Wednesday, February 06, 2008

On Comments

I've noticed a phenomenon surprising to me on this blog: comments trickle in regularly on older posts. Whether that's from new readers discovering the blog and going back over old posts or regular readers who take a while to think about what they want to say, I thank you, and welcome your comments and questions always. (OK, I don't always have time to answer all the questions...) But it's interesting to me that the active lifetime of a post can be substantially more than a week.

More generally, I would like to figure out how to get more people commenting on the blog. I try to discuss issues here where there can be a variety of opinions and room for tangents, and I think the most interesting part of the blog is in the discussions. I'm genuinely surprised when I go to conferences and people tell me they read the blog, since in my mind the corresponding comment-level seems sparse.

So feel free to comment on what I can do to make the blog more comment-friendly.

9 comments:

Suresh said...

I have observed the same phenomena:

* comments on old posts
* comment frequency way out of proportion to apparent readership.

the Complexity blog gets excellent and numerous comments, although since a huge majority of the comments are anonymous, I can never tell whether it's a core group of people who like to argue, or a large crowd :).

D. Eppstein said...

My older posts would appear to have more comments if I didn't keep deleting the spam...

Anonymous said...

i think this blog is beginning to benefit grad students with lot of advice, and the way the system works - similar to lance's series on advice to grad students. i would like to see a grouping (via blogpost tags?) of such posts.

the way the system works is especially important to people who dont know how it works, but still need to.

Peter said...

Some blog posts have a long life - this is largely because they touch on topics that are not very time-sensitive. Some lead a short life, because they are all about something that is time sensitive, like acceptances to a particular conference. Interestingly, I think people are more willing to comment on the more ephemeral ones, because the implicit short shelf life means that the comments do not have to be as well thought out.

So, if you want more comments, make more posts that invite commenting (slightly more trivial stuff) to get people into the habit of commenting. Then, all posts should receive more comments. I wrote something about this on my own blog ( http://imprompt.us/2008/journal/ ) where I tried to classify different online journals into diaries, and news reports, best-of lists, and long-term content. I think long-term content is what is most likely to get the most comments (and the best comments) in the long run, but if you want lots of comments, then frequent short term items is the way to go.

Anonymous said...

Mike, I am one of your loyal readers. The best person from whom to get advice on comments, is ... Scott A., of course! He may soon need "scientific notation" (6.023 x 10^23 etc.) to enumerate all comments on his blog ..

aravind srinivasan

Isabel said...

The comments trickling in on older posts seems to have to do with the way that knowledge of various posts circulates around the web -- when people pass around links, it's "new to them". This at least explains the unpredictability.

I've openly wondered about this on my own blog, and my working theory is that something about "academic" blogging seems to discourage commenting -- people don't want to seem unknowledgeable -- so the posts that get the most comments are often the most frivolous ones.

But in terms of commenting, just keep in mind that very few readers comment on any blog. If this seems surprising, think of your own behavior. How many blog posts do you think you read per day/week? Now, how many comments do you write in that same period of time?

Anonymous said...

How to get more comments: introduce a controversial topic, where there will be multiple people who insist on having the last word. For instance, when we write down the set of all X that satisfy some predicate, should we use a colon, or a vertical bar to separate X from the predicate. Most reasonable people know that the vertical bar is simple evil, because it gets confused with modulus bars elsewhere in the expression. But the bar-users are sure to have a response when you make this point.

Anonymous said...

Be less nice. That'll do it.

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

I'm too nice???? Now that's something I've rarely been accused of... particularly on blogs. :)