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Views and Comments

Work is doing its best to take up all my intellectual capacity, energy, and time at the moment. In lieu of a post of substance this morning, I bring you more on the question of controversy and pageviews. Greg offered his take on the question of comments versus pageviews here. I got curious about my own, so being the data-driven person I am, I charted them.

I started with my 15 top-trafficked posts since moving to Freethought Blogs. Then I added my 15 top-commented posts here, so I was getting the high range of both. The overlap was only six posts, which should tell you something right there. Here is what the relationship looks like.

Views versus Comments

What you see represents more than a magnitude of difference in the number of views per comment on these posts. There is something of a relationship, of course, because it takes two pageviews to leave a comment, but it’s weak.

Even the visual trend toward more pageviews with more comments is largely driven by those posts that received far more comments or far more pageviews than normal. Taking out the top two in each category (three posts total), the graph looks like this.

Views and Comments Truncated

Aside from those posts that really go, what these numbers tell you is…not a lot. There are some posts that prompt a few people to argue among themselves. There are some posts that get passed around a lot without stirring up much disagreement. And there are a few posts that do both.

Good luck telling which are which from the front end.

Comments

  1. jamessweet says

    It would be interesting to have highlighted the data points that represented points dealing with misogyny within the freethought movement, to see if those tended to cluster anywhere. e.g. do those posts get a disproportionate number of comments to pageviews? Or vice-versa? That would possibly speak more directly to DJ Groethe’s insinuations.

    Not that I think you have any responsibility to respond to those insinuations, it’s just since you did anyway in this post, I was thinking of ways to speak to it more directly.

  2. says

    James, they don’t cluster anywhere. They’re among the highest in views and comments, and they’re in the posts that go without much attention of any sort. It’s also worth noting that the comment counts on, say, the first post about D.J. consist in large part of one extended argument on whether gender-based slurs should be judged by the same criteria as race-based slurs–in other words, tangential semantics.

  3. jamessweet says

    So now the question is whether “controversialist” posts generate more ad clickthroughs. I dunno about you, but nothing gets me in the mood for “Reading the exciting story of Daniel and the lion’s den” from the “Superbook DVD Club” like discussing rape jokes about a 15-year-old…

  4. Brownian says

    Yeah, those “numbers” and “graphs” look pretty Stephanie, but I’ve heard from a top skeptic that people involved in this collection of blog (who shall remain nameless for fear of New Atheist Controversialist backlash) have been directed to ‘uptick’ their ‘page hits’, so what’s a skeptic to believe?

    On the one hand we’ve got the friend-of-a-friend-anecdotal-hearsay of DJ Grothe, president of the JREF, former Vice President and Director of Outreach Programs at the CFI, contributing editor of Skeptical Inquirer, former host of Point of Inquiry, and on the other we’ve got your evidence.

    What’s a freethinking non echo-chambering skeptic to think?

    (Kidding aside, there is the possibility that DJ Grothe isn’t completely full of shit, even with the numbers you and Laden have presented—it may be the case that you’ve all been directed to write posts for upticks, but haven’t quite mastered the controversialist art yet, and we’re all labouring under the mistaken assumption that many comments = many upticks.

    But I really doubt that.)

  5. says

    My personal theory on that is that it’s yet another sighting of the Rebecca Watson reality distortion field. If I were a betting woman, I’d lay money on her having joked in an email or group setting (“Our numbers are down. You ladies aren’t stirring up enough controversy. Go start some fights!”) and it being repeated elsewhere as gospel. I have no evidence for this whatsoever, of course.

  6. says

    The trick is to draw in people who normally wouldn’t even read your blog by getting them to complain. One word: Crackergate. Is Pharyngula like the Fox News of Scienceblogs/Freethought Blogs or what?

    (I’m being completely facetious here, but that is usually how people with a grudge against PZ depict it despite the real public motivation he had behind the post and despite how it educated many of us as to just how far out some Catholic beliefs are. You could use the same argument against the authors of Draw Mohammed Day blog posts throughout the atheist blogosphere, for instance, or the out and proud sidewalk chalking activity that many student atheist groups partake in with sometimes extreme backlash. Heck, if one is going to go down that route, why not just come out and say that ginning up controversy for profit is all Randi ever did and be done with it? How is this not similarly a low blow when directed at blogs that don’t bear a grudge against Rebecca Watson?)

  7. jamessweet says

    Aratina Cage raises a good point… if you are trying to draw attention to a cause, then, you know, saying something bold so that people will read what you wrote and pay attention… not that nefarious.

    It’s only evil if you don’t sincerely believe in the cause you are trying to call attention too. And I don’t think anybody is making that accusation…

  8. Natalie says

    The issue with hearsay is that it’s always way too far removed from the actual source to know what the heck is going on.

    Interpersonal conflicts can develop in blogging, turnover happens, not everyone always gets along. It’s not hard to imagine someone who was friends with DJ and angry with some higher-up “controversialist” blogger confiding in him and saying in anger and hyperbole something like “All so-and-so cares about is pageviews! I guess my posts weren’t controversial enough! Rargh!” and DJ taking that literally, as though there had actually been an edict to create controversy for the sake of upticks and ad revenue.

    Regardless of DJ’s relative credibility in the community, acting like hearsay magically takes on more weight than actual data representing the value of controversy and the relationship between comments and pageviews is just silly. He doesn’t have to be “full of shit” to have severely misinterpreted something.

  9. willv says

    So I guess the broad lesson is that “stuff we like” /= “stuff we like to talk about”.

    And that some people will grasp at any justification to explain why pesky minorities keep insisting that prejudice is a thing when it so obviously isn’t. As a white male I’d know.

  10. Natalie says

    Yeah, I mean, I’ve never been discriminated against for my race, so obviously there’s no such as racism. I don’t know what all these racial minorities are complaining about. They’re so SHRILL and HARSH and CONTROVERSIALIST. Must just be doing it for the attention.

    :p

  11. says

    The first chart is sort of like my own experience – when people visit an article a lot, almost no one comments. That may be for different reasons, because my regular readership is small, so anything “outsiders” find interesting will tend to have few comments but lots of visits.

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