Making Gawker Conversations Possible

The next generation platform for conversations debuted on gawker.com a couple of weeks ago. This platform represents our approach to elevating conversation on the web. The debut includes a few of the product's many changes to come, but it also introduces numerous behind-the-scenes changes that put us in a position to meet our challenge.

Nick summed it up in an email a few years back: "We need a better way to highlight the interesting bits of any discussion, without an edit mechanism as crude as comment banning, or a bury action which is so prone to abuse... A better structure would encourage editors to throw open discussion to the comments." Our solution(s) centers on one principle: Everybody owns the discussion they start. To this end, active posters will notice a few changes.

• No "star." The prior star functionality has been superseded by you. Your contribution and management of discussions will set you apart.
• "Dismiss" option. If you want to engage with a commenter, you can always reply to them, and keep the conversation going. If you find their contribution to be abusive, off-topic, or trolling, use the dismiss option to move them out of the conversation.
• Inbox. Your inbox provides quick access to replies to your posts. From here, you can quickly reply or dismiss replies to your entries.
• The Burner. Anonymity matters. A burner allows you to submit information without associating any personal information with your chosen screen name. We still allow for the creation of screen names through facebook, Twitter or Google.

There are a host of other features to come, but that pretty much sums up round one. There are many changes behind the scenes as well.

Scala, Continuous Deployment, Infrastructure

Making Gawker Conversations PossibleS

This new product is built on an entirely new foundation. Over the last year Gawker tech has streamlined operations, migrated to a new technology infrastructure, and implemented processes to simplify introducing new products.

The conversation platform is based on Scala, and a host of supporting technologies. The publishing and ad platforms will soon complete this migration. Over the coming days, we will further detail the various open source projects we've built around, as well as share our experiences to date. Migrating from a Java & PHP infrastructure to Scala has provided an abundance of experience and lessons for everyone on the team.

We've adopted a continuous deployment model. Where once we saw perhaps a couple releases per day (on rare occasions, there would be more), we're now regularly hitting 15 - 20, and I suspect this is a fraction of where we will be in several months. It's taken time, but the team has embraced this model, and this will allow us to remain extremely competitive as we continue to improve the platform.

We've also overhauled the site infrastructure by eliminating variability in server hardware, and OS, simplifying storage and data architecture, and taking greater advantage of features available to us through our CDN. To support our transition to the continuous deployment model, we've improved and expanded our systems monitoring suite (Newrelic, Cacti, Ganglia and others) to more quickly identify and resolve system problems.

Watch here more more information on the product and the underlying technology that drives it.

- tkp