All posts by Magnus Andre Knustad

Is YouTube making a big mistake with ads in the middle of their videos?

YouTube is a free commercial entertainment platform, and like any other online free service they make money by displaying ads. And it’s not just the company itself, but talented and hard-working content creators who profit from this system. Watching a few seconds of ads before a video is, in my mind, an acceptable trade-off to be able to watch some pretty unique and interesting content.

But lately the ads have been moving from the beginning of a video to the middle of it. And I’m wondering if this is a mistake by YouTube. Sure, YouTube is making money this way, but what about the advertisers and content creators? Are they better of with ads in the middle of videos?

Of course, interupting content to display ads is nothing new – it’s how television has operated for decades. But there is a distinct difference in how it’s being done. On TV, ads are usually presented at standardized intervals. And they usually aren’t a surprise. Dramatic TV-shows are edited to create a natural break for ads, and other shows have narrators or presenters informing the audience that “we’ll be right back after these messages”. Most of us are aware of the oncoming ads long before they appear on screen, being in the bathroom or making a cup of coffee long before the first fast-food commercial is shown.

But there is no such natural breaks or smooth transitions to ads on YouTube. The commercials pop ut on screen more abruptly than a monster in a horror movie. They often start playing while the narrator or presenter in the video is in mid-sentence. They are abrupt and sudden breaks in the content you’re enjoying. And while YouTube makes money this way, I’m starting to wonder if the content creators and advertising companies are better off not having ads in the middle of any videos.

In behavioral psychology the term “negative punishment” refers to the removal of a positive stimulus, like a child having his toy taken away as punishment for a behavior. On YouTube, enjoying a video is a positive stimulus that is abruptly taken away by ads. In such a situation it’s easy for the human mind to make a connection between this punishment and the ad itself, or even the video.

This is part speculation on my part, but being an avid YouTube-watcher I’m starting to feel the effects of these ads. Certain companies, who’s ads have been shown frequently to me in this way, have been associated with something negative in my mind – including companies and products that I’m generally positive to. And while I haven’t experienced it myself, I’m wondering if the presenters in the videos I watch could end up suffering the same fate.

I don’t know how much thought YouTube has put into this business model beyond the idea of presenting more ads to earn more money. And to be clear: I’m not opposed to ads on YouTube – the company and it’s content creators have to make money somehow. But the advertisers who pay good money to have their ads shown should be confident that their ads are placed in such a way that they have the best effect. And content creators should be confident that the integrity of their productions aren’t affected negatively. Not to mention that there might be a point where the audience feels overrun with ads and start loosing interest in the platform – at which point everyone looses.

 

YouTube image by Esther Vargas

Is YouTube making a big mistake with ads in the middle of their videos?

YouTube is a free commercial entertainment platform, and like any other online free service they make money by displaying ads. And it’s not just the company itself, but talented and hard-working content creators who profit from this system. Watching a few seconds of ads before a video is, in my mind, an acceptable trade-off to be able to watch some pretty unique and interesting content.

But lately the ads have been moving from the beginning of a video to the middle of it. And I’m wondering if this is a mistake by YouTube. Sure, YouTube is making money this way, but what about the advertisers and content creators? Are they better of with ads in the middle of videos?

Of course, interupting content to display ads is nothing new – it’s how television has operated for decades. But there is a distinct difference in how it’s being done. On TV, ads are usually presented at standardized intervals. And they usually aren’t a surprise. Dramatic TV-shows are edited to create a natural break for ads, and other shows have narrators or presenters informing the audience that “we’ll be right back after these messages”. Most of us are aware of the oncoming ads long before they appear on screen, being in the bathroom or making a cup of coffee long before the first fast-food commercial is shown.

But there is no such natural breaks or smooth transitions to ads on YouTube. The commercials pop ut on screen more abruptly than a monster in a horror movie. They often start playing while the narrator or presenter in the video is in mid-sentence. They are abrupt and sudden breaks in the content you’re enjoying. And while YouTube makes money this way, I’m starting to wonder if the content creators and advertising companies are better off not having ads in the middle of any videos.

