1. tonyhue

    Commenter Spotlight: JustPlainSomething

    Posted on October 13, 2014 by tonyhue

    JustPlainSomething avatar

    Illustration by Luigi Savino

    A safe environment for women seems like an anomaly on the Internet these days, but at The Mary Sue, the community of readers is showing us how it’s done.

    One of those readers is JustPlainSomething, a regular commenter who geeks out about nerd culture with a healthy dose of comics, movies, television, and games. An unabashed feminist, she is representative of the type of inclusive environment for women that The Mary Sue cultivates every day. She also deserves serious Internet points when one of her comments spontaneously sparked a meme that the TMS community quickly adopted with fervent enthusiasm. More on that later.

    Serendipitous moments like these are what make JustPlainSomething a special addition to the community and why I’m so excited to share her interview with you today. So check out what she had to say about commenting and I’m confident that you’ll find your next friend on the Internet.

    Q: How did you end up writing for The Mary Sue?

    Well, I’ve been blogging and then vlogging on my own website Just Plain Something since 2009 and I’ve been a reviewer for CliqueClack since 2011. As a reader, The Mary Sue has been one of my go-to pop culture websites specifically because it caters to nerdy women with a solid feminist leaning and that’s pretty much my schtick. Once I started commenting regularly maybe a year ago, I quickly connected with the regular group of commenters and felt like a part of the community on the site. So earlier this year when TMS put out a call for contributors, it just made sense to apply. I wanted to add to that voice.

    Q: What types of stories lead to good discussions?

    I’d say it has more to do with the community than with the stories themselves. Don’t get me wrong – giving readers good content in both news posts and opinion pieces is important, but I’ve been to tons of websites where the article I’ve read was insightful but any decent discussion was buried under dozens of comments that we think of when we think of the stereotypical internet comment. The Mary Sue has very diligent moderators and a consistently enforced set of comment section guidelines (trolls do get banned), but luckily the general community of commenters the site has built up tends to bring great discussion and debate to the table. Even an article about the basic movie casting rumors or a clip from a TV show season premiere can spark great discussions.

    And thoughtful writing leads to thoughtful discussions as well. I wrote a very personal piece this month about my own childhood experiences with nerd gatekeeping and I was very worried about the reaction it would get considering the online climate this year around women talking about sexism in nerd culture. However, the large, large majority of comments I received were not only supportive of the piece but included other women’s stories of sexism in nerd circles, some of which were strikingly similar to mine. I ended up being so glad I wrote the piece as openly as I did not only because I could help other people put into words frustrations they had had growing up, but also open discussion in the comments for others to share their experience with each other.

    Q: Most upvoted comment?

    Okay, so back in July, The Mary Sue covered the announcement that a woman would take Thor’s hammer and that she would actually be called Thor. While other people were confused and thought Thor himself was going to become a woman, I got pretty quickly that they were treating the name Thor as a title. However, that led to my pondering in the comments whether Odin was just going to give Thor another name to avoid confusion, “Thor, you are no longer Thor. She is Thor now and you shall be Snortblat.”

    snortblat comment

    The comment got up-voted hundreds of times, received a ton of comments about what he’d be like with this new name and thus, Snortblat became a thing. The Mary Sue community has started using the name in the comments even when talking about movie Thor, occasionally the actual Mary Sue articles refer to him that way and there’s a fancomic (which I’m helping with as creative consultant because this is the world I live in). There is a good chance that naming Snortblat will be my legacy.

    There is a good chance that naming Snortblat will be my legacy.

    Author’s note: Snortblat is on Disqus

    Q: How do you know you’ve captured your thought well?

    As far as being a commenter goes, I try not to overthink the causal comments. The Snortblat comment was posted pretty much as the first thing that came to my head. However, if I’m debating with a person or if it’s a serious issue, I do try to reread my comment a couple times. And if it’s a particularly heated debate, I’ve been known to make myself step away from the webpage for a few minutes to make sure I can clear my thoughts and not say something while I’m on edge. But mostly it’s about rereading the comment, making sure that there isn’t ambiguity in what I’m trying to say, before I post it.

