The answer to the blog feedback problem is not more weblog-ese

The talk that’s all the rage on everyone else’s weblog tonight is reader feedback. Dave Winer’s tired of keeping track of where he’s been and checking back for replies.
He doesn’t like the idea of comments as RSS feeds. It clogs up his aggregators, he says. To which I say there are days when I visit a blog and the most interesting stuff there is the reader comments. That’s the case here at least twice a month. If b2 doesn’t offer a comments RSS feed soon, I just might have to code one myself.

Winer proposed an alternate solution that made my head hurt. Way too complicated. The beauty of the comments system is its simplicity. Readers see something, they type in their name and a comment, hit a button, and it’s done. Who wants another username and password to remember? Who’s going to tell everyone they need one? There’s already way too much weblog-ese running around. Pingbacks, trackbacks, RSS, Googlejuice. Even the word “weblog” itself. Why are we always trying to make things more complicated? I’m convinced that 20% of my readers, in spite of my best efforts, think I have one page–some post I made ages ago about some hot topic, like Sotec laptops or eMachines upgrades. They read the accumulated replies, write their own, and think it’s a user forum. Many thank me for providing a place for them to ask questions or vent. Some of them venture out into my Weblog at large. Many never do.

I’m sure more weblog-ese is going to help these people tremendously.

The b2 gang has a solution to Winer’s problem as well. They’re developing a model, utilizing mature and existing Internet standards, that lets you subscribe to a post. Tick the box when you comment, then if somebody replies, you get the reply via–hold your breath–e-mail. I think most people assume comments systems work that way anyway. Set up an e-mail address that you use for comments and only for comments, and you’ve got your solution.

I’m sure that’s way too simple though. It always is.

5 thoughts on “The answer to the blog feedback problem is not more weblog-ese

  • January 20, 2003 at 11:36 pm
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    I’ve used that system on one MT site I follow and found it worked very well. …one check box to subscribe and another to unsubscribe.

    …and one version allows you to subscribe without having to post a comment.

    Yep. Do it!

  • January 21, 2003 at 4:29 am
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    comment:
    Bravo! Kudos to you and anyone else who sees the need to SIMPLIFY things in general and the WWW in particular. “K.I.S.S.”

    I’m a rather simple person myself, and I deeply appreciate any efforts to simplify complex processes such that they are usable by ordinary folk.

    Thanks.

    Regards,

    JHR

  • January 21, 2003 at 10:58 am
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    I haven’t read Winer’s full proposal, and I definitely agree with the KISS philosophy. But allowing freeform names and emails and a checkbox that says “email further thread content here” leaves the door open for a blog to become an annoyance mailer. I’m not particularly a fan of username/password requirements for public things like comments, even with the prudent use of cookies making it a login-once proposition. At a minimum, though, I’d want something in the email that would allow the recipient to tell the blogging software “hey, I didn’t really sign up for this! Probably Bubba playing a joke. Leave me alone.”

    Minor detail and generally not a problem, I know, but with power comes responsibility…

  • January 21, 2003 at 11:49 am
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    Most of the web-based message forum software provides this reply notification email function, and I have found it to be very useful. I agree with you Dave, that it would be a good solution.

  • January 22, 2003 at 1:26 am
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    Most of the message board software I’ve seen also allows anonymous posting. A person can put in a handle if they want, but they don’t have to. Still, it is your site, and I find the weblog does work. I rely on the links I’ve been to being a different color than the ones I have’t been to.

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