Comments: Why Branch and discussion are the future.

[The spam in the #tcdisrupt live video comments is beyond annoying. makes comments unusable.

Internet comments have long been a source of pain for popular web sites. On one hand, the ability to participate with a story gives readers a closer connection with the site and probably drives a bit of returning traffic. On the other hand, comment sections are wretched hives of scum and villainy. Internet Trolls, functional illiterates and just straight-up assholes consistently overwhelm threads with nastiness that drowns any reasoned and thought-out discussion. User voting systems sometimes help, but the reality is that most blogs’ comments sections aren’t worth the read.

In the ensuing discussion about the Disrupt comments section, my friend Keith Robinson mentioned that he’s been using Branch to create more controlled comment threads. For those unfamiliar, Branch allows users to create topics and invite others to comment about those topics. The branch created is publicly available and anyone can ask to join the discussion, but must be approved by the branch’s creator first. As a result, the conversations on Branch are generally intelligent, respectful and help drive a topic in multiple directions from a variety of viewpoints.

You know, like comments sections are intended to do.

Instead, we’ve spent years promoting this idea of casual commentary over rational and thoughtful conversation. Favored shouting matches between strangers over conversation amongst peers. Chaos over curation. I don’t want to hear what just anyone thinks about the Apple-Samsung trial, Twitter’s recent API changes or the upcoming presidential election. I want to read discussion from the people that steep themselves in the topic. That’s why I love Branch. I don’t want or need to be a part of every conversation. But I love reading conversations and debates amongst informed individuals who carry unique and varied perspectives. I’m glad we’re finally rediscovering that sort of interaction.

So blogs of the world, please kill your comments sections. Replace them with Branch links and make your authors responsible for the discussions. And Branch, if you’re not thinking about making your product embeddable, you’re crazy. You’re the future of discussion on the web.

Speaking of Branch, let’s start one about this. What do you think about the future of Internet comments?

 
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