Survey: What do you think of In Box comment section?

Folks, I’m interested in getting feedback on the conversations that are unfolding in our comment section.

I’m interested to hear from In Boxers who comment regularly.  What’s working for you?  What’s not?

But I’m also interested in hearing from folks who don’t often comment.

After reading the In Box post, do you scan through the comments?  Do you follow the dialogue there?

If so, do you find the give and take interesting, off-putting, engaging, boring?

And I’m also curious why you don’t often post comments, if you’re a regular reader.

Is there anything about the In Box and its approach that could make this a more welcome place for you to chime in and take part.

I know – if you don’t often hit the comment button it might be tempting to click away without giving your feedback, but I’d love to hear your take.

41 Comments on “Survey: What do you think of In Box comment section?”

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  1. Jim Bullard says:

    It’s working for me. I have no suggestions for changing anything.

  2. Ann Ertel says:

    Read it everyday. I see no need to change anything.

  3. Jeff says:

    Some folks go out on a tangent and never come back to the question. Occasionally it gets a bit too snippy. I don’t do the thumbs up/down.

  4. Terence says:

    I’m occasionally snippy and go off on tangents, so I recognize Jeff’s point. My big wish for all discussions is this: people should find a way to articulate their beliefs without expecting others to accept personal revelations. The minute some people start quoting scripture, the conversation is usually done. It’s fine to believe, but the whole point of a public forum is to find common ground with others who think differently. There’s a useful way to make points from the Bible (or whatever) that even non-believers can appreciate, but simply typing a line of scripture and hitting ‘send’ is the equivalent of ranting to yourself in a crowded room and then walking out.

  5. Gary says:

    It’s obvious from your posts you are a “political junkie”. I don’t have a problem with that but your political bias comes through far too often. Seeing how the majority of the comments are from the left I’m sure you feel this is the direction viewers want. Far too often I read the first few lines then close out the site.
    Most responses are respectful and I appreciate hearing different perspectives on issues.

  6. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    50% of my household reads regularly but never comments (except to me).

    It seems to me that success is judged in the numbers and this blog draws lots of commentary, more than any other “local” blog.

    I like to see the comments from new people. Women seem under-represented though that is starting to get a little better.

    If the string of comments gets really long it can be intimidating to read it all and I will sometimes skim the posts, unfair as that may be.Usually the commentary drags on when there is no new post to argue over but sometimes not. Certain issues press everyone’s button.

  7. tourpro says:

    I enjoy the subtle headlining and “issue” choices here – no surprises for me.

    Even though one might expect the comments to be “choir singing to choir”, there continues to be a few people willing to challenge. It’s not as fun as the ADE’s comments used to be, but the Plattsburgh PR kind of makes up for that.

    Postings have been a bit thin lately, but it’s Spring, so better to be outside than reading anyway.

  8. Walker says:

    Obviously I’m hooked. Yes, I do find the give and take interesting, off-putting, engaging, and yes, sometimes, boring. I’m guilty of hopping off onto tangents– I guess I can’t see the point of sticking rigidly to the main topic if an interesting side discussion develops. And even though some of our more conservative commenters drive me crazy sometimes, I value their participation immensely– this would be a deadly boring place without them, and they have frequently pushed me to find stronger foundations for my beliefs, and helped me to understand the other side of the argument. My apologies to any I may have offended in the heat of the discussion!

  9. jill vaughan says:

    I posted my comments about this post at the wrong place- in the “kids on farm” post. I’ll repeat some of them here.

    I only comment on something I have a deep experience or knowledge about- have no desire to sway someone’s political bent or perspective. So, since it’s personal, I take comments personally, I’m way too sensitive. My issue.

    I believe the opinons expressed on the blog posts are strong and confidently held. I just wish it were possible for tentative readers to chime in. without them feeling attacked. Academic rigor and a life of confidence are good things, just not always easy to interact.

  10. oa says:

    Pay any price, bear any burden, but for the love of God man, please bring back Bret!

  11. Susanno says:

    I frequently read through comments – sometimes I specifically look for exchanges between particular commenters who seem to be wrangling with each other. For example, Iwas very interested in Kathy’s perspective on the Farm regulations post, so I skimmed through looking for people’s comments and her responses. Maybe if there was a way to isolate certain “sub-threads” it would be easier, but that’s probably neither realistic nor necessary.

