Monday, January 11, 2010

CNN.com jumps the shark by writing a story about a forum containing 129 people

So CNN.com has a stunningly ridiculous story called Audiences experience 'Avatar' blues. Now, I'm not saying being depressed is ridiculous, that's a very serious issue, but the CNN.com story is rubbish.

Here's the critical paragraph:

On the fan forum site "Avatar Forums," a topic thread entitled "Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible," has received more than 1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope. The topic became so popular last month that forum administrator [...] had to create a second thread so people could continue to post their confused feelings about the movie.

So, dig into that forum and you'll find three interesting things:

1. There are actually only 576 messages (not more than 1,000). Hey, what's an error of 40% between friends? I realize that 576 doesn't sound as impressive as 1,000.

2. 129 different people (or at least registered users) have posted to that thread. Hmm. I realize that 129 people in some forum discussing a topic doesn't sound as impressive as 1,000 posts.

3. Of the 129, 60% of the posts have been made by 16 people. In fact, 50% are the work of 10 people. Also 72 of the people (from 129) posted once. I realize that 16 people actively discussing a topic doesn't sound as good as 1,000 posts.

So a small number of people discussing feeling depressed after seeing Avatar is enough for a front-page CNN.com story!?


Now, how many of the 129 people (or the 16 if you prefer) were already feeling depressed before they saw the movie?

UPDATE: I've updated the figures (see comments).

UPDATE: The story made it to CNN on TV. Most interesting part is where the story's author says that she talked to the people in the thread and they were "lonely to begin with" and they are "lonely people". They "don't have a lot going on in their lives right now" and that the movie "didn't create depression".

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6 Comments:

Blogger Linkums said...

Hehe, I've seen that story floating around too. I'm definitely passing on your post.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Oscar said...

I'm having trouble believing there are people depressed because Avatar was "too real" and "too beautiful"! Come on, how hard is it for Fox marketing's social media managers to manufacture these posts to perpetuate interest in a film that is coming to the end of its theatrical run. Its a smart ploy; they're getting free publicity on CNN, with psychotherapists gravely discussing how real and lifelike the effects are and how detailed the world of Pandora is.

10:19 PM  
Blogger Azimuth said...

Good catch! :-)

But there are actually 772 posts in that thread :-P

12:34 AM  
Blogger John Graham-Cumming said...

@Azimuth

Thanks for pointing that out. I've rerun my program and there are: 772 posts by 147 people. 18 users account for 60% of the posts, 12 users account for 50%.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Wow, that's pretty absurd. Now, a better discussion, is what the heck is going to happen to those human scientists left on Pandora?

That's the question!

http://avatarthemovieforum.com/viewtopic.php?id=60

7:36 AM  
Blogger Athena Andreadis said...

The reaction (of CNN as well) is not surprising -- it completely validates Aaron Bady's spoiled little boy critique. As I said indirectly in my article Lab Rat Cinema: Monetizing the Reptile Brain, instead of any kind of social or environmental activism we get tantrums of "Why can't we stay in Never-Disneyland FOREVER, mommy?"

3:33 PM  

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