Quick show of hands. How many newspaper editors see comments as an asset of their websites? I thought so.
Despite whatever one thinks about Arianna Huffington as a journalist; one thing's certain: Huffington Post has a better handle on how to manage and grow comments than nearly all newspapers in America.
Huffington Post uses a combination of humans and technology to manage the dialy deluge of 175,000 comments:
Although moderation goes a long way toward ensuring the quality of the comments, HuffPo also does an excellent job of surfacing the remarks that are most relevant to individual readers. If you connect to Huffingtonpost.com using your Facebook or Twitter login, you'll see comments posted by people in your network above regular comments. This allows for high-frequency group debate amid the broader public conversation.
The rest of the comments are displayed not chronologically, but ordered by popularity and a user's commenting history.
Recognition is another important factor, says Huffington. Readers can earn badges and privileges (such as the ability to author posts using rich text) for sharing and commenting on content. Soon, Huffington Post CTO Paul Berry says, users will be able to award each other badges to recognize commenters who are funny ("LOL" badge) and insightful ("pundit" badge). Leaderboards will also show commenters that are worth following.
There are some tips in the interview on why comments work better on HuffPo than on news sites. Why are we not seeing more and larger similar efforts at news sites?
Bonus post. The man wants your real name if you want to post comments or the "abuse of power" theory of requiring real names online. An interesting take on an old argument.