Gene Expression

A week ago I observed that commenting was being transformed with the spread of Disqus and Echo. The Big Money has now introduced Echo:

The comments themselves are also more interactive. Any of your postings can be shared with your friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, or any of your connections on the other supported services. You can also reply to fellow commenters, tell them you like their posts, or flag any inappropriate or spam messages that you see. All commenters have their own profiles, which you can find by clicking on their profile names and viewing their details. There you’ll be able to find all the comments they’ve recently left, allowing you to develop commenter-crushes on the smartest TBM readers.

Since no biomedical firm has developed a drug which allows you to become “sleepless” as in Nancy Kress’ Beggars series comments and comment structure has to be value-added. As I made clear earlier, I don’t generally see much value-added in comments on many websites, but that’s just me. I depends on what you want to get out of comments, and how much marginal time you have in your life I guess. Flagging/comment rating systems are probably good though. I like Less Wrong’s system for what it’s worth, even though I’ve gotten voted down for kind of being a dick over there. It’s better than nothing.

The readership of my weblogs are rather select, so I have to delete very few transparently stupid comments (that is, stupid because of the endogenous stupidity of the commenter, not because someone is being a jackass for fun or spite). Consider the highest educational attainment of the readership of this weblog for American readers:

84% have at least a bachelor’s degree
19% have a master’s degree
13.5% have a professional graduate degree (JD, MD, etc.)
20.5% have a non-professional doctorate*

I assume that a substantial number who haver only a bachelor’s degree are likely graduate school drop-pouts, or currently pursuing graduate degrees (going by the age distribution, which is skewed toward those in their twenties and thirties). Additionally, 83% of readers have taken calculus. These variables should argue against stupid comments (I have a friend who is a quantitative social scientist who can’t blog about quantitative social science because his readers on his popular weblog are simply too stupid to really understand distributions, so the comment threads devolve from the get-go).

On the other hand, 86% of readers are male, and 12% are virgins. These are two demographics more likely to engage in what I might term “Usenet” behavior.

Note: ~25% of Americans aged 25 or older have bachelor’s degrees, for point of comparison.

* Of those with non-professional doctorates, 60% are in math, science and engineering. 23% are in social science, such as psychology and economics. The balance are in other fields, with a little over half of those in the humanities.

Comments

  1. #1 Jon Claerbout
    March 17, 2010

    OK, I googled for Disqus and tried their free demo. I’m wondering if that is how you are managing comments here now, and if you use the free or the professional version. Am I the only person around today? or should I understand your title to mean “all comments are dead”?

  2. #2 razib
    March 17, 2010

    death of comments:

    http://techcrunch.com/2009/07/10/js-kits-real-time-commenting-widget-echo-captures-the-pulse-of-comments-on-the-web/

    i used echo, the lowest paid tier, for a little while before moving gnxp.com to wordpress. i actually like third party comment services because comments are relatively resource intensive and i like to offload them.

    the main issue i see with disqus and echo seems to be that they’re “enriching” by extending current commenting functionality, while i would prefer begging filtering services. specifically, consider search before and after google. voting comments up and down is probably good, though unfortunately there tends to be a positive feedback look in terms of perspective (that is, people get voted down because of what they’re saying, not the coherency of their argument or their style).

  3. #3 Tony P
    March 17, 2010

    Funny you mention Usenet. There’s an old quote that explains Usenet (And web forums and comments) precisely:

    “Usenet is like a herd of performing elephants with diarrhea — massive, difficult to redirect, awe-inspiring, entertaining, and a source of mind boggling amounts of excrement when you least expect it.” Gene Spafford 1992

  4. #4 Tom Bri
    March 18, 2010

    Your blogs are among the very few I bother to even read the comments. It is rare that the blog’s followers have the talent or brains of the blogger. On this blog the comments often add to the quality of the posts, and your active participation in the comments is a plus. I wish I had more to offer, but my science training is so antiquated I can barely keep up with the more technical posts.

  5. #5 VJBinCT
    March 18, 2010

    I object to the term ‘non-professional’ doctorates. I am a professional Ph.D in physics, doing children’s parties and all. Times are tough; you need an advanced degree to push a broom.

  6. #6 mnuez
    March 18, 2010

    I’m the resident fool here to make others feel better about their comments by comparison. :-)

    Though I did take calculus.

  7. #7 Chris
    March 18, 2010

    The blogger has a lot to do with it. You’re one of the very few who manages to keep his personal values at bay when doing data analysis. It’s refreshing to say the least.

    Quality attracts quality.

  8. #8 levi johnston
    March 18, 2010

    I have a negress female PhD friend who is the preeminent researcher at her institution. She has recently published a paper: “Indians are the color of shit, too” in Frontiers in Feces Research (In Press; 2010)

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