How to Initiate a Discussion Thread?: Exploring Factors Influencing Engagement Level of Online Deliberation


Online platforms provide a public sphere for discussion, debate, and deliberation among citizens. The engagement of online deliberation enables participants to exchange viewpoints and form communities. This paper aims to explore the influencing factors on engagement level of online deliberation by examining the relationship between an initial post’s content features and length and the engagement of the discussion thread it initiates. We sampled 254 discussion threads with 254 initial posts and 2934 following posts and conducted quantitative and qualitative analysis of the posts. Findings show that initial posts which are longer and allocentric (as opposed to egocentric) would evoke longer following posts in a discussion. Different content type (social interaction, claim, argument) of initial posts would lead to significant different engagement, arguments would trigger higher level engagement (average posts per participant and average length of posts in discussions). Whether an initial post holds a clear position has no significant impact on discussion engagement. These findings contribute to a deeper understanding of online deliberation and its engagement and can be useful in promoting engagements in online deliberation.