Cardoso's 2nd Law October 7, 2002 7:23 PM   Subscribe

A Possible New Law: The fewer the comments, the better and more generous the post.[More Inside]
posted by MiguelCardoso to MetaFilter-Related at 7:23 PM (54 comments total)

I have to say Fat Buddha's post is representative of the best MetaFilter posts. Here you have the news of the retirement of one of the greatest British sports writers, with links to ten of his best columns, and what does the thread show for it? Two jokes and a thank you.

Is this sad in any way? No! Let it be an encouragement to other posters. Is it any wonder vacapinta has quietly filled his user page with great posts that, although they can't be commented on, will stick around long enough to be noticed? It's almost becoming a law on MetaFilter now, other things being as unequal as they are: The less comments, the better the post. Why should this be a problem? Or is popularity (not to mention quality) still ruthlessly to be quantified?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:23 PM on October 7, 2002

Comments make my penis seem bigger.
posted by Stan Chin at 7:24 PM on October 7, 2002

Miguel, because it just ain't necessarily so. I worked my ass off, early in my MeFi career, on this post, which garnered a total of two jokes from me and one sympathy post from you. Now, of course, I know why. It sucked.

More is not necessarily better, true; but the converse is still true - less is not necessarily better either.
posted by yhbc at 7:32 PM on October 7, 2002

Actually, I appreciated that post, yhbc, since I always forget about dancing paul. He makes me happy. So let me disagree with you about the post sucking, 'cause it didn't--there just wasn't that much to say about it, and frankly, who wants to read a thread that parrots the first few commenters? You could say the same of almost every thread about photography or art--whaddaya supposed to say? It doesn't mean there's no appreciation of the link or that the post sucks.

But yes, less is not necessarily better; some links really do suck.

Incidentally, why have you been nicknamed "commissioner"? I've always wondered.
posted by ashbury at 7:38 PM on October 7, 2002

A sizeable proportion of really good links don't inspire comments. You read them or look at them (I'd say a lot of us save them for further perusal, which never happens...).

They're generally more time-consuming, so even a simple thank-you comment is awkward because you haven't yet read it properly. That's why you get a lot of comments saying "I haven't gone through the links yet, but thanks - they look interesting". The Filepile [This is good] is also becoming more popular for the same reason. It's the only honest thing to do.

But discussion-wise it sucks and is probably worse than "ditto". An e-mailed thank you, I'd venture, is more common than we think. My point here is that a small number of comments shouldn't discourage posters. I've had quite a few members e-mail me, asking me to criticize their post, afraid that it's being ignored because it's no good. And it most often is!

This ain't Memepool, I know - but perhaps it can be too...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:42 PM on October 7, 2002

Sometimes you want reaction and interaction--you want to see what people are thinking, you want people to add knowledge to the thread so the thread itself is a piece of art or a resource. So sometimes comments are good. Period.

But much of the time I agree with your Less is More philosophy. (See also Corbu, "More is Less." Or is it the other way around?)
posted by Shane at 7:46 PM on October 7, 2002

The hastily-chosen handle stands for "Your Humble and Beloved Commissioner", assbury. I've regretted it ever since, but on the other hand I did get two nicks for the price of one.
posted by yhbc at 7:55 PM on October 7, 2002

I read somewhere (I think maybe in the Brill's article) that one of the best things about MetaFilter was that it was a "jumping off" point to quirky and intelligent things on the web.

It seemed counterintuitive; the better MeFi is, the more it encourages you to go elsewhere. The best links send you out on an adventure that's often so good you forget to come back and say thanks.

The worst links (IMO) are the ones that encourage people to hang out and argue about stuff all day. So for me, more comments in a thread means I'm probably going to read a bunch of increasingly hysterical comments followed by someone getting called a fuckwit. It's not the worst thing in the world but it does get a bit old.
posted by stefanie at 8:11 PM on October 7, 2002

MetaFilter: Encouraging You To Go Elsewhere.

