Detecting Platform Effects in Online Discussions

Today, our article “Detecting Platform Effects in Online Discussions” has been published in Policy & Internet. This is my second article in this journal and consists of an extended version of the working paper we presented in the IPP2016 conference (The Platform Society), which received the best paper award.

The extension included a newer approach to infer from data when an online platform has been changed as well as a novel analysis of how these changes affected the width and depth of online dicussion threads. This work was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness under the María de Maeztu Units of Excellence Programme (MDM-2015-0502).


Width versus depth of the discussion threads. Notes: Scatter plot of width versus depth of the discussion threads (bin size = seven days). Left: Dots are colored in a scale which indicates time. Right: Blue dots are threads presented in a linear conversation view, yellow dots are threads presented with the first version of the hierarchical view, and red dots are threads presented in the second version hierarchical conversation view (increased maximum depth). From January 2011 to January 2015, depth increases while width decreases. Then, the linear conversation view is replaced by the hierarchical one and the depth grows much faster while the width remains stable.


Online discussions are the essence of many social platforms on the Internet. These platforms are receiving increasing interest because of their potential to become deliberative spaces. Many studies have proposed approaches to measure online deliberation and to evaluate which are the best design principles for deliberative online platforms. However, little research has focused on how deliberation in online platforms is affected by the arrival of events like the emergence of new topics or the modification of platform features. In this article we present a methodology to detect events that affect online deliberation in online discussions. Our results on Menéame, the most popular Spanish social news site, show that a change in how discussions are shown to the user, from a linear to a hierarchical conversation view, significantly enhanced deliberation. In particular we observe that this type of interface induced argumentative structures of online discussion.

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