Comments on stories give news outlets insight to what resonates with readers. Now we have insights on that insight.

As product manager for the company that powers this site’s comments, I oversee the analytics platform behind that widget below where you voice your reactions to any one story.

Below are eight observations I gleaned from the data gathered since Voice of San Diego launched its redesigned site last May. That’s nearly a year’s worth of information on how you’re engaging with the site.

If you take nothing else away from this report, take this: VOSD is a platform for building a strong community. It’s here for you to take part in. Please consider signing up, commenting, donating and writing your own pieces for others to share.

The community is growing.

More people are commenting every month, with a sudden rise this spring. Since our site relaunch, participation by new commenters is 300 percent of what it was a year ago. Why is that important? For starters, it signals interest. But it’s also highly correlated to membership.

Members are more likely to comment, and commenters are more likely to become members. In other words, more comments means a stronger sense of community and more financial support for the organization in the long run.

And we’ve got a neat way to visualize what that active community looks like.

Each row is a user. Each band is a period of commenting by that user. The darker the band, the more comments on any one day. There are a lot of people who stick with commenting day in, day out. Click the image to see a larger version.

Comments DNA

Likes are not just for bikes.

In the comments system, users have the ability to Like every comment. By counting Likes, we can get a sense for how valued a comment is. In other words, Likes are good. They boost the community morale and reward the commenter with the validation their comment was a good one.

The most-Liked comment in the past year was on an opinion piece. As you can see, it was respectful and well-written. If you want respect around here, you earn it. Defending a passionate topic passionately doesn’t hurt either.

Jacob McKean – 14 likes – Pump the Brakes on the Hillcrest Bike Route

As a North Park resident who often travels to Hillcrest for shopping & nightlife, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I would make more trips and spend more money in Hillcrest if there were a bike lane along University. Give me a safe & comfortable way to get there on foot or on bike, and I will gladly leave my car behind.

And as a fellow craft brewery owner & proprietor of an alcohol business, I’m dismayed by the attitude shown in this editorial. We cannot be a world class beer city (or a world class city of any kind) if cars are our only transportation option. You cannot claim to support bike and pedestrian improvements without also supporting the sacrifices to car infrastructure that make those improvements possible. Marginalizing bike and pedestrian access to side streets and asking taxpayers to subsidize parking garages is not a viable alternative.


Jacob McKean

Modern Times Beer

Five of the top 10 most-Liked commenters in the past year are donors.

As a donor, I want to protect my investment and help shape the VOSD community. I value the commentary others submit. As you can see, other donors are also participating in a big way.

Rookies sometimes get the biggest hits.

The two articles that received the most comments in the last year were written by guest contributors, not staff writers. You should consider writing your own piece. Chances are it will be a hit. (Editor’s note: Please email deputy editor Catherine Green ( with any op-eds you’d like us to consider.

Friday is the chattiest day of the week.

Because TGIF, right?

Commenting is steady all day.

While VOSD’s site is always open, most comments happen during work hours. We don’t pre-moderate here. So if you’re commenting during our off-hours, nobody has to approve it in order for it to be seen by others, as long as the system doesn’t automatically flag it as spam or profanity. We still get plenty of comments outside of working hours and we rely on the community itself to help us flag comments that are inappropriate. We want the conversation to continue into the wee hours too.

Dead air is a thing of the past.

So as we’ve established, there are more people commenting on the site. But I noticed something curious in the data. In early February, the rate of commenting started to rise. You can see a shift right about the time email notifications were turned on in the comments widget. Before notifications were enabled, VOSD got about 200 comments per week. Since Feb. 7, they’ve been on pace to exceed 400 per week. And again, both before and after the feature was enabled, the commentary was growing simply because there were more commenters joining the fray.

It goes to show that commenters like to know when their comments get replies. When they get replies, they reply back and the cycle continues. There’s nothing worse than dead air. Since the switch last May and the notification tweaks in February, you can definitely expect your voice will be heard.

Kelly Abbott

I work for Livefyre where I manage the Analytics product. They bought my company, Realtidbits, which built much of this site (especially the comments and...

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