GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram does see issues with requiring users to link their Facebook accounts to their New York Times accounts in order to become a “trusted commenter,” but he thinks it’s time that the Times started to mimic commenting best practices:
That said, however, I think the rationale behind the creation of a new level of reader engagement is a good one. For years, leading web communities such as Slashdot have shown that one of the ways to encourage interaction and improve the quality of reader behavior is by giving users incentives to behave intelligently (and also penalties for doing otherwise). Karma points, which Slashdot uses, reward commenters for being smart, and also reward them for flagging other comments that are offensive or stupid — something I hope the New York Times is considering as well as it adds features to the system.
Gawker Media is also a pioneer, at least in the media world, in using this kind of tiered approach: the network, which is run by New York’s mini media mogul Nick Denton,launched a new commenting system in 2009 that had many of the same features the New York Times just announced, including the fact that graduating to unmoderated status is by invitation only (Reuters launched a similar VIP system last year). The Gawker model also has some features the NYT might want to consider, such as allowing readers to automatically hide comments that don’t get a specified number of votes.