    Q: Why did you choose the screen name or avatar you did?

    I chose JustPlainSomething because it’s the name of my blog (which in turn I took from a line of dialogue from the movie Rope) and my avatar is a picture that artist Luke McKay drew of me many years ago.

    Q: What was the last comment you read that made you laugh?

    There’s a good chance this is only funny to me, but in a TMS post about Denise Dorman’s ongoing thoughts on what she felt is wrong with modern comic conventions, someone posted a quote from Grandpa Simpson not getting youth culture and other commenters (including myself) added other Abe Simpson lines. Perhaps not the wittiest of content from the community, but that had been a particularly frustrating day for me and getting to share some silly Abe Simpson quotes had me giggling.

    Up-vote or down-vote?


  2. danielmatteson

    3 Tips for Sparking Rich Discussions in Your Community (ft. Nikki of Styling You)

    Posted on August 18, 2014 by danielmatteson

    Nikki at Styling You

    As a community leader for your site, you’re probably interested in building an audience. If you often find yourself sitting on the sidelines, twiddling your thumbs waiting for this to occur, we’ve got some tips for you: get commenting! Jump into the comment section and reply directly to your community members. After all, you’re an important member of, well, your community and your contributions matter. We recently chatted with Nikki Parkinson over at Styling You, who runs a very loyal and active Fashion and Style community. We wanted to pick her brain on the topic of author participation.

    Here are some tips to keep in mind while commenting as the site moderator or author, and some words of wisdom from Nikki herself:

    1. Set the tone

    As the community leader or site author, you have the unique opportunity to “lead by example” in the comment section. You’ll be able to help your community members get a feel for what’s appropriate when they read your comments, whether that be scholarly debate, inane cat jokes, or one-liner responses. The more you comment, the more effective this will be.

    Q: How do you encourage healthy debate among your readers?

    Nikki: I set the tone of the community - it’s all about respect. Differing opinions are fine but talk nicely. My readers and comments like that the community is like that and it feels safe for them to comment.

    Q: Do you moderate comments (remove and approve comments) that don’t fit well into the discussion?

    Nikki: I read every comment but don’t have moderation on first. I delete spam - blatant unasked for promotion - and any comments that are abusive or attack an individual.

    2. Let your community know you care

    By replying directly to people on your site in the comment section, you can convey to them that their opinions and thoughts are important to your site’s community. Commenters are your most engaged readers and they’re likely the ones you want sticking around –– encourage them to come back in the future by prolonging the conversation.

    Q: Why is it important to you to reply to the comments on the articles you write?

    Nikki: Blogging is a conversation. I start it and then others join in and add to the discussion. It would be boring (and lonely!) if no-one talked back. I also believe that if people take the time to comment then I need to make the time to respond. It’s just good manners.

    3. Authors are experts

    If you have authors and contributors for your site, encourage them to participate in the conversation! Authors have the largest stake in hearing from commenters, and they likely have a lot (more) to say about the topic they wrote about. Dialogues between authors and readers can be awesome. You can even add your site authors as moderators so they’re notified of new comments.

    Q: Have you ever made a clarification in the comments when people are misunderstanding something you wrote?

    Nikki: Yes. It can happen because of the very nature of the written word. A tone or idea can be misinterpreted. I’m happy to clarify or make right.

    Q: Lastly, what have you learned about the people who read your content?

    Nikki: I have a very loyal bunch of readers and commenters. Many come and comment every day. I get to know them as much as they get to know me through what they write. It helps me to work out what blog post topics might have interest.

    Now, it’s your turn to share

    We also have some questions for you all, let us know your thoughts below!

    1. How do you interact with your community? Weekly chats, emails, meetups?

    2. What’s the best interaction you’ve ever had with someone on your site?
  3. tonyhue

    Commenter Spotlight: La Donna Pietra

    Posted on August 12, 2014 by tonyhue

    La Donna Pietra

    Illustration by Luigi Savino

    We’re in the midst of another exciting movie season this summer, with surprise hits like The Guardians of the Galaxy and Boyhood. At Badass Digest, you’ll find a community of passionate movie junkies obsessing over the latest box office or movie trailer releases, delving into pop culture, cult classics, and more.

