Conversations on news sites show how information and ideas spread
There’s a science behind the comments on websites.
It’s actually quite predictable how much chatter a post on Slashdot or Wikipedia will attract, according to a new study of several websites with large user bases. And the thread of an online conversation — whether it sticks to the original topic or users comment on each other’s comments — can be modeled as a tree with discussions veering off on branches, researchers report online November 2 at arXiv.org.
The findings give hope to social scientists trying to understand broader phenomena, like how rumors about a candidate spread during a campaign or how information about street protests flows out of a country with state-controlled media.
“The fact we have good fits allows us to think people react to news in a universal way,” said study coauthor Vincenç Gómez of Radboud University in the Netherlands.
It’s tough to trac