How to improve commenting: Slate adds a commenting tab for its writers and members.

Slate’s New Writer and Member Commenting Tab, Explained

Slate’s New Writer and Member Commenting Tab, Explained

Slate Plus
Your all-access pass
Feb. 13 2015 3:07 PM

Keeping Tabs on the State of Slate’s Commenting

The new writer and member commenting tab, explained.


Photo illustration by Slate. Image by Thinkstock.

Go check out the comments area—we’ve added a second tab to highlight comments from Slate’s writers and members.

Who can comment in this new commenting tab?

Slate writers and Slate Plus members. You can still view all comments by clicking over to the main tab.

To learn more about becoming a Slate Plus member, click here.

There’s an “expand conversation” link that appears above some obscured comments in the writers and members tab. What’s that?

When a Slate writer or member replies to a comment in the main commenting tab, you can see the full discussion they joined by clicking on “expand conversation.”

What if a Slate Plus member wants to comment on a discussion started in the other tab?

Members can still join any conversation in the main tab.

Will Slate writers join discussions in the comments more often?

We hope so.

But some Slate writers find great value in the comments section, and some don’t—see this Slate Plus debate for a good overview of the opposing views. (It’s free; we removed the roadblock.) We expect that a contingent of writers will remain reluctant to join commenting threads.

And before you scorn a noncommenting writer, consider that the health of any commenting conversation has a lot to do with what the article is about. While most Slate articles attract few commenters, articles about certain topics tend to attract more, and more virulent, commenting and debate. If, for example, you write about feminism, race, parenting, or religion—it might be harder to maintain a functional commenting community.

To get more writers (and readers) commenting, we need to improve the quality of conversations throughout the site. We hope that the writer and member tab helps us toward that goal. But the tab won’t solve everything.

Can members say anything they want in the new tab?

No. Slate’s commenting and moderation guidelines apply equally to members and nonmembers alike.

Doesn’t this privilege the people who are paying you money? Shouldn’t we all have the same rights to speech?

There are many ways for nonmembers to give Slate feedback—more ways than ever:

  • Comment on an article page.
  • Email or (All mail is read, but replies are not guaranteed.)
  • Join the discussion on Slate’s Facebook or Twitter accounts. Or discuss in the social media corner of your choice; most Slate writers are on Twitter, for example.

Your feedback is welcome and helps improve Slate.

That said, it makes sense to give members a commenting space of their own. Support from Slate Plus members helps make the magazine possible. We want to do as good a job as we can of hearing what they have to say.

Why now?

We’re responding to feedback from members and writers.

Back in December, we asked Slate Plus members how to improve commenting on the site. Alongside that discussion, we published a debate among several staffers about the state of commenting on Slate.

We think the commenting tab addresses several suggestions made by members and staffers. To summarize some of those suggestions: 

  • Make commenting members-only.
  • Offer more commenting permissions to non-anonymous commenters, or to commenters who authenticate their identities.
  • Get writers to comment more often.

Adding a members and writers tab seemed to balance some of these ideas. When members provide more information about their identities, it’s easier for Slate to hold them accountable to their comments. In exchange, we’re offering their comments more visibility.

Members: We’re planning to publish a second piece that provides a little more follow-up on some other ideas raised in the December open thread. Stay tuned!