    BAD (awesome acronym isn’t it?) commenter La Donna Pietra is like that stranger you always see at your favorite coffee shop; her presence reminds you that you’re at the right place. When you mention a recent movie or TV show to her, you’re hardly surprised to learn that she has already seen it. She’s like a walking IMDB ready to dispense opinions about anything including the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer, and that’s what you’ve come to expect and love about her. Read on to find out where she finds her inspiration for meaningful discussions.

    Q: What are your favorite sites to visit and why?
    Badass Digest, because the writers and commenters are the ideal blend of informed, friendly, and obsessive about movies. If you’re looking for the latest Bond movie gossip or monster semiotics essays or the first mention of that fantastic foreign film everyone will be talking about in two years, they’ve got you covered. I never fail to be amazed at the depth of random knowledge about art of all kinds in the commenter base, and even the smallest throwaway news post has the potential for hilarity or a discussion thread with unexpected insights. BAD also has a low tolerance for sexist bullcrap, which is a welcome rarity online.

    Complex.com is a great place for both immediate news items and in-depth analysis of all kinds of pop culture stuff, from TV shows to sports to music, and the writers are even more fanatical about shoes than I am. (Disclaimer: it’s also the main source for my freelance writing.)

    Q: What types of stories lead to good discussions?
    If the subject or presentation changes a reader’s perspective in some meaningful way, it’s guaranteed to spark some back-and-forth. That said, a story doesn’t necessarily need to be about a contentious or hot-topic issue to get people talking in a meaningful way. Some of the best conversations I’ve had online have been in the comments of posts about truly superficial stuff, because people tend to be more open to examining issues when they’re less inclined to stick with deeply-held assumptions.

    Q: How do you know you’ve captured your thought well?
    If I can make someone else laugh and think at the same time, I’ve achieved my goal.

    Q: Why did you choose the screen name or avatar you did?
    Nearly seven hundred years ago, Dante Alighieri wrote a series of poems called the Rime Petrose about a woman known only as la donna pietra, or “the stony lady,” and I was a very pretentious 19-year-old literature nerd once upon a time. A great artist and friend of mine named Bevin Brand created my avatar based on a Pietro Magni statue known as La Leggitrice or “The Reader,” because it depicts a literal literary stony lady. These days, I’ll read almost anything if I can find some sort of cultural relevance in it.

    Q: What kind of feedback or reaction are you looking for when you comment?
    Ideally, either an opportunity for a long drawn-out argument or a chance to learn something. I’ll also take drink offers, rapturous praise, and total agreement.

    Up-vote or down-vote?


  4. kimskitchensink

    What Community Means to Me: Finding My People at BlogHer 2014

    Posted on August 6, 2014 by kimskitchensink

    BlogHer 2014

    Photo via @SaysHelen

    Y’all know that Disqus is known as the web’s “community of communities”. Our product allows people all over the Internet to discuss their interests and engage in conversations with people who share (or hey, don’t share) their passions…people they’ve never met, and may never meet. This is one of the most exciting things about the Internet, and it’s what I love about blogging and social media.

    But for me, the product is only the beginning.

    Last weekend, I attended my fourth BlogHer Conference with my co-worker Helen (longtime blogger, first time conference attendee). For those not in the know, BlogHer is a community of (mostly) female bloggers, founded 10 years ago as a safe, friendly space for women on the web. It’s grown into a community of many thousands who are passionate about writing, sharing, and finding community. As Helen so aptly observed, “I’ve never seen so many representations of what it means to be a woman, all in one place.” Women from all over the world came together for two days in San Jose to share their stories, learn new skills, and engage with major brands, all while finding commonality and celebrating our differences. If that’s not the power of a friggin’ community, I don’t know what is!

    We listened to some truly moving stories, from bloggers like Feminista Jones, Postpartum Progress and The Bloggess, and with guest speakers like Tig Notaro, Arianna Huffington, and Kerry Washington (I mean, come on!!!) there was no shortage of inspiration to be found.

    There’s a nice recap of recaps up at BlogHer’s website if you’re curious to read other people’s reactions (or just search the #blogher14 hashtag on Twitter).

