Why Commenting Systems on Websites Are Getting Overhauls

When you look at a popular website, the commenting system is probably one of the few places where there is little control in terms of content. However, this is about to change with two large websites and online resources, YouTube and Popular Science, announcing a revamping of their systems.


For YouTube, all comments will now be linked to a real persona via Google+. However, for Popular Science, the website has gone the easy way, removing comments entirely from their posts, and here’s why.

1. Why YouTube Adopted the Google+ Commenting System

For most of us, YouTube and Google+ are one and the same thing; they are both owned and run by Google. The Google+ social platform has largely been criticized for being a ghost town, but this is about to change when Google integrates this social layer onto YouTube. The new system offers benefits to all, commenters, video creators, and viewers. However, it may not be good news for trolls who have made the current commenting system one of the filthiest destinations on the Web.


With Google+ becoming the only way to leave a comment below a YouTube video, this may just breathe life to the social platform and bring conversations to this otherwise dead part of town. Current features of Google+ now come to YouTube including the ability to join a conversation either publicly or privately, new tools of reviewing comments, and the ability to determine what posts appear on top of a video.

Google is well aware that recent does not necessarily mean relevant, which is how the current YouTube comments operate. However the new system will see relevant comments, say from the video creator, your friends, or some other popular personality, take the top spot.

Conversations on YouTube and on Google+ will also cross the borders and appear between the two platforms. A YouTube comment that you post will now appear on your G+ stream if desired. Likewise, a G+ comment with an embedded YouTube video will not populate the comment section below that YouTube video. This offers a whole new way of video promotion and creating engagement.

2. Why Popular Science Shut Down Its Commenting System

According to Popular Science, comments can be bad for science.  Popsci.com posted a lengthy post explaining why they came up with this decision, of course using science to state their case.


Popular Science posted a study and research information showing that commenters shape public opinion which in turn shape public policy, which in turn shape how and whether and what research gets funded. According to the site:

“Scientific certainty has now become “just another thing for two people to “debate” on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grosteque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.”

While you may no longer be allowed to leave you comment on articles posted on the site, you can however share your thoughts through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, email, and more.  A few select articles that lend themselves to vigorous and intelligent discussions will also be open to comments.

It is clear that uncivil comments not only polarize readers, but they also change their interpretations of the story of video.  A fractious minority has enough power to skew a reader’s perception and these two websites have clearly recognized this fact.

By blocking out inappropriate attacks and rude comments, these two approaches may very well contribute to a much cleaner and a more tolerating Internet.

Create better online videos with the YouTube Creator Playbook

There are two ways you can use YouTube to gain fame and fortune:

  1. Create a viral video that gets viewed by millions of people.
  2. Create a YouTube channel that drives traffic to your brand over time.

Viral videos rely a lot on quirkiness and luck. Despite that randomness, there are some best practices that will help your video. The more methodical approach to building a popular YouTube channel requires a mastery of a wide range of online video best practices. The YouTube Creator Playbook is a guide to those best practices broken into Programming and Producing, Publishing and Optimization, and Community and Social Media.

For example, these are some of the best practices:

  • Tent Pole Programming: Schedule online videos in connection with cultural events to create more interest in your channel.
  • The First 15 Seconds:How to hook your viewers by making the beginnings more compelling.
  • Thumbnail Optimization:Create thumbnail images that act as mini-movie posters for your online video.
  • Social Media: Using social media to find audiences for your YouTube channel.

This is a very practical guide. Each best practice is introduced by a summary page that gives an estimate of how much time is required, description of what metrics are affected, estimate of how much the task will impact metrics and at what stage of production it will be used. The information helps content creators decide what is important for them to do.

The how-to part is rich in detail and ideas on how to implement each best practice.

The Playbook is a must read for anyone – beginner or pro – who wants to create and sustain an audience for online video. It can be browsed quickly for ideas and is strong on detail that explains how to implement practices. YouTube promises to keep updating the Playbook for more tips as they learn what works. There isn’t a subscribe option but keep an eye on the YouTube Creators blog.

