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Can $5 Improve Reader Comments?

On the Web site thatsaspicymeatball, you can view the latest comments from MetaFilter (which requires a one-time, $5 membership fee to post a comment) and YouTube (free) side by side.

The site’s creator, Bertrand, uses Yahoo Pipes to retrieve comments from the most recent posts on both sites and displays them on one page, which is updated every hour or so.

Here’s how a poster from each site expresses disagreement:


And here’s where we diverge, as we have from the get-go …


yeah you’re dumb you expect me to shut up because you tell me to? ha yeah sure

And as a comparison, the Huffington Post (no membership fee to comment):

… I forgive your comments, because it is based on ignorance. Here are the facts.

Bertrand’s comparisons leave him wondering what drives the quality of a Web site’s comments: is it the membership fee, the age or demographics of the posters, or the level of comment moderation? (YouTube has virtually none, while MetaFilter has very little.)

Maybe the answer lies in what motivates readers to comment in the first place.

(Hat tip: Paul K.)