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A bit about the new comment rating system

Thumbs up or down?

With the Buzzer blog’s redesign on Monday, you may have noticed a new comment rating system on the blog. It’s a blog plugin called Comment Rating, and it now gives you the ability to go “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” on other comments.

We put this in just so more people can quietly participate in discussions—however, I’ve discovered that Comment Rating actually changes the way comments are presented based on the ratings received! Well-liked, poorly rated, and hotly debated comments show up differently.

I wasn’t quite aware that this functionality was part of the plugin, so I think we should all just test it out to see if we like it. But for now, here’s an explanation of how the comments are shown with the new rating system.

Note, Mon June 28: After discussion below, I’ve decided to remove the “Dislike” function on the comment ratings. Ergo you can’t have “hotly debated” or “poorly liked” comments anymore, but you can be “highly rated” still. I’ve left the rest up below for posterity’s sake.

Highly rated comments

A highly rated comment.

Highly-rated comments get a pink background, and are determined by the following formula: (Likes – Dislikes) are greater than or equal to 4.

Hotly debated comments

A hotly debated comment.

Hotly-debated comments get an orange background, and are determined by the following formula: (Likes + Dislikes) are greater than or equal to 8.

Poorly-rated comments

A poorly-liked comment.

Poorly-rated comments get hidden! They are determined by the following formula: (Dislikes – Likes) are greater than or equal to 3.

I’m not totally sure whether these comments should be hidden… however, this has amazing possibilities for community spam moderation!

Update: After hearing from several people in the comments, I’m in agreement that these comments should NOT be hidden. So the threshold is now set to (Dislikes – Likes) is greater than or equal to 20, which hopefully should not be reached in common use.

For the future…

Feel free to keep me in the loop on how you think the comment rating system is going. Also, I am able to adjust the thresholds that govern which is a highly-rated, hotly debated, and poorly-liked comment, so we could do some fine tuning there as we see how things progress.


  • By Jeff MacLeod, June 23, 2010 @ 8:39 pm

    Awesome idea. It sounds similar to the way youtube rates it’s comment.

  • By Tim Choi, June 23, 2010 @ 9:11 pm

    The Buzzer Blog: better than Facebook.

    (Re. FB clamour for ‘dislike’ button)

  • By Ric, June 23, 2010 @ 9:27 pm

    I don’t like the idea of rating comments, especially if poorly rated comments will be hidden. Just this morning all of my comments on one blog post were hidden due to being poorly rated. I didn’t like it that my comments were hidden and had to rate the comments myself as being thumbs up to prevent it from getting hidden and be shown again.

    I don’t think that any comments should be hidden.

  • By zack, June 23, 2010 @ 10:33 pm

    I don’t think comments should be hidden because they’re poorly liked, to me that just sounds silly. What I do think we need though is an option where we can flag posts that contain inappropriate material. Many websites do have thumbs up/down features on the comments section, but they don’t hide poorly liked comments. I don’t have a problem with the thumbs up/down feature, but I’m just saying why don’t we use that to hide those that contain rude or inappropriate content instead?

  • By Cliff, June 24, 2010 @ 12:25 am

    I have to say I don’t quite like the hiding comments bit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for spam. But, it borders uncomfortably close to censorship for me.

    Comment rating is great. Hiding them, not so much. That or set the vote differential to such a level that it would take a really nasty comment to get hidden (Pooblic Transportashun suxxorz). Maybe to -20 or so?

  • By Sean Turvey, June 24, 2010 @ 12:48 am

    If you decide against this rating system, I would like to suggest that you look at one called Intense Debate ( WordPress supports the plugin. It appears to me to be better than the wealthycitizen being used presently. It also has an automated installer to make the transition easier.

    Intense Debate does not hide low rated comments, instead it gives a rating of of the user’s comments across all sites which use it. This encourages active participation. It also threads the replies so they are easier to read. The sites I have used it on have more “quality comments” and less people trolling or posting just to see their own name.

    If you would like to see it in action, Tech Crunch ( uses it.

    BTW: I don’t work for them, I just have seen it in action and impressed.

