I’ve thought for a while about alternatives to the comment section on websites.
For centralized platforms it’s easy: a user must log in to that platform to leave a comment. Having a lot of content and higher engagement means it would often be worth the effort to keep an account there.
For blogs, news sites, and such, it gets a little messier. It wouldn’t be worth it to create an account for every single blog you want to comment on. Leaving comments entirely open is risky as well. You would want to have some kind of identity attached to comments. Disqus is the front runner of solutions here. Unfortunatly, and perhaps not surprisingly, they have a history of being rather bad for your privacy.
An epiphany in the garden #
I went off exploring solutions to the comments section that would support identities from elsewhere, but with less centralization. Not top of mind at the time, I came across Maggic Appleton’s essay on Tools for Thought. There’s a lot to take away from her writing (seriously, worth a read). What also caught my eye was the way she brought in “Mentions around the web” instead of a comments section at the end of her essay.
I took a peak into the code and discovered the indie web service and protocol behind it all: Webmentions.
In short, webmentions is a service based on a W3C recommendation by the same name, that lets you send and receive mentions between blogs. So when your blog post gets linked in someone else’s, they can get a reference link.
Enhanced by Bridgy #
Another clever service that makes this even more interesting is Bridgy. Bridgy enhances webmentions by connecting with your social media accounts. So if you, say, post your article on Mastodon, any replies or likes that others make on that post is then forwarded to the webmention service.
A comments section (kinda)! 🎉
Exploration in progress #
I’m still quite early in kicking the tires of the different ways to use webmentions, and exploring other relevant protocols. There are of course quite a few limitations, but these services have me very excited about connecting content engagement in less centralized ways.
I put together a very experiemental version of a mentions section to include in this Hugo site. So if you come across this post, give it a comment! If for no other reason than to experiment with me, and see the mentions section below come to life.