Interesting comments Joey.
Some of these may be givens, but in the interest of conversation -
Anyone who comments on news items should be able to track what they have commented on via a profile, much like the one each member of this forum has.
This would be difficult to build, (I may be living in a dream-world here) but users should be able to toggle on/off areas of their view as they browse the web site. So if they want to see the option to rate articles through a star system they can toggle that option on, if they will never use that system they should be able toggle that off. As I say, tricky to do (I presume), and would require users having the aforementioned profile but it personalises the viewers browsing experience…
Joey, I'd take your curate comments suggestion one step further. Good comments should be selected by the editor/curator but when they do a link to those comments should be automatically linked to the bottom of the article being commented upon. So people who only want the gist of both sides of the debate can read through the wheat and avoid the chaff. One problem I have with reading through stuff like Comment is Free on Guardian.co.uk is simply the mass of comments, one must scroll through may 30 comments, find the ones that are 'recommended', read them, then find another opposing recommended comment to get the other side of the argument. If the best comments were curated but the editor and trackbacked a link placed into the first four comment slots in chronological order, this could alleviate that hassle.
Lastly, for now – maybe another dream – when a user logs in they should get a screen of articles that may be of interest to them. Similar to logging into Youtube when it recognises what you searched recently and gives you something that may cover similar issues.