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(Brian Gable)
(Brian Gable)

A new way to comment Add to ...

Update - 5:32 p.m. ET, Oct. 1: We've been able to fix the glitch that was preventing comments of more than 800 characters from posting. Comments up to 3000 characters should post without problem now. If you continue to see the problem, please contact me directly for the fastest response. Thanks for your patience, and happy commenting.

Our comments at globeandmail.com have always been, well, a talking point for readers. When we launched comments in 2005, I don't think we could have predicted that readers would soon be posting upwards of 6,000 comments per day across our site, on topics ranging from the long-gun registry to granola bar recipes. Not surprisingly, Globe and Mail readers like to debate and discuss.

We have comments on almost all of our news stories because we believe there is value in getting feedback from readers - both positive and negative. It helps further our goal of fostering a national debate on key issues, and also provides an avenue for readers to contribute information about news events that could help us in our reporting. Comments also help build valuable relationships between readers and our journalism.

That said, not all comments are created equal. Some commenters do make offensive posts - which can be subsequently reported to our moderators for removal. But many comments are smart, insightful and respectful, and we want to offer better tools to encourage that kind of dialogue.

To determine ways to improve our commenting system, we enlisted the help of The Globe Catalysts, a group of hundreds of engaged Globe readers who we have invited to share their feedback. We asked them for their advice on ways we could improve the comments and their guidance (combined with much of the feedback we've gotten from readers over the years) helped us develop a new version of our comments. This updated commenting system will be rolling out across different parts of globeandmail.com over the coming week. Here's a rundown on what's new:

Replying to specific comments

Reader Cmckay suggested: "it would be nice if responses to comments could be grouped with the original comment."

We agree - now commenters are able to respond to specific comments by hitting the Reply button. We're hoping this will help make it easier to follow discussions, and facilitate interaction.

To avoid clutter, reply threads are closed by default:

But can be read by clicking the grey triangle underneath the comment:

Rating comments

Previously, we offered a "thumbs-up/thumbs-down" option, which allowed any reader (logged-in or not) to rate a comment. But we saw a minority of readers were abusing the system to distort the ratings - for example, a single reader voting repeatedly on the same comment. This didn't provide an accurate rating of what The Globe community thought of the comment, so we've adjusted the rating system. Now, only readers who are logged-in will be able to vote, and each reader will be able to vote once per comment.

The product will be a score, which subtracts the number of thumbs-down from the number of thumbs-up. To see the exact number of thumbs-up and thumbs-down, simply hover over the score:

Highlighting and sorting comments

Reader Dsantos suggested: I would really like to see a new commenting system that sorts comments by "thumbs up" by default.

With our new rating system providing a more accurate ranking, comments are now ordered from highest-scored first. This should mean that the best and brightest comments are easier to find and read. Still prefer to order comments chronologically? You can change the view in the Sort dropdown:

Reading comments in a full page

Reader Ravensview suggested: Why not open comments in a separate full-width page?

We know many commenters want to get straight to the action, so we've made it easier to see more comments on a single page. By clicking straight to comments at the top or bottom of an article, readers will be able to see more comments at once and get a better sense of where the discussion is going. Click the comment count below to see how it works.

We welcome your feedback, so feel free to leave your input in the comments below. Constructive criticism is much appreciated.

Update, Sept. 28: Thanks for your feedback so far - here are some responses to some commonly asked questions I've noticed in the comments.

Q: Where can I see the total number of thumbs-up and thumbs-down, instead of the score?

A: Just hover over the score on the comment with your mouse. You'll see how many thumbs-up and thumbs-down the comment has received so far.

Q: I made a comment, and I want to be able to come back to it later to check on replies. How do I do that?

A: Hover over the icon that looks like a chain link and hit "Copy to Clipboard". You've now got a link back to that specific comment, making it easy to find later or to post the link elsewhere.

Q: Can I ignore comments from certain users if I don't want to see what they have to say?

A: Not currently, but we're looking at implementing this functionality due to popular demand.

Q: Why don't you number the comments?

A: It's a good suggestion, and something we're looking at.

Q: Can I edit my comments after I've posted?

A: This functionality hasn't been enabled, but several commenters have suggested it and it's something we're looking at.

Q: Why can't I reply to a reply?

A: We know comments could easily get buried and be difficult to find with multiple levels of reply. We've opted to do one level of replies to encourage a wider conversation that's easier to follow.

Q: Is there a limit to comment length?

A: Yes - the limit is 3,000 characters (including spaces and punctuation).

Q: I see a "delete" button underneath my comments. Can anyone delete my comments? A: No, the delete button is only visible to you underneath your own comments. Each user only has the ability to delete comments they posted under their own profile.

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