On Comments

As I noted this morning, THT’s Fantasy Focus has enabled comments. I think this is a good thing in that, as I’ve said before, blogs are about conversations, and comments make the blogger-reader communication a genuine two-way street. I encourage you all to comment on the stuff you read wherever you read it, because the more feedback someone hears, the less likely they are to believe their own baloney, and the belief in one’s own baloney is the cause of about 75% of the bad writing out there.

The Fantasy Focus comments got me thinking about my own comments section. Since the move over to THT a couple of weeks ago, I’ve gotten the sense that comments are down. Since I’m lazy I wasn’t going to go back and count, but blogger Scott Simkus isn’t lazy, and he sent me the following email this morning:

For fun, I took some time comparing your last 120 posts at the old “Classic” site versus your first 120 at the new home, just to analyze the comments sections.

Old site: 814 comments, or 6.78 per post.
New site: 643 comments, or 5.35 per post.

The comments are down, but on the other hand, when you “link” to another story, the traffic is much higher. What I’m inferring from this is your traffic is, indeed, higher at the Hardball Times site, but the comments section (the “conversation”) is down 20%. Is this true? And if so, what do you make of it?

Hurm. My intuition is confirmed. My first response was to blame the tougher steroid testing regime, but that’s probably not true. Beyond that, here are some non-mutually exclusive thoughts on the matter:

1) A bigger pond like THT makes some readers feel like they have less ownership, for lack of a better term, over the forum. When people felt like it was just me and them and a couple of other people talking — which is how it really was a little more than a year ago — they may have been inclined to gab all day. Now they may think that there are too many eyes, or the club is not as exclusive, or that I’m too busy or something, and are thus less inclined to comment. This is not true, but I understand that some people may feel that way;

2) The content in the first two+ weeks since the changeover has, I’ll admit it, been a tad boring. Or maybe not boring per se, but certainly less conducive to commenting. That’s the news cycle, really. It’s hard for me to describe precisely, but there are certain types of posts that draw comments and certain types that don’t, and for the past couple of weeks, there have been far more of the latter rather than the former. These things tend to even out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that has contributed to lighter commenting. Meta-bloggy posts like this one and the one from this morning don’t help, by the way, and I realize that;

3) A technical explanation: I have no idea why it is, but THT, for some reason, makes you refresh in order to immediately see your comment if you were just recently — say, within the last five minutes — on the comments page on which you posted. It could be a cookies thing, but I don’t pretend to understand, and just talking about cookies makes me hungry. In any event, I’m guessing that we’ve lost some commenters because they either think that I’m moderating comments or they think their comments are disappearing into the ether or something, which is not true. If you have any thoughts about this, by all means, comment.

Overall, traffic has increased pretty nicely from the old site to the new, so I know people are reading. The hope now is that you all find it worthwhile to tell me when I’m full of it, and then some of you others tell them that they’re full of it for telling me that I’m full of it. I find that sort of thing to be great fun, and the best part is that we all usually learn something when smart people start arguing.

So, play nice, but play hard.

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  1. John Henning said...

    Hey! I made this point back on December 5th. (proof! http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/shysterball/article/the-earflap-caps-are-coming/) And what? Just because I simply “felt” like comments were down and didn’t actually make the effort to go back and count them and then put some interesting thought into potential causes I don’t get any credit? But seriously, I’m glad Simkus is smarter/less lazy than I am because I think this is an interesting issue. In my humble and ill-informed opinion, I think the single biggest reason comments are down is what you wrote about the bigger pond of THT. I think that there is, to some degree, less of a feeling that when we comment, we’re speaking to you and only you (and our fellow commenters). It’s not that we feel you won’t respond, it’s just that it feels less intimate, like there are more people watching, and potentially judging us for small slip-ups like typos or misremembering what Derek Jeter hit in 2000. It’s also just barely possible that you, yourself, are slightly more intimidating now, because you’re now a big, bad, pro blogger who is part of a creditable and high quality site. Not that any of this detracts from all the good that has come from the switchover. Hopefully your commenting on this issue will cause the number of comments to rise again. Sorry for the loooong response.

  2. bigcatasroma said...

    I’m still here.  Just no time, either to read the Shyster or otherwise.  Law school exam HELL right now.  Three in three days.  That’s messed up.  Give me ‘til the end of the month . . .

  3. Aaron said...

    Just one exam left. I remember how tough first year exams were. This year, I gave blood last week before my first test, and I’m getting married this weekend. I try to tell first year students this, but we all had hubris back then.

  4. pete said...

    FWIW, I do find the THT formatting a little bit harder to read on the posts themselves and significantly less appealing in the comments. But I’m sure it has more to do with the down period in terms of non-rumor mongering baseball news.

  5. Jon Daly said...

    I already spend too much of my workday posting comments at Primer and at Cardboard Gods.

    If you start blogging about Miller, Kuhn, Finley and their contemporaries, I might start commenting more wink.  Actually, I’ve been obsesssing about Willie Tasby lately.  I need to write something about him for an upcoming book and I write with Molina-like speed.

  6. Chadillac said...

    I’m at work on my last day before vacation. My contribution to your posts will most likely increase today! I’ve been a Shysterball reader for about a year now. Just as a comment, I like the fact that Shyster has a link on the THT homepage.

  7. Tim Kelly said...

    I generally agree with John Henning’s comments above.  I am/have been an infrequent commenter on the “classic” Shyster so I don’t think I’ve changed my personal habits any, but I think there might be something to what you state in #1 about this site “feeling” less-exclusive in some way.

  8. Bill B. said...

    Craig, if you start gossiping about A-Rod and Madonna (and Jete!), your readership will jump 400% and commenting 399% (making your blog 5.1 WARB—wins above replacement blog).

