Commenting Wars

Branching Out: How Josh Miller Went From Princeton Dropout to Alley Darling in Just Nine Months

Big day for Josh Miller. (

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Josh Miller, the precocious 21-year-old Princeton dropout behind Branch, one of tech’s most buzzed-about new startups, took The Observer on a tour of the Obvious Corporation, a growing operation helmed by the cofounders of Twitter that advises and invests in an elite set of fledgling tech companies, Branch among them.

The San Francisco office radiated industrial California coziness, with tall windows and exposed pipes, dark grey walls and a fridge overflowing with Vitamin Water. Mr. Miller, who is tall and insouciant, with the laid-back linguistic tenor of one who spent his childhood in Santa Monica, bustled about the office, seemingly unthreatened by the fact that he is both much younger and less experienced than the majority of Obvious employees.

“Check this out!” he called from a breezy conference room with a panoramic view of downtown San Francisco. He pointed to a wet bar fully stocked with top-shelf bottles. “You know, I’m just out of college, so sometimes I’m, like, afraid to drink any of this because it’s so expensive! It’s like, where’s the Franzia?” he joked, referring to the cheap boxed wine favored by destitute college students. Read More

Commenting Wars

Sound Familiar? Gawker’s New Commenting Threads are Called ‘Branches’

Mr. Denton (

After a week of closed commenting sections, Gawker released its new commenting system today, and it’s a doozy. Nieman Lab has a great rundown of the changes, including a computer algorithm that sifts through the comments and looks for ones to feature, as well as “a new inbox [that] focuses attention on all replies to a user’s comments… the original commenter must explicitly approve a reply to allow it into the conversation.”

Nieman Lab reports that the proprietary system is officially called Powwow, but interestingly enough, the actual discussion threads themselves are called “branches.” Read More

Commenting Wars

Nick Denton Apparently Loves Branch

Mr. Denton (

Gawker overlord Nick Denton’s commenting revolution is in full swing, with the first phase–revoking the illustrious “star” from each commenter, and temporarily disabling comments altogether–implemented last week. Mr. Denton has been very vocal about the fact that he wants to ditch the site’s old insidery cabal of snark-obsessed commenters in favor of more thoughtful, inclusive discussion. Read More

Comment Commentary

Google Continues Its Push Into Social with New Third-Party Commenting Platform

Guess that's what Google+looks like? (

Hey, guys. Google is like, a really social company. Oh, did you not know that? They have Google+, which has three to five active users, and you can “hang out” via video and stuff. They also have Gchat, keeper of young people’s secrets. And in another sigh-inducing attempt to prove that they’re hip with the social trends, Google is also launching a third-party commenting platform to rival Facebook’s popular commenting plugin. Read More

Popular Attitudes

6 Percent of Online News Readers ‘Always’ Comment on Stories, Compared to 37 Percent Who ‘Never’ Do

newspaper breakfast table

And they keep the Huffington Post alive. With engagement being the future of news publishing and all that, Ad Age surveyed 1,003 households on their attitudes toward commenting on news stories. Of all those surveyed, six percent said they “always” comment on a news story, compared to 37 percent who say they “never” do.  Read More