    Maybe it’s because of where I am in my career at Disqus, and my current focus on our internal company community. Maybe it’s because I’ve connected with some amazing women through blogging over the last seven years. Maybe it’s because I’m just sentimental and a sucker for anniversaries (this year, the conference was celebrating its tenth). Regardless, the weekend was a powerful reminder of the importance of finding “our people” - whether it’s online or in real life - and forging meaningful connections.

    “Luckily, the internet was there for me to keep me company and make me feel less shitty about myself.” - Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess)

    When I joined Disqus in 2010, I was excited about a tool that would make my life as a blogger easier (moderating through email woot woot!). Over the years, I’ve seen us grow from a simple widget with a SAAS side, to a robust network of crazyawesome internet people. I’ve met people and found conversations through Disqus that I never would have discovered on my own, and that’s only getting better as we continue to build new ways to find interesting people and communities on Disqus. Community is incredibly important to me, and the human-connection side of our business is what gets me jazzed about what we’re building here.

    At their core, communities are all about making human connections. And maybe that’s what is so great about them: discovering your community is like reuniting with an old friend.

  5. tonyhue

    WordCamp NYC Bloggers on Building Communities

    Posted on August 3, 2014 by tonyhue

    We stopped by Wordcamp NYC to ask bloggers a couple questions about their sites and community. Here’s a couple thoughts people shared.

    What do you think of when you hear “online community”?

    • "User interactions. Micro blogging." - Josh Rowland
    • "Social networking." - Ellie Roepken
    • "People helping one another. Social networks." - Dolores Quinonez
    • "A group of individuals that share the same interest." - Syed Balkhi

    At what point do you decide to join a conversation?

    • "When I have a similar question and feel like I can contribute something to the conversation." - Teresa Hopkins
    • "If I have something intelligent to say. I don’t like to say things for the sake of saying them." - Jodie Sauderaker
    • "If there is something thought provoking and interesting I might jump into the conversation. I like really just like to read posts." - David Bell
    • "I tend to be a lurker on posts but only because I like to consume knowledge. Once I have something intelligent to contribute, I jump into the conversation." - Mtchaka Warren

    How would you respond to these questions? Let us know in the comments section below!

    How would you respond to these questions? Let us know in the comments section below!

  6. nudelzrulez

    Commenter Spotlight: Emma Hager

    Posted on March 13, 2014 by nudelzrulez


    Illustration by Luigi Savino

    Okay you guys, I’ve found a real gem for you this week. Emma Hager is a frequent commenter on one of my favorite sites, The Man Repeller. She’s a real standout in their community, and I think you’ll easily be able to see why. She’s the smart/cool chick you want around to give it to you straight about your clothes, your boyfriends, your insecurities, and hopes and dreams. And she’ll do it in the nicest way possible.

    For real though, I think we’ve found your newest girl crush. Read on and try telling me you don’t want to be her friend.

    Q: What are your favorite sites to visit and why?
    A: One of my favorite sites to visit is Man Repeller because I feel like I am coming over to a really familiar friend’s house. You know, the kind of friend where you are comfortable enough to bust open their fridge and make a smoothie, even if they are in the shower or not even home. In all seriousness, what’s great about Man Repeller is that the conversation just feels very organic. There are intelligent essays that we as a “club” can really delve into, but then there are also so many great opportunities to reflect on, say, where we were when we got our periods. It’s a good balance of the intellectual and the purely dorky!

    My other favorite site is Into the Gloss because I admire Emily [Founder and Creative Director] and her team so much for really making it a beauty destination. The design of the site feels SO clean, like I am walking into this amazing, modern studio space with lots of natural light that smells faintly of gardenias. What I love about the site is that it’s a great culmination of aesthetics. Beauty and style are dissected and admired from the more art-based looks of the runway to the random girl on the street, wearing no makeup. It’s about beauty, yes, but very often that sentiment can involve a state of mind more than a lipstick. And what they do really well is finding a connection between the two!

