By now, all of our faithful readers at Dawgs By Nature know about the launch of the new commenting system, Coral, that is scheduled to go live on our community Monday, August 10th. It has already launched on SB Nation and many of our fellow NFL blogs, and there seems to be one universal sentiment over the past week: everyone hates it. But I hope you can read my perspective, absorb what I have to say, and do your best to take it into consideration.
What I Know, and My Reaction
June 24th was the first day that I recall hearing that SB Nation, starting with the NFL blogs, would be transitioning to a new commenting platform in August. When we were introduced to it, the email touted all of the new features that the platform would have, but did not say anything about features that would be going away.
I regret not having paid enough attention to the email at the time, because only today (upon re-reading it) did I see the line at the bottom of that email that stated, “If you’d like to be part of the community testing the new system, or you know someone in your community who you think might have some great suggestions, please let us know.” I have my excuses — trying to juggle several jobs remotely, the stress of change, the pandemic, etc. Sometimes I try to catch up on tasks and things slip by me, and missing the opportunity to be able to test the platform and leave all of my feedback in an earlier stage is something I regret. I sincerely apologize for that.
The sandbox testing environment became available to me about 2 weeks ago, and I did see that email, and was one of the first people to jump in to test it. I immediately shared a lot of feedback, because I know how unique the SB Nation communities are and the commenting features that distinguish us from the rest of the Internet. In my head, I was surprised that we were launching the system so soon with many important features missing. I knew exactly how the readers at DBN and the rest of SB Nation would react, and the feedback we’ve seen across all the sites upon them going live has shown that. People are pissed, sad, etc, and I don’t blame them.
Probably one of my biggest gripes is when I hear that “people were upset the last time an upgrade happened, and they got used to it eventually.” I remember those changes distinctly, because I’ve been running DBN for 14 years. The home page changes were what shocked people — but improvements were made, and now, it definitely makes sense the way it is. Regarding the commenting changes, those issues were all aesthetic changes that people were upset about — the font being too hard to read, too large, too bright, etc. Me and many other users and site editors suggested the simple CSS changes that would help tremendously, and SB Nation took our feedback to heart and fixed those things. With Coral, these aren’t just CSS changes that are desired — there are core, fundamental features about of our favorite commenting platform that were not carried over. That feeling of being upset will not just go away. For fun, you can read about the site evolution of DBN here, although it was last updated in 2013.
We Can Make a Difference, and So Will SB Nation
I may not agree with the timing of the launch of Coral at this stage, but there is one thing that I truly believe from all my years of working with SB Nation: they will definitely listen, and they are going to do their hardest to make it right — to provide us with the best damn commenting platform for our Browns community and the rest of our sports blogs.
Will it be frustrating at first? Yes. Very frustrating. Just like this whole damn year, 2020, is frustrating. But the NFL blogs are the first ones to try out this platform live, and it’s up to us now to make a difference through all of our feedback. I know that users have been creating alternatives to gather and comment at, like a Discord server. Internally, it stings a little bit to see that, because the season is fast approaching and me and the rest of the staff don’t write the articles on DBN for our own pleasure, we do it because we love seeing the feedback, the interaction, the stirring of a dialogue. I miss the Matt Wood articles of him poking the bear and playing Devil’s Advocate, just to draw 300 comments of our community full of rage.
At the same time, I understand something like the Discord server. As a quick side story, when I was a “little kid,” I was an integral part for about 10 years of a forum called Gaming Ring (focused on WWE wrestling and video games). I was an administrator, but made so many friends from across the world who I talked with all the time on there, every day. New management took over, the site died, and guess what? I haven’t been able to find, reach out, or talk to those people for more than a decade now. It sucks. And I know you guys don’t want to lose that.
With all of that said, all I can ask is that you try to stick with us. In the comments section below, I want people to leave feedback on the features that are important for them to have on DBN, the features that they think are missing or are bad in the new system, etc. Please, try to refrain from insults, questioning the timing of these things, etc. I am not trying to censor your rage, but they are already well aware of the rage. We can’t fix the timing at this point, but our feedback can and will help shape Coral, and I would love to pass all of that feedback on to Vox Media for them to see. Let them see your passion in as civilized of a manner as possible.
I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say!
UPDATE: Thanks to DBN user Sassenach for pointing out to me that SB Nation made a post acknowledging some of the network-wide feedback, and some of the first changes that are being worked on, along with them working on other things for the long term.