More on comments, platforms and the indieweb
Colin Devroe wrote a thorough and thought-provoking response to my most recent musings on replies and comments. I would urge you to check it out.
He makes some very interesting and compelling points while outlining his particular answer to the question about comments.
One such point is that he doesn't like micro.blog becoming a comment platform that every reply has to be sent or received via, otherwise it's akin to a silo and you might as well just use Twitter.
It's an interesting angle.
I've likened it to a comment platform myself but one that's not like a social silo but a feed reader with an inbuilt two-way communication system.
If all you could do was list and reply to posts from blogs hosted with the service then it would, indeed, be considered a silo. Being able to add any RSS or JSON feed to your account, however, opens it up but Colin's objection is still well articulated and I can certainly see his point.
Forcing people to interact via only one avenue is bad for conversation and bad for the web.
I'm personally guilty of limiting my reader's options (although I am reconsidering this) but, if you are using micro.blog as a comment platform it means that your site accepts webmentions which can obviously originate from anywhere able to send them.
It's a shame this isn't more widespread.
But what really got me thinking was Colin's observation:
"I do have a M.b account but I’m beginning to wonder if I need one as I have my own fully functional weblog."
That's both perfect and prophetic.
Ideally, this is the open web's goal: for people not to need something like micro.blog; for connective technologies to be sufficiently simple and widespread that ideas can be posted and conversations had between any site regardless of platform or hosting.
I think something like micro.blog is a stepping stone, a proof of concept, if you will. Because the web is so dominated by platforms and silos we need it (or, rather, a familiar platform-style service) to serve as an effective illustration of how blogs in different locations can be truly connected and interact directly with each other via #indieweb style technologies.
Whether that is the way it will ultimately pan out remains to be seen but, as things stand, it is an elegant solution as long as you're willing to work within its limits.
It's not ideal but, if it gets people interested in blogging again and plants the seeds of a more connected open web, I'm all for it.
I disabled them some time ago, fed up with the overhead of moderation, then outsourced replies to Medium for a while followed by webmentions and micro.blog.
While I have been reasonably happy with this arrangement I have also been wondering if it is enough. I said earlier that I am guilty of forcing readers to interact in certain ways and that is against the objectives of an open web.
Colin Devroe's post was the tipping point (I told you his points were compelling) and I decided it was time to get over myself and look at opening things up again.
When changing my theme last year I had completely removed all comment functionality, recently opting to write a custom comment section to handle webmentions. This was divided into three sections: replies, likes and generic webmentions not recognised as any other type.
This meant that I had to restore the original code for standard comments and combine it with the webmention handling to retain the division between comment types.
So, you can now reply to new posts directly on the page as well as reply to existing comments; the latter, however, is restricted to actual comments rather than likes or generic mentions.
With the Webmention for Comments plugin replies should send a webmention out to the original comment location if it was received from another site. That's as yet unproven so I'll be giving feedback if that doesn't appear to be happening.
I haven't yet decided whether to go back and enable in situ comments on previous posts or whether this should be a hard cutover. Perhaps I will once I'm happy that everything is working how it should.
One step at a time.