(I tried submitting this through site feedback, but received page errors every time. So I'm putting it out here.)
Dear N4G gods:
First of all - kudos on the redesign. Very sleek. Looking forward to the mobile version. But...(yes, of course, there's a "but")
Maybe you're trying to breed fanboy wars, and if so, then kudos again, because that plan has succeeded way better than my first attempt at getting a hand-job (it was an embarrassing disaster). However, if you're trying to create an environment where people are free to express their thoughts and opinions and propagate something that at least appears to be a civil conversation, then...well...not so much.
The bubbles system is damaged. Let's just start with that. And by damaged, I mean broken. I'll use this as an example:
If you look in the comments, toward the top you'll see that "candystop" has been marked as a troll. But if you read his comment, it goes something like this:
"Yeah it's been 4-5 million for awhile and now 360 is starting to pull away again. Lead or not Sony and it's fans claimed P3 would surpass 360 4 years ago and here we are with the under dog doing thing thought impossible. With barely a lead I applaud MS for grounding PS3 and it's hype."
Obviously, it's an opinion, as is 100% of the comments we see on these stories. And yes, it's pro-MS. But it's hardly trolling. "Trolling" is when a MS fanboy shows up in a story about how perfect KZ3 will be and starts shouting about Halo. It's neither on-topic nor appropriate to the story's audience (PS3 users), and designed with one thing in mind - negative attention. But for candystop to be labeled a troll and lose bubbles for what he's posted (which is hardly offensive or off-topic - in fact, it's perfectly relevant), is grossly ridiculous.
And this is just one example. I've seen PS3 articles where pro-PS3 posters have been labeled as trolls and vice versa. That's like me going to my family reunion and being arrested for trespassing.
All the bubbles do is give fanboys a way to penalize those they disagree with and reinforce their own flock. On either side, there are heathens who profess to love games but clearly only love companies and they have more bubbles than I'll ever see, simply because they throw gallons of gasoline on the fanboy fires. The bubbles have less to do with behavior and more to do with ideology, which is wrong - offensive language and name calling is fine most of the time, but damn you for even thinking that God of War 3/Alan Wake/[insert exclusive title here] wasn't programmed by God Almighty Himself.
Perhaps a simpler solution would be to get rid of the bubble system entirely and replace it with a ranking system. The fact that (for example) can respond three times more than most users simply because he caters to the extremist PS3 crowd is disgusting. To rob someone of their voice simply because the majority does not agree with them is pretty close to fascism. Wait, actually I think it IS fascism.
The boards and comments need human moderators. Not a computerized system devoid of interpreting context. People subtract bubbles for the stupidest reasons - like typos! - and everyday, N4G deteriorates more and more into a second grade recess of whiney little brats (oh the irony as I sit here whining about the whiners). I say all this to both chastise and to stress how important I think N4G can be for legitimate gamers when it focuses on NEWS content and not flamebait/fanboy conjecture.
On the other hand, if your desire is to create a breeding ground for gamer hatred, then at least be honest about it and don't penalize people for doing essentially what you want and expect them to do.
That would be like giving the second graders rocks then arresting them when they start throwing. What did you think would happen?
I am IcarusOne.