In behavioral psychology the term “negative punishment” refers to the removal of a positive stimulus, like a child having his toy taken away as punishment for a behavior. On YouTube, enjoying a video is a positive stimulus that is abruptly taken away by ads. In such a situation it’s easy for the human mind to make a connection between this punishment and the ad itself, or even the video.

This is part speculation on my part, but being an avid YouTube-watcher I’m starting to feel the effects of these ads. Certain companies, who’s ads have been shown frequently to me in this way, have been associated with something negative in my mind – including companies and products that I’m generally positive to. And while I haven’t experienced it myself, I’m wondering if the presenters in the videos I watch could end up suffering the same fate.

I don’t know how much thought YouTube has put into this business model beyond the idea of presenting more ads to earn more money. And to be clear: I’m not opposed to ads on YouTube – the company and it’s content creators have to make money somehow. But the advertisers who pay good money to have their ads shown should be confident that their ads are placed in such a way that they have the best effect. And content creators should be confident that the integrity of their productions aren’t affected negatively. Not to mention that there might be a point where the audience feels overrun with ads and start loosing interest in the platform – at which point everyone looses.

 

YouTube image by Esther Vargas

Comment sections vs. Facebook

Today was a very special day. Today I handed in my master thesis in Digital Culture. I’ve been researching comments on news articles, trying to determine what is the difference between commenting on news articles on a newspapers comment section and its Facebook page. And by the end of it, I ended up creating a website where i present the research, as well as a creative work illustrating the difference between comments on the two platforms, called Comments and Platforms.

Now, after reading and researching comments for what seems like forever, I am left with a new outlook on commenting. I used to think, as many others, that comment sections were vile and horrible places, filled with racism and sexism. But this has not been my experience while researching them. I have read many comments over the past year, and read a lot about them, and I have rarely seen what I would call uncivil behavior. Now, it may be that I’ve been lucky: that the newspaper I have been studying has very civil readers (doubtful), or that its moderators are quick and effective at deleting what may be a swarm of derogatory comments. The latter is more likely, though if that was commonplace I would expect to see signs of it: weird “gaps” in a communication, like replies to comments that aren’t there.

What I have found among the thousands of comments I have read is mostly positive or neutral. There are certainly quite a few idiots writing comments on news stories, but there are also some genuinely informative comments that have shed new light on a story. And of course, there are those comments that are just entertaining to read. And even if 80-90% of the comments are pretty much useless, isn’t that also true for media in general? I’m sure that most of us scroll by most of the content presented to us on Facebook, news sites, YouTube, Spotify or wherever, only being interested in a fraction of it.

I have come to believe that comments, and the comment sections they are written in, can be quite valuable. The world wide web gives everyone a voice. But comment sections gives everyone a voice – and an audience of as much as millions of potential readers. And journalists have reported that comments have positively impacted their work in several ways, including providing enhanced critical reflection and new story leads (Graham and Wrigth 2015).

But there is a problem. Even if I haven’t seen much of it myself, uncivil behavior in comment sections do exist. And anonymity is often blamed for this – wrongly, according to my own research. So many news sites began to use a Facebook plugin to power their comment sections – requiring commenters to user their Facebook profile. And worse: it means that it’s becoming more and more common for a Facebook account to be reqired for participation in public debates.

Some news sites have decided to close their comment sections in favor of using their Facebook pages to engage with readers. This was the reason for my own research. I think it’s important to know what such a move to Facebook is doing to the democratic quality of commenting. What I found was that there is more conversations, debates, questions, arguments and informative comments on a newspaper’s comment section that its Facebook page. Comments on Facebook are shorter, more reactive, and rarely fuel discussions.

So the quality of commenting is much lower on Facebook than a newspapers comment section. But what does improve on Facebook is the spreadability of an article because of the higher number of interactions through commenting, likes and reactions – all of which are automatically shared and spread to other people. The cynical side of me is tempted to think that this is the real reason for some news sites to shift their focus to Facebook.

