The Joindin Leadership team has been talking a lot about comments over the last six months. We’re commenting on commenting and even commentating on comments! It has been a great conversation about improving the amount *and* quality of feedback that speakers receive.
Let’s start with a little history. Once upon a time in a project not very far away, Joind.in allowed anonymous comments to be posted to talks. Based on the first (Sat, 13 Nov 2010 21:30:09 +0000) and last (Sat, 26 Jan 2019 13:41:56 +0000) anonymous comments in our database, we can see it has only been quite recently that anonymous comments were completely discontinued. It became less easy to make anonymous comments when the new website went live in mid-December 2015, as you could only make anonymous comments via the legacy website, but anonymous commenting did not disappear completely until the legacy site was shut down at the end of January 2019.
As soon as the anonymous posting was moved to the legacy site, and again when the legacy site was removed, we had people contacting us asking us to add anonymous or private commenting back into the system. Many reasons were given for wanting this, including safety, lower barrier-of-entry, and to increase the number of feedback submissions.
The first two, safety and lower barrier-of-entry, are things we can’t quantify with the data we have in the current system. However, the third is something we have numbers on. During the time when anonymous commenting was easily done on the main site (before the new website went live), we had 61,267 total feedback submissions. Of those, 9,193 were anonymous submissions, or roughly 15% of the feedback submissions. One of the big things that came up during our discussions with speakers and conference organizers was that ratings with no comments were not helpful, so we took a look at the number of anonymous feedback submissions that included a comment along with their rating. Of the 9,193 anonymous comments, only 2,862 of them included a comment along with the rating, or roughly 4.67% of comments.
If you’re curious about the history of the current discussion, I’d encourage you to review this thread for some background. Much more discussion has been happening in various other channels as well as in our leadership discussions, but that issue on GitHub will give you a good overview of where this started.
The base premise of this discussion is that attendees and conference organizers have asked us to allow feedback without having to display a name. There are two ways to do this: Anonymous Comments and Private Comments. The Leadership Team spent some time discussing the difference between these two comment types, and we are defining them as:
“Anonymous Comment” is given via an unregistered, unknown, individual who submitted a comment on a talk.
“Private Comment” is given via a registered account, however, the user’s information is not displayed publicly. The user’s name could be disclosed to the conference organizer or hidden from everyone EXCEPT in the case where the comment is reported.
The main reason Anonymous Comments was removed from Joind.in is because of harassment. On the old website, an inappropriate comment would be reported to an admin and then hidden or removed. This means the comment was displayed publicly until this process could be completed. We want Joind.in to be inclusive and welcoming, not a platform for harassment.
“What’s it going to be then, eh?” – a fantastic question which the Leadership Team is still working out. We believe there is a way to collect anonymous feedback, however, we want to ensure the feedback that is collected is valuable not only for speakers, but for event organizers as well.
If you have any thoughts or ideas on this topic, we’d love to hear them. We truly value hearing from all of you. You can email us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org or join us on Slack.