Mailvox: ideas for a new comment system

After fixing the template here – you can now link properly to individual comments by using the link on the comment’s datestamp – Matt contemplates going where so many have gone before, and failed:

The CoCo circus and slow disaster, combined with your rejection of the alternatives, followed by all the infelicities of Blogger’s commenting system has long tempted me to try to create a better way.  I’m now professionally situated in a place where trying to design [if not necessarily implement] a better commenting system is on topic.  I understand most of the challenges in designing and maintaining such a system on the back end, but I do not have a good grasp on the needs and failure modes for the front end.

For me, the single most important thing is to avoid any registration requirement on the part of the commenters.  This is where most of the comment systems fall down. They place all their emphasis on allowing logins through Facebook, Twitter, and 10 other systems, clutter up their interfaces with micrologos, and make no effort to let people comment as they obviously prefer to comment. Back when I had the system distinguish between logged-in commenter and not logged-in commenter via color, it was obvious that between 10 and 15 percent of the commenters were logged into something.  So, most comment systems are designed to cater to the vast minority of commenters.  This is a fundamental design mistake, as it is there to serve the needs of the comment system, not those who are intended to use it.

Anyhow, here is my list of the features of an optimal comment system:

  1. No registration necessary.  Custom registration only, no use of all the other systems.
  2. Option to block or auto-spam blank, Anonymous, and blacklisted names. Note that hese are two different things, as in some circumstances it may be better to accept and auto-spam than simply block.
  3. Ability to search comments by name, URL, or IP address.
  4. Good spam-trapping.  Blogger is actually pretty good in this regard, although vastly better on VP than on AG for some reason.
  5. Checkboxes, mass select and mass delete options for managing comments.  What Blogger really misses is the ability to view by Name, which would make managing them much easier.
  6. Editable comments. They should always be editable by the blog host, with editing capabilities made available to registered commenters at the blog host’s option.
  7. Good, easy quoting system.
  8. Recognize HTML tags and buttons to provide the basics: B, I, U, strike, Link, and blockquote.  No need for spellchecks and so forth; no one ever uses them.
  9. Session recognition of commenter’s Name/URL.  Even if you don’t want to register, it is tedious to repeatedly type those in.

There are other things, to be sure, but that would be a desirable base.  I actually like the Blogger comment system as a base, but it’s lacking in a few important particulars, such as the inability to separate the permission of unregistered comments from permitting Anonymous comments.  If anyone else has any ideas, feel free to share them here.

And while we’re discussing your thoughts on the matter, I’m curious to know what sort of subjects people are finding to be of the most interest today.  I’ve been writing more about the business of fiction than I normally do, mostly because the world of publishing is changing so rapidly and I’ve been cranking out a considerable quantity of it lately, but there has also been an awful lot of excitement on the economic and current events front as well, so I don’t have a good feel for what is of particular interest these days.  And then there is the Great Rabbit Hunt and the occasional soccer game. On the other hand, I’ve been writing less about some popular subjects to which I tended to pay inordinate attention in the past, such as history, evolution, and games.

I’m not promising that I’ll pay any attention to what anyone thinks, of course, but I am curious nevertheless.  If you’re so inclined, just list your favorite three subjects for blog discussion, in your personal order of preference.