Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Understanding Online Comments

Every social person loves hearing feedback. An essential part of communication, its purpose lies in exchanging feelings and ideas. Writers, for instance, obtain assessment from experts and reviewers which they can use to better their style of writing, revise a published material to make it more accurate, and possibly discover a new angle for a topic (or an entirely new topic). Hence, even blogs, columns, or articles posted online usually provide an option to submit comments.

The value of comments found online, however, varies on a broader range when compared to their offline counterparts. The dynamic nature of the Internet and the anonymity it provides helps users partake more confidently on activities such as commenting without major consequences. In other words, people who do not frequently speak up in person may find it easy to express ideas and thoughts online. Sadly, freedom from identification also attracts the undesired trivial and insulting interaction between users known as flaming, especially when the comment thread runs too long.

Bear in mind though that one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure. When many thinks of comments (be them flame messages or not) as useless, one with an analytical mind is able to dissect through the mess and salvage information that are useful to them.

To start with, a better understanding of online comments is needed.

Any form of feedback can influence the minds of people in a community. For example, comments that are cleverly written with underlying meaning can negate claims and arguments stated in an article, generating a negative attitude towards the article.

Static or Dynamic? The arrangement of comments online can be divided into two types: static and dynamic. In a static system, comments are posted on permanent spot; the first post remains at the top. This system encourages discussion, making comments into a thread (series of messages replying to previous posts) though it risks veering the conversation off course. On the other hand, dynamic comments are arranged based on their ratings or votes; posts with the highest ratings are displayed at the top. Hence, discussions among comments are minimal and most entries talk about the article instead.

What the comment itself is. The contents of a comment must also be scrutinized. Is the comment perfectly structured, constructive, and unbiased? Does it have verifiable references for claims mentioned? Is it only a mere praise/reproach comprised of a few words? Has the comment become a mere flame message? Does it not cover the article at hand but rather argues on extrapolated political or religion issues? When these questions are answered, comments can then be organized for further analysis.

Commenter's identity. Last not but not least, with the given freedom due to anonymity, comments may tend to be subjective, incomplete, irrelevant, discriminatory, and insulting without justification. Fortunately, there are certain ways to alleviate these types of comments to an extent albeit people will find ways to subvert them, even ignore them totally.

Comments is a wild form of business that, when tamed, can help complement another business. When the aspects of online comments mentioned above are understood, writers can then manage to work comments to their advantage.

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