Blogonomics: True/Slant fails the interactivity test

By Felix Salmon
April 13, 2009

Matt Taibbi is blogging over at True/Slant, the new website which managed to get itself a fully-fledged Mossberg review last week. Taibbi’s blog is fantastic, and the site looks great. But a few of the site’s early decisions make me bearish on its future.

First, the site’s RSS feeds are truncated — which is simply idiotic. Second, the list of executives (five of them, four with the word “chief” in their name) gives no contact information for any of them: they’re closing themselves off from their readers.

Third, you can’t comment without first registering — another way of the site closing itself off from its readers. (I tried to register, and am supposed to click on a link in an email they were supposed to send me, but I never got the email.) In general, I never fail to be astonished at the number of new blogs which by default, at launch, assume that their readers are so unruly and untrustworthy that all manner of registration or comment-moderation firewalls need to be put up before they can interact with the site.

It’s true that when sites become extremely popular, comment trolls can become a problem. And I’m sure that True/Slant has every intention of becoming extremely popular. But it’s not there yet. So it’s depressing to see how difficult they’ve made it to (a) comment in the first place, and (b) read other people’s comments, if those comments haven’t been “called out”. It makes readers feel like third-class citizens, rather than people interacting with the bloggers as peers. And it’s the kind of thing which should only be implemented when things get so bad that you have no choice.


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The other thing: I think it works best if you “default publish” and THEN moderate.

Many trolls tend to be self limiting: between being shouted down and removed, it works well, and it makes the conversation more immediate.

Posted by Nicholas Weaver | Report as abusive

On the other hand, what kind of person devotes so much of their work time and their employers’ and customers’ money to slagging off their competitors? In what other field of human endeavour could such a person keep their job?

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

Felix, you realize Reuters moderates your comments? The “house rules” also make it sound like they read every comment, then decide whether or not to publish, which seems to go against what you’re saying.

Also, the anti-spam word is annoying.

Posted by AJ | Report as abusive

You know your RSS feed at Reuters is truncated too?

Posted by ndg | Report as abusive

The TrueSlant leaders appear, by and large, to be former AOHell execs.

AOHell was not exactly known for its fine Customer Service even before it joined the Parsons School of Mismanagement (TWX).

So not being able to contact Management(‘s secretaries) is likely a Feature, not a Bug.

The Reuters News RSS feeds are truncated, but the blog feeds are not.

Moderation is for libel reasons, mainly. We have had some awful problems with spam in the past, but it’s got better and the Anti-spam word helps.

Don’t blame Felix for big-company issues… The blogs were slipped under the radar a few years back (by convincing a network ops guy to add a DNS entry…), so they’re a bit of a fly-by-night thing.

Posted by Anonymous Coward | Report as abusive