by Judith Curry
People seem to want to discuss blog discussions/comments, so here’s a thread to deflect such conversation from other threads.
To kick off the discussion, Bill Hooke has posted an article Blogging by the numbers 5-0-247. Extensive excerpt:
As of 9:35 EDT this morning, the Tuesday Eos.org opinion piece on the social contract between scientists and the public had yielded five comments on the AGU site. Yesterday I followed up with a post on LOTRW building on the Eos piece. The yield? Zero comments. The silence has been deafening.
By contrast, Wednesday Judith Curry picked up on the Eos piece on her blog Climate, Etc., generating 247 comments. Bottom line? Since its publication, 98% of the dialog on the social contract has occurred in that space.
Read through that extensive Climate, Etc. comment string, and you’ll find opinions and reactions covering the gamut. You’ll also recognize that much of the commentary comes from people who’ve been actively following Professor Curry for years. You’ll also see that those engaged in the conversation often use whatever subject her proximate post may offer merely as a springboard to launch other discussions, or return to earlier topics from previous posts. There’s an in-crowd flavor to the dialog that sometimes makes it hard for the occasional reader to follow or fully appreciate it. But there’s much that remains on point. And in fact, when you get to the latter parts of the discussion, you’ll find comments leveled at the post that I had expected to see aimed directly on my blogposts for years, but that people have somehow been too polite or gentle to express to me personally. Some of her readers were dismissive of the Eos piece because it offered no more than mere opinions, unsupported by data. (Others, thankfully, noted it was clearly labeled an opinion piece. But there’s a sense abroad in the land that scientists, having tasted the delights of unassailable facts, will never stoop to opinion again.) Some noted inconsistencies inherent in a message that called for scientists to listen first, yet was expressing opinions. Some saw a scolding tone in parts of the post even as it called for a reduction in scolding on the part of others. All this criticism has merit.
Of course the number of readers of each and every blog far exceed the numbers of those who take time and effort to comment. But the question remains: What’s the secret sauce of Climate, etc.? Why do Judith Curry, Gavin Schmidt (RealClimate), Andy Revkin (DotEarth) and a handful of others provide such fertile soil for extended discussion, when the rest of the world’s 200 million bloggers go unremarked and observed?
I found it very interesting to see how Bill Hooke characterizes the discussion here. To the extent that I have any insights on this, I would say that the following factors are in play:
- selecting topics of interest, including an element of controversy
- the blogger actively wants comments/dialogues on the post
To me, the all time best conversations in the science/climate blogosphere were at Keith Kloor’s Collide-a-scape circa 2009/2010, which is where I spent most of my time commenting until I started my own blog. The topics were good, Kloor set up the post ready for controversy, there was an intelligent group of commenters, and moderation seem effective.
Back in the day, Real Climate comments/discussion was effective. While heavily moderated, the participation (mostly of Gavin) drew people to participate.
ClimateAudit (one of the few blogs where I will occasionally read the comments) has evolved since 2006, much more heavily moderated with focused comments.
A ‘new kid’ on the block, ATTP, seems to have the magic touch, as far as I can tell, this is now the most heavily commented on ‘warm’ blog. The blog is fairly heavily moderated, but overall it seems effective.
Re DotEarth, the NYTimes banner certainly helps attract a broader range of commenters (including many academics). I think Revkin has tightened up.
And finally, how does a new (or existing) blog build comments? Blog traffic doesn’t always translate into comments. For example, Cliff Mass has a blog with a lot of hits (more than Climate Etc., last time I checked), but few comments. So there are two somewhat separate issues: building blog traffic (hits), and generating comments. There are a number of articles about building blog traffic, that recommend advertising on twitter/facebook, commenting at other sites, linking to other blogs (in blog roll and in your posts). But for some communities (and BIll Hooke’s apparent target community – professionals in AMS/AGU, people in government) just may not be that into social media, or may prefer linked-in (or some other venue). And then of course there is the issue of comment ‘quality’ – that is in the eye of the beholder, and the blog owner needs to decide what they actually want here.
So why does any of this matter? None of the issues that we talk about in the climate blogosphere are black or white – they are dominated by a multitude of gray shades. We need to have a public dialogue on these issues, and the blogosphere can/should be a great place to do this.
Once again, I would like to thank all of the Denizens for their participation in the blog, especially those that comment.
I am trying to tighten up the moderation. We’ve lost a few commenters over this. But overall I think the blog will benefit from tighter moderation. Thanks for your patience and cooperation.