Again, the Playbook is a must read. The advice is collected and presented in a very useful way.

First Impressions: DivX HiQ Web Player 2.1 BETA

The DivX team hopes to impress again, providing users with the highest quality video for their PC – this time taking aim at YouTube and other top video sites.  Some big features the DivX Labs are working into their newest web player are support for MP4 and MOV files, HTML5 support, and interoperability like decoding of H.264 video in Firefox.

Another thing the team is excited to announce is DXVA, or hardware acceleration support for playing videos online.  This DirectX acceleration should take a considerable load off your CPU and put your graphics card to work instead (see my own test below).

So, what does all this mean for you?  The goal is to offer your machine the best possible online video playback, and even control over some common metadata elements (like those nasty YouTube ads).  However, what you should know before deciding to try DivX’s player is that this BETA is very much a test player.  DivX Labs recognizes many of the common bugs people are already experiencing and assures users those problems will be handled effectively in a full release.

Known Issues

From the DivX Labs website:

DivX Plus Web Player 2.1 Beta contains the following known issues:

  • Buffering always shows 0% when first loading an MP4 file
  • Web Player will always buffer at least the first 2MB of data for any MP4 file regardless of bandwidth or bitrate
  • Formatting for the DivX HiQ bar is occasionally too wide and causes part of the bar to wrap around to the next line
  • DXVA H.264 decode acceleration may experience graphic corruption with older ATI and nVidia video card drivers
  • Web Player does not change video frames while seeking if DXVA is enabled
  • DivX HiQ currently only supports videos with an available MP4 formatted version of the file

Using the HiQ Web Player

In my personal opinion, DivX has made some big steps in improving web video, though I sometimes wonder if it’s worth my download time.  I get the popular “buffer hang at 0%” whenever I try to load an MP4 file, and the player has crashed both Firefox and Chromium browsers, several times each.  Many other strange bugs and oddities are prevalent in the current player, but like I said before, you’re really downloading a test product with this BETA.  The good news is that (for the most part) the HiQ web player does work, and the improvements being made really leave me anxious for a solid build in the future.

CPU usage fell between 0-4% and spiked at only 7% with DXVA enabled

DivX welcomes those who download the BETA to provide feedback in their forums.  Everything I’ve already mentioned, including more info on the player, can be found right from the DivX Labs main page with an HTML5 demo (below) and currently-supported sites.  To download the current 2.1 BETA build now, click here.

CPU usage lingered around 10% on all HTML5 demo videos

YouTube Launches Online Video Editor, Lets You Quickly Edit Videos Without Installing Software

In the last several years we’ve seen a tremendous move in software development away from the desktop computer and into the internet’s “cloud”.  Standard desktop applications like email and word processors have effortlessly made the jump to your browser instead of your desktop, freeing you from installing software and many of them are often available completely without charge.

YouTube recently joined this trend by launching an online video editor which follows the mentality “video editing should be fun and easy”.

Instead of installing large, complicated video editing software, YouTube’s video editor gives you quick access to the most-used editing tools, like combining videos you’ve uploaded, trimming videos, adding soundtracks, and instant publishing.

To access the new YouTube video editor, simply visit their TestTube site (this is where the YouTube team tests new software, take some time to check it out).  Click the Try it out link under Video Editor to get started.

The YouTube video editor is extremely straightforward and offers a simple drag-and-drop interface.  You can drag any videos you’ve uploaded to YouTube to the main timeline to combine them, and a separate timeline exists below the video timeline for adding audio tracks (with a large audio library supplied under the Audio tab).

To edit clips, simply click the scissors icon that appears over each clip and drag the beginning and end markers to your desired location.

The pros: YouTube’s video editor is very simple and I was able to use it intuitively without messing around with any configurations or settings.  I grabbed clips from a video I uploaded, edited them, and added an audio track in less than 5 minutes.

