Car-obsessive commenters — since we opened up Jalopnik four years ago — have influenced our site more than is acknowledged and sometimes more than is comfortable.
Your vocally expressed disdain has drummed out writers; your wit has preserved editorial personality even as our front pages have become more professional; you've steered the discussions, often way off-topic; but just as often you've suggested better headlines and story angles; former commenters such as Ben Wojdyla have written themselves into paid writing jobs; and reader-tipsters have supplied many of our best stories.
Our new commenting system has even allowed those that want to go off-topic to do so and still allow the discussion on the posts seen by new readers to the site to stay inviting and relatively on-topic.
And yet we've always insisted that tips and letters to the editor are sent in by email and mediated by our editors; that discussions stay on topics that we determine; and that our writers are the only ones who can initiate stories on the site. No longer.
With the launch of Jalopnik Open Forums, we're allowing readers to post tips, spy photos or hoon of the day entries directly from a form on the front page. Readers can also initiate discussions on any topic they choose simply by including a Twitter-style hashtag in their post. Better yet — you can even create your own rooms just by coming up with a unique hashtag. It'll get an RSS feed and everything — so promote the page somewhere you like. You want a Ray Wert Is Awesome page, just make it. Similarly, you can make a Ray Wert Is Horrible page as well. And commenters can expand on a story, or rebut a post, just as now.
Starred commenters will play an even more important role — as moderators of the discussion. Your decisions to respond and promote certain comments will decide the ebb and flow of these new forum-like tag pages. So use your power well, or you may find yourself losing it.
Any commenter will also find they're getting some fun added features — like the ability to see comment response notifications at the top of the front page and easier login up top of the page.
All our readers will see something else pretty cool. Slide down to the bottom of the front page and click the next button. Rather than a page view-maximizing new page, you'll see something more "refreshing." Go ahead and try it for yourself.
We'll of course expect there to be problems over the next few hours. Why don't you use the #cotomersevis page to let us know about them.
Other than that, we've no idea what uses people will make of these forums — or what they'll create. But we suspect that many of them will be mischievous. And that's fine — because we like mischief too.