Yesterday, I attended a #CMmeetup about The Coral Project, which is a commenting platform that’s in the works in collaboration with Mozilla, New York Times, and Washington Post. Here’s the broad strokes on what they discussed:

1. The Coral Project’s platform will provide “ the safest conversations possible”.

Moderation was the key buzzword throughout the talk. They aim to create tools to help publishers moderate comments, shepherd discussion, and most importantly “fix the problem with trolls”. The platform will allow users (in their case, users includes both publishers and commenters) to have full control over their experience.

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Kinja even received a bit of praise when touching upon this point, remarking that our pending approval system is a great way to filter out the junk. Yay, Kinja!

2. Everything will be open-source.

Publishers will have full control on the commenting experience and commenters/readers will have full control on how they can process that information (which includes ability to block anyone you wish). Publishers can also control the level of anonymity their comment boards can have. Also, the entire platform along with the data acquired from its use will be hosted from the publisher’s servers (not from any proprietary servers belonging to The Coral Project or Mozilla).

3. Publishers can opt-in to sell data to advertisers

They didn’t go into too much detail about this, but it seems they want to provide publisher’s with tools to monetize the data they receive from comments.

4. There’s going to be a slow rollout of tools and eventually they’ll provide an entire suite of tools so each publisher can have a different identity.

They are starting by working with just a few key partners (The New York Times and Washington Post) and eventually they will open the platform up to other publishers.

My take on this talk:

The Coral Project seems deeply concerned with providing a “safe” environment for discussion by avoiding the mistakes of Reddit. This is exactly where Kinja and The Coral Project differ greatly. In the media world and commenting space we’re at the cusp where people/publishers are just starting to learn the boundaries and social implications of what and what not to post online. A sterile commenting environment in which opposition can be easily blocked or “marked as trolling” will end up inhibiting conversation and we want the exact opposite for Kinja! Kinja needs to be the place where you can speak your heart out, play devil’s advocate, be anonymous, and not be policed by moderators to be politically correct. We have to be the place where you’re free to be politically incorrect.

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Sure, there are a lot of harnessers, spammers, sickos, and trolls in the online world and to lessen their impact on our platform will be a challenge we have to overcome (both technologically and socially). However, Reddit’s debacle is not a “failure of anarchic discussions platforms” but more of a greater social change that cannot be controlled through moderation or platform changes. They are the host of conversations, but they are also the conversation.

Every good discussion, may it be in real-life or online, requires three things:

  1. Openness to other points of view.
  2. Diversity of ideas. A room full of yes-men is where ideas die.
  3. A way through dig through the noise. We handle it by recommendations and author curation, Reddit does it through up-votes, and a group of peers do it by letting each other speak.

To create an excellent discussion platform, you need to provide and allow these three things. After seeing this talk, I’ve come to the realization that as a discussion platform we should continue to provide a place where discussion cultivation takes precedent over discussion moderation. Discussion platforms cannot control the tide of social change nor expect to completely eradicate trolling. The more laissez-faire we are with comments, the greater quality conversations we will have.


Follow me @TheArielViera.