The cons: It’s limited.  Don’t expect to edit anything substantial with the video editor, mainly because you are limited to a paltry 7 video clips in the timeline. Although the editor is great for trimming and combining clips, you can’t do anything with speed, volume, or effects.

Verdict: The YouTube video editor will be perfect for anybody who enjoys posting clips to YouTube or creates media like podcasts.  It gives you simple controls to edit unwanted material from your videos, combine and re-order clips, and add a soundtrack.  Want to create a Star Wars fan film?  Then you’re going to want to find something much more substantial.  Was it “fun and easy” though?  Decidedly yes.

Oh, and you can check out my sweet made-in-5-minutes video below.

[via The Official YouTube Blog]

How to View YouTube in High Quality with the Motorola Droid

I noticed in tech blogger Robert Scoble’s recent review of the Motorola Droid that many people are unaware that YouTube videos are set to a low quality setting by default on Verizon’s newest Android-powered phone.  I can’t say exactly why Motorola decided to do this (I’m sure the guy in charge of Verizon’s bandwidth was happy about it) – but it makes YouTube videos look really terrible.

Enabling high quality YouTube playback is very easy, but the option to enable it is hidden in a few menus.  It is mentioned in the “Getting Started” guide provided with the phone, but who reads those things, anyway?

Enabling High Quality YouTube

Step One: Touch the Menu button (it’s the touch-sensitive button with the series of parallel lines).  Then select the ‘More’ button.

droid-youtube-hq-op1Step Two: Select the ‘Watch in high quality’ option.  Your video will now reload in beautiful, high quality.

droid-youtube-hq-opt2It’s a bit of a surprise that high quality playback isn’t available by default, especially since one of the Droid’s biggest selling points is its 3.7″ high resolution screen.  Check out the comparison below:

Low Quality
Low Quality
High quality.
High quality

How To: Automatically View YouTube Videos in HD and Resized to 720p


Firefox Only:  Now that YouTube has a high quality / high definition option available for almost all videos, you may have found yourself wishing it would be enabled by default.  Realistically, YouTube has the higher quality mode disabled by default to save bandwidth on users who don’t mind lower quality videos, but this guide will show you how to automatically view all YouTube videos in the highest quality available (and also automatically resize certain videos to a higher resolution).

To accomplish this, you will need Firefox with the Greasemonkey add-on installed [New to Greasemonkey? Check out our guide].  Once you’re running Firefox with Greasemonkey, simply install the YouTube HQ + 720p Ultimate Greasemonkey script by clicking the Install button on the script’s information page.  Now when you view a YouTube video which is available in high quality, the high quality option will automatically be enabled.

YouTube videos have varying degrees of quality, so certain high quality videos will be automatically resized to a larger resolution, with many videos displaying at a full 720p.  720p-resized videos are too large for users with a display resolution of less than 1440×900, so if that is the case you can disable the resizing feature by following the instructions provided in the Options section of the script’s information page.

A YouTube video resized for 720p playback.
A YouTube video resized for 720p playback.

This script also contains several additional features which can be enabled or disabled:

  • Autoplay – YouTube videos begin playing automatically by default, but with this option the video will be paused and will buffer until you click the play button.
  • Jump To Player – This option automatically jumps your browser’s view to the video’s location.
  • Adjust Player Colors – Users can customize the foreground and background colors of the YouTube player.
  • Hide Annotations – YouTube allows video authors to add annotations to videos which can many times be spam or just plain annoying.  This option disables them from showing up over your video.
  • Loop – Just as you’d guess, it loops the video.

One important thing to note about Greasemonkey scripts is that if YouTube changes their code, layout, or player, the script could potentially stop working.  If this happens, be sure to check the script’s information page to see if an update is available, and if no updates are available you can contact the script author via that page.

Have a Greasemonkey script for YouTube you’d like to share?  Tell us about it in the comments!