Spurred on by a Marshall Kirkpatrick Cinchcast early this am, I'll take a cut at identifying what works for me personally as a browser and content creator. Marshall thought out loud about what small changes he could make to the Read Write Web to induce more reader interaction and engagement*. Even though he's the lead writer at a popular web news site, and I'm working to discover and construct high utility web tools, our plights share more similarities than differences.
Marshall views interested and intelligent discourse in post comments as a chief metric of site health. For Victus Spiritus, well thought comments are the primary measure of a posts quality no matter what my personal topic biases are. For social web tools that Victus Media develops, each creation is only as good as the satisfaction of the folks who use and enjoy them. We're still working towards the social proof of healthy usage. It may seem like a small step to get a group of people using an early created product. But it's no simple task to get the right folks involved, and lay the foundation for a platform worth contributing to in a mutually beneficial way. For Tyler and I, it's a privelege developing social web software.
Fred Wilson's AVC has Bullseyed Engagement
My immediate reaction to Marshall's podcast about reader engagement and comment quality/level is the great community at AVC. Fred Wilson has returned daily to kick off conversations related to web tech, investment, and startups for over 5000 posts. Regular commenters there are recognized immediately, myself among them. There's a vibe of critical discussion and a diversity of views, but always with common courtesy and respect. I've learned more from the community at AVC about startups, business, and a variety of web tech/tools since late 2008 than anywhere else^.
*= I suggested Marshall check why I can't comment with my Google openid (I have to rely on Twitter authentication in the meantime). Disqus would be an interesting commenting option, but I've had mixed success with it lately. Comments were closing on posts they shouldn't be, although it appears to be remedied now.
^= Victus Spiritus is growing in value as a learning and knowledge source but comments are still very small compared to the interaction on AVC