    Q: What types of stories lead to good discussions?
    A: My favorite stories to read, and I think the ones that often lead to the best discussions, are not necessarily the ones that raise an obvious question. Sure, stories with overarching questions often get a larger volume of answers, but I find that an honest essay about a quotidian situation can often spark far more interesting conversation. I like stories about people — we all do. And I think hearing stories that are relatively normal, often times humiliating, really bring us closer as a community. It’s that shared embarrassment or that crossing of a boundary that makes me think: “you know what? This isn’t so bad, I’m going to share my experience, too.” For me it is always nice to read pieces on sites that document interaction with interesting or quirky people. All the various human behaviors and M.O.’s are highly fascinating to me. I like people who have a “thing.”

    Q: How do you know you’ve captured your thought well?
    A: To be honest, I guess I know if I’ve captured my thought well when I don’t really have anything else to add, or when, if someone replies to my comment, that I really just end up repeating what was in my first comment. That, of course, does not mean my comment was well-written, but sometimes when I have to sneak a comment under the desk in one of my classes, I’m really just worried about getting my point across whilst not getting my mobile device confiscated (don’t worry, this in-class commenting happens only rarely, as I do feel some sense of guilt for focusing my attention on a source that is not the material at hand.)

    Q: Why did you choose the screen name or avatar you did?
    A: I chose my screen name because it’s my name. Not really a fan of my last name since it sounds kinda harsh, but hey, it is what it is. And I’ve actually been trying to change my avatar for a while now but it takes a really long time on this shared home computer, so I just grow impatient and give up.

    Q: What kind of feedback or reaction are you looking for when you comment?
    A: I really am not looking for any feedback or reaction when I comment. I mean, it’s always nice to see a reply, and I really do love it when someone who writes one of the blogs comments back (I get starstruck sometimes), but in the end I just like to speak/type, and it’s a nice outlet for conversations I don’t really get to have during my day. What annoys me though is when people reply to a comment with an opposing view point, but their point reveals that they only read the first line of my comment. Then I just think “uhhhh, but we agree on the second half….why so hostile?”

    This virtual world is a funny place, let me tell ya. Sometimes it can be really loving and other times it can be like being in a room with men who harbor Napoleon Complexes.

    Up-vote or Down-vote?


  7. nudelzrulez

    Trending on Disqus

    Posted on March 12, 2014 by nudelzrulez

    So where are all the commenters congregating this week? Around these stories, with threads bursting at the seams.

    What hot stories have you seen this week that we missed?

  8. nudelzrulez

    Commenter Spotlight: Underdog

    Posted on January 31, 2014 by nudelzrulez


    Illustration by Luigi Savino

    So, you may have heard that there’s a football game this weekend. In honor of the single day in which over 100 million people get together to watch football, we’re featuring one who actually talks football most other days of the year, too. Underdog is a big Denver Broncos fan (lucky him, this year!), and spends much of his time sharing his knowledge, and debating others, on It’s All Over Fat Man (the story behind the community’s name is brilliant — you can read more on their site).

    Underdog is the nice guy you want around to give it to you straight. Civility is sometimes the first thing to go when amongst passionate sports fans, but Underdog is a guy you can trust not to lose sight of the thing that matters — the game. To prepare for Sunday, head over to It’s All Over Fat Man and see what Underdog and the rest of the community have to say.

    Q: What are your favorite sites to visit and why?
    A: It’s All Over Fat Man for intelligent analysis and commentary on the Denver Broncos. Dodger Insider, True Blue LA, Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, and Dodgers Digest for LA Dodgers analysis and discussion. I read a host of of film web sites, too (like Mubi, IndieWire, Masters of Cinema, Reverse Shot, and so on) but less frequently comment there, and when I do it’s using a social media login. Other than the sites I respond to and moderate for work (Independent Lens), these sites I mention have a good strong community with above average (in intelligence and humor) conversations, led by bloggers who write thoughtful analysis of the teams I follow diligently. There is another Broncos site that is an SBNation commenting system. Those have pretty active communities where I’ve met people in person. I haven’t done that yet with the Disqus sports sites, but the people commenting on IAOFM, if any of them were local to Bay Area, I’d be up for a meetup because I’ve gotten to know many of them virtually.