In the end, the question is what do we wan’t with comment sections. Do we want them to be a place for public debate? Do we want them to be a safe space? Or do we want them to be removed because they’re not really good for anything? Personally, I’m in favor of keeping and trying to improve those platforms that facilitate public debate. And what I have found is that comment sections, even with their shortcomings, are better at facilitating public debate than commenting on articles on Facebook.

 

Sources

Graham, Todd, and Scott Wright. 2015. ‘A Tale of Two Stories from “Below the Line”: Comment Fields at the Guardian’. The International Journal of Press/Politics 20, no. 3: 317-338. DOI: 10.1177/1940161215581926

 

Who owns my games?

One of my favorite games of all time is the puzzle game Peggle. After being introduced to it in 2008, I have played countless times on multiple platforms, including PC, Android, iOS and X-Box (my favorite platform to play Peggle on). Recently, while trying to think of a new game to download to my Android phone, I felt like playing Peggle again. I bought the game for Android years ago, but I was disappointed to find that it was no longer available on Google Play Store. As it turns out, PopCap, the company behind Peggle, retired the game in August. In stead, a new version of Peggle – Peggle Blast – can be downloaded for free. But the thing is: as much as I love Pegge, I hate Peggle Blast. It’s a for-mobile-only, freemium game with lots of in-app purchases and bad gameplay. So, no Peggle for me…

Peggle is an awesome game!

This experience did make me think, though. While Peggle Blast is free, the original Peggle game was not. I paid good money for that game. And I bought the game knowing that I would be able to download and play it on any future Android phone. I don’t know why it’s not available anymore (though, I bet it has something to do with getting people to play the freemium game instead), but it doesn’t feel right. If PopCap doesn’t want people to be able to buy Peggle anymore, that’s fine. But I had already bought it. A transaction was made. I had one more game than before I bought it, and not as much money. I bought it! The game was mine! Wasn’t it?

I’m not sure anymore about who owns my games. Did I pay for Peggle, or did I just pay for the right to play Peggle. And it’s not just Peggle, or mobile games – It’s the whole gaming industry. Most of my X-Box games are located in the cloud. What happens when someone decides to turn that cloud off? And the games I do buy in a real-life, physical store, and I have a physical copy of, can’t be played without having to download a huge update.

The times when I could just buy a game and play it right away is over. Whether a game is bought online or as a physical copy, my feeling of ownership of the games I buy is not as certain as it should be. Most games need to have an internet connection (at least the first time playing it), even if it’s a single-player game. Most games need to be downloaded, even when owning a physical copy. And the games get updated constantly, feel incomplete without purchasing extra downloadable content, and, as was the case with Peggle, can disappear from existence.

There are many technological reasons for why games are changing. The level of internet access allows for games to be larger than what could be fitted on a game disc, as well as a constant string of updates and bug fixes. This of course isn’t all that negative. But financial incentives and the success of mobile gaming are encouraging game developers to create free games with ads, in-game purchases and episodic content, in stead of creating finished quality games for gamers to buy. And it’s partly our own fault. We’ve become so accustomed to things being free that we don’t want to buy even small, cheap mobile games. And the developers see that – and respond to it. So for the future of gaming, I hope people get tired of the freemium gaming model. I want my games back!

 

 

How having more music has made me less interested in it

As Facebook is making a play for the music industry, commentators are speculating about how social media is affecting artists and music producers. Digby Pearson argues that social media is making music fans more fragmented, and that being a fan of an artist has gone from being about going to concerts to clicking “like” on Facebook. Vince Neilstein argues for social media in his article, claiming that social media has helped artists to reach more listeners (Source).

The arguments by Pearson and Neilstein are typical of the debate about music in a social media age. On the one side there are those who praise social media as a way to reach a larger audience. And on the other side there are those who think that social media belittles music by changing and simplifying the relationships between artists and fans. But reading Neilstein’s article made me think about another issue: how does the modern music industry, with Spotify as the main source of music for a lot of people, change our relationship to music as an art form? I have no answers to this question other than to reflect on how my own relationship to music has changed over the years.

