Just sayin'

Just out of curiosity, I went through Helsingin Sanomat discussion board and picked a news item about how much the fight against the climate change is expected to cost per person. Of course, the discussion board was flooded with discussion on whether climate change is real, and how it's actually a green conspiracy rivaling nazism, aiming to create a new world order.

So I spent an hour and I went through each comment, and noted how many typos or grammatical errors they had, and put them in three bins: Sceptics, Defenders and Others. Factual errors or hard-to-understand sentences were not counted - only real grammar errors. Quotations were also not examined, because the errors in them would be the fault of someone else.

"Sceptics" are the people who don't believe there is anthropogenic climate change. "Defenders" were people who believed it is true. "Others" were people who were mostly just complaining about the price, saying things like "we should really make sure our war veterans are taken care of first" (neither confirming nor denying), or just so unclear it was impossible to say whether they were for or against.

As you can see, the sceptics had over 3 grammar errors/typos per comment, whereas the defenders only had an average of 1.13. Others were in the middle with 1.71 errors/comment.

While the sampling is a bit small to draw any real conclusions, the result does not exactly weaken the image of climate sceptics as uneducated people who spew thousands of comments online with their mouths foaming.

(However, it was interesting to note that the same error patterns seemed to occur even in posts by different aliases. So I suspect that some people are using multiple aliases to create the appearance that there is bigger consensus. Which would be quite normal online, and is one of the reasons why feedback should be always taken with a grain of salt. Also, thanks to Muprhy's law, it's almost certain this particular blog entry is teeming with grammar errors. Then again, English is not my native language. So there. Besides, I think my brain is bleeding internally after reading through all those comments.)


What this does prove of course is that HS is totally clueless on building or maintaining an interesting and intelligent discussion community, that would be in par with the quality of their articles. (Tip: how you design your discussion board matters. Quite a lot, actually.)

--Jere Majava, 27-Nov-2009

Well, going through all those comments was as close to self-mutilation as I care to be, so I would be inclined to agree with you.

--JanneJalkanen, 27-Nov-2009

But they're working on it!

Not the discussion board, the article quality. The Errata section seems to be the only one that got larger during their latest redesign.

--Jouni Seppänen, 27-Nov-2009

"So I spent an hour and I went through each comment"

Bigger bang for your buck, umm Euro, is time spent with your son. My head exploded 3 mins in, and I would not have been so good about entering the "information". The site is a minor disaster.....

--Fosterr, 27-Nov-2009

Well, true, but sometimes you gotta do stupid stuff too, yes? ;-)

--JanneJalkanen, 27-Nov-2009

Sort of related, BBC's climate summit blog has a post "Climate 'scepticism' and questions about sex": http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/richardblack/2009/12/cop15_questions_about_sex.html

--Suviko, 15-Dec-2009

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