07 March 2007

A Formula for Discerning the Attention Worthiness of an Althouse Comment Thread

This is not a criticism of the Althouse blog itself. It's a frequent read with me, and there are times when the comment section is fun and stimulating.

But there's also times when the 'tit for tat'-ness gets way out of hand.

A scientifically derived formula for determining the quality of a comment thread can be described as follows:

# of unique commenters

# of comments

The closer to one the better. The closer to zero, especially on large threads, the poorer. There are times when there can be 100+ comments, yet there seems to be only 10 or 15 unique commenters. That isn't good, or helpful, or particularly interesting. Recently, many threads have approached a value of somewhere between .10 through .15 (I made those numbers up, but it sure seems that way, dunnit?)

Like Gresham's Law, the bad comments (and commenters) tend to drive out the valuable comments (and commenters).

Ideally, no thread with more than 50 comments should ever have a value of less than .40, but alas, the greater the total number of posts, the less likely that it is a melliflous melding of many voices, instead it tends to be the shrill shriek of a few very loud, but very unmelodious egotistical and parasitical jerks. Some folks confuse volume and certitude with cogency and correctness.

These parasites tend to get there fill and move on, or get so crazed as to step over a line that shouldn't be crossed, and slink away for awhile. Of course, sometimes they stay away, other times they come back in a new guise, but whether or not it's a new infestation, or an old one trying to make a comeback, these parasites are a problem for a popular blog that attempts to allow voices from a wide spectrum a welcoming place.

When things get like they are now, not commenting on posts that touch on subjects that will send certain folks on a spiral of 'tit for tat' seems like the only reasonable option, as any comment, no matter how interesting, will get lost in the shuffle.

I frankly don't see the attraction that the parasites have for Althouse, it would make more sense if they were trying to suck some of her traffic towards their own blogs, but most of the parasitical commenters don't blog themselves, they just seem to desire to bring down the comment section of a blog whose viewpoint they disapprove.

The worst offender presently, is a classic bore. Should someone choose to write a textbook on how not to engage in debate, then object lesson one would be that particular commenter's recent performance (and the folks who insist on engaging said troll, do themselves no favors (myself inclusive), either).

I don't envy Prof. Althouse and the choices she's confronted with. Either let things continue to devolve, and watch what you created tarnish a bit, or go back to moderating comments for awhile and deal with that hassle.

In summary, people suck (especially the parasites).

1 comment:

bill said...

You are correct, but it is larger than the parasitical jerks and trolls. The audience has changed and many of the people who taunt and bicker with the trolls are just as unpleasant as the trolls themselves.

I've mentioned elsewhere that I think it was the Roberts nomination that brought in a new audience and changed the dynamics. Maybe it was already changing, but that's when everything seemed to become political. Then, over the last year, Althouse seems to enjoy baiting a lot of these people and that doesn't help. Then there's her constant lecturing about the proper way to blog. I find the whole thing less enjoyable and often will just scan the comments looking for a few names. Names that appear less and less.

A week or so ago, someone left a comment complementing all the old-timers he saw on the blog. Problem was, only a couple would I have considered old-timers. Pretty sure most of those listed have been around less than a year. As someone who was around before Althouse had comments, I'd peg the golden age ending about November 2005.

These are symptoms of a couple of common ailments I may be suffering from:

1. No one goes there any more, it's too popular. It's like nurturing a favorite local restaurant and recommending it to everyone you meet. Next thing you know, it's too crowded, the atmosphere has changed, and it's just easier to go somewhere else.

2.The indie band sellout claim. Also known as "I watched Seinfeld before you did." There's a certain cachet in being a member of a small audience. Then, 5 albums later, when they get the big record contract, it isn't because their sound has been evolving, it's because they sold their soul TO THE MAN for market share. Like your popular restaurant, there's no enjoyment in hyping a band covered by Kidzbop. That's a YOU problem, not a BAND problem.

A month or so ago, I left a comment asking if she was writing a book based on an older comment she had left. Ann never answered, but I think it is likely. Looking at it like that, many of her posts start to look like little sociological experiments.