This rare footage of a Canada lynx climbing onto a logging vehicle generated millions of views, but more importantly, a spirited and (mostly) civil comment thread on the future of our planet's forests.
What we thought was just a cool clip to share of an elusive and mesmerizing animal ... turned into a kind of community forum, triggering a flood of additional content, as well as ideas for new videos, podcast episodes and articles.
Thousands commented, weighing in with their thoughts on the importance of sustainable forest management policies, while others lamented the catastrophic impact of deforestation. Some saw the operator of the vehicle as a savior of the lynx's habitat, making the forest healthier while also reducing the risk of forest fires and enabling a sustainable supply of timber. Others saw the Lynx coming face-to-face with an existential threat that is permanently wiping out forests and its wildlife in warmer regions of the planet.
Online commenting has been with us since the earliest days of the Web, representing the best and worst of what the Internet can be. On one hand, they are a place for thoughtful and enlightened, open-to-all online discourse. On the other hand, they can be a toxic swamp of offensive stupidity and awfulness. (And many times both within the same thread.) Social media companies have only mainstreamed and hypercharged this dynamic.
Many prominent publishers like CNN.com have pulled the plug completely, disabling comments on all their content. Others, like the NY Times, have gone back and forth, more recently expanding their commitment to user comments, leveraging artificial intelligence tools and other moderation tactics to help manage the chaos. The WSJ is also giving more support to their commenting sections.
The benefits seems to outweigh the downsides. When managed properly, a robust commenting platform fosters community, brand loyalty, greater time on site and a better understanding of the audience. It gives the content an afterlife, and if moderated properly, the audience much needed exposure to differing viewpoints.
Moderation is key. We keep a close eye on all our comment threads, removing bad players and spam immediately, and sometimes guiding the conversation when it starts to steer off the rails.