 

The first music I can remember owning was a vinyl record by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, handed down to me from my father. Later, when my childhood bedroom was updated with a CD-player, most of the music I listened to was collections: movie soundtracks and rock- and pop collections. I never had a lot of music, and some of it was bad. But I listened to the music I had again and again, until I knew most of the songs by heart. And I appreciated every song, good or bad.

When I got my first computer at age 14, at a time of dial-up modems and a painfully slow internet connection, CD’s (and occasionally a floppy disk) with Mp3 files were traded amongst my friends. I remember having a collection of about 150 Mp3 files, including rock, rap, pop and some comedy songs. Just like with my earlier CD collection, I listen to these few songs so many times I can still remember the lyrics to many of them.

As internet speeds improved, and I discovered torrent sites, my music collection started to increase. For the first time I couldn’t listen to all my music in a day. I had to start organizing my files into folders. My collection of music, although not dramatically large, became something I had to manage. And even though all the music in the world was now easily obtainable, I built a carefully selected collection of music – I only wanted to have music I liked.

From my first vinyl record to my collection of less then legally obtained music, one thing was always true: I knew my music. I knew what music I had, what I liked and I knew some of it by heart. Today, I don’t own any vinyl records. My CD collection is very limited. And I don’t have a collection of downloaded Mp3-files, because I eventually grew up and wanted to get my music legally.

 

Today I have a Spotify subscription, and all the music in the world has never been so easily available to me. But what does that mean for my relationship to music? Unlike before, I no longer know my music. In stead of CD’s or folders with Mp3 files, I now have a collection of playlists on Spotify, many of which are labeled “something something – check out later”. Ironically, I felt more of an ownership of the music I previously downloaded from torrent sites. I at least had to work for that music – I had to battle sleazy ads for magic pills and dating sites, search for and find the right files, and risk getting a computer virus or a Scientology documentary instead of music (yeah, that really happened once).

On Spotify I don’t have to do anything. And everything is there. And yet, I never feel like there’s anything to listen to (talk about a first-world problem). There’s too much music to browse through, too much to feel any kind of ownership over. And Spotify is filter-bubbling me the same music suggestions all the time, so even when I do try finding something new, it’s still the same.

Of course I enjoy Spotify, and I’m not going to end my subscription anytime soon. But I can’t help feeling that, with the massive music library Spotify offers, something has been lost. And yes, I am spoiled – complaining about too much and too easy to find music. I guess if I have to find some sort of moral to this rambling, it’s that the more you have of something, the less it is worth.

Lurkers and the Silent Majority

“The Silent Majority” is, according to Julia Kirby, a phrase that President Nixon used to describe the people who were not against the Vietnam war, who Nixon believed to be in majority, but were less vocal than the anti-war protesters. And during the 2016 presidential election, then Republican candidate Donald Trump claimed that he would win the election, despite the polls saying the opposite. Trump justified his claim by referring to the silent majority – claiming that there were far more Trump-voters than what the polls suggested.

The idea behind the silent majority is simple: the most vocal are not necessarily the majority. Kelly McNamara writes about the 90-9-1-rule about online communities, which states that 90% tend to be engaged but less vocal, 9% tends to be more vocal by commenting and sharing, and 1% tend to be the most vocal by creating new content. While the numbers may not be exactly 90, 9 and 1, the idea is simply that most engaged people don’t contribute. These are often referred to as lurkers.

Whether you call them the silent majority or lurkers, I can’t help thinking that someone is making a big deal about something that is actually quite simple: not everyone has a desire to expose themselves by contributing online, and we can’t know what everyone is thinking about something. The silent majority is not some organized, underground revolutionary force. It’s a statistical blind spot. It’s not knowing everything about everyone (thankfully).

