Comments are supposed to make digital media more engaging and interactive. Somewhere in the crowd of readers and viewers are ideas, insight and thoughtful criticism. However, the comments found on popular internet sites like YouTube or news sites generally inspire a loss of faith in humanity. From the comfort and pseudo-anonymity of thousands of living rooms comes a stream of abuse, wingnuttery and outright stupidity that overwhelms etiquette and common sense.
Clay Shirky thinks Gawker is on to something with its attempts to surface quality comments. Gawker redesigned their comments section to serve the people reading the comments, rather than the people writing them, moving most comments off the main page of an article and enabling enhanced curation.
Manual curation is labor intensive. I wonder whether a machine learning approach might be able to do a reasonable job of identifying good comments, or at least weeding out most of the inane ones. It's not really much different than spam filtering. That might make a fun little project.