On ‘Comments’

Disclaimer:

I like comments.

I frequently comment myself.

(Most) comments are very reasoned and insightful.

(Most) readers who frequently comment are brilliant and perceptive.

TMV comments, in particular, are some of the best in the blogosphere.

TMV readers, in particular, are some of the best-informed and discerning readers anywhere.

Finally, this post has been “tagged” as “satire,” but that tag does not (necessarily) apply to the “Disclaimer.”

Having hopefully covered all bases, I cannot wait to see the comments on this one.

Let me hastily add that the opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the author, TMV, the mainstream media, the United States, or the planet we live in.

Well, here it goes.

Apparently, after the British newspaper The Guardian changed its commenting system from one such as we have here at TMV to a “threaded system” — where replies to a comment are listed directly below that comment — there was quite a bit of “a commotion.”

In response to the commotion, the Guardian’s Readers’ Editor, wrote an interesting column containing a lot of information and data about the commenting system and comments, respectively.

Subsequently, Martin Belam at currybetdotnet, after saying that he does not want to “poke the hornet’s nest,” does exactly that, focusing on the “fascinating stat” that “The Guardian website publishes around 600,000 comments a month, with 2,600 people posting more than 40 comments a month.”

“Doing the math,” and extrapolating from that, Belam comes to the following conclusions about the Guardian’s reading community, as summarized by David Crotty at “The Scholarly Kitchen.”:

• 2,600 people posting at least 40 comments a month means totals at least 104,000 comments, or at least 17% of total comments.

• That leaves, at most, 496,000 comments per month to be left by everyone else.

• The Guardian’s total audience for November, 2012 was 70,566,108 readers.

• The Guardian’s comments then, at best, represent 0.7% of the audience.

• At least 17% of the Guardian’s comments come from 2,600 people or 0.0037% of their readers.

All well and good, but then Crotty extrapolates himself and comes to some interesting conclusions, focusing on a “journal website.”

Among these:

If we assume that these sorts of numbers translate from a newspaper website to a journal website …then should a tiny and likely non-representative population be allowed to drive the criteria for funding and career advancement in research?

Blogging about academic research, tweeting links to research papers, and commenting on articles remains a fringe activity (as does using Twitter or blogging in general). These sorts of activities cater to the extremes, to people who either have an agenda they’re looking to promote, or just to the minority of people who enjoy communicating in this manner.

And, referring to his own web site, the Scholarly Kitchen, Crotty says, “the posts here in the Scholarly Kitchen in 2012 that drew the most comments were not the same as the most-read posts. There is a qualitative difference between ideas that are controversial versus ideas that are of great interest to the majority of a community. Comments seem to correlate better with the former than the latter.”

Crotty concludes:

This post is not meant to disparage the value of comments — they can be tremendously useful ways to exchange information, to correct problems in an article, to add new information, and to turn things into a conversation. This can benefit the reader, the author, and the commenter. But whether that value can be translated into a meaningful measure of the article and researcher performance remains an open question. The fact that comments come from such a tiny and likely non-representative minority of readers makes the challenge even greater.

Disclaimer: Read my “Disclaimer” above, and keep those great comments coming

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist