BBC revamps 'Have your say'BBC News Online is to launch a radically overhauled system for publishing reader comments that will allow some submissions to be posted live to the site for the first time.

Previewing the new system at the Association of Online Publishers in London yesterday, project manager Daniel Mermelstein said the site is currently overwhelmed by the volume of submissions because every comment has to be individually approved before being published.

An average 6,000 comments are submitted on a typical day, and up to 20,000 on a busy news day - but only around 10 per cent of those are published.

"The BBC has a dirty little secret: the vast majority of comments are never even looked at," said Mr Mermelstein.

"It's a bad user experience. It's arbitary, unpredictable and users get frustrated because their comments aren't being published."

Mr Mermelstein described the new system as a 'quiet revolution' for BBC News Online because of the more relaxed approach to content moderation.

Due to launch on 10 October after nine months in development, the new system is effectively a heavily customised message board system that features different discussion topics each day.

More contentious subjects subjects will be fully moderated but for the first time, comments on selected threads will be posted live on the site. The new system will rely mostly on 'reactive moderation', asking readers to report inappropriate content and material that breaches house rules.

Readers recommend

Users will be able to browse comments either by chronological order or by a 'reader recommend' rating system.

A typical reader might scan just 15 or 20 comments, so the recommendation system is an efficient way for readers to browse the best content. It also encourages readers to become more involved with discussion threads by flagging useful or interesting contributions.

Mr Mermelstein predicts that the editorial team will take time to adjust to the more open system and the increased control it gives to readers. But ultimately the system will provide a more efficient and creative way of managing reader content that could start to feed into radio and TV output.

In the future the system could also be developed to manage submissions of photos and video footage, or initiate selected groups of international users to comment on breaking news stories. The most trusted and active users could be given increased privileges so that they become authorised to moderate content themselves.

"This system will have a profound affect on our journalism and will change our relationship with our users," said Mr Mermelstein.

"The key as a news organisation is how to get best out of our content. The bottom line is that the internet has a fantastic back channel that no other medium has in the same way, so we need to harness that content - and that is the real challenge."

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