In our ongoing effort to make our website more interactive and engaging, we rolled out a few subtle changes this past weekend. Some of the refinements are totally under the hood. You won’t really see them. We added a spell checker to our writing and editing tool for creating blog posts, for instance. We all pride ourselves in knowing how to use the English language, but it can’t hurt to have a spell checker given that our editing staff is fairly small.
One change you might notice is that we’ve made our “donate” link far more prominent on our homepage because, frankly, we want to stay in business for a long time to come. A little more visibility can’t hurt.
And in our ongoing effort to promote and encourage responsible commenting, we’ve added a new star-rating system on our site. Readers can now rate all comments on stories, blogs and data features. If someone makes a particularly astute observation or you just plain agree, say it with stars. You can rate a comment from one to five stars – with five being the highest. No reason to mince words here. If you think a comment sucks, give it one star. The average rating bestowed by all readers appears alongside your rating. It’s basically a Yelp-inspired system. We like it because it’s simple and easy. It provides a little more flexibility than the thumbs up/thumbs down rating systems that a lot of other sites appear to be gravitating toward.
Adding star ratings to comments is a simple way to reward and acknowledge commenters who are especially articulate or persuasive. Is there shame in one-star comments? That’s in the eye of the commenter, I suppose. But you can express your dissatisfaction when you think any commenter falls below the bar.
The rating system is just our latest effort to keep that bar high. A couple months back we eliminated anonymous commenting. Since we did that, we’ve barely had to remove any inappropriate comments (although we’re still battling with an influx of spam commenting on our site).
We’ve also given away an iPod Touch each of the last two months as part of our Debate Championship promotion. Every month, we enter the best comments on our site into a drawing and ship out an iPod Touch to the winner. You can read more about the promotion here
We think the promotion, the removal of anonymous comments and the rating system all are steps that will help make our online forum an engaging, informative and family-friendly place to be. Let us know what you think.
California Watch is a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting and is now the largest investigative reporting team operating in the state. Visit the Web site at www.californiawatch.org for in-depth coverage of K-12 schools, higher education, money and politics, health and welfare, public safety and the environment.