    I like the thumbs up – thumbs down option, but sometimes I hesitate because thumbs down isn’t necessiarily the equivalent of “disagree” – I feel comfortable giving a thumbs down to a comment which seems offensive, but less so if it is a well-articulated comment with which I just disagree.

    I have only commented a couple of times before this – I think I am too thin-skinned for the overall tenor of comment and response. But that’s just me – for those with more personal fortitude, I find it fascinating and indeed I am grateful for their willingness to put their ideas out there & take pushback. It is usually very informative. In tems of civility, it is certainly one of the best I’ve found – I won’t even look at the ADE comments anymore.

  12. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Jill (from farm kids post):
    “I only comment on things that affect me deeply. Seems like hubris to think I have to express my opinion on a daily basis. The problem is, if I comment, I do it becasue I’ve experienced something personally- the only way I believe a true, deep understanding comes from. Then I take the comments personally. So it’s not a good mix for me.”

    The other 50% of my household agrees with this but wont say so in a post.

    Yeah, I’m hard to live with.

  13. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I have a favorite Calvin and Hobbes stuck to my corkboard:
    Calvin (doing homework): Help me think of an issue to debate for this dumb paper.

    Hobbes: Well, what issues do you care about?

    Calvin: I don’t care about issues! I’ve got better things to do than argue with every wrong-headded crackpot with an ignorant opinion! I’m a busy man!
    I say, either agree with me or take a hike! I’m right, period! End of discussion!

    Hobbes: Um…right.

    Calvin: There, see? Everybody’s happy.

  14. marquil says:

    The only modification I would suggest would be to break up threads that go too long—physically (over 30 comments, say), or temporally (still active after a week)—by reframing the topic and recapping the comments. Perhaps even having a customizable sort of the blog, too, beyond the chronological archive. Oh and free tote bag for the most-upthumbed commenter every year.

  15. TomL says:

    I like the forum – especially when the focus is on regional issues, or regional impacts of national issues. That’s where the interesting perspectives are most revealed. Big general national issue posts (Is Obama a socialist? Do Republicans hate women?) rapidly devolve into the same rhetoric and ‘sound bites’ as any other political blog or talk radio.

    Get rid of the like/dislike buttons, though! The ‘dislike’ is perplexing. On the political blog DailyKos, the dislike is reserved for ‘out-of-bounds’ comments, such as when a poster calls another a name, or posts something highly inflammatory. On the In Box, someone ‘dislikes’ just about anything. You could post ‘children should be loved & nurtured’, and someone will hit the dislike button. I think this intimidates some people who might otherwise post.

  16. Dave says:

    I read regularly and always look forward to it. Most often I read from my phone’s Google Listen app, which unfortunately does not include the comments section (at least I can’t figure out a way for it to do so). So, as a result, I don’t often read the comments, or have a chance to chime in.

    Otherwise, if I am home and have the time, I will scroll through, commenting when I see fit.

    I think it’s a great part of the NCPR experience. Can’t think of any recommendations. Of course it can get off-putting at times, and people will fly off on tangents, but you do a good job of reminding people to be respectful, and most of the time people listen. Keep up the good work!

  17. Kathy says:

    We’re all passionate about what we believe or else we wouldn’t bother coming here. Apathy may be safer but it accomplishes nothing. Passion may be daring but it gets the job done – whether it resolves an issue or we feel good about discussing it.

    I haven’t found anyone here wanting to debate for the sake of being argumentative. I would like to hear once and awhile if a view point of another taught us something that we didn’t know before or even changed our mind. No one here is always right! I appreciate the tone of civility and if someone offends, they apologize.

    I wouldn’t change a thing. Even if the posts are long, some of us read to the end!

  18. George Nagle says:

    I read the comments regularly and find them helpful in shaping my thought. I’m especially grateful for the participation of more conservative readers.

    I seldom comment as I seldom have anything new to add, but do comment when I believe I do.

    We all speak from our orientation to life’s fundamental questions, that is, our faith whether that faith is expressed in a formal religion (e.g., Christianity) or informally (e.g., scientism, atheism).

    As long as we respect one another we will respect each person’s responses including those we feel are beyond the pale. We may come to better appreciate our differences, and the those who hold them, as it’s unlikely that in this forum we would come to a common mind.

  19. Brian Mann says:

    Thanks for the feedback. I agree with a lot of the sentiments expressed here. I’d like to hear more comments from women. I’d like to see more posts, more consistently. I agree that my pet interests drag me too often into national political tea-leaf reading that’s probably handled better in other blogs.