Possible Follow-up: Or Sticking Around Long Enough To Be Called A Fuckwit.

Please credit Stefanie for, in my humble estimation, the best (.) tagline (.) ever.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:16 PM on October 7, 2002

Shouldn't it be:

"Metafilter: Don't stick around long enough to be called a fuckwit."?

It would look better on a t-shirt.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:28 PM on October 7, 2002

hope dg is adding these to his list...
posted by Lynsey at 8:30 PM on October 7, 2002

What about:

Derail And Disappear? ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:30 PM on October 7, 2002

"a total of two jokes from me and one sympathy post from you"
That sounds depressingly familiar.

What'll I do when you are far away and I am blue ...
posted by Catch at 8:40 PM on October 7, 2002

What the screaming blue hell are you talking about Miguel? Is it already time for another public spanking?

*goes out back to cut a hickory switch*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:50 PM on October 7, 2002

While it would be nice to have a palpable indication that people have read and appreciated your link, stephanie has a good point. I posted a link recently to the "continuing story" on iconomy's site and got only 15 comments, yet lots of people added to the story (most of whom had not commented). Likewise, the recent link to my taglines list got quite a few comments, but the page had over 1,000 requests in the two days following the post, so many more are reading than commenting, obviously.
posted by dg at 8:53 PM on October 7, 2002

Y'know, I wasn't really assing to have the name masspelled, but I guass I put my ass out there for the spanking. Thanks for indulging me, yhbc.

stavros, can I be next? Please? *stands in line behind miguel*
posted by ashbury at 9:00 PM on October 7, 2002

I agree with you, Miguel, as I've said in Metatalk before. I know not everyone agrees with my theory that the lack of comments on these posts is actually discouraging the posters from posting more, but that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

PS: Miguel, I had a dream about you last night. What does that indicate about me? What would your wife think?
posted by anastasiav at 9:03 PM on October 7, 2002

hope dg is adding these to his list...

Metafilter: I hope dg is adding these to his list...

Miguel, with regards to your "less-is-more" axiom, I don't necessarily agree. True, often it so happens that very good links don't get a lot of discussion. To me, this is only indicative of the fact that the post didn't lend itself to discussion. It's also true, though, that a lot of very good posts do get a lot discussion mileage. Let's separate the number (or even quality) of comments from the worthiness of the link entirely.

A post can be good and foster no debate, good and foster a debate, bad and foster a debate, or bad and foster no debate.
posted by Hildago at 9:06 PM on October 7, 2002

What the screaming blue hell are you talking about

...or, what Hildago said. I lambaste because I love, of course.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:12 PM on October 7, 2002

"A post can be good and foster no debate, good and foster a debate, bad and foster a debate, or bad and foster no debate."

...but there's no debate about Foster's.

Lamb baste?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:14 PM on October 7, 2002

Miguel: I understand your point (though it has been made before), but I don't think you picked the ideal example. Fat Buddha's post was interesting, but hardly "representative of the best MetaFilter posts" -- you've got to work on that tendency to overstatement. And FB was responsible for the jokes himself: if his second sentence hadn't been there, neither would the jokes. (And that's two jokes and two thank you's -- read the fine print!)
posted by languagehat at 9:17 PM on October 7, 2002

Miguel, I had a dream about you last night. What does that indicate about me? What would your wife think?

Anastasiav: only now? I first dreamt I was having tea with you in the Randolph Hotel in Oxford - probably due to this thread. I remember you were in a hurry to cross the road and visit the Ashmolean before it closed, while my heart was set on a glass of tawny Port to offset and soak up the Dundee cake. You stormed out, calling me a lush under your breath, but thankfully reappeared with a few peace-making Egyptian postcards and a smile. Beat that!

Long liveDown with Chattyfilter!

