Design Changes at Valleywag

The site looks different today! I know, I know—another iteration of our commenting system. I appreciate you all sticking through the perpetual flux, and I promise there's a lot of thoughtfulness at work here. Read about the vision behind Kinja from the boss of my boss, Nick Denton.

And if you have any gripes or questions, don't hesitate to spill 'em here. Or email me.

11

Introducing group chats in Kinja

You'll see one big difference in Kinja 1.2, apart from the improvements in the loading of pages. On most news sites there is a divide between the original piece and the comments; a chasm between author and readers. In the latest release of Kinja, by contrast, the base unit of content is not a standalone article but an exchange between the author and the most insightful of the readers.

Messaging applications are the standard for personal communication: swift, stripped down and lively. Kinja is an effort to apply the same qualities to public sites whether from Gawker writers, partner publishers or solo bloggers. It is a collaborative journalism platform with the following feature at its heart, what we call the group chat.

Each group chat has an instigator, typically but not necessarily the blog owner or one of their authors. The instigator can launch a topic with a news or opinion piece with a headline; or just with a question to another user.

Even a long and exhaustive article should be just a starting point. Sites on the latest Kinja template display subsequent discussion with the same graphical treatment and respect as the author's starter post. The exchange should read like a question-and-answer session, the classic web chat format. We believe this conversational format will encourage the story to develop and the truth to be tested.

Conversation requires intimacy and trust, and carefully managed participation — even if the result of the conversation is open to the wider public. To avoid the tragedy of the comments, participants in each group chat are limited to the author, those readers with whom the author has interacted, and one degree of separation beyond that. This is the author's circle.

A person outside the author's circle can establish their own circle, linked from the main conversation and also viewable on their personal blog. Each circle is manifested in a corresponding group chat. Each of these discussions should feel as if between friends — with friends of friends chiming in too. Or think of it as a party, to which invitees can bring a plus-one; if you're not invited, you can start your own.

There's a reason I do most press interviews over instant messenger. I can quickly check for errors or clumsy language, minimizing public embarrassment. But the spontaneity of a chat is preserved. Most people — including professional journalists — think better in civil conversation. We believe they will write better too.

161