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Some Thoughts On Coral

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I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout no reefs neither.

Hard coral Photo by Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you’ve spent any time on BRB over the past few days, I have little doubt you have an opinion about Vox’s new commenting system, Coral. In reviewing the reaction to this post and the contents of the sundry e-mails I’ve received from community members on the topic, I am similarly confident your opinion about Coral is unflinchingly negative.

I’m not about to tell you that your opinion is wrong or invalid. In fact, just the opposite. I believe many of the concerns expressed about the current issues and shortcomings of Coral are reasonable. While it’s been said that Coral will greatly improve the moderating experience for those of us charged with monitoring the content of BRB, the actual commenting experience appears to be dramatically diminished on the new platform. No way to tell how many comments are new since the last time you checked in on a post, no highlighting of new comments, no “Z” key, comments getting cut off on mobile devices, limitations on what GIFs can be used, unnecessarily having to click “Show All” to reveal additional comments that are nested...the list of problems is long and, in my opinion, legitimate. Many of the features that have been so crucial in fostering the communities and discussion on SB Nation sites are disappearing, and people are angry.

You’re angry because you care about this place. You care about the people you talk Texans with here despite the fact that you’ve never met most, if not all, of them outside this forum. The relationships that you’ve formed and maintained at BRB matter to you, and a big reason those relationships have grown is because of the easy interaction encouraged by the commenting system here. The initial iteration of Coral does nothing to improve that; in fact, you’re worried Coral will actively harm the community we’ve built here. I get it.

The only solace I can provide to those gripes is an assurance from the people in charge of this rollout that they’re paying attention to the complaints they’re getting and actively working to improve Coral. And while it’s little comfort to anyone wrestling with the current limitations of the new platform, I remember the last time SB Nation unveiled a new system, way back in 2012; then, as now, people revolted and said there would be a mass exodus because of the damage done by an alleged improvement. Back then, users lodged their complaints; SB Nation listened and did its best to address the issues. Communities flourished and what was once temporarily the bane of the existence of so many sports fans was eventually embraced.

Will that happen this time? I don’t know. I hope so. I do know that I will give the programmers a chance to make things right, as everyone involved agrees that there’s a long way to go to reach Coral’s final form. The IT folks at SB Nation have done it before; I’ll take them at their word when they say they’re listening and that the uniform concerns so many have expressed over and over will be addressed. Because if the consumer of a product isn’t heard, that person won’t remain a consumer of the product.

Speaking of, I’ve read comments from several users about decamping to Reddit, Facebook, or some other venue if the Coral experience doesn’t get better. That is your right. If the comments at BRB become an unwieldy mess in Coral, I understand the desire to seek out a place where your aggravation is minimized and thus your time is better spent. If you’ve taken the time to respectfully voice your concerns about Coral and that apprehension isn’t eased by those with the power to do so, you should exercise your power as a consumer.

I remain cautiously optimistic that there’s a light at the end of this tunnel. I realize the damage that’ll ensue if the opinions of the people who make up the communities across Vox aren’t taken seriously and incorporated. Having been down this road before, I choose to trust the powers that be will mold Coral into something we can all get behind, and they’ll do it expediently to ensure any disruption of our community is more frictional than structural.

Coral will go live on BRB at approximately 2 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, August 11th. Gird your loins.