  • By Paul C, June 24, 2010 @ 12:55 am

    I don’t mind the rating system. As you can still look at the hidden comments. Or at least I can. There is a link provided if you want to look at them.

  • By Paul C, June 24, 2010 @ 12:57 am

    This is a test post. I’m curious with the rating system. Is someone allowed only one vote per IP address or can they vote and vote and vote and vote until their fingers get tired. I’m going to be voting down this post. :)

  • By Paul C, June 24, 2010 @ 1:00 am

    Ok I found a bit of glitch in the rating system. If you place a vote on a comment whether it is up or down. You will get a green arrow for that vote. But if you refresh the web page. The green arrow disappears and you can vote again. I feel it would be better if you only got one vote per IP address. That way people won’t be able to personally vote someone down and hide their post.

    Sorry everyone for the rambling and spammy posts :)

  • By Donald, June 24, 2010 @ 6:14 am

    Three is a pretty low number before comments get hidden. I think five would be better number. If 0 people like and 4 people dislike a comment yea it could very well be on it’s way to being very disliked and hidden but when there are 10 likes and 14 dislikes it’s still a debate. Maybe a percentage would be better if it’s supported.

  • By ???, June 24, 2010 @ 7:21 am

    I’m not sure how easy it is to change the hide threshold. However, the quicker we can edit spam, the better it is for everyone.

    If not 3, then I recommend 5. 20 is overkill…. are there that many of us actively? Ideally, SPAM should be gone withing 30 or 60 minutes. I don’t want to see it take 3 days to see it finally gone. Perhaps this should go to a weekly poll.

  • By ???, June 24, 2010 @ 7:22 am

    Correction…. “hide” spam, not “edit” it.

  • By Tessa, June 24, 2010 @ 9:21 am

    I highly disagree with hiding unpopular comments. Just because something is unpopular doesn’t mean it’s something that should be censured. Part of open democratic debate is occasionally hearing unpopular ideas – otherwise how do they get popular? Also, couldn’t one person find a way to rig this and get rid of a comment they just disagree with?

    Community spam moderation can be done with a “spam” button that alerts a moderator, maybe.

  • By Tessa, June 24, 2010 @ 9:25 am

    I’m sorry, that should read censored, not censured, which is something quite different.

  • By Cliff, June 24, 2010 @ 9:28 am

    Also, one thing to keep in mind. Criticism =/= Bad Post. If an argument has sufficient merit, why should it be hidden?

    As a vehicle user, I vehemently support a new east west freeway in Vancouver, but there are many who disagree. Should my well thought out comment about this freeway be hidden because a large percentage of the BBlog’s users don’t drive and may view such an idea negatively?

    It’s very easy for someone to unhide their posts, as mentioned by Paul. What’s the point of the voting system if one can unhide their posts by simply refreshing and voting again. Even if one vote one IP were to kick in here, we don’t have a large enough userbase for that to be effective. If there are only a few active users here, and I suspect that may be true after all, then simply finding an unsecured AP and changing the vote may be all that’s needed to change whether a post is hidden or even the perception of others.

    This voting idea is neat, but it definitely needs to be tweaked.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 24, 2010 @ 9:45 am

    Thanks everyone. Given everyone’s concerns I’m in agreement that “poorly rated” comments shouldn’t be hidden — so I’m going to change the numerical threshold for that to something like 20 so that it won’t kick in.

    Again I’m not married to this exact plugin, but it’s the one the web team chose. So I figure let’s see how it works in practice, and if it continues to be problematic, we will try something else or scrap it entirely.

    Sean: Thanks for the link to Intense Debate — I’ll definitely pass that on.

    ???: Sadly, at the moment it’s just not possible to delete all spam within 30-60 minutes of posting. I’m the only one moderating the site and I’m not here every minute of the day. Going forward we hopefully shouldn’t be seeing as many spam deluges as before though — the new CAPTCHA should hopefully take care of most of it. (It’s been suggested before that we might have community moderators to delete spam, and I think if we continue to see crazy spam amounts after the new spamguards are in place, that’s an idea to push ahead.)

    Paul C: You can indeed vote more than once if you refresh the page. I don’t think there’s a way to block by IP though. I think again we’ll try giving the plugin the benefit of the doubt for now, as most people around here seem levelheaded and not apt to do this: however, if it seems crazy bad and multiple votes are being abused, then we’ll have to try something else/scrap this plugin.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 24, 2010 @ 9:49 am

    Oh, it looks like I can just turn off the “hidden” part for the “poorly rated” comments! So that’s what I’ll do. Nope, I thought I could but I can’t. Setting threshold to 20 instead.

    Btw, it looks like we CAN just have “Likes” only. Sorry Tim, I know it’s kinda Facebook-ish, but this might be a good compromise. As I’m sure you guys well know, the blog discussion is not here to exacerbate tension between readers, but to have a forum for open debate and information exchange! Your thoughts on this welcome of course….

  • By ben K, June 24, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

    The explanation for “hot debate” must be incomplete; you said that such a rating occurs where “(Likes + Dislikes) are greater than or equal to 8”, but that would suggest that a comment with 10 “likes” and zero dislikes would be considered “hot debate” (as opposed to just “highly rated”).

    On another note, insofar as readability I find the type size and leading a little too small and loose, respectively, as compared with the old blog… but maybe this is something I can figure out how to override with a local user-agent stylesheet or something.

    BTW, is it safe yet to leave legit e-mail addresses with our comment postings now, or should we continue using bogus ones?

    (aka :)

  • By Donald, June 24, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

    Ben K, you can increase the text size in your web browser by pressing Ctrl and using your scroll wheel on your mouse at the same time, or press Ctrl-“+” or Ctrl-“-“, though I agree the font is a tiny bit smaller on this website cwompared to other websites!

  • By ;-), June 24, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

    Yah, I wondered about the Blog font size on my Bold 9700. However, don’t try the high rez on iPhone 4. It creates a heat issue.

  • By ben K, June 24, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

    Donald: thanks, I’m aware of that functionality in most browsers. I was alluding to the desire for a persistent and automatic design fix, though.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 24, 2010 @ 5:01 pm

    Ben K: I’m not sure! The description in the backend just says “Hotly-debated comments have (Likes + Dislikes) >= 8”. But you’re right, that can’t just be the definition. Maybe both Likes & Dislikes need to not be empty values? I’ll explore the Comment Rating plugin site and see if there’s more of an answer.

    Edit: Turns out there wasn’t much of an answer on the Comment Rating site:

    Btw you can include your e-mail address now, but we don’t need it at all for you to leave a comment. (The issue is privacy and collection of data: if we don’t need that e-mail address from you for anything, then why collect it?)

    Also, the text size matches the main TransLink website’s templates… I am not sure if we can increase the size as it has to match the main website!

  • By Jhen @ TransLink testing, June 24, 2010 @ 5:08 pm

    Test comment: feel free to click the likes/dislikes on this comment!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 24, 2010 @ 5:16 pm

    OK, here’s what I’ve discovered:

    I clicked likes on the comment until I passed 8. The comment was only marked “Well-loved.”

    With 9 likes, I started clicking dislikes. Dislikes had to reach 6 before the comment switched to “Hotly debated.”

    What one earth does this mean the criteria is for hotly debated? I’ll have to mull this one over a bit…

  • By Tessa, June 24, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

    Hmmm. I do like having the ability to thumbs down comments, just as long as it doesn’t make it disappear. That’s where my little typo comes in from earlier: censuring something is fine, censoring is not. ;)

    Thanks for listening, Jhenifer.

  • By Tim Choi, June 24, 2010 @ 9:07 pm

    Ah, that’s too bad, Jhen =(

    Also, how do I add an avatar?

  • By Cliff, June 25, 2010 @ 12:48 am

    At 11-7, your comment was well loved. I disliked it hoping to see what the threshold was. Indeed, upon refreshing, at 11-8, it became “hotly debated”.

    It would appear that all it takes is a difference of 3 to become hotly debated with your previous tinkering taken into account.

