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

17 Comments

  1. Let’s see. According to the article you quote, Dorian, those who comment or otherwise participate in blogging are marginal fringe characters, prone to be extremists who are outside the mainstream:

    “…commenting on articles remains a fringe activity… 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.”

    (emphasis added).

    That view should encourage comments. Tag satire.

  2. I am convinced that my brilliant posts are read by President Obama himself. He values my opinion because I AM the American people. I speak with the American people every day. You are all in my head, telling me to do thing… bad things… like write another comment.

  3. Excellent comments, SL and tidbits. Thanks (No satire tag here)

  4. Lololol ShannonLee.

  5. No Comment…

  6. You mean there are people that don’t enjoy participating in a pleasant, constructive conversation among strangers who are convinced they are right and everyone else is stupid and/or evil? I don’t believe it.

    On a related note, based on my extensive observation of comment threads I’ve come to assume that the person who posts last is assumed to have won the argument.

  7. LOL, Steve

    Sometimes that is the best comment :)

  8. Good point, AD.

    That’s why I frequently let the other person have the last comment…

  9. AD: you must be stupid and/or evil, since you don’t believe what I believe! Case closed.

  10. In my best Captain Kirk voice:

    “Must … not … comment …”

    :-)

  11. YOu guys, you guys, you crack me up. Dorian, agreed… many of the comments at TMV are interesting and teach… many are funny, on purpose. I read most of them and often learn. So do others. From the feedback we get in editorial, I’d say most people who write/read comments are as Tidbits put it [quoting the article] “…fringe … 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.”

    Except, I’d say ‘fringe’ comments at TMV are often, as in animal pelts, quite sensitive in terms of observation and drawing from many layers of thought…. animal pelts have guard hairs called ‘fringe’ which alert the animal to changes in weather, air currents, water, other creatures… an awareness in other words… and also regarding the word ‘extremes’… which means ‘reaching the highest degree’… yes, I’d say comments at TMV are often extreme in that sense. Agenda… is such an innocent word in and of itself. literally meaning to make a list of things to do… part of the basis of any daily orderly life.

    Now, if they’re going to describe commenters in such glowing terms once the adjectives are parsed properly, they ought also add [re my experience in tmv comments]: often intelligent, thoughtful, interesting, sharing of their own personal lives a bit so we learn about the many kinds of people in our world[s]… no fools, often very alert, often expert in more than one area, sometimes stubborn, often often often deep-hearted.

    Moderating comments so there can be civil exchanges (man, that our Congress would learn from you all] is a thankless task, but the latter attributes which show up so often in tmv comments make it, to me, well worth reading comments. As mentioned. I often learn, and learning, by my lights, makes comments more than just ‘have to comment because it’s ‘there’ and I have time’… it is often like a small lyceum here at TMV daily. Culturally, spiritually, politically, and intellectually interesting. I see all those as intertwined in our culture with its subcultures. It is fascinating, I think. Just my .02

    ps I’d add that nested or threaded comments have been with us since back in the old Prodigy Forums days in the mid 80s. As the kids say, you know those three initials?! I dont get the ‘tumult’ over such. It’s like getting crazed about that there are drive through coffee joints. lol

  12. Hi Dr.E.

    Thanks for your comments.

    As the person who must read all our comments here at TMV to make sure we don’t stray too much from the rules (that make TMV one of the most civil and responsible blogs), hearing you say that you learn from them “culturally, spiritually, politically, and intellectually” is a tremendous compliment to all TMV ‘commenters.’

    Nota Bene: I wish there was a noun to describe “those who comment.” Spellcheck invariably flags the word “commenters.” :)

  13. 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.

    Makes me wonder which posts at TMV actually receive the most readership rather than the most comments.

    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
    The Moderate Voice (http://s.tt/1y3ZG)

    ‘fringe’ comments at TMV are often, as in animal pelts, quite sensitive in terms of observation and drawing from many layers of thought…. animal pelts have guard hairs called ‘fringe’ which alert the animal to changes in weather, air currents, water, other creatures… an awareness in other words

    So we’re the canaries in the coal mine eh? ;-)

  14. That’s an interesting question, zephyr. I have also sometimes wondered that.

    Joe G. and editorial staff might be able to provide some stats on that — without divulging authors…

  15. All kidding aside, I have commented on a lot of threads in many other online digital publications and, the people I interact with on TMV tend to be the most civil and thoughtful—actually interested in sharing points and counter-points that will foster real knowledge and thoughtful content concerning the particular topic at hand.

    Other Forums I have visited, are composed of way more, “snarky” comments aimed only at expressing the writer’s frustrations in a childish and hostile manner. But, at TMV I find it true that many of the people whose ideas I oppose, provide real knowledge about any given topic, and, usually have credible comments to make.

    So, now that I have done my PR spot for TMV—when do I get paid?….But really, let’s all keep on commenting and keep the debate ball rolling because—whether paid or not—It is a worthwhile endeavor anyway!

  16. So, now that I have done my PR spot for TMV—when do I get paid?

    Now, now, Petew, authors first, then ‘commenters.’

    Except if we paid you by the word count, TMV would go broke. Just kidding! :)

    Your comments are some of the most thoughtful and incisive. Keep them coming (And that’s no satire)

  17. OK here’s my secret to commenting. Keep commenting until you get your adversary to fully state his/her silly ideas :-) then stop, letting him/her have the last word. Those who get it understand this strategy; those who don’t never will.

    I think this works, because no one ever lets me have the last word. :-) Though I have to say it works less well on this site because there are fewer silly ideas; nevertheless…

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