8 Aug 2005

The Questionnaire - No Comment

Recently, as I am sure other bloggers will be aware, we have been getting a few requests from students and researchers asking us to fill in their questionnaire or return answers to a few open-ended questions. Usually I do fill them in and return them out of common courtesy.

One thing that I have noticed is that the requests tend to come from people who do not blog. So they are outsiders observing us in the old 'scientific' tradition. Claiming objectivity is fine but it is only one side of the picture.

I am however getting tired of answering the same questions repeatedly. You know what they are. Recite them after me, "Why did you start blogging?, Why do you blog? What was the reason you decided to start a blog? How long have you been blogging?" Now as some of you will be aware I am very interested in social research, in fact I am as you read this 'doing' social research. What I have found though is the vast majority of researchers who have approached me are using research tools that were not initially designed to be used online. The questionnaire, a series of questions with multple choice responses, or open-ended questions where we are supposed to carefully give a detailed hand typed response.

Has anyone ever heard of interpretivism or for that matter realism? There are other methods and methodologies other than 'positivism'. Try some participant observation, dramaturgical analysis anything other than a questionnaire. What is causing this focus on the questionnaire? I have a niggling suspicion that what we have are 'IT' students, graduates, researchers conducting research in this overt fashion.

Why not start your own blog and get some insight from inside the group as opposed to observing the rats from outside the maze. After a few years and having formed some relationships with other bloggers you might find that if you happened to circulate a questionnaire that doesn't ask the same old questions, simply because you already know the answers, you might get a higher response rate. You would then have multiple types of data, which would make your research much more comprehensive and you could make even wilder assertions.

So unaccustomed as I am to actually 'blogging', whatever that means, as opposed to copying and pasting articles on a daily basis, and thereby hopefully avoiding defamation cases, or being accused of writing anti-PAP literature and therefore being banned from entering the country. There is method to my madness, and a methodology actually. I have a little puzzle...

Does zero comments after an article indicate zero interest or is it an indication of something else, fear, embarrassment, values?

Sorry but I need to ask a question.

After posting a comment over at Commentary Singapore with heavenly sword. Heavenly sword got me thinking, which can be a dangerous activity and must only be attempted when accompanied by a trained adult.

Heavenly sword stated, "No comment is itself a comment."

I have often thought that myself.[ but -p therefore p?]

That posting an article and receiving Zero comments somehow indicates zero interest. However, I am having trouble justifying such a methodological assumption. As it's an attempt at comprehending the motivation for inaction as opposed to action.

After posting articles for over two years now, is it possible for me to claim that Singaporeans 'Don't Care' or care less about the 'death penalty' or 'sex trafficking' because I get Zero or fewer comments? Are the bloggers and readers more interested if I say something like, 'infantile' or talk about other bloggers?

Max Weber immediately springs to mind with his typology of motivation for action. Technocratic, Affective, Traditional, or Value-orientated. But I am trying to assess motivation for in-action. In-acting is acting according to Heavenly Sword. A contradiction in terms. -p = p. Philosophers follow the 'law of contradictions'. This is research not a purely philosophical endeavour.

Can I claim 'less interest' rather than 'absolutely zero interest'? I think I can claim that there is 'less interest' in the problem of sex trafficking within Singaporean blog readers than there is in the Singlish versus English debate. If I move away from the two extremes I can form a group of continuums upon which the number of responses can be placed. Is it possible to construct a three dimensional representation of responses. Where do the responses cluster?

The more interesting bit starts when I try to ascertain whether it is as a result of Technocratic, Affective, Traditional, or Value-orientated motivations or in what combination. A four dimensional representation could be built. That would mean grouping posted articles according to four motivations and then counting the number of responses.

Assigning the articles to the motivations could be construed as extremely subjective. I want to gain insight into commentators subjectivity not impose mine on the results. Get the commentators to assign articles to topic headings related to the motivations. Low chance of that actually happening.

And I will of course be expecting ZERO comments. Or was that last sentence a pathetic attempt at reverse psychology. Go on you know you want to go to the comment section and annoymously type 'pathetic', go on it would be so funny.


Mr Wang Says So said...

I think that if the objective is to get more comments, then there are certain ways to write, and certain ways not to write.

One of the ways not to write is to refer to Max Weber's typology of motivation for action. Because people who don't know what that typology is about will not feel like commenting.

Anonymous said...

no contradiction here.

the statements:

"i make a comment"


"i make a comment by not saying anything"

are evaluatively different.

soci said...