Folks, bear with me: she's one of my favourite posters and doesn't list an e-mail address.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:32 PM on October 7, 2002

best (.) tagline (.) ever

looks more like the breast tagline ever
posted by madprops at 9:38 PM on October 7, 2002

You had to bring that up, dintcha, madprops? ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:56 PM on October 7, 2002

Catch, regarding your exquisite corpse post - it was a great contribution. I didn't comment because it happens that I had researched these on my own previously, and though I would have chimed in to add one of my faves, another poster had already done so, and I didn't want to just say, "yeah, I've seen these and they really are good!". If I hadn't been aware of these sites, though, I would have been profoundly grateful for the introduction.

Unfortunately, it is true for most of us that if there are very few comments on our posts, we feel that probably the subject matter isn't of much interest to most people. One problem with being a member and not a lurker is that I feel a burden of guilt if I don't comment on all the posts I'd like to support, but of course I don't have the time.

I can't say whether a dearth of comments on good posts discourages similar posts, but it seems fairly certain that the huge number of responses on controversial topics does implicitly encourage more of the same. Which brings us back, again, to the question of the "good post" check box idea. I don't know where I stand on the issue... I'd love to be able to signify that I enjoyed a post, even if I didn't really have anything to add to the thread. But I worry that somebody will come up with a way to use this for e v i l. I'm just not sure how.
posted by taz at 11:18 PM on October 7, 2002

Miguel, you've floored me. I don't know what to say .... I can't imagine I am now or have ever been on anyone's "favourite posters" list .... I contribute so little compared to many here .... wow. Thank you.

I haven't thought of The Randolph in years. We used to take tea there every Thursday afternoon and pretend we actually had enough money to stay there for even one night. I find it interesting that they've renamed their bar The Morse Bar - for Inspector Morse, I presume. I recall that we would look out onto the street and try to imagine T.E. Lawrence walking about, on his way into the museum. I always felt his presence very strongly upstairs at the Ashmolean, among the Hittite Seals. I have heard they hold in their collection a set of his clothes, as well .... Really, though, I was never much interested in the Egyptian stuff. What really captured me was always the Cast Gallery - although the cast courts at the V&A are grander. There's really nothing like them in the US, you know. I understand they're currently holding a special exhibition there called Gluttons and Gladiators which sounds rather good.

posted by anastasiav at 11:44 PM on October 7, 2002

Thanks, Miguel- seems pretty easy to generate posts that leave people speechless here ... hand 'em George Kennan and Condi on Iraq, and even that contentious topic goes by without remark.
posted by sheauga at 2:40 AM on October 8, 2002

Could it be that a largely american user-base with little interest in sports, let alone a british sports writer, just wouldn't have much to say?

Nah, that couldn't possibly be it! ;-P

posted by mischief at 4:08 AM on October 8, 2002

no, mischief, don't ruin the thread with the truth...

posted by matteo at 4:21 AM on October 8, 2002

Mischief - you're probably right, regarding Fat Buddha's post. I chose it as a recent example - but I could easily have found equally worthy and comment-neglected America posts.

That's the problem with examples (and links) - people naturally focus on them. This thread isn't at all about the Keating post . it's about the relationship between post quality and comment quantity. I was actually thinking of my own poor performance (and I'm a prolific poster) when acknowledging the posts I enjoy.

Conscious of how foolish it makes one seem - and, selfishly, of the time it takes - I often pass over threads I've loved reading and then feel guilty about it. I'd imagine that this phenomenon, with less reticent members, also exists. So I was suggesting that it really doesn't matter. A post is worth what it's worth - but negative comments (being meatier and more necessary, perhaps) are always made, whereas positive ones are very often passed over.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:43 AM on October 8, 2002

Well then, let me rephrase that. "Could it be that a largely american user-base with little interest in sports, let alone a british sports writer, probably just blew by the post?" Hmm, lack of interest, doesn't that violate one of the guidelines? Perhaps this example is not as great a post as you think.

posted by mischief at 5:13 AM on October 8, 2002


*breaks down crying*
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:38 AM on October 8, 2002

Why do I feel I am back to reading MiguelFilter again?

