best comment ever? February 19, 2008 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Why do we not want most popular comments from all time available, the way it is for posts?

It's been mentioned before, but I'm not sure I understood the answer. The truth is that I'm just wondering if this is the most popular comment of all time, but really, it seems weird to have 7 days/30 days/all time available for posts but only 7 days available for comments. So, what's the reasoning?
posted by nzero to MetaFilter-Related at 11:47 AM (44 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Favorites for posts may help to produce better posts. Favorites of all time for comments just leads in a race to the glib and snarky bottom.
posted by OmieWise at 11:52 AM on February 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sez you jerk! FAVE THIS IF YOU AGREE!
posted by klangklangston at 11:53 AM on February 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


It beat this comment by Steve Wozniak, which was the record holder for a while.
posted by puke & cry at 11:56 AM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


With posts, there's a degree of pushback against stuntish behavior: a bad post stands a good chance of being deleted, so being bad + funny when posting to the blue (or asking a question, etc) isn't really a plan that works out well. The incentive of visibility provided by tracking favorites on posts doesn't really overcome that, so there's not really any risk of it encouraging bad behavior.

With comments (askme largely excepted), the same disincentive doesn't really apply; the content of a comment is less visible initially and there's much less chance of something deleted merely for being snarky or combative or whatever. Because there's less pressure to behave in comments, there's less disincentive against behaving badly for attention's sake; offering an index of favorited comments is a lot more of a potential Hey Lookit Me thing, then, than the index of favorited posts (which is more of a Hey Lookit This Neat Thing function).

There's also a lot of context associated with most favorited comments that would not be clear on such an index; with posts, the things are self-contained, but browing favorited comments would be kind of a swamp of unstated background, the path that led to the comment in the first place (and which in many cases would be vital to explaining why the comment was favorited) would be absent. A lot of potential for spit-takes and misunderstandings there.

Anyway, that's my take on it at this point. I don't think a popular fave comment listing would be the end of the world or anything, but hermitosis' comment is a good example of exactly what I wouldn't want to see showing up there—stuntish, attention-getting behavior.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:01 PM on February 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


It beat this comment by Steve Wozniak, which was the record holder for a while.

Ok so where is it? Go ahead. Don't be shy.
posted by jeblis at 12:01 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Opps never mind. I thought you said "I beat"
posted by jeblis at 12:02 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


He must be getting a little scared that it'll get to 500.
posted by jeblis at 12:03 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks OmieWise and cortex. That seemed to be the gist in the thread I linked there (see carsonb's response). My feeling was that there might be something more to it, but after reading the detailed responses here I see why that line of reasoning is sufficient. In particular, the distinction regarding the higher moderation level of posts makes the whole thing very clear.
posted by nzero at 12:10 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Haha, hermitosis never imagined he would get 396 comments.
posted by grouse at 12:11 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


This one has 423.

The infodump is apparently a little old (timestamped 2008-01-20), but here's the top ten from there: 399, 319, 278, 277, 271, 259, 223, 213, 195, 192.
posted by Plutor at 12:19 PM on February 19, 2008 [8 favorites]


Mr. Rogers, How to make lemonade, Punishment fiction by Robocop, Sears's failing business model, Woz on Woz, AACS key, Rave culture, How to get rid of a body, Post-Soul Data General, Michael Moore.

A perfect cross-section of MetaFilter, if you ask me.
posted by Plutor at 12:24 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Because Metafilter is not about the discussion.
posted by tkolar at 12:26 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can get a perverse kick out of stomping the Woz, but beating Mr. Rogers is going to hurt.

I mean, it's definitely going to happen. But it will hurt.
posted by hermitosis at 12:32 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I take it back, Plutor's info shows a string of really fabulous comments.
posted by OmieWise at 12:33 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


397
posted by milarepa at 12:35 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I WILL NOT LET HERMITOSIS DIE!

UNFAVORITE HIS COMMENT!

I'll start MeMailing you evil killers 'round 450!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:38 PM on February 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


The age of hermitosis is over! The time of the orc has come!
posted by milarepa at 12:41 PM on February 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


In the spirit of the subject of the thread that inspired it, hermitosis should declare that his comment was just an "art project" and he was merely commenting from the point of view of a character that represents the dark part of his soul, or some such bullshit, and that he never intended to actually go through with it.

Alternatively he should disable his account for ten minutes and e-mail the mods asking them to reactivate it.
posted by ND¢ at 12:45 PM on February 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Those posts were fantastic.

