Comments are a double-edged sword. On one hand, the online community that surrounds a publication is full of some of the most ardent and loyal readers — those who are willing to engage in a thoughtful dialogue with a publication and other readers. On the other hand, the comments on individual articles could betray terrible trolls and haters that turn a thriving community into a fighting community.
Whether you live in the comments or try to avoid them like the plague, there’s a lot of value to understanding just how a community begins discussion and what makes an article ripe for trending. Ubiquitous comment system Disqus has made the discovery of trending topics visual with its new website, Gravity. The dynamic, HTML5-based website reports in real time where articles are receiving comment traffic by tracking motion across all of Disqus’s publication partners.
“What you’re seeing isn’t a simple directory of content people are clicking on,” the company writes in Gravity’s about page. “You’re seeing discussions experiencing a spike in volume. You’re seeing what people are talking about.”
Bubbles based around different topics — including Tech, Lifestyle and News — pop in and out of the space depending on their growing popularity among commenters. You can click the story to see where it comes from, as well as read highlighted comments from the particular story.
According to the New York Times Bits Blog, 700 million people engage with Disqus across multiple publications per month, so there’s plenty of data to sift through. Gravity doesn’t have all the answers as to why certain articles “pop” among commenters, but it does give good insight into how trends evolve throughout the day and just how quickly stories can burst in and fade out of popularity. There is also a chance that great conversations about a topic will bubble to the surface, presenting an opportunity to analyze what a great comment community looks like.
What do you think of Disqus Gravity and its services? Is it something you would use for your own newsgathering or analysis? Let us know in the comments.