  • By Paul C, June 25, 2010 @ 2:03 am

    I can see a higher like and dislike number count that is close being a hot debate. It would be like someone making a comment in a room and the other 100 people split into two groups. One groups supports the comment the other group doesn’t. Thus you now have a debate is very hot :)

  • By Ric, June 25, 2010 @ 10:33 am

    Jhen, I still think that the threshold being set to 20 before poorly rated comments are hidden is still too low.

    Just this morning I found that one of my comments were hidden due to getting 37 dislikes and 12 likes. I did not like it that the comment was hidden and had to vote the comment as like in order to remove it from being hidden.

    Do you think that perhaps the threshold could be set to a higher number such as 80 or is it possible to just remove to comment rating system entirely?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 25, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

    Btw I wrote to the creator of the plugin for clarity, and here’s the answer.

    Yes, that’s the formula, after Highly-rated and Poorly-rated. A comment can only be of one type.

    So I guess there’s a hierarchy for how the formulas are applied.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 25, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

    Ric: I will set the threshold higher. But I am going to keep the plugin in place for a bit, to see whether the community likes it as a whole.

  • By ericmk, June 25, 2010 @ 3:53 pm

    I come back from vacation, and WHAM! a redesigned Buzzer blog! It looks great! While the new comment rating system does put some heat on commenters (so much pressure to be liked!), it should definitely stay for now- I’m sure it can be fine tuned so that it becomes an effective tool. I’m glad that low comments aren’t going to be hidden- everyone’s views should be seen. Good job on the redesign and I hope the system can be worked out!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 25, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

    Tim Choi: To add an avatar, go to and sign up! It’s a WordPress service. I should post this info in the “About” page.

  • By Cliff, June 25, 2010 @ 5:03 pm

    Why dislike a comment though? It’s content should be viewed by how many people agree with it, not how many people disagree with it.

    I would definitely be choked if my comments were receiving obscene amounts of thumbs down, but if that wasn’t an option and my comment simply wasn’t receiving as many thumbs up as the other commentators’ comments, then I wouldn’t be as let down. It’s a psychology thing, I suppose.

    For a blog like this, it may be that a facebook style like only system may be the best option.

    All in all, though, this isn’t a bad idea outright. It’s just a matter of finding the right balance for the community. While our little community is actually quite diverse, I think we’re pretty flexible and I’m sure you’ll find some way to strike a balance.

  • By Cliff, June 25, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

    On the other hand, I just noticed my grammatically challenged post could use some tweaking. All the more reason to find some way for us to edit our posts! To me, that would be much more important than some popularity contest.

  • By Dave 2, June 26, 2010 @ 12:33 am

    re: hiding unpopular posts… why bother? It usually makes me click to see *why* it’s unpopular. and on the Buzzer Blog ( other than spam), don’t we all care about what our fellow Translink customers think? even those who sometimes can be annoying?

  • By Jacob, June 27, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

    I agree with Dave 2. There’s no need to hide the unpopular comments; I want to see why it’s unpopular. The old blog didn’t have it, we don’t need it desperately.

    Jhen, how do we sign up to edit our comments?

    Thanks for all your hard work in putting this together.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 28, 2010 @ 10:13 am

    Cliff et al:
    After some rumination I’m in agreement that we don’t really need a dislike button. It’s unnecessarily hurtful and doesn’t really provide huge enhancements to the discussion. Ergo, let’s go Facebook-style with likes only!

    Jacob: You can’t sign up to edit your comments yet! Still working on that one.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 28, 2010 @ 4:16 pm

    Testing in this comment, don’t mind me…

  • By Ric, July 8, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

    Just doing a test in this comment

  • By Ric, July 8, 2010 @ 9:53 pm

    Just testing again

  • By Jacob, July 13, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

    Hey, I just discovered a glitch.
    If you have a slow computer, and you press thumbs up many times REALLY QUICKLY, then it will keep counting until it turns to a check mark.

    If you don’t understand, just keep pressing thumbs up again and again and again really quickly for many times.

    That’s what I did to ric’s comment.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, July 15, 2010 @ 4:13 pm

    Jacob: huh! Thanks for letting me know.

  • By Sean Turvey, July 15, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

    @Jacob & Jhenifer It looks like you don’t need a slow computer.

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