    Also, I question whether you blog from mom’s basement. That’s a big factor for me.

  9. Ron said...

    I think it was for a different reason. On your old site, you had a kind of clique thing going. It wasn’t so much about posting a comment than having a conversation. It was more-laid back and inviting to write a comment. Particularly since you invite any all discussions.

    Not to knowck THT, but it’s a bigger forum, with a bigger audience. In other words, stangers to those of us who had become regulars. I know I have definite ideas on how I look at the world and wasn’t sure it would go on a site like this at first.

    Just like moving to a new neighborhood, it takes a while for the old friends to become comfortable coming over for a backyard barbeque or an evening on the porch. Some never do and stop coming by. Some show up and stay for the week.

  10. Pete Toms said...

    @ Bill, I had a similar thought.  Is the only thing geekier than being a baseball geek a conversation about the stats on a baseball geek blog?  ( Craig, don’t take that the wrong way, I am proudly a member of the baseball geek fraternity ).

    No, Shyster chez THT is not the same as “classic” ( I recently visited classic recently looking for info on the Veeck / Shapiro confab chez SABR and was mildly nostalgic for about .2 seconds ).  I can’t explain why but it might have something to do with being high today.

  11. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Fair points all, Pete (even the geekiness point).  I go back over to find stuff I wrote before and I get the same pang I get whenever I see my old high school.  Even worse, I’ve clicked on the statcounter of Classic ShysterBall a few times, and it’s really sad seeing its once robust numbers withered down to (a) a few stubborn people who won’t change the bookmark and thus use the last post to get them here; or (b) eastern European guys looking for cheesecake pics of Alyssa Milano and Debbie Clemens.

    But then I realize that even at its most robust, the traffic at Classic was half (or a bit less) than the traffic at THT.  I love all of the old eyes, but the new eyes are nice to have too. 

    Like my dad said to me in 1985: don’t worry kiddo; this place will start to feel like home soon enough.

  12. matt said...

    I wonder how much of the disparity is due to the time of year.  The last 120 posts at the old site were probably World Series aftermath/hot stove preview posts.  I’d be interested in seeing the difference between the first two weeks of December last year and the first two weeks of December (although even that wouldn’t be necessarily tell the whole story since I’m sure you’ve picked up lots of readers over the past 12 months).

    Subjectively, I feel like the number of comments has decreased, but I’m not sure.

    As for law school exams: suck it up.  I finished crim about two hours ago and right now I’m “studying” for torts.  If you’re letting law school get in the way of your insatiable need to discuss baseball in December, you clearly have your priorities backward.

  13. Greg P said...

    I’m old and I just like the look and feel of the old site better than this.  This is like going to Home Depot instead of the local hardware store, Craig.  Before, it was a twice daily stop for me, and now it’s once or twice a week.

  14. Todd said...

    Here’s a thought from someone who doesn’t ever comment: I read THT thru RSS, so I don’t see/post comments. If some of your readers on the previous site were already THT readers and RSS subscribers, they may have started reading your posts thru RSS, too, thus decreasing the likelihood of commenting. Of course, maybe people could read your old site thru RSS, too. I wouldn’t know, as I didn’t frequent it.

    Might as well take this opportunity to say I am glad you joined THT.

  15. RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

    Shyster Classic was a cozier, easier-on-the-eyes site for myself as well, but I like THT just fine. I think Matt’s observation about the timing of those last 120 posts on Shyster Classic are spot-on: That period included wrapping up the playoffs, we were all giddy about the Rays and, especially, those hats with the ear-warmers; that was/is a polarizing topic that sparked a number of spirited comments. But how on earth did I miss the cheesecake pics of Alyssa Milano and Debbie Clemens?

  16. Pete Toms said...

    I thought the move to THT would make it more BTF like….which hasn’t been the case….not saying that’s good, or bad….

  17. Dave Studeman said...

    Speaking for THT, the last thing we want to do is intimidate commenters.  I loved the old Shysterball, comments and all, and I’d hate to think that THT is doing anything to stop it from succeeding here.  So if there are any suggestions about how to make the site seem cozier and less intimidating, I’m happy to consider them.  We’re not hung up on any particular design.

  18. Mark said...

    ” (a) a few stubborn people who won’t change the bookmark and thus use the last post to get them here”

    Hey, I resemble that remark!

  19. TLA said...

    Although the decline in commenting is probably related to many if not all of the factors already discussed, I think that the “coziness” factor is at play here and I’m a firm believer that the decline in “coziness” is related to the change in font/formatting. 

    Although the quality of Craig’s take on things remains the same, there is a certain coldness to the new site.  For me, the Classic Shyster was great because it had high quality content delivered in a package that was the equivalent of a coloring book or a coffee table book.  The New Age Shyster has the same high quality content, but its delivered in a treatise that you find in the stacks of a law library. 

    While “coziness” may be impacted by the higher traffic, I’d guess that the average reader/commenter does not consider the number of people who they are reaching.  And let’s be honest here, its not like Classic Shyster had a small following.

  20. Vinay Kumar said...

    A technical explanation: I have no idea why it is, but THT, for some reason, makes you refresh in order to immediately see your comment if you were just recently—say, within the last five minutes—on the comments page on which you posted.

    Craig (and everyone), I’m working on fixing this.

  21. blaze said...

    I’m posting this without having read any of the other comments, so if this is, in fact, not an original thought, welcome to the circus to whomever “thinks” he posted it first. We Shyster-worshipping schlubs may be feeling a bit intimidated by THT, but once we’ve gawked sufficiently at the new scenery, I predict you’ll see a proportional return to “normal.” Give us time to deal with change. Or maybe it’s just me. Selah.

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