comments and 'Only Friends' which shows your friends your comments and replies," he said.

Digg also added a new type of comment-sorting capability called "Controversial," which highlights comments that get the most Diggs and Buries.

"Submitting and managing your comments is now improved -- a bigger Submit box, longer edit times. And now you have a Delete button to remove the comment," Rose noted. "You can also now change your vote on a comment."

Complaints by Digg.com users are always notable in light of reaction to a separate user content issue last year led to an online riot that many analysts and academics at the time called a test case to determine who has control over user-generated content on social networking sites.

That revolt began after Digg.com succumbed to legal threats and began removing a user-posted software key for cracking encryption technology used to limit the copying of Blu-ray disks. As Digg began removing the key, outraged users repeatedly reposted it, eventually forcing the company to relent.

Earlier this year, angry Digg users threatened to boycott the site after the company began using a new algorithm that would let a more diverse set of users determine which stories reach the top of its rankings.

A user identified as "Gllpoc" wrote on Digg.com that the updated comments system has "all the improvements I've been looking for. Thanks for addressing each of these issues."

Along the same lines, Digg user "Applegeorge" said that Rose had "redeemed himself even if it took over a year."

Most of the protests from users centered around the fact that the new comments system is not yet available, though some users did have specific complaints.

"Trigatch4", for example, said that the "Controversial" option should allow users to set their own preferences. "Personally, I don't want to see crap comments that people have buried 23,523 times. It encourages spamming comments because they'll get buried and then appear at the top of the 'Controversial' tab, rendering half of the 'Controversial' tab as spam."

Mark Hopkins, a blogger at Mashable, noted that the new comment filtering system that lets users see all of their friends' comments will "provide some incentives to get users to take advantage of some of the social features of Digg (something that I've barely touched in the system as long as I've had it)."

Hopkins noted that a new permalinks feature is certain "to create more of a sense of ownership of content, a subtle psychological shift to the approach to how comments are regarded that will likely have a net effect of increasing comment frequency."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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