Comments 2.0

May 2, 2009

Blog and page comments need a makeover.  The current approaches don’t scale well.  Bigger properties are typically overrun by a handful of heavy users talking amongst themselves, and usually not about the topic at hand.

Case in point, my last link:  The post makes an important argument about the meaning of socialism, and contemplates the very controversial idea that America is just as socialist as Europe (albeit in a different way).   But the commenters miss the point entirely, with the same 5 users discussing whether more Europeans want to emigrate to the U.S. or viceversa, or whether massive inflation is coming, or the usual ‘Wall Street is stealing our money’ meme.

Even sites with scoring don’t fare much better.  Just check out any article at Politico or Marketwatch.

The problem is that 90% of the noise comes from a handful of users, but reviews (when available) are done on individual posts.  Reviewing users would work much better.

If I could block a user with one click I would only need 10 clicks to cut out most of the noise for ALL posts of a blog (even older ones).

Better yet, allow two levels: A tentative block, which highlights that user’s comments prominently, and a full block for when I’m sure they are consistently not adding value.

Block information from all users can be aggregated so blog can filter out 5 (or 50 or 500) most blocked users by default for casual visitors or non-logged in users.

Lastly, show all comments when post is marked as ‘open thread’, in which case a more free-form conversation is actually desired.

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3 Responses to “Comments 2.0”


  1. From http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2007/07/20.html

    “The important thing to notice here is that Dave does not see blog comments as productive to the free exchange of ideas. They are a part of the problem, not the solution.”

    A very compelling alternative is essentially a Google-like search for all other blog entries referencing this one. Anyone who has something interesting to say can easily start their own blog. The barrier to entry is close to zero.

    Then you may ask, why do I not do this right now? Why am I adding this as a blog comment? The answer is that I’m lazy. I don’t think I’m stating anything valuable enough to publish myself. I don’t care enough to write a coherent, well thought out reply.


  2. BTW: An alternative to waiting for the Google bot to come around is for the blog software to keep an eye the referring URL for each incoming request, and that way keep an up-to-date list of incoming links. A slightly more sophisticated version of this is trackbacks.

  3. maristi Says:

    I do hate leaving my ideas dispersed all over the web. A personal blog is a nice place to consolidate reactions to others’, in addition to one’s own.

    On the other hand I like being able to read through the comments on others’ blog posts (even with all the noise there are usually some gems to be found). I can’t accomplish this in under a minute if I have to go hunting for them all over the place.

    Trackbacks could be the answer, but here again I think the implementation is sorely lacking. They are generally useless because they pick a couple of lines out of the commenting post, usually the setup (i.e. “…So and so says something in her blog, but I think….”) and cut out the meaty part.

    Perhaps there should be a markup element similar to blockquote so replying blogger can specify where response begins and ends.


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