    Keep the thoughts coming. We’re listening and paying attention.

    –Brian, NCPR

  20. Paul says:

    Get rid of the thumbs thing. I never use that. Although I am biased I have lots of thumbs down! But really these are just folks opinions who cares if someone else doesn’t like it?

  21. Verplanck says:

    Nested comments, please. A better conversation can develop with this tool.

    I don’t comment here as much as i used to, but i do value the posts and community here.

  22. marquil says:

    I do see some utility in some form of comment evaluation like the thumbs. I use it at times when I don’t have anything new to add to a discussion, but still feel a need to register an opinion (if only in support of someone else’s).

  23. Pete Klein says:

    Reading letters to the editor and the comics in a newspaper are main reasons I continue to subscribe to the local newspaper. Same goes for here.
    I find most of the comments here interesting and sometimes informative. It’s good to know what others think.
    As to my own posts, some are serious and some are done just to see the reaction. Sometimes they are both.
    Bottom line, it’s fun.

  24. michael coffey says:

    I think this in-box is exceptional in that it does host conversations, which most comment sections do not manage to do–they are more often a series of monologues. I am not sure why this comments section does inspire more communication and conversation–perhaps the nature of the community, or the way posters seems to know one another, a kind of digital intimacy? In any event, it is very valuable to me as is–comments are done with care, it seems, the standards are high; and i think the fact that Brian starts off framing the discussion with an invitation to address a certain question is responsible for much of the focus that follows.

  25. dave says:

    My interest in discussions areas like this one is in the possibility that differences may be overcome. That, through talking together about an issue, someone who felt one way may begin to feel a different way after they are exposed to new facts or ways of thinking about a topic. I find that thrilling when it happens to me. The “wow, I never thought about it that way” moment

    Unfortunately, research has been pretty conclusive on this point… and the truth is that comment areas like this serve more to solidify a person’s previously held point of view than they do to enlighten people about new ways of thinking. There was a fascinating study outlined in Cass Sunstein’s book Infotopia that took randomized groups of people and asked them to discuss politically divisive topics. The results were very clear, individuals had a strong tendency to become more politically polarized over the course of the discussion. Liberals became more liberal, conservatives more conservative, and the range of ideological diversity in each group decreased.

    And those results have been reproduced and backed up by other research.

    That is scary to think about… isn’t it? At least, it is to me. And hard not to see this reflected in our current political environment.

    On a smaller scale, I see it happening here too. One reader stated, “they have frequently pushed me to find stronger foundations for my beliefs”, and another appears completely convinced that your blog commentary comes from the left wing even though most of the left wingers here find you well right of them. Those are both very subtle examples, but they were easy enough to pick out in only a dozen or so comments in just this thread. Those are the forces in discussion areas like this that over time actually increase the idealogical gaps between us all. Whereas, I think (or I’d like to think) that most of us would be happier to close those gaps.

    Now, I am not implying that it would be great if these discussions allowed us to always meet in the middle, lose our diversity of thought and opinion, and agree on everything. No way. But I do think it would be great if they gave us the setting to allow this to happen occasionally. But the research shows just the opposite… and my observation over the years is that so do our collective comments here. The conservatives commenters are just as conservative, more so in some cases, and ditto the liberal commenters.

    I have some thoughts on how a comment/discussion area can try to overcome this problem, but that is certainly a bigger, and more boring discussion. So I’ll just end on some actual, actionable feedback.

    1. I like it when you, Brian M, interact more in the comment area. Both when you serve as a bit of a fact checker, calling out people when they claim outrageously, and verifiably false things… and when you express some of your own opinions and experiences.

    2. I’m shocked that the thumbs up and down has not been more polarizing to the community. This is quite honestly the only discussion community I’ve been a part of that hasn’t had a big dust up over the introduction of a “reputation system”. For whatever reason, it seems to be working, so I’d be inclined to keep it.

    3. I don’t mind paginating out the comments when they reach a certain number, but the small font “newer comments” link is very easy to miss. I imagine a lot of readers do not realize there is a second page of comments that they are not seeing. A more obvious pagination system might help.

  26. dave says:

    Oh and yes, Verplank – thank you! I forgot about that meant to suggest it.

    Nested Comments!!

