Keith Whamond

Senior product manager, Hearst Newspapers

Mark this date: Topix is no more

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The following is an open letter to our readers:

We’ve heard you.

Time and again, the most consistent complaint about our sites we’ve heard from our users has been, to paraphrase, “The comments on your stories are horrible.”

“They’re filled with vile garbage.”

“They do nothing to add to a healthy conversation.”

“They’re extremely offensive.”

Our response has been equally steadfast: “We agree with you.”

Nobody cares more passionately about the freedom of speech than the members of our industry. I wouldn’t be doing what I do today if I didn’t believe strongly in the rights promised in the First Amendment.

In that sense, I’m not alone in thinking that users should be able to post comments on the stories that we write. I also think they should be able to post comments that I personally disagree with.

What I don’t believe, though, is that people should be allowed to anonymously post racist, threatening, homophobic comments on our site on a daily basis. And we’ve never allowed them to. Whenever that kind of garbage has been reported to us, we have deleted it as promptly as we could.

The problem with our story commenting system, which was administrated on a partnership with Topix.com, was that it made such anonymous postings all too easy to write.

I still believe it was an extremely vocal minority that ruined the concept for everyone else. But it’s a moot point: They were way out of hand.

As some may know, we’re in the middle of a complete relaunch of our sites, and developing a better way to integrate user comments has been one of our major goals. Our new sites are dramatically more user-friendly, and story commenting will be far more secure.

But those new sites aren’t ready yet. This is too important to wait any longer.

So, we got rid of the comments entirely. If you’d like to let us know how you feel about the stories we cover, please contribute to our newsroom blogs — Connecticut PostingsStamford 411, and Greenwich Real Time. NewsTimes.com’s newsroom blog will be launching next week.

We’ve sacrificed a feature that we believe in because what we had wasn’t working. I have a hunch most of our readers will be thrilled. I know I am.

Categories: General
Keith Whamond