..and how can we raise issues about comments against posts when I am faced with posts concerning themselves with celebrities crossed with rubber ducks, which in itself was casually lifted from memepool and plopped like a steaming turd into the front page? What a load of crap.

Quite frankly, if anyone wants my user ID, I'm quickly being eased into the sellers market.

posted by Frasermoo at 6:05 AM on October 8, 2002

Miguel, if your 9/11 post got no comments, you would have been bummed.

How 'bout, "Less is More--much of the time" ?

(Or substitute "More is Less" if it sounds better.
Mies: Less is More; Corbu: More is Less; but to me, Antonio Gaudi will always be "More is More.")
posted by Shane at 6:10 AM on October 8, 2002

A couple of people have used "lack of time" as an excuse for not making positive comments. I don't get it -- how much time does it take to type "Great post!" and post it? I think the truth is a lot of people feel silly doing that (though they shouldn't), which is why I sort of approve of the positive-feedback button -- though, like taz, I worry about its use (specifically, that the people who post 150 comments on the threads we hate will all hit the + button as well, destroying the whole point of the change).
posted by languagehat at 8:25 AM on October 8, 2002

I think the links that get the most comments are the ones that you don't have to read to form an opinion. That's why the crime, Iraq, Bush, and I/P threads get so long: as soon as they're posted, people jump in with guns blazing.
posted by timeistight at 8:43 AM on October 8, 2002

There ought to be a way for Matt to simply keep track of how many times a link on this site has been followed elsewhere, and possibly display that number in a little "score" box near the post or something, though I really wonder what that'd do to the site itself - something like that might be misinterpreted as a "how good my post is" score and turned into some kind of contest (which, of course, is something we never do).

(...And does this mean that this post itself sucks a little bit more every time someone comments on it?)
posted by wanderingmind at 8:47 AM on October 8, 2002

So mischief, should the guidelines be rewritten to include the phrase "posts should be of interest to Americans, everyone else can sod off" ?
posted by Fat Buddha at 8:56 AM on October 8, 2002

To sum up: Sometimes a good post gets hardly any comments. Sometimes a good post gets no comments. Sometimes a good post gets...oh...maybe about eight or nine comments. Sometimes a good post gets a whole lot of comments. Sometimes a good posts gets fewer comments than it deserves. Sometimes a good post gets more comments than it deserves. Sometimes a good post is not commented on enough. Sometimes a good post is commented on too much. Sometimes people comment on a post because they like the poster. Sometimes people comment on a post because they do not like the poster. Sometimes people keep from commenting because the post is so well done. Sometimes people keep from commenting because the post is so poorly done. Right?
posted by iconomy at 9:04 AM on October 8, 2002

Hmmm, methinks there is some sort of code here...What could it all mean?

I think you're right, iconomy. All things to all people, or nothing to nobody.
posted by ashbury at 9:19 AM on October 8, 2002

Who the hell knows? Thanks, iconomy... that was fun!
posted by taz at 9:21 AM on October 8, 2002

FB: Oh, hell no! "Of general interest to the community" is quite sufficient. ;-P

posted by mischief at 9:31 AM on October 8, 2002

Before proposing laws, aren't we supposed to propose hypotheses and attempt to falsify them?
posted by iceberg273 at 9:56 AM on October 8, 2002

then let me be the first to propose that i am a talking cucumber!

posted by fishfucker at 10:21 AM on October 8, 2002

A cucumber that fucks fish?

I have no way to disprove that.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:45 AM on October 8, 2002

Maybe he's a sea cucumber!

posted by mischief at 10:52 AM on October 8, 2002

posted by iconomy at 11:48 AM on October 8, 2002

I apoligize for the rant and length
Well Miguel, your idea, no comments means good from your post above, then all these comments means that your idea is not doing so well. Agree? Yes your looking for solutions, so this post can be a simple awarness to all, thanks.

