When we first began the BioLogos website and accompanying blog “Science and the Sacred” (then on BeliefNet) in April 2009, I don’t think any of us anticipated how much online discussion our posts would begin to generate in less than two short years. Yet, inside those two years we’ve seen the number of commenters on our blogs continue to grow, with many reading and responding on a weekly and even daily basis. For some, The BioLogos Forum has become their first place to discuss science, Christian faith, and interactions between the two.
As the discussions and interactions in our posts have continued to grow, however, we’ve found ourselves in need of some changes. Moderating the hundreds of comments we receive every week can be rather difficult and time consuming, and when posts expanded to well over one hundred comments, it became both difficult to follow the various threads of discussion and in some cases to even load the blogs. Add in the fact that some of these discussions became personal back and forth sessions between two users, and we found we had a comment section that could at times be far too messy and confusing for the everyday user. That’s why we are happy to present to you our new and improved comment system which we hope will open up the comment sections to even more visitors and also provide our loyal commenters with some new tools and features to streamline their discussions.
The new features include:
Your own personal profile, which can be accessed by either creating a new account with BioLogos or by signing in with a pre-existing Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, AOL, or OpenID account. This profile will let you share a bit more about yourself with the other commenters if you’d like and hopefully get to know your fellow commenters a bit better (please note biographies and other personal fields are optional). The system will also support custom user icons through the Gravatar system.
A messaging system for our users to send direct messages to other users without having to disclose their email address or personal information as a way to privately continue conversations with other commenters. Users will have the option to opt out of the messaging system for privacy reasons, which will disable both sending and receiving of private messages.
A global user reputation system in the form of traffic lights, so that readers can tell at a glance whether a commenter is in good standing (green light), has had their account warned (yellow), is currently under suspension (red light), or is a designated moderator on the blog (denoted by a “MOD” icon). All users are in good standing by default and will only lose that standing if they repeatedly violate the Groundrules for Commenting.
A refined community moderation system, which will allow all registered users to directly flag comments they feel are inappropriate, along with a reason why, for review by moderators. Comments that receive numerous complaints from multiple users will be automatically closed until further review.
Friend and Ignore lists will allow you to keep track of the users you enjoy conversing with and automatically hide the comments of users you’d rather not converse with.
Email subscriptions to posts, which will alert you when new comments are made on any discussion you’ve been following.
Nested replies, allowing users to post their responses directly below the comments they are engaging with instead of using the confusing system of “@username/post-number”, and dynamic pagination of comments, to make sure posts with lengthy comment threads still load quickly and smoothly.
A new WYSIWYG editor (meaning “What You See is What You Get”), which will allow users to include links and text formatting without the need to know HTML or any other mark-up language.
A built-in profanity filter to catch any offensive words or phrases automatically without the need for a moderator to make the changes or hide the comment.
To help implement these features to everyone, we will be requiring users to create an account to continue commenting on our site, effective April 13, 2011. The account features are available to everyone immediately, but we will continue to allow anonymous commenting without an account through the month of March and early April. To create your new account, or log in with a social media account, simply click the "Log In" button on the top right of your browser.
As with any new feature, we are aware there will be some growing pains for users as we make the transition, and we want to hear from you if you notice any problems or bugs or if you have suggestions to improve the user experience. However, we are confident that our wonderful community of readers and commenters will put these features to great use and continue to help make The BioLogos Forum a center for honest, civil, and open dialogue in all things related to science and Christianity.