Sunday, 6 June 2004

Last comment on comments

Will Baude still maintains his objections to comments on heavily-trafficked blogs, but concedes there may be some merit to comments in the less-traveled-by portions of the blogosophere. The interesting questions to me are: why do comment sections turn to sludge, and what’s the inflection point where sludge control efforts can no longer be fruitful?

My working hypothesis is that comments sections turn to sludge when the expected number of eyeballs that might read a comment on someone else’s blog exceeds the number of eyeballs that might see J. Random Jackass’s post to his own blog.

Assuming J. Random Jackass can get 30 hits/day by just setting up a blog, that means that any blog that gets, on average, more than 30 hits/full post is vulnerable to being “sludged.” There are, however, some sludge rate caveats:

  • Completely inline comments will massively increase the odds of getting sludged. If a blog’s comments are visible on the front page, and thus will be read by every visitor, it will probably be sludged at a much lower threshold. (See, e.g. Daily Pundit.)
  • “Hide/show inline comments” will somewhat increase the odds of being sludged, though—as most readers won’t bother clicking the “Expand comments” button—the risk is significantly lower than for fully inlined comments. (PoliBlog, Wizbang)
  • Pop-up only comments (e.g. Haloscan and other services for pre-2.0 Blogger) will significantly decrease the odds of being sludged, as even permalinks to the post will not include the comments, unlike the default templates for Movable Type, WordPress, and most other tools.

Empirical testing of this hypothesis is encouraged.

As far as the inflection point goes, I suspect it is very close to the actual sludge threshold. Should your blog reach the inflection point, my (normative) suggestion is to disable comments rather than attempt to implement technological fixes (IP bans, content analysis) that will work marginally well, if at all.

1 comment:

Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.

I’ll keep you posted on my experience. Having moved from a Blogger blog with pop-up only (Haloscan) commenting to a “comments on the permalinked archive page” blog (Greymatter), my subjective impression is that commenting has decreased. I need to analyze further though’ that decrease in comments may be something that’s happened in the last couple weeks.

One weirdness that I *have*noticed: I’m getting comment spam, but only on “active archived posts” (i.e., posts available from the archive pages, but which have scrolled off the main blog page). I don’t know why that would be other than the fact that I’m less likely to review my archived pages, and therefore less likely to delete the comment spam from them—though on the other hand I’d think that the two or three people who regularly read my blog would not bother digging back into the archives, and therefore wouldn’t see the comment spam either.

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