Mig your right about Fat Buddha's post being good. I read it and made no comment. Why?

First I had no idea who Frank Keating was and after reading about him felt it better to leave space for those that this man meant more.

Second because what was commented right off the bat, I kept quit. As I really wanted to comment on the bad comments yet let it go. That's called thick skin for all. Again, I even said nothing in the Meta-Talk thread too.

I agree less comments better, Why?

Because less can mean more by actually making it easier for those that want to learn from the comments find the knowledge, yet find it hard to wade through the muck. Also a Big reason is Matt needs to be the last word not us, sometimes. Maybe that is not being read as final word, comments from Matthowie.

How many members comment yet never return to the thread for follow up. I'm guilty so that is one. But being aware is first stem in how to fix.

I now wish the 30 days allowed for commenting before the thread is close was no more. As I would like to add things to the discussion. Yet the only way now is to make a double post, yes a follow up with new referances but not always available. Plain common sense sometimes seems lost around here, as no one is going to be like you or me.
Different tastes for different folks makes the flavor of life.

Again, Matt needs to be final word and we still didn't allow it. How? 1 , 2 I'm trying to listen too.

PS, If you felt pointed at, don't, my fingers have been snapped from me pointing themselves back at me, too.

PS, Mig I think the cucumber sandwich you ate yesterday gottcha you those last comments, just a little gas in your stomach, here's an alcaseltzer for you. Blop Blop, fizz fizz, wink wink.....monkey
posted by thomcatspike at 11:58 AM on October 8, 2002

stem = step, whoops,
posted by thomcatspike at 12:02 PM on October 8, 2002

thomcatspike, give me a break. Someone who posts with a defensive "Now, don't anybody say 'Sportsfilter'!" is bound to get "Sportsfilter!" in response; this is MetaFilter, not a knitting circle. Nobody was defying or ignoring Matt; they were having a little fun, which you've been known to do in your time. Notice that nobody's called "Sportsfilter" on this thread? Don't make problems where none exist. (Maybe you'll want to take one of those Alka Seltzers yourself.)
posted by languagehat at 1:42 PM on October 8, 2002

basted lamb and hickory sticks! if i were gay i'd marry starvedenoughitastelikechicken!
posted by quonsar at 4:06 PM on October 8, 2002

languagehat, Your right my first response to Fatbuddha's post was not to even open the thread but to comment the obvious. Yes he did ask for it and so I make myself clear posting "sportsfilter" I saw nothing wrong. I was trying to share my faults.

And like the post you showed well, Matt says. I was not trying to point anyone one out and knew it probably seem jaded that way but what I spoke about was tied to this post unfortunately and it may of seemed I point at the sportsfilter comment, but wasn't. To be honest I felt it going to Meta-Talk was too far, sorry Zach my honest feelings which I'm saying here to make myself clear as I was not to languagehat. And yes if Zach wants to take it to Meta again no problem, yet I felt this was the thread to say it as again I'm back on my tricycle and I'm sick of pedaling it.

Matt not having last word was really my main point. Yes comments are fun jokingly and I have no problem if anyone comments about me that is done respectably, joke or not. All serious does get to be a bore languagehat, and being part of a peanut gallery is accepted in fun. ;P
Migs alcaseltzer which I misspelled was from another site too.

PS, as I meant to say this above, Mig remember a few months back you were asking for more FPP's?
posted by thomcatspike at 5:36 PM on October 8, 2002

OK, thomcatspike, then toss me a bag of peanuts, willya? Hey, peanuts, cold beer here.... uh oh, take it to sportsfilter...
posted by languagehat at 7:43 PM on October 8, 2002

Here's you peanuts languagehat and stop the beer guy , as I go read that hall of fame post. I was short on time when I first viewed it thanks for the reminder.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:31 PM on October 9, 2002

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