The NPR.org audience has grown dramatically in recent years, to between 25 and 35 million unique visitors each month. But far less than 1% of that audience is commenting, and the number of regular comment participants is even smaller. Only 2,600 people have posted at least one comment in each of the last three months –– 0.003% of the 79.8 million NPR.org users who visited the site during that period.

Beyond Comments: Finding Better Ways To Connect With You : NPR Extra : NPR. I think all of us have wondered, after looking at the comments on virtually any page, how many sociopaths walk among us. I know I’ve seen some horrible, horrible things over the years, and it affects my overall attitude toeards humanity. In light of those experiences, this data is somewhat encouraging — at least in one sense: it suggests (doesn’t prove, but suggests) that the truly hateful are a pretty small percentage of the population. If only 0.003% of NPR.org users are commenting, and if only some of those are vile, then maybe complete social collapse is a little further away than I have sometimes feared.

But such a number also suggests how effectively some of the nastier people in our society have employed comment threads — and Twitter — as their megaphones. So if we’re going to avert an outright tragedy of the online commons, we’ll need to find ways to reduce the influence of those people to a level commensurate with their actual representation in the population. NPR’s closure of comments is a step in the right direction.