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Should you write longer comments?

admin          20 July 2015 06:53 AM

One important consideration for those who want to write better comments is how much detail to leave out. Our statistical analysis shows that for many users there is a strong connection between the ratings and the size of their comments. For example, for Yvain (Scott Alexander) and Eliezer_Yudkowsky on Lesswrong, the average number of upvotes grows almost linearly with increasing comment length.

This trend, however, does not apply to all posters. For example, for the group of top ten contributors (in the last 30 days) to LessWrong, the average number of upvotes increases only slightly with the length of the comment (see the graph below). For quite a few people the change even goes in the opposite direction longer comments lead to lower ratings.

Naturally, even if your longer comments are rated higher than the short ones, this does not mean that inflating comments would always produce positive results. For most users (including popular writers, such as Yvain and Eliezer), the average number of downvotes increases with increasing comment length. The data also shows that long comments that get most upvotes are generally distinct from long comments that get most downvotes. In other words, long comments are fine as long as they are interesting, but they are penalized more when they are not.

The rating patterns vary significantly from person to person. For some posters, the average number of upvotes remains flat until the comment length reaches some threshold and then starts declining with increasing comment length. For others, the optimal comment length may be somewhere in the middle. (Users who have accounts on both Lesswrong and Omnilibrium can check the optimal length for their own comments on both websites by using this link.)

Obviously length is just one among many factors that affect comment quality and for most users it does not explain more than 20% of variation in their ratings. We have a few other ideas on how to provide people with meaningful feedback on both the style and the content of their posts. But before implementing them, we would like to get your opinions first. Would such feedback be actually useful to you?

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ChristianKl 20 July 2015 09:40 AM

I don't think that it's useful to spend development resources on better feedback on this time. I don't think there enough data to draw meaningful conclusions.

I think it's more important to get other feature to work well.

-Getting the website where I'm writing at the moment to be styled in the way the main website is

-Get post editing to work. I like that StackExchange still allows users to see the original post if they want to do so.

-When I click on "Read more" in the recent post thing it currently doesn't bring me to the actual discussion like LW does. I think having the actual discussion available is good for having context.

-I would like to still see how other people rate individual posts I write. Maybe show me the percentage you show users who aren't logged in?

-When hovering over the percentage, I would be nice to get more information and a breakdown of how many people voted 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.


ChristianKl 20 July 2015 09:15 AM

Longer comments being rated better is evidence for length limitation being a bad idea.