Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Does moderating comments lead to more and better comments?

The Wall Street Journal spent 5 months studying online comments and reached these conclusions (via Althouse):

Heavy commenters are often not reading much of the articles they comment on. They go to the headline, sometimes scan a small part of the story, and skip right on down to the comment box. In a sense, some have more interest in having a place to post their thoughts than in engaging with the journalism. . . .

Light commenters are more likely to say that moderation improves comment quality. . . .

One of the concepts you learn in Economics 101 is opportunity cost — which means that when you do one thing, you’re missing out on doing something else. The thing you are missing out on is the opportunity cost. In the case of commenting, we have concluded that overly focusing on the small subset of users who comment frequently and want no one intervening at all in their comments is costing us the opportunity of engaging with our much larger, growing, and diversifying audience.

Indeed, when we looked at the demographics of our heavy commenters, we found they don’t represent the Journal as a whole. That led us to focus on the people who are not commenting as much. Women and younger people have been less represented among our commenters than they are among our subscribers, so we took a look at what was keeping them away. What we heard was they want to feel safe from bullying and share their comments in a forum in which they won’t be attacked. . . .

Our standards for posts remain the same — and they can be found here — but they will be enforced more than they were. We owe it to our readers and our journalists to lead the way with thoughtful discourse.
Ann Althouse (my mom) responds: "To me, the WSJ's observations seem pretty obvious. The trick is what to do about it. Comments are great and comments are horrible. To me, it's an endless struggle."