Jul 16, 2012

Daily Beast Features 2009 Master's Project tldr, by Alumnus Srikanth Narayan

From The Daily Beast

Most Comments Are Horrible—Sites Look for Ways to Make Them Better

By Jesse Singal

If you want a bracing look at just how infantile Internet comments get, you could do worse than glance at a recent Huffington Post article on Arizona’s immigration law.

“IN AZ when I see an illegal i bump into his car, call the cops and watc wahts happens lol,” wrote “Come Out and playSB1070,” who, one hopes, is not an English teacher....

So how should community managers tamp down the vitriol yet keep the discussion alive? Most larger online-news outlets realized long ago that you can have a fully open, democratic commenting space, or you can have intelligent conversations—but, generally speaking, you can’t have both....

In 2009 Srikanth Narayan created tldr (Internet shorthand for “too long; didn’t read”) for his master’s thesis project at the Berkeley’s School of Information. Narayan told The Daily Beast he was inspired by the link-sharing site Reddit, which often features robust discussion.

“I was on Reddit from the days it was starting out,” said Narayan, who now works at Tidemark Systems in San Francisco, “and what attracted me to Reddit was the community actively discussing all these stories that were coming out, and the quality of commentary that was building up.”

But that quality got diluted as the site expanded into the behemoth it is today, he said. “There would be thousands of comments, and you would drown in all these comments.”

Working with his adviser Coye Cheshire, Narayan developed tldr to help users navigate the maze of comments. The system examines the structure of a conversation—is it a lot of quick back-and-forth comments (suggesting a flame war), or longer posts?

Employing this structural examination, and also taking into account the degree to which each comment gets upvoted or downvoted by other users, Narayan and Cheshire developed an elegant visualization system that makes it easy, even in a thread of thousands of comments or more, to see where (likely) productive conversation is going on and where things have devolved into a flame war....


Last updated:

October 4, 2016