Wednesday, October 29, 2014

28th Sep 2014 - Youtube comments - where we are and where we should be

Oh boy, do you still remember that day when Google shoved it's Google+ system up YouTube's rectum? Some even say they're willingly admitting that it was a mistake to revamp the comments like that, but you have to respect how they're sticking to their guns like that.

But this wouldn't be a Sunday rant if all you'd read here was some unexpected praise and a lamentation.

You can consider this an open letter to Google. But in reality, it will simply be my Twitter followers who are most likely to read this. A sad truth, but that will not stop me!

For those not fully aware, YouTube comments used to be better. (HA! How many of you would ever imagine yourself thinking that, ever?)
You had limited writing space, and up-votes were dominant on whether a comment rose to the top.
If your video had a comment, you would be notified in your YouTube mailbox. Simple, right?
And that's all there was to it. Think of it as having double the writing space as a Tweet.

Now, we have a system that's, against all odds and expectations, has proven even worse. Yes, now you have free reign to type what you want in a comment. Rumors go of comments that have the entire script of Star Wars written out. I've yet to see this for myself, but there is no reason to doubt it's possibility. Because hey, unlimited writing space?

Oh, but surely such spam won't be a thing. You have to link your Google+ account to it? Well, turns out it's not fully necessary by my knowledge, and you can safely neglect your Google+ account you've used just for this one purpose.

But the greatest sinner of this new system is how popular posts are determined. Mind you, I'll be rehashing the point of some other famous Critics and other Intelligent Gentlemen or Ladies. The simple fact now is that a comment that has many responses is considered a top comment. Surely, if people are heartily discussing and communicating with you, that must mean you are a great purveyor of thought provoking topics.

Well, actually... The old system was better. An upvote simply meant it was deemed worth reading by the person pressing those thumbs up. People who simply spent ten seconds writing down an insult toward the channel owner, were usually drowned in down-votes and the occasional flame-war. But all these often found themselves in the lower colons of YouTube.

However, flame-wars now often cause a comment to mistakenly be seen as a top comment. Yes, no matter your amount thumbs up, as long as you have hundreds of people hammering on the fact that you are a horses' behind for your comment, you are sure to be seen as the best comment available.

This does not set a great precedent. Especially when you, as a starting or semi professional YouTuber, are faced with hurtful and maddening comments. Are we to be surprised that many channels over time have decided to shut down their comments? Especially channels that can be seen as controversial or addressing topics that are either sensitive in nature, or are approached in a way that may cause comment backlash. Deserving or not. (more often than not, absolutely not deserving)

So, just to have it out there, here are some solutions to these problems and their nuanciation:

The problem with unlimited writing space is that it allows us to be lazy. It takes some intelligence and consideration to form your point in a limited space. This is why Tweets and the generations of Steam reviews have worked relatively well. Even with Steam Reviews' huge writing space, it is still limited. Urging you to consider your point and remove parts that are less relevant to what you're trying to get across. Yes, writing too much can indeed be a problem.

Return the limited writing space. Make it generous, make it 500 or even 1000 characters. Please feel it up, Google. See what would work best. But make it limited. The sheer idea that we can only say so much, inspires us to concentrate and perfect our point.

Google+ integration... if you insist, it can stay. But it deserves it's own framework. From what I understand, a comment I want to show on my Google+ stands equal to a blog post in how it gets exposed. That's not right. YouTube comments shouldn't be blog posts and certainly will not thrive as such.

Make it different. Give it's own system. Do something with it. But do not keep it like this, please!

Return up-votes as the dominant method of determining top comment. Even as a substitute while something better is found, the current method simply does not function as intended and only creates more grief than it normally could have.

A complicated mathematical formula that not only considers the original posts up-votes, but the comments that reply to it, could be a start. Such a formula would favor a conversation that is largely positive of nature, against a conversation that has two very polarized parties opposing each other.

For example, a comments conversation about appreciating the work put in editing should take preference over a conversation where Lovers and Haters go neck to neck, even if the starting comment has the most up-votes versus the first example. This almost-democratic system should work to show what comments are better worth someone's time.

Also considering the amounts of up-votes vs down-votes, a post that has 750 up-votes and 500 down-votes should not take preference over a comment with 250 up votes and 10 down-votes. A formula must be made that can consider a sanity check to this. But hopefully this should get some ideas started.

I hear you, though. The aforementioned solutions seem more like patches, band-aids to fix a problem that came from a problem. This wouldn't correct the sewage that used to be the comments section, before the sewage that we call the comments section NOW.

I don't see using humans as moderators as a solution for a problem of this scale. So, again, a formula with a sanity check should prove useful.
My ideas will fit in with each other, so please with hold your judgement until you've completely read it.

For starters, a cool-down on new accounts being able to post should be enforced. You should still be able to post them on your own Google+ profile, but comments shown on the actual video page should be restricted until your account reaches a certain age. A day? A week? Two weeks?

A month may seem excessive, unless you link your account with a cellphone number to immediately allow yourself to post comments. This inspires a sense of responsibility. No longer are you entirely anonymous in your mischief. It's better than having to fully expose your identity on the internet.

Secondly, a comment posting limit is also in order. Right now, if you post too quickly after another one, you should be halted. I haven't tested whether that system is still there, but I assume it is.

But having a daily limit on how many times you can comment might be a good idea. Now, I can already hear you yell at me. That's why I would suggest that the initial posting limit to be very, VERY generous. Arguably more than you can spend in one day, for at least the common user.

However, this limit will get more stern as your account gets flagged for inappropriate behavior (and subsequently proven guilty). Or, to a lesser extent, on how many down-votes you get. The latter should only become a factor when the numbers are seriously overwhelming. It's also important that there are, again, sanity checks to see that someone isn't just being bombarded by bots. Which is why I am hesitant to include down-votes on this system. But an idea is an idea.

Thirdly, I am looking for a good idea that allows channel owners to moderate their own comments section in a way, without allowing them to abuse and inappropriately use the system for their own gains. I am not sure yet, but I'm open for suggestions on how to make that work. The balance of power must remain standing.

What do you think? Think the ideas are solid, rubbish, or do you have additional ideas yourself? Let me know what you think with a response Tweet or send me a Twitlonger if your point is too long for the limited Tweet space.

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