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This article was published on July 15, 2015

    Use Javascript to trick irritating commenters into talking to themselves

    Use Javascript to trick irritating commenters into talking to themselves
    Owen Williams
    Story by

    Owen Williams

    Former TNW employee

    Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their word Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their words friendlier. In his spare time he codes, writes newsletters and cycles around the city.

    Comment threads can become the toilets of the internet. A number of prominent websites have ditched them entirely – including Recode, Reuters and Fox News – often because dealing with them has become too much trouble.

    If you’ve considered killing them on your own site, but haven’t yet, here’s a devious solution: Tricking visitors into releasing their rage in comments that appear to save, but only show up for them.

    An interesting Javascript library called ‘Echo Chamber‘ promises “all of the commenting, none of the comments.” Comments submitted to a site using it remain stored in the visitor’s browser rather than on the server.

    That way, they can feel like they’re still being heard (or raging), but in reality are only commenting on their own computer. They’ll see the comment like it was submitted, but in reality it goes nowhere.

    In Echo Chamber’s words “you and your database need not be burdened with other people’s opinions.”

    It’s a more extreme version of “shadow bans” already used online by sites like Reddit and Hacker News. The technique allows commenters to use the sites and leave their opinions, but nobody else sees them — it’s often used to combat persistent trolls without enraging them.

    The Javascript to set this up is easy to implement and even fits in nicely with your blog theme, right out of the box. The obvious alternative is to, you know, disable them altogether.

    Echo Chamber [GitHub]