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COLUMN: The Missourian's top commenters of 2009

Monday, February 1, 2010 | 5:53 p.m. CST; updated 11:04 p.m. CST, Monday, February 1, 2010
ColumbiaMissourian.com comments from 2009 by the numbers. Click to enlarge.

In 2009, 2,035 users posted 19,092 comments on 2,339 stories at ColumbiaMissourian.com. 

In all, Missourian commenters punched in 5,199,402 characters last year. That means that, had they been a little more organized and a little better versed in obscure bits of the whale anatomy, they could have typed out "Moby Dick" 4.3 times over.

Charles Dudley Jr. was the year's most prolific poster by far, with 1,705 posts. Ray Shapiro came in second with 1,253. 

And, while both men assembled a 2009 body of work longer than "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," Shapiro's total character count well outpaced that of Dudley or any other Missourian commenter. So, what Shapiro lacked in quantity, he made up for in quality. And by "quality" I mean goofy jokes, rants and YouTube links. Which was also, come to think of it, how Twain padded out the second half of Huck Finn.

Rounding out the top three was John Schultz, who deserves an honorable mention for single-handedly doubling the word count of each of the top two contenders by giving them an excuse to write "John Schultz, Chairman of the Boone County Libertarian Party," at the top of a whole grip of posts

Given that lofty position, Schultz should be gratified to know that in 2009 he typed almost three times as many characters as Ayn Rand squeezed into her 1938 sci-fi novella "Anthem." He would likely be even more gratified to discover that the libertarian heroine herself has apparently overcome her 1982 heart failure to become the Missourian's fourth most prolific poster in 2009.

Unfortunately, given that the legendary philosopher and novelist hasn't made any public appearances lately, user "Ayn Rand" has been found in violation of the Missourian's psuedonym prohibition. She'll be allowed back onto the site as soon as she can provide conclusive proof of her unlikely resurrection. Or offer a real name.

In fact, 2009 will be remembered as the year that even the legendary Dudley flew a little too close to the sun, eventually running afoul of house rules for the last time. Fortunately, the bearded sage still blogs on at the Paquin Tower Times, where he's subject to no rules but his own.

Together, the four horsemen of the Missourian comment box have managed to do something in 2009 that very few of the brilliant young reporters who have passed through this newspaper have ever managed: They've given it an identity, a community and a little attitude. And they've done it for free. They're not even getting class credit.

They just care about the news. Or like seeing their names published. Either way, they're local heroes. They provoke discussion, engage other readers and keep this newspaper's online universe going. Also, if we keep them typing long enough, they just may, through sheer chance, recreate the entire works of Herman Melville. Even "Moby Dick."

Andrew Van Dam is a graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism. He's from Idaho.


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Comments

Jim Dog February 2, 2010 | 9:19 a.m.

What happened to Charles Dudley? Haven't seen him post in quite a while, and it appears that his profile is gone.

(Report Comment)
Jason Entermyer February 2, 2010 | 9:49 a.m.

Dud is gone. Got kicked off for as Andrew stated "In fact, 2009 will be remembered as the year that even the legendary Dudley flew a little too close to the sun, eventually running afoul of house rules for the last time."

Good riddance.

(Report Comment)
Clara Allen February 2, 2010 | 10:24 a.m.

Now if the Missourian would be so kind as to to fill the void left open by the afternoon daily's decision to eliminate its forum where participants determined the topic of conversation the "news" would be even further strengthened.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith February 2, 2010 | 12:02 p.m.

Is this to be regarded as some kind of contest? I do agree that those who want to participate should do so under their real names.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 2, 2010 | 1:05 p.m.

Hey Andy:
I'll be your huckleberry.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 2, 2010 | 1:21 p.m.

Ellis, of course "Ayn Rand" or any other banned user could show up with a plausible-sounding "real" name and no one would be the wiser. As I think I've mentioned here or on various forums before, as long as a poster uses a consistent name, I can decide if their comments are worth something (or nothing) over time.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 2, 2010 | 1:35 p.m.

Hey John:
But Mr. Van Dam put it so eloquently:
("And, while both men assembled a 2009 body of work longer than "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," Shapiro's total character count well outpaced that of Dudley or any other Missourian commenter.")
-You should never discount the value of characters....

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 2, 2010 | 3:21 p.m.

I think we're all characters.

(Report Comment)
Rob Weir February 2, 2010 | 4:35 p.m.

I wonder what accounts for the variation over time in comments. Part of it is presumably Mr. Dudley losing his privileges, but I'd be interested in looking into what created that giant spike in March/April.

Rob Weir
Director of Digital Development
The Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 2, 2010 | 5:02 p.m.

@Mr. Weir:
Seems to me, by just looking at the chart, that the bottoming out of the yellow line runs inverse to the purple line.
I also believe that the cream runs to the bottom and that you probably have far more intelligent readers who would rather be spectators then participants. Of course, the less some of us post, the more obvious other names will become. As an experiment, I'm willing to go on hiatus, just to see how the numbers pan out. No need to send me my second place statuette for 2009. I think I'll take up some backyard chicken farming, just to irk my neighbors....

(Report Comment)

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