Fascinating survey post at the Freakonomics blog (Thanks Indus for pointing it out) asking users why do or why don’t they comment. (I love these guys not just because of the book or because they write intelligent/insightful stuff but also because Prof. Levitt is from my alma mater). The post generated 114 responses…Now these responses can be extrapolated to other social media as well where the participation more or less follows the same 90-9-1 kinda pattern observed on blogs. I waded through these responses and summarized them in the table below:
Some of the sample comments from the article are listed below:
# Matt W
First is the fixed cost.. it just took me 3 minutes to register with WordPress and thats a long time for the internet age.
Second, usually, on a high traffic blog like this, commenters have usually taken most points of view in an hour or so.
But mostly, its just like in school where theres a class of 30 people but the same 5 or 6 are the only ones that raise their hand.
# From Deckard
I REALLY WANT OTHER PEOPLE TO READ MY BLOG AS WELL AND GET THE STATS UP – also I WANT TO LOOK IMPORTANT AND ASSOCIATE MYSELF WITH SOMEONE AS GREAT AS (INSERT NAME HERE)
Being a bit of a marketing whore with a new business to promote
Many bloggers comment to get comments. Many also comment to connect with people. The undying need to be loved is strong with the blogging community.
I rarely comment on blogs because (1) written communication is a skill I have not practiced since high school (often my comments are misunderstood), (2) Ive learned that people usually ignore or attack what they dont already believe (this makes my comments seem futile), and (3) I have things I would rather be doing (it usually takes 30 minutes or more to write even a semi-coherent response to a blog.
Shyness definitely plays into my reasons.
Commenters needed to be parsed into distinct categories. Some comment to learn to nail an idea to a page so others will refine it. Some comment to convince. Some comment for community.
Still others comment to overpower ideas with cheap rhetoric.
I comment on two types of blogs: people I know and where I believe the author reads the comments and might actually be looking for ideas and different takes.
I have, on rare occasion, joined in to reinforce others comments. It is fruitless to argue with people in comments – or mostly anywhere on the internet – but sometimes it can be enjoyable (and, in a rare case, even constructive) to agree with other commenters
I actually tend to avoid blogs that dont allow comments. Not allowing for comments means the blogger really doesnt care about what their readers think. I prefer some kind of login system though because I am a firm believer in the formula:
Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Idiot
1. I (like many readers, I suspect) read your blog through an RSS feed. So commenting involves clicking on the link to your actual site, remembering my wordpress username (which usually takes a trip to my email account where its saved), and then remembering the password Ive chosen.
2. After a while, regular commenters start to form a community. It starts to feel intrusive to insert yourself.
3. The time it takes me to formulate a comment Im happy with posting is usually not worth what Ill get out of actually posting it. Im usually picky about being concise, grammatically correct, and having fully formed ideas, so a comment can take me upwards of 30 minutes to put together. And then the comment will usually be ignored anyway.
Why I comment:
1. I feel passionately about the topic or I have unique insight.
2. Im in the mood and I have time.
3. I might win a t-shirt.
Why I dont comment:
1. My point of view is already represented.
2. Too many comments, Id just be lost in the sea of comments.
3. Too many passionate views, no one would really listen.
4. I dont have the time to deliver a concise and well thought out comment.
Right after spending a while writing a detailed comment, I always have a nagging feeling that Ive wasted my time. If I have something important to say, why am I saying it way down at the bottom of a pile of messages, where no one will read it? If I dont have anything important to say, why am I spending time typing at all??
Heres a paradox, though: In principle I believe comments are very important, and Im offended when theyre disabled, even though I still think theyre usually a waste of space in particular. Theres some sense to that attitude, and heres my attempt to explain it: The difference between having comments and not having comments is whether you are projecting an open space or a closed space. Allowing for comments even if in practice theyre spam & junk & metooism is saying I am participating in a conversation, not a monologue; this is a two-way street.
Earlier today I saw something that was interesting but smelled like bullshit, so I glanced at the comments: Naturally the first comment was someone cutting through the bullshit & giving the real facts. Thats part of whats so nice about the internet.
5 insights for the bloggers are:
- People hate sites that do not allow comments
- Asking people explicitly for their feedback and participating in comments is a good idea if you want more comments. Also providing clear incentives or rewards for participation works. Such rewards could be vanity items like t-shirts or just an explicit recognition in blog posts
- Go out there and meet people. If people know you in real life, they are a lot more likely to comment on your blog then otherwise.
- Providing a respectable and positive environment for participation can help commenters overcome their shyness or fear of being attacked. This can be done by sanctioning personal attacks/harsh comments and ensuring that a positive environment for participation is maintained
- People get overwhelmed with comments so a mechanism to filter useful/unique comments can help drive more comments
Finally a haiku from the comments section of Freakonomics blog to remind you how wonderful and creative commenters can be:
The question is not why we comment
Thats seems all too evident
Rather I want to know why you blog
Is it for the comments that you will log?
Are you a comment hog?
Do you take them home and cherish them
Read them as if each were a gem
If so then you are one sick dude
Especially if you read them in the nude
Well thats all I have to say
Heres hoping that Ive made your day.