    I’ve also commented on news sites on occasion when the topic is important to me, but can’t recall the details other than remembering that news articles don’t have as many rational commenters as some of these other sites I mention. ;)

    Q: What types of stories lead to good discussions?
    A: Debates about a team’s roster construction, analysis and breakdown of specific games, debates about an offsite article. Some of my favorite It’s All Over Fat Man site blog posts include ones with in-depth analysis that have taught me a lot about the game I thought I knew pretty well already, using diagrams and images to explain certain plays and strategy. These are the kinds of things that keep me coming back, since I know all the writers there are smart and mature, unlike a lot of other sports blogs. I can actually watch a football game now and feel like I can foretell the future, understand plays as they happen, and even teach other people. Imagine that!

    Q: How do you know you’ve captured your thought well?
    A: It gets replies that are on-point and show they understand mine, or more agreement and recommendations other than “huh” and a thumbs down.

    Q: Why did you choose the screen name or avatar you did?
    A: My using “Underdog” goes way back. I chose it when I first started participating in online discussions (even BBSs!) and picked that name because I a) always liked the cartoon character and b) always root for the underdog in sports and in life. I like to come across as nice and understanding online, where possible, though maybe Shoeshine Boy would be more apt. ;)

    Q: What kind of feedback or reaction are you looking for when you comment?
    A: Either positive affirmation, or spawning an interesting commentary thread.

    Up-vote or Down-vote?


  9. nudelzrulez

    Commenter Spotlight: LiteBrite

    Posted on January 17, 2014 by nudelzrulez


    Illustration by Luigi Savino

    Mommyish is not your typical parenting site. And LiteBrite, a rad commenter from their community, is the embodiment of their commitment to fresh and open dialogue about what it takes to be a modern parent. Whether she’s commenting on sex, pregnancy, relationships, raising kids, or the occasional story about baby teeth necklaces, LiteBrite is a commenter you want around. Her personal anecdotes lend depth to her opinions, and allow her authenticity to shine through as brightly as her name suggests. Plus, she’s a roller girl. And let’s be honest, a woman who knows how to throw an elbow with a smile is going to be a sparkling addition to any community.

    Q: What are your favorite sites to visit and why?
    A: My ultimate favorite site is Mommyish. I find the articles, while still parent-centric, are so much more than the usual “blah blah blah here’s the latest parenting tip….” There are some very deep and sometimes horrifying subjects that are written about, but yet still need to be discussed (even if we’re not directly affected). I also have grown to love the commenters on the site. They’re funny, insightful, sometimes a little surly, and they make me look forward to visiting and commenting.

    Q: What types of stories lead to good discussions?
    A: The “hot button” topics will always generate a lot of interesting thoughts, but I’ve also seen some great discussions and comments come out of even a simple article about Kourtney Kardashian’s pregnancy. Therefore, I don’t think it’s just the article that determines the discussion; it’s the comments within it that serve as a jumping off point.

    Q: How do you know you’ve captured your thought well?
    A: To be honest, I don’t. I suppose I could use the number of up-votes as a benchmark, but I don’t think that’s the only way. I will say though that I edit my comments as I’m writing them; I don’t just throw them out there. I try to think about how they are worded and how they may be perceived by someone else who doesn’t necessarily know me.

    Q: Why did you choose the screen name or avatar you did?
    A: The screen name was a quick decision and not based on any real backstory. I like the name, and I liked LiteBrites as a kid so there you go. My avatar, on the other hand, has a bit more thought behind it. First, I’m a roller girl hobbyist. (I skate with our city’s recreation league). I also find roller girls to be a bit of an enigma. While they are perceived as bad ass (the “naughty” girls), the ones I’ve met are some of the most compassionate people I know. There’s this duality that I like and that I think is part of my own personality.

    Q: What kind of feedback or reaction are you looking for when you comment?
    A: Up-votes. I crave validation.

    In all seriousness, I can’t say I’m looking for any specific type of reaction. I just hope that someone likes my comment, understands it, and can agree. If not, my hope is that they’re not too much of a jackass about it.

    Up-vote or Down-vote?