At what point does posting to a thread become pointless? June 19, 2003 4:45 PM   Subscribe

At the risk of sounding like a newbie (and my user# is embarrassingly large), I have to ask: How long do people read the threads? I often read MeFi in lurk mode, and sometimes don't get around to visiting for a day or two, at which time I will find a thread I would like to comment in, but no one else has posted to for a couple of days. I don't mind missing out on a chance to post a smartass comment, but at times I might have something intelligent to add to the discussion. At what point does posting to a thread become pointless?
posted by TedW to Etiquette/Policy at 4:45 PM (18 comments total)

Almost immediately after the item hits the front page.
posted by crunchland at 4:50 PM on June 19, 2003

It's a rare thread that lives more than 24 hours. I'd wager a little of waxy's statistical magic could provide a definitive answer.
posted by jjg at 4:53 PM on June 19, 2003

crunchland: are you talking about the political threads?

jjg: by "living" do you mean threads that are posted to or threads that are looked at. I often look at and enjoy threads that are several days old; surely others do as well.

Thanks to both for your feedback.
posted by TedW at 5:11 PM on June 19, 2003

I mean that the interval between the timestamp on the post and the timestamp on the last comment in the thread is likely to be less than 24 hours.
posted by jjg at 5:14 PM on June 19, 2003

My further assumption is that the lifespan of the comment thread is roughly equivalent to the lifespan of the community's interest in the thread.
posted by jjg at 5:15 PM on June 19, 2003

Actually, I don't think it's just interest of the community, I think that it also has something to do with the navigability of a page as it gets longer: both the comments page and the home page. As far as the home page goes, threads not in the top 1-3 vertical "pages" (space taken up by the viewport) are very likely to be never visited, so you get about a 24-48 hour window in which they'll be seen.

And on the comment page, once the sea of text starts to exceed 5 viewports, it's hard to want to absorb it all, so you end up wanting to only respond to a few points that you either thought were excellent or incredibly stupid. Then it becomes a spaghetti of responses that's hard to follow, as well as PettyGrudgeFilter. Then the snowmobile flips over and pins you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come (apologies to Matt Groening and possibly Nietzche)
posted by namespan at 5:32 PM on June 19, 2003

I don't know, I tend to check back with threads I've participated in after they've slipped off Page 1.
posted by luser at 6:32 PM on June 19, 2003

The only time limit that matters is the 30 days before the thread is closed. I'm sure plenty of old threads get traffic through Google and internal MetaFilter searches. If you've got something to add then post it.
posted by modofo at 6:36 PM on June 19, 2003

I'd agree with modofo, with the qualification that the later you're coming to the game, the higher the bar is for adding something worthwhile. That is, while the thread's hot & heavy, a tossed-off snark or off-topic joke may be OK as something adding to the stew, but you wouldn't want to come back to a thread two weeks later without something more original and/or significant to add, I don't think.
posted by soyjoy at 7:45 PM on June 19, 2003

I decided a while back, via completely unscientific means, that the cutoff was three days. Accordingly, I have the front page set to display the last three days' worth of posts. I hit the site probably a dozen times a day, and two or three of those times will scroll all the way to the end checking for "new" tags. It's a rare thread that slips off the bottom with a conversation still going on.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:01 PM on June 19, 2003

For me personally, I consider a thread (in the blue) uninteresting after 12 hours or 30 comments, whichever arrives first, regardless of whether I posted or not.
posted by mischief at 4:30 AM on June 20, 2003

Conversation does tend to die down rather rapidly, but I've often found that some of the most interesting discussion really picks up after the bulk of the users have moved on. There may only be three or four people left still talking, but they've got room and time for much more in-depth conversation and more chance to explore each others' ideas. It doesn't happen in most threads, but when it does it can be really nice.

But then I'm also the kind of guy who thinks the best part of any party is after most of the guests have gone home, the music and lights get turned down low, and the last few holdouts settle in to finish the last bottle before facing the streets.
posted by ook at 9:16 AM on June 20, 2003

I tend to use the following rules of thumb - I'll read any thread less than three days old. I'll comment on any thread less than two days old or that I've already commented on, and I'll get into stupid arguments on any thread less than a day old.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 9:45 AM on June 20, 2003

I have long suspected that the first dozen comments in a thread get 1,000% the attention that the rest get.

This is confirmed to some extent by the fact that I have witnessed posters (and not just newbies) AFTER the first dozen comments repeating a comment or link I made earlier in the same thread. Obviously they commented without reading.

But maybe readers who aren't in a rush to comment read more carefully? Too many variables and no control group...

In any case, the number of readers declines exponentially as the number of comments increases...
posted by Shane at 11:02 AM on June 20, 2003

By the way, I HATE quantitative methods...
posted by Shane at 11:05 AM on June 20, 2003

I agree with modofo. Any post deserves "something intelligent", so post it.
posted by Witty at 1:18 PM on June 20, 2003

Hey, ook, don't bogart the bottle, pass it over here. It's been a long day.
posted by languagehat at 3:47 PM on June 20, 2003

Since its been four days, I think I'll just finish up with a thanks to everyone for your feedback. It sounds like at least this subset of mefites is on the same wavelength (more or less).
posted by TedW at 10:56 AM on June 23, 2003

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