I would imagine that an extremely small percentage of readers comment on anyones blog. Say MrB gets 8000 readers a day he would be lucky to get 50 comments. Thats why to get a lot of comments you might need to spend a few years researching.

As for using 'typology' I know that a number of my ex-students read this blog and they should know what it means. Its a fancy way of saying 'type of'.

So to get comments do you think we need to talk to the reader as if they have a low vocabulary?

Surely all these researchers who like to send us questionnaires are actually reading the blogs they approach to fill in their questions. I mean the email always starts with, 'I am very interested in your blog, blah, blah... so all those researchers out there should also know what 'typology' means.

There are various styles of blogging, in fact an Sg blogger recently experimented in different styles. Knowledge of these different styles would only come to someone who has been reading or blogging for a long period of time.

Getting comments also seems to simply take time.

soci said...

so does that mean I can state that lack of interest in a 'post' on topic 'x' indicates a lack of interest in 'x'? Seems like an assumption to me.

Anonymous said...

Aye, i'm one of those who read but do not comment usually...

It's just a matter of preference i guess but well you shouldn't take the lack of comments to mean that what you post isn't important or irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

"so does that mean I can state that lack of interest in a 'post' on topic 'x' indicates a lack of interest in 'x'? Seems like an assumption to me."

that's a substantively different question.

no comments on post wrt topic x would indicate either no interest or subtantive but silent interest. i.e. everything or nothing.

in which case it is best to ignore comments (or lack thereof).

soci said...

in terms of data i think the comments are useful from another methodological approach rather than a numbers approach.

so number of responses to a particular article, irrelevant. Forget the numbers and focus on the responses made. Focus on the language used.

Sounds like I am moving towards the idea of discourse analysis, or an analysis like latent semantic analysis.

Anonymous said...

no comments

because your blog is nothing more then a cut and paste farce.

oh and it's also boring as hell.

Anonymous said...

Hello James Seng.

Anonymous said...

because it is no use. nobody will listen. nothing will change.

soci said...

But people are listening and things can change, look at the NKF saga. I think the resignations were as a result of action taken by Singaporeans online.

so it is of use, people do listen and things do change.

Anonymous said...

latent semantic analysis. now that WOULD be interesting.

first stop: commentators above.

Anonymous said...

Don't bully James Seng, lah. He's such a jerk - he probably has a tough enough time just living with himself.

atreidai said...

Wah, ur england very cheem leh. :P

Anonymous said...

Faulty logic once again.

When other blogs post articles on the very same issues you do, it's possible for the comments to exceed a hundred. But for your blog, nothing.

Does this indicate that Singaporeans have zero interest in the issues affecting Singapore, or that we have no interest in your blog?

Huichieh said...

All very interesting...

1. "No comment is itself a comment".

First of all, this is not "-p therefore p" (huh? is the correct response to that). Rather, the point is about the conversational implicature of silence against the backdrop of an expectation of non-silence. For example, professor is asked about the ability of one of his peers. He says, "no comment" (or better still, "he is an excellent conversationalist"). The person asking should probably not be faulted for drawing the suggestion that the professor doesn't think much of his peer. Not exactly a good inference, but plausible in the right context. So: everything is going to hang on that context of an expectation of non-silence, which may itself be unjustified. (Why should the professor be expected to say anything about his peer to a stranger? Why should a particular blog expect people to leave comments?)

2. "So to get comments do you think we need to talk to the reader as if they have a low vocabulary?"

I doubt that that was Mr. Wang's point. There's vocabulary, and there's vocabulary. If one chooses to write like, oh, say, Derrida, it is only to be expected that readers with taste for that style of writing to come read. (And even those who do might not bother--they are too busy reading Derrida himself.) For all I care, it could well be the loss of those who are "turned off"; but that is perfectly compatible with the observation that as a matter of fact, the more 'sophisticated' the style, the smaller the expected audience. So it's down to whether the blogger wants to maintain what, in his own estimation, is the style appropriate to the depth and profudity of the subject matter at hand (in which case it's odd to complain that fewer are coming), or whether he wants to reach a wider, necessarily less 'sophisticated' audience.

Anonymous said...

with all that is going on.. school, work... it is really hard to particiate actively in politics. it is even tiring to read it and get pissed.

moreover, its not like things would suddenly change for the better.

Singaporeans are groomed this way. We usually grit our teeth and complain "quietly". We accept whatever happens whether we like it or not.

i am a student, by the way. I do read this occasionally and speak to my friends about issues like the death penalty thing. They were pretty shocked.

soci said...


just keep talking. Awareness is a real issue. Most people in Sg thing that slavery is history, and that orchard towers doesn't exist.