It's just not easy to build a system that allows for smart ongoing conversations among large groups of people
So many things about the Internet have become pretty awesome over the past decade or so, but there is one thing, however, that remains dysfunctional: comments. They continue to be terrible, and it's not only because of trolls and morons. Internet comments are hard to read and harder to engage with. Even in places with smart, thoughtful readers, the comment sections tend to be more like lists of unconnected ideas than genuine conversations. The problem is simply that it's hard to build a system that allows for smart ongoing conversations among large groups of people. It's a harder problem, fundamentally, than how to present and create good content.
But systems are improving: The New York Times has rolled out some tweaks to its commenting process this week, allowing "trusted commenters" to post without vetting, a system they hope will encourage more rapid feedback and reward people for positive contributions. Additionally, the new system will allow for "nested" responses (a pretty standard feature) and in-comment sharing to Facebook and Twitter, which the Times editors home will entice people to revisit comments after posting, encouraging more conversations with actual back and forth. Other sites, such as Reddit, allow for comments to be sorted by a variety of qualities, including "best," based on a voting system. As a result, interesting conversations float to the top, and you don't have to wade through dozens of posts to find them. This seems to be one of the more effective strategies for culling smart conversations; the Reddit comment threads are some of the best on the web.