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What’s In A Comment? & Other Feedback On Shadowproof’s Launch

The Shadowproof Mailbag

Launch Edition

Welcome to the Shadowproof Mailbag. This will be a regular feature of the community here, where I’ll collect a selection of the feedback we’ve received, from comments to social media to email. I’m taking inspiration from the letter columns in the back of comic books I’d read growing up, where fans would write in to comment (and sometimes, nitpick) about everything they loved and hated about an issue or storyline. So, in a way, this effort is dedicated to the immortal Stan Lee.

Just like those old letter pages, whenever I can, I’ll get feedback directly from the creator of an article in response to feedback or a question, even if they didn’t reply in the comments. Sometimes, we’ll also highlight interesting or important things happening behind the scenes at Shadowproof.

Mailbag posts are also an open thread, where you can comment on anything you want, or just share whatever is on your mind in the comments below. As always, I’ll share the best of everything we receive on our Community page, and in the next Mailbag.


Goodbye Firedoglake, hello Shadowproof

The biggest news is our own birth.

Shadowproof burst into being very late at night last weekend, or rather very early in the morning on Sunday. It’s appearance may have seemed sudden, but it reflects months of hard work by Brian and Kevin (all while maintaining their day jobs as writers and journalists), and joined more recently by myself and Dan. Despite all the preparation we put into our launch, we were flattered and amazed at the enthusiasm and support we received from so many people, both long time firepups and our new readers.

Of course, the launch of Shadowproof meant the end of Firedoglake, although we’ve preserved all the posts (and we’re working on the comments, see below).

isolato wants us to maintain our activism, as well as our journalism here at Shadowproof:

Best of luck, your greatest strength (IMHO) has been your ability to give us, your faithful readers, a distinct way to express our activism. Whether paying John Kiriakou’s mortgage, Chelsea Manning’s legal bills, or buying Occupy activists some warm clothes … it is so much more fulfilling to actually DO something than to simply fume w/indignation. Keep us busy!

Kevin replied, “Thanks for reminding us of this. Giving people something to do has contributed to our shared success in the past.” We have a lot of plans for our future here at Shadowproof, and encouraging activism is a big part of that.

John Kelly appreciated our nonpartisan mission,

“The organization will be a resource for information necessary to persuade others to support causes, not a resource for persuading others to support candidates in a horse race.” Exactly. Thanks for this sentence in particular. I will be here.


But what about …

Of course, other people had questions or concerns about our new direction. Dennis King wrote us to say,

Where are the women? All male on the front page of website, considering FDL was founded by a woman?

This is a legitimate complaint, something we’re aware of and seeking to address.

When Jane Hamsher decided to pass the torch, she chose a bunch of experienced white guys she’d worked closely with before on FDL who she trusted to carry on her legacy. We’re painfully aware of our lack of diversity, and it’s something we want to improve when we have the funds to expand our staff. In the meantime, we’re paying for stories from freelance writers who are more diverse than us, or whose stories focus on underserved communities.

NorskeFlamethrower praised the look of our new digs, but raised several questions:

First, where is electoral politics going to show up and what efforts are going to be made to create a reader base that will encourage at least progressive candidates or office-holders to be accessible to Shadowproof writers and editors?

As Kevin outlined in our introduction, we’re trying something new with Shadowproof. We’re focusing on issues and movements, rather than parties or candidates. We will talk about policies or decisions that politicians make, and we think our investigative journalism will create informed voters and informed activists in the streets. We hope our news gathering will inspire action, while other sites (the Internet has many options) can provide the voting guides and election coverage.

Second, what about “Late Night” and a discrete section for reader community interaction especially with regard to the arts and popular culture?

We hope our Community section and open threads like this one will provide a place for Shadowproof’s community to gather. Earlier this week, I wrote a brief guide to our community, which should explain how we hope this will work, but there’s lots of ways to connect with our readers and journalists.

And you’ll be pleased to know that coverage of arts and culture is going to be an important part of Shadowproof too. We shared an article about music and #BlackLivesMatter earlier today, and Kevin is beginning a new series on Protest Music this week. I’m looking forward to the discussions.


What’s in a comment?

On Saturday night, we realized that comments from Firedoglake were going to be temporarily missing for a while. As of this writing, we’re still working with Disqus to bring all the comments back.

Yes, that means Disqus isn’t going away. Disqus isn’t universally popular here by any means but it’s actually essential to our surival. Firedoglake had about 4 million comments, according to Brian. In fact, when we approached our new web hosts, WP Engine, the FDL database was about 40 gigabytes — one of the larger website databases they’d ever seen. The old style of comments were a big part of that size. Brian says if we’d kept the old commenting system here, we’d be paying tens of thousands of dollars more in server bills than we are today, but Disqus let us afford to keep all those comments around.

As for that database, our superheroic developer, Ben Nguyen, by taking steps like installing Disqus could cut it down to two gigabytes — without losing anyone’s writing, and further saving us money that we can put toward actual journalism.

Addendum: We’re aware of the bug where comment counts aren’t showing up properly when you browse our site, so it looks like all the posts have 0 comments. Fortunately, we have this superhero bug killer around …


In conclusion …

We’re still a new website. Let us know if you find anything broken and we’ll add it to our list of things to fix.


  • Review our Community Guidelines to understand what Shadowproof expects of our readers, and what you can expect from us.
  • This introduction to our community is a good place to start if you want to know how you can help us make Shadowproof a better, more welcoming place.
  • We welcome your feedback, ideas, links to good music and even silly jokes in the comments below. Also, don’t forget you can Share Anything With Us.


With <3 and Solidarity,

Kit O’Connell
Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and