Independent Voices: What's new

The orange brute we launched this weekend represents our attempt to take on the inadequacies of comment and commenting on the web.

Share
Related Topics

Comment and opinion are odd things in the world of newspapers. For some, they represent the opposite of what the press is for. For others, they are the only niche in which papers can survive on the web when up against the great objective news reporting of the BBC. Whatever you think, comment journalism in the age of the 24-second news cycle is a world away from when writers talked, in print, to readers whose only opportunity to reply was a slot in a letters page, days later.

When we started working up the ideas that would become Independent Voices, we had two things we wanted to address: the general unsuitability of newspaper websites to show comment journalism in a form that was properly digital, and the gap between how readers want to engage with what they read and the tools available to them. The orange brute we launched this weekend has been a long time in the making, and represents our attempt to take on both of these challenges.

Not only is the design an acknowledgement of that - it’s brighter, bolder and makes more of the individuals who make up our contributors - but the tools on the site are an attempt to address it also. Two small but important innovations of which we’re especially proud are debate comments and open graph reactions, and there are a couple more that will launch in the next couple of weeks.

As anyone who’s spent any time in the comments section of a newspaper article will know, much of what’s written in response to comment journalism is predictably oppositional. Our new debate comments give our readers and writers an opportunity to express both sides of an argument in a new way. It follows a simple two stream voting pattern - you can leave a comment on either the For or Against side of a debate, and then vote up the comments you think are the most pertinent. There are no replies, because the point is to surface the best arguments on either side - a vote down or a comment on the opposite side of the debate will suffice to represent a negative reply. This is also an alternative way to represent our editorials, as a series of arguments rather than a piece of prose, against which readers can brace their own opinions; see an example of this here, and find out more here about this and commenting in general on the site.

We’ve also built social media logins for Facebook, Twitter and Google into the site, so that readers can register to comment, react and debate using the profile they’re most comfortable with online. This is not totally new - we were the first UK newspaper site to encourage social login in 2010 when we started using Disqus - but our new Facebook open graph reactions are another innovation. The concept is simple; after reading a piece you click a button to log your reaction to the article, which then (provided you’ve authorised the Independent’s Facebook app, are logged into Facebook, and have set the necessary privacy settings) posts your reaction to your friends on Facebook, as well as updating a count on the page.

The effect is powerful for a few reasons. Chiefly, it's one solution to the problem that most interactions on Facebook especially and social media in general are as positive as newspaper comments are generally negative. ‘Liking’ things is ubiquitous; ‘Disliking’ them is impossible. Not only does this sometimes skew our social presences in a way that ultimately makes people insecure and depressed (‘look at how much more happy and beautiful than me my friends are!’), it also reduces our complicated relationship with what we read, watch or listen to to binary triggers (like, or... don’t!). When, after the riots last year, our piece by Camilla Batmanghelidjh on that subject garnered tens of thousands of likes on Facebook (sadly their mark is lost after the website address changed on Friday for the launch), people weren’t really saying they liked the piece so much as they were saying that it represented their views also. With our new functionality, people can agree, as they did then and have this weekend on Patrick Cockburn’s piece on mental health, or disagree, and they can say whether a piece made them laugh, or made them angry, or even confused them. If Facebook is the filter through which many people now experience the news (and for the young particularly, it is), then this lets our readers share our stories with a comment to give their take on it on the way through; rather than three blank likes of news articles by friends in your newsfeed, you might see one that had made someone laugh, one that someone strongly agrees with, and one that even confused someone (if they’ll own up to it).

agree
We've done a complete redesign to produce a site and frontpage with impact and the capacity to draw attention to our great photos and illustrations. At the article level, byline pictures and writers’ Twitter accounts are more prominent, as well as links to the most recent articles by the same writer in case you’ve just stumbled across someone you want to read more from. We’ve added blockquotes to break up long pieces and make that experience of reading an essay on a screen more pleasant, as well as an orange fullstop at the end of every piece, just for show. Credit must go to young agency 15nine who took on the challenge of designing the site, and Gerry Paterson who worked to polish it off and bring the piece to its final state, still evolving though it is.

We’ve also added a feature that enables us to highlight supporting facts on an article, which are linked to where the facts sourced from (often a news story), to help us knit together the news and comment strands of the site more closely. Have a look at this example on Owen Jones’ piece about the NHS today.

I hope we've built a platform that's inclusive enough of our audience to be worthy of the big issues Independent Voices plans to take on every day; We’ll be making a lot of changes and improvements over the next few months and will be guided in that by you, so let us know what you think here or on our Facebook, Twitter or Google+, and enjoy the site.

For more information on commenting, please also take a look at our community standards document.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas