Sunday, December 23, 2018

Why I Get so Few Comments

Recently I realized why I don't get many comments on this blog -- I don't blog about open-ended issues.

I certainly appreciate the comments I do get. But here I tend to present graphs, papers, findings, which have little wiggle room. (And, I don't present them as if there's much wiggle room.) But blogs like And Then There's Physics and Stoat do more opinionated posts that leave lots of room for discussion and disagreements or other points of view. I'm not very good at that.

I'll admit, I'm not really a deep thinker and am more interested in the math and the data and the minutiae. That's just who I am. I find numbers more attractive than words or, even in some sense, ideas. Numbers make much more sense to me than words, even as a writer -- I can't diagram a sentence to save my life, barely know what an adverb is, let alone a preposition, and couldn't even do that when I was in 10th grade. I took a college summer class in linguistics after my junior year to fulfill an elective, and none of it made any sense to me at all, and I got a "C" that ruined the 4.0 grade point average I'd had up until then. I wish I was more versatile in big, deep picture thinking, but I've never really been so, even, I think now, when I was doing research in graduate school. Not happy to admit that.

It was probably a good thing that I didn't stay in physics -- though I might possibly perhaps have made it somewhere at a very small college teaching physics to pre-med majors -- but neither does science writing have a big calling for number geeks -- we're too slow, if nothing else, trying to figure out the units. I guess I'm not really fit for much of anything.


William M. Connolley said...

I think you had a post a while back about comments and I was going to comment but hesitated. Now you invoke me by name so I will.

On the trivia level, there are ways to make your place more comment friendly, one of which is to have a sidebar widget of recent comments, which can encourage people. Slightly less trivial, I do tend to respond to many of the comments on my blog, if possible, so commentators don't feel they are speaking to a void. Of course if you really want to encourage people, then strongly disagreeing with them and telling them they haven't thought carefully, as I seem to end up doing, is not good.

On a wider level, there's a lot of fashion in the world. People comment not just to say their thing but to be part of a conversation; and so to he that hath shall be given. If you want to talk, you go to a busy coffee shop.

As you say, more "open" posts get more comments. More science-y ones get fewer. This is because thinking is hard and most people don't want to, but they do want to hear the sound of their own voice. No wonder AW gets so many comments :-). Lastly, I think there's the idea of habit and entertainment: people look for something daily to read, and if you're not providing daily or more fodder, they'll go elsewhere.

Also, Happy Christmas!

Layzej said...

Print things that aren't true and you will have many more comments. It can be your own lie or someone else's, but you need to promote fictions. That's blogging 101.

For example, the latest article on ATTP is "There was no pause in global warming". This is the 73rd article ATTP has posted on "the pause" (which doesn't exist?).

Then there's Stoat whose latest article is titled "The Green New Deal, explained" which is a civilized way to write "The Green New Deal is a Lie" and a less honest way to write "Some Lies about the Green New Deal".

Victor Venema said...

Comments are nearly never compliments, so as long as people cannot disagree or add something you "forgot", you will not get many comments.

Partially it is also culture. People come to ATTP to debate climate and to Stoat to debate cartoonish economics.

David in Cal said...

David -- I understand your feelings about leaving physics. I feel the same way about leaving mathematics. My career as a top casualty actuary was better than a career as a mediocre mathematician would have been.

Happy Holidays to all!

JoeT said...


I'd like to offer another perspective. Keep doing what you're doing. Don't worry about how many comments you get. I may not comment very much here, but then I don't comment very much on other blogs either. And I read your blog at least every few days. Understanding the data is what it's all about and I think you do that better than anyone else.

One more thing --- it doesn't really take a deep thinker to be successful at physics. Many of my graduate students I wouldn't call 'big picture' scientists, but they are very successful at planning an experiment, setting up the diagnostic, taking data and comparing it to a model. Many of these same students may not even be as creative as you in understanding what data is even important to plot. Perhaps you would have been more successful at a research career than you think.

David Appell said...

Thanks Joe, I really appreciate that, especially coming from you.

- David

David Appell said...

Thanks David. I've always thought actuarial work would be pretty interesting, if you're a numbers person. Happy Holidays to you too.

David Appell said...

Victor, that's what I meant though -- I can't post such that people find openings for a discussion & conversation. Maybe I'm too definite, maybe afraid of appearing wrong, of not knowing what I'm posting about. Maybe I don't spend enough time ruminating, as ATTP seems to do. (But then, he's getting paid regularly for that kind of thing; I'm not.) Maybe it's that I really do find the numbers the most interesting side of any subject. For example, I didn't know much about molecular biology before I became friends with an M.S. in the subject, and on walks she would explain things to me, and I'd always be interrupting with questions about the numbers -- of genes, base pairs, amino acids, organelles, mitochondria, entrons, introns etc etc. It drove her a little crazy, but we made progress teaching me some things. I can't get a picture of something unless I have some sense of the numbers. One of the reasons I changed my major in college from engineering to physics (beside that I found the engineering students kinda boring and obsessed with how much money they'd make after graduation, and the textbook was pitiful, just rote learning, plugging numbers into given formulas with little understanding of where the formula came from) was that I loved using my little Texas Instruments programmable calculator to change units, like from miles to light years, etc! It sounds trivial and stupid now, but I really enjoyed that in beginning physics. It pulled me into the subject.

Happy Holidays, Victor.

Victor Venema said...

Yes, I think that is the main reason. I write both kinds of posts and thus see the difference. The clearer the science, the less feedback.

I had a girlfriend like you, much more intelligent that I am, but she needed all details, a pencil and some time to think to understand problems. Somehow I only need a bit of information and can often talk along, maybe I think more in analogies & patterns. In the end I also need all the details before I can really contribute to a better understanding.

David Appell said...

Thanks for your comment, William C -- and the funny about AW.

Happy New Year.