Of course it’s interesting to look into why some people don’t wish to contribute much online. And it’s interesting to ask: how would things look if they did? If the internet is to be a democratic tool, then everyone should have the same opportunities to contribute. So if lurkers are not contributing because of some external factors such as fear of internet trolling or low digital literacy, then that is a problem. And it should be addressed.

The Filter Bubble and the News

The filter bubble is a technological phenomenon, where one’s opinions are amplified by algorithms that recommend content that one is more likely to be interested in, while filtering out all other content (Flaxman, Goel and Rao 2016, 299). If, for example, Google’s search algorithms have learned that you are a liberal person, the results of political search queries may be more likely to be liberal than conservative. And if you watch a lot of horror movies on Netflix, you are more likely to see suggestions for these types of movies in the future.

In his book, “The Filter Bubble” (2011), Eli Pariser, tells the story of how journalism has gone from being a passive receiving of information by a few publishers, to an overwhelming wealth of articles produced by both professionals and amateurs. This creates a problem of how articles are being presented to the reader. Sense no one is capable of reading every article being produced, some filtration has to take place. The problem is that when this filtration is based on algorithms filtering information based on what they think we like, people are less likely to be exposed to new ideas and challenging information.

I believe that the Filter Bubble is potentially a serious problem for democracy and public debate. I also believe, however, that it is necessary and a result of the natural development of the digital world. In his book, “The Googlization of Everything” (2011), Siva Vaidhyanathan argues that the number of available information online leads to information overload. The very title of one of his chapters, “The Googlization of Memory”, hints at how our very human and biological processes – such a as memory – is being digitally expanded. If one accepts the wealth and availability of information online as an extension of our memory, then there must also be an extension of our biological filtration processes and working memory, that – just like the algorithms of the filter bubble – filtrate information based on what is believed to be in our interest.

It is difficult to find a balance between the the necessary algorithmic filtration systems and the democratic dangers of the filter bubble. For starters, I do miss the option to turn off filtration for a while – an exploration mode where information is presented that is not based on any guesses of what I might like. And hopefully, awareness of the filter bubble will help people become more critical of their news sources.

 

Sources

Flaxman, Seth, Sharad Goel, and Justin M. Rao. 2016. “Filter bubbles, echo chambers, and online news consumption”. Public Opinion Quarterly 80, no. S1: 298-320

Pariser, Eli. 2011. The filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. London: Penguin Books

Vaidhyanathan, Siva. 2011. The Googlization of Everything. Berkeley: University of California Press.

The Filter Bubble and the News

The filter bubble is a technological phenomenon, where one’s opinions are amplified by algorithms that recommend content that one is more likely to be interested in, while filtering out all other content (Flaxman, Goel and Rao 2016, 299). If, for example, Google’s search algorithms have learned that you are a liberal person, the results of political search queries may be more likely to be liberal than conservative. And if you watch a lot of horror movies on Netflix, you are more likely to see suggestions for these types of movies in the future.

In his book, “The Filter Bubble” (2011), Eli Pariser, tells the story of how journalism has gone from being a passive receiving of information by a few publishers, to an overwhelming wealth of articles produced by both professionals and amateurs. This creates a problem of how articles are being presented to the reader. Sense no one is capable of reading every article being produced, some filtration has to take place. The problem is that when this filtration is based on algorithms filtering information based on what they think we like, people are less likely to be exposed to new ideas and challenging information.

I believe that the Filter Bubble is potentially a serious problem for democracy and public debate. I also believe, however, that it is necessary and a result of the natural development of the digital world. In his book, “The Googlization of Everything” (2011), Siva Vaidhyanathan argues that the number of available information online leads to information overload. The very title of one of his chapters, “The Googlization of Memory”, hints at how our very human and biological processes – such a as memory – is being digitally expanded. If one accepts the wealth and availability of information online as an extension of our memory, then there must also be an extension of our biological filtration processes and working memory, that – just like the algorithms of the filter bubble – filtrate information based on what is believed to be in our interest.

