So a few days ago the counter ticked over and we passed 1,000,000 comments on PCPartPicker. I find that to be pretty nuts. Feels like yesterday that PCPartPicker didn't even have commenting at all. I honestly fought it for a long time - whether or not to even allow commenting on the site. I was the sole person working on the site at the time, so I didn't really have the bandwidth to moderate while also doing dev and the business side. But I kept seeing discussions pop up that I thought would be well suited here.
A good friend of mine, Amar Rama, has given me tons of great feedback and advice about PCPartPicker and live in general. He's been an encouragement the whole way, through the fun parts and the struggles. He's a great guy, and I'm deeply indebted to him for everything he's done for me. Anyhow, Amar is seemingly connected to everyone. Along the way we were talking about community and he referred me to Josh Duncan. A few emails later and we met for lunch at Chipotle and had a good conversation about how and where to get started.
Adding community functionality to a site with no community is kind of a chicken-and-egg problem. I could drop in a bunch of empty forums, and well, you'd see a bunch of empty forums. Many people would see there's no real activity and leave. So how do you bootstrap things? Talking with Josh it made sense that completed builds drove feedback, so we initially built in commenting for just those. There were no forums.
In true not-invented-here fashion, I didn't reuse existing forums. I wanted to create my own. I liked markdown and reddit style commenting, and I also liked the interaction at Hacker News a lot too. So I wanted to kind of merge the two concepts where I felt it made sense. Also in true software-engineering fashion, I wanted to push it live as fast as possible. That meant comments with no comment reply notifications, no moderation tools, etc. I thought I'd figure out moderation tools when I needed them. That turned out to be quite a bit sooner than I expected.
Spam was almost immediate. "How???" I wondered... I mean, it was a custom implementation. It's not like some automated phpbb spam script could just hop in and go to town. But we were getting tons of spam for Ugg boots and other miscellaneous items. So shortly after, we added the ability to report comments, then some other internal tools for automatically flagging problematic posts. We've slowly built out what we need to keep it under control. We still have functionality we're adding in to help manage things, but for the most part we're doing ok.
Bans are very infrequent, but they do happen. Generally people who just don't want to be nice and can't handle the six forum rules we post. But we're pretty amazed by how civil the community here is - and how seldom we need to step in. It's a testament to the character of the people here that we only have one person managing all the moderation (manirelli) and he isn't going crazy, yet.
To all our users who participate in commenting on this site: Thank You. Thank you for helping make PCPartPicker a place where there's good dialogue and where people feel welcome. We feel truly blessed. Here's to reaching 10,000,000 comments...
Edit: Just to add a bit more - we know there are plenty of good communities out there where 1M comments is a drop in the bucket. We're ok with that. We feel blessed with where we are.