Peter Kafka

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YouTube Says It Will Start Cleaning Up Its Comments — And Making Them More Personal

youtube complaint department gregory brothersYouTube’s videos can be amazing.

The comments on those videos, though, are often less impressive.

And sometimes, on particularly popular and/or controversial videos, they can make you feel bad about the state of the world — or at least bad about certain people who leave comments on YouTube videos.

Now the world’s largest video site says it will start improving its comments. It will personalize them, so you’re more likely to see comments from your friends, and it will give the people who uploaded the videos more prominence if they leave comments on their own content.

And it will also give video owners the right to ban certain commenters from their videos, as well as comments that use certain trigger words.

YouTube’s argument is that, for the most part, comments work well. But anyone who has happened across, say, a video about Miley Cyrus and twerking, will note that the anonymous comments on the site often bring out the worst in people. YouTube’s new system, which will roll out across the site throughout the fall, might be able to fix that.

For starters, YouTube will give more weight to comments left by the people who uploaded the video (as well as famous people). So in the screenshot below, the site is highlighting comments from Rain Wilson’s “Soul Pancake” YouTube channel.

youtube comments screenshot one

YouTube will also try to figure out if people you know and/or like, based on your interaction with them on Google+, are commenting on the video, and highlight those comments, too.

Bear in mind that Google has a wide-ranging definition of Google+, so even if you’re not a regular user of Google’s social network, YouTube will take into account signals you generate on other Google services, like Gchat. And Google will also highlight comments from famous people who weigh in on the videos — so if Justin Timberlake has something to say about Miley Cyrus, you might see that.

YouTube will also let uploaders set up filters that apply to all of the videos they subsequently place on the site, which will let them block certain users, and comments that use certain words or their equivalents. Let your rotten imagination run wild on the latter.

youtube filter

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus