Some comments on comments

I mentioned in my first post that I was planning to add comments to this blog at some point. The official line from the developers is that there are no plans to implement any kind of native comments feature and users are encouraged to use Disqus, or I suppose some other commenting plugin like IntenseDebate or Muut.

Now, these are all very nice commenting services, with all the amenities you could want – Facebook/Google/Twitter login, comment reply threads, up/down voting, formatting support, and even image posting in some cases. If it was a feature-rich Web 2.0 commenting experience I was going for, I would install one of them in a heartbeat.

But that’s just not what I want, not what I think comments on a blog should be. I hate the way comment threads fragment the conversation, the way up and down votes turn things into a popularity contest, and the whole idea of tying your identity via a Facebook/Google account onto a throwaway remark on some guy’s blog. I don’t need or want a mini-reddit hanging off the bottom of every post in my minimalistic diary tech blog.

And sure, you can disable a bunch of those features in the customisation options for at least some commenting plugins, but you still have to sit and watch that spinning Disqus disc before your comments present themselves, like they’re being beamed down from outer space. It’s ugly and incongruous.

Isso is the closest comment system I found to what I want, but it still has a number of features I’d want to disable and looks a bit messy to set up. Still, it doesn’t seem to deal with accounts, which is a plus.

I see any form of account-based commenting as bloat at best and a serious barrier to entry at worst. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the substance of the comment that matters, and people should be able to contribute to discussions without having to compromise their privacy or waste their time. And there’s absolutely no need for anyone’s comments on Random Blog #354 to link back to their Facebook profile.

What I would really like is a plugin that works exactly like the classic Wordpress comments – there’s a field for your name, for your email, for your website and your comment, and then there’s a submit button and the blog owner can moderate. I’d even throw out the email field because honestly I put a fake email address there half the time anyway.1

Replies would be handled by @poster backlinks rather than threads, because they’re easier to read and much, much easier to catch up on than labyrinthine reddit reply trees, and lead to fewer and better comments because you can have multiple replies per comment, allowing you to relate different points to each other and actually have a cohesive conversation. Comment trees may look impressive and orderly, but they really just insulate everything from everything else, and that’s not how you have a discussion.

The two real problems with this sort of a system I can see would be spam and impersonation, which is of course why all this registering and logging in stuff is so much in vogue. To counter these problems without compromising user-friendliness and anonymity I thought of using CAPTCHAs and tripcodes, and that was when I finally admitted to myself that I wanted an imageless imageboard as a commenting system.

Man, that would be awesome. But it’s probably something I’m going to have build myself. Plugin support is apparently starting in earnest with the next major release of Ghost, so I’ll probably look into the logistics of creating a commenting system like I’d want around then. It would probably be fun project.

In short: there’s gonna be a bit of a wait for a comment system because I need things to be perfect. In the meantime, I encourage secret vandalism.

  1. Giving your email address would allow for reply notifications and Gravatar support, though, which is nice. This site could use more pictures. ↩︎

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