Why Internet Commenters Comment

7:28:00 AM

My fascination with internet comments began as exasperation. I’d just written a short article that began with a quote from the movie “Blazing Saddles”: “Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!” After the story published, I quickly heard from readers explaining that, actually, the quote was originally from an earlier movie, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” The thing was, I’d included that information in the article.

This was no isolated case: I soon published another story that mentioned, by name, a program called parkrun, and yet I got about a half dozen emails from people helpfully informing me of this cool thing called parkrun.
These episodes represented only a single type of comment, but they got me wondering about commenting more broadly. Only a small subset of readers ever comment. What compels them to take the time to weigh in? To learn more about the reasons that people comment, I collected data from two sources — an analysis of the comments here at FiveThirtyEight and a survey of more than 8,500 people. What I learned shifted my views about commenters and gave me some interesting insights into the hive mind.

Why comment?

The first thing I wanted to know was, why comment? What exactly are commenters seeking? A survey like ours isn’t perfect since it’s inevitably biased toward the subset of people most inclined to answer an internet survey (and, of course, self-reported results are notoriously unreliable). But it does provide a peek into people’s motivation. Our survey takers gave a wide range of answers, and my colleague Leah Libresco randomly sampled 500 of them and sorted them into categories describing their motivations.

Read the full story here

You Might Also Like


Follow by Email