Monday, April 19, 2010

More on Peer News and comments: An interview with Jay Rosen

Given that there's clearly some confusion over our position on comments at Peer News, I thought I'd share this excerpt from a Skype interview I did with Jay Rosen in March after the speech where I spoke publicly for the first time about Peer News.

I hope this helps clarify our position on comments.

[3/18/10 5:19:08 PM] Jay Rosen: so it's more the anonymous you want to eliminate than that you want to be one way?

[3/18/10 5:20:16 PM] John Temple: We definitely don't want to be one way. If I gave that impression in my talk, I'm sorry. I can see how people might have read the no comments that way. But it was meant as a way to say that instead of comments, we're going to have conversation.

[3/18/10 5:20:42 PM] Jay Rosen: you have a significant misimpression to correct, then

[3/18/10 5:20:44 PM] John Temple: we do believe that in a civic square anonymity contributes greatly to the lack of civility...

[3/18/10 5:20:58 PM] Jay Rosen: the message was "no comments"

[3/18/10 5:21:12 PM] Jay Rosen: which I didn't believe

[3/18/10 5:21:16 PM] Jay Rosen: and did not repeat

[3/18/10 5:21:55 PM] John Temple: i'll work at it...i thought I was pretty clear about the importance of community and conversation...i believe i said that the contributions of readers potentially were as important as the contributions of journalists. I appreciate that you picked up on this and sought to clarify. Thank you!

[3/18/10 5:22:24 PM] Jay Rosen: TechCrunch mangled it

[3/18/10 5:22:50 PM] John Temple: We've talked with her and asked her to clarify. I thought she did a great job other than that.


  1. When can we subscribe to Peer News?
    Why are State Harbor employees here at Ala Wai Harbor sweeping and maintaining the parking lots that have been privatized to Diamond Co?

    So many questions :)

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  2. I have to agree that the interface through which the public currently discusses news, popularly referred to as "comments" is inadequate.

    It sounds like Peer News will move the industry in positive steps toward enhancing the conversation that takes place on news websites, lack of an anonymity option aside.

    One thing I am particularly excited about is having individuals' names attached to their posts in these conversations. I'm excited about the possibility of seeing elected officials engage the public through these forums. Certainly, some of those elected officials' posts could become news stories. Can't wait for election season Peer News style.

    From what I understand, the reporters themselves will be able to engage the users in these forums as well. I'm excited about that as well, but can't sort out exactly how it will work or how successful it will be (i.e. avoiding the know-it-all, liberal elitist criticisms plaguing the industry). How much restraint a reporter and host uses will ultimately be their decision at a particular moment when they are engaging in conversation with the public. That's scary for the reporter, but there is no doubt this thought process has begun within the minds of those reporters who have engaged the public through social media. This seems to be a prominent component of the hiring decisions.

    However, I still feel Peer News is taking a step back from engaging the public in throwing away anonymous comments. Peer News could have tried to work with them, shape them, mold them into something more useful to the conversation rather than just throwing them out. I'm sure there was some thought put into eliminating them, but given the prevailing hatred of anonymity in these public forums among newsies it is easy to assume there was a rush to judgment.

    In shaping this new interface for conversation about issues, Peer News could have allowed anonymous posts to be hidden from view unless members of the public voted or approved them to be included in the general conversation. The same voting procedure could be used to remove non-anonymous posts that the public felt didn't contribute to the discussion. I think we'll find that eliminating anonymity doesn't prevent hatred or socially-unacceptable comments, but I guess we'll see. I look forward to finding out. Will posts be rated on Peer News? Is it all going to work through Twitter?

    Further, I think even those who have subscribed should still have the option of posting anonymously. Since all their anonymous posts are initially hidden, they don't distract from or reduce the quality of the conversation. But those anonymous posts that provided information a person didn't feel comfortable attributing to their name due to reprisal would still be there and possibly benefit the conversation. I can think of a million reasons why a beneficial post might need the cloak of anonymity, deep throats being one of them.

    This isn't a civic square, its a digitized civic square and on the Internet we can control and mold the discussion in ways a civic square never could. It seems Peer News will capitalize on this in a way no other service has. Nonetheless, I hope Peer News will go farther than it currently appears it will. Or, maybe experiment with anonymity somewhere down the line. The service could, of course, revert back to eliminating anonymity if it chose to do so.

    Doesn't mean I'm not thrilled with the way Peer News is currently described, I just wish it took one more step.

  3. When I say the anonymous posts would initially be hidden from view, I mean the user would have to click to go to another page or in some other way expose them. They wouldn't be out there with the non-anonymous posts initially. The public would have to do something in order to display them and review them.

    Then, you (citizen) could review them and decide if you wanted to give one a thumbs up. After so many thumbs up from users, the anonymous post gets promoted to the general discussion.

  4. Can somebody explain what the monthly fee will buy? i.e. Is there going to be ZERO free content outside of the paywall?

  5. Doug: Check out the site. We have free content at, but there is far more value for paying members. It's not a pay wall. It's a membrane, with more benefits for members.

  6. A membrane, eh? Sort of a news condom, perhaps? haha

    So, without ponying up my money first, how do I know what is behind the "membrane?" I have to click on each item I'm interested in to find out if it's free? Is there no general description or characterization of what will be "members-only" content?

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