Conversation starter Branch opens to the public

After lining up some big backers including two Twitter founders, communications hub Branch is opening to the public. The service is trying to encourage online dialogues by drawing people into conversations that can be shared and preserved.

Social inbox Engagio becomes a social conversations network

Engagio, a social inbox that organizes people’s online conversations, is take a big step toward becoming a social network of its own. The Toronto-based start-up is rolling out a handful of new features including the ability to follow the conversations of other users.

Why you should have comments, even when they are bad

Critics of reader comments often argue that they are worthless because they are filled with trolls, and not that many people read them. But despite these flaws, building community through comments and other social features is more important than it has ever been for online media.

Are conversations better when they are open or closed?

Branch has gotten some attention for its new service, which offers a web-based platform for invitation-only discussions, as well as the fact that it is financed in part by two co-founders of Twitter. But is being less open a benefit for Branch or a disadvantage?

The NYT tries to get its readers to ‘level up’

A new commenting system at the New York Times has drawn fire from readers, but the motivation for the move is sound. If media companies want to behave like communities (which they should), they need to encourage their readers to “level up” and become more engaged.

Can gamification help solve the online anonymity problem?

Some news sites such as The Huffington Post use badges and other kinds of reward systems to encourage user engagement and positive behavior in their online communities. Could doing this help Google overcome the downsides of anonymity without banning users who don’t use their real name?

Handing comments over to Facebook is a double-edged sword

Some newspaper publishers have said that introducing Facebook comments has cut down on offensive commentary and boosted traffic. But it’s worth remembering that Facebook is not the cure for bad behavior, and that handing over comments to the social network means relinquishing control over something important.

Memo to newspapers: The future of media is a two-way street

While plenty of newspapers and other media entities are happy to use social tools like Twitter and Facebook to promote their content, few are really engaging with their readers on a regular basis, says Reynolds Journalism fellow Joy Mayer — but that is the future of media.

Newspapers and Social Media: Still Not Really Getting It

Newspapers seem to have a hard time accepting the “social” part of social media — a case in being the new policy introduced at a major Canadian newspaper, which tells its staff not to express personal opinions and not to respond to reader comments.

Facebook Continues Its Drive to Own the Conversation

Facebook’s acquisition of group-messaging service Beluga and its rollout of enhanced commenting features to websites such as GigaOM are two further signs of the social network’s plan to become a key player in all of the various ways in which people communicate with each other online.

Third-Party Comment Systems Will Still Compete With Facebook

The buzz around upgrades to Facebook’s nascent comments service makes it sound as if the social network is about to launch another world-dominating technology. In reality, that’s an unlikely scenario, since there’s still plenty of room for competitive innovation as far as comment systems go.

Yes, Comments Can Get Noisy, But We Like Them Anyway

Blogger John Gruber of Daring Fireball says that he doesn’t believe that comments on most blogs add any value, and that they are often just “cacaphonous shouting matches,” which is why he doesn’t allow them. But despite the noise, we believe comments are worth having.