Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress and CEO of Automattic, recently sat down with Tim Ferriss to talk about a bunch of different things. One of those things: blogging.
It might not come as a surprise, but Matt described blogging as one of the most rewarding things he did last year. Not only because blogging, or writing in general, forces you to clarify your thinking, or because publishing is such a vulnerable, scary, and thus brave act, but in particular because of what happens afterwards and how much you learn from it. All the comments, the interactions, the follow-ups that make blogging so beautiful.
That was when Tim shared something he had noticed: that the discussions that used to happen in comments, have, for the most part, moved over to social media. Which is definitely something I noticed, too. So many blogs – even some big names – either have empty or neglected comment sections these days, or even none at all.
Comments are tricky. You probably need to manage them to prevent annoying or nasty comments, spam, or SEO backlink posts. As Matt points out, by being very clear about what you allow in your comment section, you also set an example. You set the tone and the standard which people will follow. But even if you manage to do all that, how do you get people to comment on your site in the first place? Because when you in fact do get them, comments can be an invaluable and vital feedback mechanism.
So, the question becomes:
How could one create the best comment section on the internet?
The two briefly touch on that but mostly from the moderation perspective. Yet I feel like there is much more to it. The best comment section on the internet could, for example:
- encourage people to reply – already through its design
- make it incredibly easy and convenient to comment and edit comments
- feel very chat-like
- allow people to give feedback on comments (like, upvote, dislike, report etc.)
- make discussions and threads visible and easily consumable
- allow people to comment with their social media accounts
- let people immediately share their comments on social media as well
- include comments from social media platforms or from other websites via Webmentions and ActivityPub in a really smart way
Especially the last point seems worth exploring. Because if we not only want to bring back blogging but also create a thriving ecosystem of interconnected sites, combining comments on your sites with comments coming from other sources could be vital. Webmentions, for instance, currently still come in completely different flavors and most often, the snippet that gets displayed does not feel like a comment at all. Taken out of context like that, it is often not very useful if you don’t want to visit the other site as well. What if we could change that and make at least the snippet more useful? Or, what if we combined likes of an article with real comments and so on and created a truly vibrant section – interesting, entertaining, and highly interactive?
Comments used to be at the heart of the interactions that happened around blogs and personal sites. It’s time to bring them – and the people – back to our sites.
What do you think? How should the best comment section on the internet look like? Does your site have comments? And what are the best comment sections you have come across? I'd love to hear your thoughts – ideally in a blog post. Because this site doesn't have comments yet…