By Ryan McGreal
Published September 29, 2009
this blog entry has been updated
In my ongoing efforts to achieve the impossible and solve a social problem with a technical fix, I'm trying out a new technique: the text colour of RTH comments with net negative comment voting scores becomes progressively fainter as the score gets more negative.
(Note: I've shamelessly pilfered this technique from the comments section on Hacker News.)
The purpose of this is to discourage both inappropriate comments - comments that use rude or insulting language, are needlessly inflammatory, seek to provoke an emotional reaction from others, are attempts to disrupt and derail the discussion, or abuse evidence and reasoning to defend an unjustifiable conclusion - and the outraged responses that end up usurping the discussion and crowding out more constructive commentary.
Registered RTH users already have the option of setting a comment threshold in their user profiles so that comments with a score below the threshold are hidden by default; but most site visitors read articles anonymously, so this feature does not help them.
I'm committed to preserving free speech (the only comments I delete are spam), but I also want the community to be able to express its disapproval of inappropriate comments in a way that visibly demonstrates that disapproval beyond a mere negative number below the comment.
The text colour never fades completely to white, but it does get pretty faint for highly negative scores. Here is a demonstration of the colours for particular scores:
Comment with a score of 0
Comment with a score of -1
Comment with a score of -2
Comment with a score of -3
Comment with a score of -4
Comment with a score of -5
Comment with a score of -6
Comment with a score of -7
Comment with a score of -8
The fading stops there. Comments with scores lower than -8 don't get any fainter.
Anyway, take a look at at and let me know if you think it's a good idea, if it needs some tweaking to work better, or if it's a terrible idea that I should just abandon.
Update In response to feedback in the comments, I updated the colour filter so that it doesn't start fading until an article has a score of -2. I've updated the examples in the article to reflect this change. I also dialed down the maximum fade so that it is not as severe.
Update 2 In response to feedback in the comments, I have updated the RTH User Profiles so that registered users can select whether to enable or disable comment fading.