It is difficult to find a balance between the the necessary algorithmic filtration systems and the democratic dangers of the filter bubble. For starters, I do miss the option to turn off filtration for a while – an exploration mode where information is presented that is not based on any guesses of what I might like. And hopefully, awareness of the filter bubble will help people become more critical of their news sources.

 

Sources

Flaxman, Seth, Sharad Goel, and Justin M. Rao. 2016. “Filter bubbles, echo chambers, and online news consumption”. Public Opinion Quarterly 80, no. S1: 298-320

Pariser, Eli. 2011. The filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. London: Penguin Books

Vaidhyanathan, Siva. 2011. The Googlization of Everything. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Creating desire for a new product

In his book “Evil by Design”, Chris Nodder writes about how to create envy and use it to enhance the popularity of a product. The first step in creating envy, according to Nodder, is to create desirability for a product. Nodder gives ut 5 ways to create desire:

  1. Secrecy: Being one of the few in the know about an item, making people speculate about the product.
  2. Scarcity: Small numbers, low availability of the item. This creates an urgency for people to get the product while they still can, and makes people think other’s like it.
  3. Identity: Identify the item with a desirable lifestyle, person or activity.
  4. Aesthetics: The item is pleasing to look at, hold and use.
  5. Functionality: The item solves a problem in an elegant way.

As an example of how desire has been created in this way, Nodder brings up Apple and the iPhone. I believe that he is right, that Apple is a very good example of a company that has mastered the methods of creating desirability.

But Apple does have an advantage in being an old, well-known company. They are pioneers in the computer market, and they reinvented themselves in the late 90’s as a company creating computers, and later Mp3-players, with an exciting new design.

So what about a start-up company with a brand new product? How can they create desire? Point 3, 4 and 5 from the list above is certainly something a start-up can do, if they have reasonably good technical- and design skills, and some start-up money and a head for marketing. But point 1 and 2 are different from a start up company. Secrecy, that few people are in the know about an item, is automatic – because no one has ever heard of the company or product before. In fact, secrecy becomes more of a problem, as the company would want to get the word out about what they are doing.

The second point, scarcity, is also somewhat automatic. A start-up company may not have the finances to mass produce whatever they’re making. Crowd sourcing and pre-purchase is a good way to get around this problem, because the company can produce their products knowing that they are financed and that some of the items are already sold. It also helps to make people feel ownership of the product before they’ve bought it, which Nodder mentions as a good strategy later in the same chapter.

A start-up company has to create functional and aesthetically pleasing products with an identity first. Then forget about secrecy – get the word out about it. And while scarcity can be a good way to create hype about a product, it is also a gamble for a start-up who needs to sell items to stay in business. Nodder’s list of ways to create desire still applies to start-ups. It’s just that these companies should turn the list up-side-down and focus on functionality, aesthetics and identity first. And they should just forget about secrecy – they can’t afford to be secretive about what they’re doing.

Researching comments on news articles

In my master thesis research I am looking at comments on news articles on news websites and on Facebook. During this process I have had to find a way to categorize comments. This has been a long, and sometimes frustrating process. I started out, before beginning the research, with a few categories that I thought would cover all comments, but that I expected would have to be changed. And they were.

I have implemented a heuristic research approach. The qualitative heuristic approach is an exploratory research method where the data affects the categories. This means that the researcher should be “open to new concepts and change his preconceptions if the data are not in agreement with them” (Kleining and Witt 2000). This lead to the creation of 5 broad categories, that I for a long time was quite happy with.

But then I decided to be thorough (stupid me), so I did a reliability test. I gave a person not involved with my master thesis a list of 60 comments to categorize, and then compared them with my own categorization. The results were not good: 60% agreement. After tweaking the definitions of my categories, creating a more procedural method of categorization, and coding the comments again, a second and third reliability test gave me a score of 79 and 75%.

A reliability score of 70% or more is often used as a criterion for exploratory research. But a score of 80-90% would be considered more acceptable in most situations, and above 90% is considered acceptable in all situations (Lombard, Snyder-Duch and Bracken 2002, 593).

