An informal analysis of our Applesauce commentariat

While trading barbs with one of our regular right-wing commenters the other day, I got to thinking about the many contributors here who have come and gone over the past five years — and about those who have come and stayed.

There have been far more of the former than the latter. Some of them have stuck around for a few weeks or months, or even a year or so, and then moved on for one reason or another. This has been true of a few liberals, but it’s mostly been conservatives. And then, of course, there have been three or four dozen erstwhile regulars who have been banned from this site for certain offenses. Strangely, some of those banished folks still submit comments now and then, no matter that they never get past the moderation stage.

The most curious thing about our commenters is that those who eventually fade away  — or get the gate — are almost invariably of the far-right variety. On the other hand, our long-term regulars include several conservatives who seem able to walk upright.

Another funny thing is that some of the far-rightists who have been banned have predicted in their unpublished responses to the heave-ho that this blog was destined to fade into oblivion, presumably because their own pearls of wisdom would no longer grace our comment threads. But, of course, that hasn’t been the case. It’s been quite the opposite. Last year was our best yet, with a tally of 670,799 page-views — bringing the five-year total to nearly two million.

Nor has the volume of comments declined, despite the departures, voluntary or otherwise, of so many former regulars. The total number of comments published here is in the hundreds of thousands, but I don’t have an exact figure. The problem is that comments from those who were banished have all been deleted for technical reasons and thus are no longer counted on the meter that keeps track of that stuff. And some of those people who got the boot were very prolific. The combined output from just three of them numbered in five figures.

Then, too, there have been thousands of would-be commenters who have never had anything published here, simply because their initial submissions were too vulgar, blatantly racist or thinly-veiled pitches for commercial enterprises. Most of them have tried only once or twice and then given up.

The unanswered question about all of this is the extent to which the modest popularity of this blog is due to the comments and perhaps also my snarky responses to some of them. Absent the kind of research that would cost too much to conduct, we’ll never really know.

I’ve considered experimenting with a month during which the comments function would be disabled, and then checking the page-view numbers to see if there was any fall-off.  But the suits who pay me coin of the realm for this gig probably wouldn’t go along with that. Besides, I likely would miss the sport of sparring with some of the commenters.



  1. In my mind there is no doubt that the comments add significantly to the popularity of the blog. When I am most “active” posting comments I may check the site hourly or more, particularly if I am slow at work or not at work at all.

    If I was only reading your posts and had no ability to respond I would check the site infrequently if at all.

    I was originally drawn to your posts while checking the old hometown newspaper for local news. Now that I have been gone from Rockford for 7 years I doubt I would check it at all. In fact, when I come to the rrstar site now I go straight to Applesauce unless there is pertinent Rock River Valley health care news (REACT crash, RHS/OSF merger, etc).

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