As most readers have undoubtedly noticed, Salon is undergoing changes to both the design and functionality of the site, and some of those changes affect this page. Many of these will substantially improve the functionality of the site. Still, I instinctively react in the first instance the same way as most other people whenever sites I read (including my own) are changed: quite negatively. It's natural to dislike format changes in places to which we've become accustomed, and for that reason, it's advisable in general to wait a few days for things to settle in before making definitive judgments.
That said (and in direct and knowing violation of the advice I just dispensed), there are some changes that I know I definitely dislike and others that need some further modifications. Judging from my email, that's true for many of you as well. I'm working with Salon's tech and editorial staff to improve some of these changes (which, in some cases, means eliminating them), so over the next several days, you'll likely see what I hope are improvements. The migration to the new system has also resulted in some temporary glitches -- including the disappearance of hundreds of comments to many columns, the evaporation of Facebook "likes" and other similar data -- which should re-appear over the next couple of days. I'll just ask for some patience -- of myself and readers here -- to allow a few days for all of this to be worked out.
By the far most controversial change is the requirement that commenters either join Salon's Core program or register/sign-in with a Facebook or Google account. I'm not sure how I feel about this change. I think the ability to participate anonymously on the Internet -- and especially in political discussions -- is vital for many reasons, and I absolutely understand those who harbor concerns about commenting with these new requirements.
That said, one can have Facebook or Google accounts using pseudonyms, and while that does not provide absolute privacy, neither does most participation on the Internet, including anonymous commenting (which remains linked to IP addresses and other Internet footprints). The rationale of these new sign-in requirements is that they provide added barriers to those whose primary goal is to disrupt comment discussions and makes it easier to ban those who abuse the forum. These requirements may drive away some valued commenters, but so do untrammeled screaming matches, concerted saboteurs, and the serial return of banned offenders. Some balanced hybrid that is relatively privacy-protecting yet still effective in achieving these goals is probably possible, so please feel free to keep emailing your thoughts on this.
As I've said many times, the most valuable asset in writing on the Internet is the active participation of and constant interaction with one's readers. This blog in particular has depended greatly on a committed and active readership, and preserving that has always been and remains a top priority for me. That consideration, more than anything, is what guides my approach to all these questions.