Things were looking better, but I was still not happy. So I decided to start completely from the beginning with a new method for finding categories. In stead of coding the comments into one category or another, I wrote any word that came to mind when reading a comment. After doing this with enough comments (about 100) a pattern emerged. Some words were repeated, and these word became the foundation of my new and final categories. And with these categories, another three reliability tests gave me a score of 82-92%. And the categories, which I now am quite confident about, are:

 

Argumentative comments: Arguments contain a proposition that can either be true or false (Blair 2009, 44). These propositions should be testable. They are also formulated for the purposes of persuasion. This means that there needs to be a point of view that the commentator wants someone to adopt, that is backed up by a proposition. Argumentative comments can also contain proofs from classical rhetoric: Ethos, Logos or Pathos.

Opinions: Opinions are comments that are not necessarily meant to persuade, but function as a direct or indirect statement of what the commentator thinks and believes about an issue.

Reactionary comments: Reactionary comments are short expressions of emotions with little or no informative value. They can also be unspecific statements – statements that are not specific enough for the reader to accurately interpret what the commentator is writing about.

Reactionary comments often contain a set of punctuation marks, especially the exclamation mark, or sets of emoticons. Reactionary comments can also be non-verbal. In these cases, the comments contain either only emoticons or written non-verbal expressions, such as “Haha!!”, indicating laughing or joy.

Informative comments: These comments do not directly argue for or against something, although they can be used in discussions to build a case for a point of view. They are meant to provide relevant information – whether or not that information is factual. Informative comments, with the exception of those classified as personal experience, contain testable factual information that can be either true or false.

Derogatory comments: These are comments that uses some form of critique or potentially hurtful discourse, usually directed at another commentator. Put they can also be directed at public figures or the subject of the article.

Humorous comments: These are comments that, with the intention to be funny, brings together two disparate ideas, concepts or situations in a surprising or unexpected manner, or that contains a play of words or self-deprecating, humorous statements.

Tagging comments: Comments containing only a tagged name. They are usually found on Facebook, and seem to be written to direct the attention of the person being tagged to the article.

Suggestions: This is one of those categories where there is not much more to say than the name. Comments containing suggestions.

Questions: Also a category where the name says it all.

Supportive comments: Supportive comments are comments made in defense of someone, including the commentator himself.

Speculative comments: Speculative comments are comments where the commentator is making speculative assumptions, for which there is no real evidence, and making conclusions that cannot reasonably be verified.

Image comments: Sometimes comments contain only an image. Images can contain relevant information, and can even be considered argumentative – a view dating back to classical rhetoric (LaGrandeur 2003, 119).

Links: These are comments that only contain a link to another website. I have not found any of these comments in the data I have analyzed myself, but I’ve made it a category because I did observe these comments while preparing for my research.

Arbitrary comments: Not really a category, just a collection of comments that made me think “WTF??”. Arbitrary comments are comments that are grammatically or contextually difficult to understand.

 

References

Blair, J. Anthony. 2009. “The Rhetoric of Visual Arguments” In Defining Visual Rhetorics, edited by Charles A. Hill and Marguerite Helmers, 41-62. New York: Routledge

Kleining, Gerhard, and Harold Witt. 2000. “The Qualitative Heuristic Approach: A Methodology for Discovery in Psychology and the Social Sciences. Rediscovering the Method of Introspection as an Example” Forum: Qualitative Social Research. 1, no 1, Art 13 – January 2000.

LaGrandeur, Kevin. 2003. “Digital Images and Classical Persusion.” In Eloquent Images: Word and Image in the Age of New Media, edited by Mary E. Hocks and Michelle R. Kendrick, 117-136. Cambridge: MIT Press

Lombard, Matthew, Jennifer Snyder-Duch, and Cheryl Campanella Bracken. 2002. “Content Analysis in Mass Communication: Assessment and Reporting of Intercoder Reliability” Human Communication Research 28, no 4. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2002.tb00826.x