It seems like snarky, stupid comments will get a handful more favorites than your average post, but the comments that usually get a huge number of favorites are those that are really, really cool.
posted by Ms. Saint at 12:46 PM on February 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not really buying the "glib and snarky" shtick competition argument. It's really, really hard to get favorited more than five times with Simpsons quotes and bad puns alone; only the truly substantial comment is capable of breaking 25, with rare exception. As for the behavior aspect, isn't that what flagging is for? The less relevant a comment is, and the less it adds to discussion, the more likely it'll be flagged as noise and eventually deleted.

So what's the problem?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:48 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll start MeMailing you evil killers 'round 450!

You'll have to do better than that if you want me to unfavorite that comment.
posted by grouse at 12:51 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't know where this concern about favoriting leading to bad comments comes from. Sure, there's a lot of jokiness, but so what? Some people here are really funny. Jokes get, at best, a handful of favorites, in general. The comments that get the mad number of favorites are rarely just snark.

I think we should have a most favorited comment list. The ones at the top, from the above example, were great comments, and I would have missed a few of them had it not been for that list.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:53 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


[extra comment for roll truck roll to favorite indiscriminately, thereby upping my favorites count]
posted by Sys Rq at 12:53 PM on February 19, 2008


I too would like to cast my vote in favor of a most favorited list.
posted by item at 12:56 PM on February 19, 2008


Thank you! I'll be here all week.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:00 PM on February 19, 2008


I too would like to cast my vote in favor of a most favorited list.

I would too, but I wonder- cortex, is there an experimental basis for the viewpoint that having an all time most-favorited comments list would lead to the negative consequences you and OmieWise mentioned? I.e. has that happened somewhere (here?) before?

Also, thanks very much Plutor for that list, some of those comments were absolutely priceless and I'm very glad not to have missed them. That said, if what cortex, OmieWise, and others have said is true, those wonderful comments would be drowned and lost in a sea of snarky crap bubbling up to the top and displacing the good stuff.
posted by nzero at 1:02 PM on February 19, 2008


Thank you! I'll be here all week.

I probably won't.
posted by hermitosis at 1:03 PM on February 19, 2008 [10 favorites]


Er, I meant to say, that if what cortex, OmieWise, and others have said is true, then creating the all time most-favorited list would cause those wonderful comments to be drowned and lost in a sea of snarky crap bubbling up to the top and displacing the good stuff.
posted by nzero at 1:04 PM on February 19, 2008


[extra comment for roll truck roll to favorite indiscriminately, thereby upping my favorites count]

Flagged!

*Laughs diabolically*
posted by milarepa at 1:10 PM on February 19, 2008


cortex, is there an experimental basis for the viewpoint that having an all time most-favorited comments list would lead to the negative consequences you and OmieWise mentioned? I.e. has that happened somewhere (here?) before?

There's no exact example of it happening—I don't think there ever has been a public list of faved comments, so, well, yeah. What we have seen is a explicitly attention-getting behavior in a lot of forms, to the net detriment of the site or to whatever specific facility is being used for the attention-getting—everything from willful, admitted trolling in comments to stunt posts to tagging hijinx.

The inclination is there for some people, and so any change to the site where there's an opportunity to systematically reinforce/encourage attention-getting or griefing behavior is going to sort of get a double-take when we think about it. I know it cuts both ways, and we may seem awfully pessimistic at times in that sense (or not; see the Infodump, see new site- and user-search facilities), but looking at how much better vs. how much worse something could plausibly make the site is part of how we approach this stuff.

Again, I don't think it'd be a terrible thing to have the favorite comments index; I just don't know that it'd be too great, either, or that it wouldn't provide an automated method for elevating bad behavior among the good. Again, no presumption of intended harm on hermitosis' part, but there's a very good example of what in my opinion would be a bad outcome of a fave comments listing.

So coming back to the question of experimental basis, one thing that would be interesting to see is a model of what a 7 days faves list would actually look like. The All Time Greats stuff isn't really a good guide here—all of those had unusual visibility, all of those are outliers. If someone wants to write a script to take the faves data from the Infodump and calculate what would be in the shorter-term views, that might be a good way to see what we'd actually be getting, and how noisy or snarky or attention-getting the results actually are or are not.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:16 PM on February 19, 2008


"...Creating the all time most-favorited list would cause those wonderful comments to be drowned and lost in a sea of snarky crap bubbling up to the top and displacing the good stuff.

I really don't believe this is true. It's so difficult to predict what will gather a meta-tonne of favorites. My top three or four comments do not represent what I consider to be the funniest or best (or even meanest) contributions I've ever made. They are certainly not the comments I put the most thought or effort into.

We are a mighty tide of click-monkeys, and trying to second-guess what makes us click in order to become King Favorite is a totally futile pursuit. The really big favorite clusters occur like avalanches, often completely burying whatever delicate point was made under a landslide of attention.

