My capstone team, made up of Brent Davidson, Leanne Butkovich and myself, presented at RJI Innovation Week on Wednesday, April 25. We spoke about the project we have been working on this entire semester with MU computer scientist Ryanne Dolan. Ryanne has developed a commenting system that allows for thousands of people to be commenting simultaneously in real-time, without the system crashing. It also allows for automatic filtering of comments to scale down the potentially massive size of the conversation and detailed analytics. My team’s task was to research ways in which this technology could be useful in journalism and design a user interface for a website using this technology.
In our presentation, we discussed the current state of commenting. We described a comment as:
- Useful content – useful content for the reader and the editor.
- Additive – adds content, value and insight to the website at no cost to the news organization
- Measurable – editors can glean analytics
- A relationship – establishes a relationship both between readers and between readers and editors
…and a commenting system should be:
- Easy – easy and intuitive to enter a comment
- Fast – as few barriers to entering a comment as possible
- Compelling – fresh user interface that allows for various interactions and intuitive options
Then we showed our prototype. Here’s our beta version, which we’ve embedded on a mock site we built called “The Pacific”.
Some features of our site include:
- Comment placement inline with the article, off to the article’s right side
- Ability to “pin” paragraphs of text in the article, marking them as interesting or something you’d like to comment on
- Easy, one-step registration – enter a name or pseudonym when you submit your first comment
- Separate tabs for all the comments, “my pins” (comments and parts of the article the reader finds interesting) and “hot topics” (most-pinned parts of the article)
- Ability to look back at what a user has pinned by clicking on their profile picture, in order to see what they are interested in and have a more informed discussion with them.
- Option to see comment threads, by clicking “replies” at the bottom of each comment.
We concluded our presentation by discussing what’s next…
- Delving into the analytics – this system allows for many opportunities to view and analyze relationships formed between users and what they are discussing
- Better threading of comments
- Implementing a user dashboard
- Developing a prototype we’ve created for commenting on videos and live events