  27. Red says:

    I am a woman, more specifically middle-aged and libertarian leaning. I read The In Box and listen to NPR to gain a different perspective. I find most ideas expressed to be left-leaning with an assumption that all intelligent, informed people agree with them. For example, the recent post about poor people – a respected conservative economist wasn’t quoted. Why? I love Thomas Sowell’s perspective. If you aren’t familiar with him, he is a black, non-partisan, brilliant economist. I never comment because I don’t want to be attacked.

  28. Ken Hall says:

    I drop by several times a week and peruse articles and comments which strike my fancy. Personally I would enjoy seeing additional Earth view articles for consideration.

    I understand not the consternation over the up/down flags; I find them entertaining.

    It is not the normal intent of argument to devolve into fighting; unfortunately it appears more the norm than not, within the so called nuclear family unit or without.

  29. mervel says:

    Cut off the posts at 50 (over 50 is usually just fighting and it devolves).

    More local politics

    More coverage of the Seaway Valley

    Less coverage of Catholic issues and religious issues in general.

    All in all though this is a great blog and I find out a lot of info here, so thanks for doing it.

  30. Dave Mason says:

    The comments are, in general, pretty good. I’ve learned from exchanges in the comments.

    I would suggest you look into software that allows comments to be nested. So, for example, if I write in response to a prior comment, it shows up as a reply to it specifically. It would make them easier to read. When 2 people get into an exchange, you can choose to skip it and see the next new comment. Or you can read the whole exchange if you’re interested in it.

  31. Paul says:

    Hey! What do you know I got two thumbs up. I take it back you should keep those things!

  32. dave says:

    btw, nested comments is a feature built into wordpress now. You just have to activate it, and make sure your theme handles them properly.

  33. MrSandwich says:

    Love the blog. Nested comments are a good idea. Sometimes replys to specific comments get lost in the mix.

  34. Ellen Rocco says:

    I’ll make sure Bill and Dale follow up on the nested comments feature. Makes sense. Certainly worth a try.

    I’ve wondered about the preponderance of men participating in the comment section. My theory: Brian poses questions that appeal more to men than to women. Certainly, across the blogosphere, women are active, and we know that women are in the majority in our Facebook traffic/comment numbers.

    While women are a force in regional politics, not so much at the national level. On the other hand, if we are exploring how national policies–largely formulated and legislated by men–affect our day to day lives in the north country, women may be more inclined to join the conversation. Perhaps I’m restating some of Jill’s observations.

    Or, we may be super-serving men with Brian’s blog entries–and I’m fine with that.

  35. Peter Hahn says:

    I like this blog the way it is. It’s one of the few where people are pretty respectful of each others views, and rarely resort to personal insults.

  36. tootightmike says:

    I read it every day. Sometimes when the fists are flying, I stand aside. I prefer a civilized discussion to a cat fight but can sometimes get drawn into an emotional issue. I really do appreciate what you’re doing Brian. Keep it up. I don’t always agree with your position…but what fun would that be anyhow?

  37. scratchy says:

    Fewer national horse race post (or better yet, none at all) and more focus on local (or at least state) stories and politicis.

  38. tootightmike says:

    A long time ago, I listened to Pete Seeger and what he thought about the “back to the land” movement. He admonished folks not to just hide out in the boonies, but to become a part of their new-found communities. He told us that we needed to speak our mind…at the hardware, the gas station, and the grocery store…and not hold our tongues when overhearing some (political) discussion. He said something like, ” if you’re silent, folks think you agree, so give them something to think about”.

  39. Kent Gregson says:

    Read the tea leaves Brian. We may not agree of course, but you’re a reliable commenter and that gives the reader a constant benchmark to evaluate the issue. If you were left, right and all over the place just to elicit comments that would not be as helpful. Besides, we need to get over this left-right thing in our duality based political system and realize that there’s more than two sides to any of these questions.

  40. dave says:

    Regarding the preponderance of men participating in the comment section…

    I am not sure we can pin this on Brian M. or the topics he chooses to explore.

    There is a well documented gender gap across the internet when it comes to online participation. (Participation, not usage… there is an important difference)

    For example, in 2010 the Wikimedia Foundation determined that only 13% of its hundreds of thousands of participants were women. This is an online encyclopedia… you can’t find a broader selection of topics and interests than that. Yet women were still not jumping in.

    So I think this issue runs deeper than the content being discussed and is probably a larger issue than just this blog.

  41. CJ says:

    Read regularly, comment infrequently but enjoy very much. Nesting comments is a good idea but aside from that, good stuff. This blog takes an immense amount of work so kudos to you Brian.

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