It may be possible to write a comment specifically engineered to generate 50 favorites, and even succeed very rarely, but that isn't going to get someone onto the top ten or even top one hundred. So a list isn't going to have much of an impact on the site, and if anything it will make people realize how common a relatively large number of favorites really is, and take the wind out of their sails.
posted by hermitosis at 1:18 PM on February 19, 2008


I really don't believe this is true. It's so difficult to predict what will gather a meta-tonne of favorites.

The point I was trying to make is that several people have said something along the lines of "See how great the top comments are? Therefore, all time most-favorited list can't be a bad thing;" the original point cortex et al were making is that it is the lack of such a list that allows the quality of those top comments to be so high.
posted by nzero at 1:38 PM on February 19, 2008


p.s. I understand that the point itself is contentious, and I really am not trying to argue it one way or another. I'm just pointing out that if the detractors are right, it would be a bad thing. If they aren't, then it would obviously be a good one.
posted by nzero at 1:39 PM on February 19, 2008


I would like to see a list of most flagged comments. You stupid cunts.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:40 PM on February 19, 2008


I would just like to remind everybody that You Can't Use Technology to Solve Social Problems.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:46 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've seen this idea bandied about a couple of times now, and the standard response is that posts are self contained and translate well to the idea of being pulled out for a best-of list, whereas comments are a product of their threads and wouldn't stand alone.

I think there is a some truth to this, as I find myself, when linked to a highly favorited comment, scrolling back through the post to see how it came into being.

Perhaps a simple solution is to have a best-of comments list where the link is to the top of the thread that it's in, and it's up to you to read it for the big scoring comment.

Though, I agree with a number of the commenters above that the really highly favorited things are rarely jokey one-offs and are generally pretty interesting or poignant. As such, I don't think the idea of a most-faved comment should be completely discounted. But that's just me.
posted by quin at 2:54 PM on February 19, 2008


This has no bearing on whether or not you'll ever get to ride your pony, but I will be sad if hermitosis disables his account.
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:11 PM on February 19, 2008


Are you kidding? It would be great if hermitosis disabled his account! First off, it's not like he'd die. He wouldn't even have to stop posting; assuming he doesn't have a veritable army of sock puppets already, he could easily sign up as HoboAilment or WanderSickness or whatever and the world would be ok. And think of the commotion! It's just the internet.

Oh, and to vaguely contribute to the actual topic: I would love to see a list of most favorited comments. Honestly, even if it's crap, it's fun crap. I'm here to read crap half the time. To repeat: it's just the internet. I agree that we shouldn't turn posting into a race to the bottom, but I also think it's valid to recognize that MetaFilter is never going to embody the height of civil, educated discourse. It's a democracy; let us see what we've elected.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 3:37 PM on February 19, 2008


Favorites of all time for comments just leads in a race to the glib and snarky bottom.

or the verbose and prolix top.

My word, I've gotten myself all excited.
posted by jonmc at 4:59 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Favorites of all time for comments just leads in a race to the glib and snarky bottom.

or the verbose and prolix top.


Can there be a love story where the two meet?
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:25 PM on February 19, 2008


with a scene of a beach where they run towards eachother under a silvery moon? which then explodes annihilating civilazation as we know it?
posted by jonmc at 5:28 PM on February 19, 2008


This sounds ridiculously like beanplatethinking. I'm sorry, but I wholly disagree with the notion of reinforcing "negative" behavior by allowing those in the wrong to be elevated artificially when they don't deserve it. Frankly, if their comments received enough comments to be considered "best of" without simultaneously warranting a delete from the mods, who are we to judge the merit of the communities taste?

Are you really proposing to protect us from ourselves, lest we know what we like? Give me a break. Absolutely none of the eventualities or negative externalities you listed, cortex, would occur, to anything approaching any sort of magnitudinous impact.

I do understand that in quite a few cases, negative outliers like hermitosis' comments would rise to the top, but those would be far and few in between and arguing against providing potentially useless/noisy data to the community because it may, perhaps be potentially useless and noisy is a bit of an overreaching syllogism, no? If it reaches the top, it did so for a reason, whether or not you'd perceive it as noise. The community wouldn't play the game with more than even the one example we're citing here just to elevate a comment to the top of an obscure part of the site. This isn't Digg.

Just sayin', "because it might not be that useful" isn't a good reason not to do something when it could very well be very useful, especially when coupled with the equally silly notion that it might "encourage" the wrong type of behavior on the site. As if.
posted by disillusioned at 3:34 AM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can there be a love story where the two meet?

The mundane middle.


Anyway, I don't think Mefi's lacking a top fave *cringe* list. Many of the multi-favorited comments from the infodump were interesting, but life is elsewhere.
posted by ersatz at 2:54 PM on February 20, 2008


All forms of x-whoring should be discouraged.
posted by signal at 4:27 PM on February 20, 2008


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