Jason Santa Maria recently posted an interesting article about blog comments that I found intriguing and really had me thinking. In his article Jason explains a very common occurrence in which a blog article has received so many comments that new responses get lost in the clutter. The time necessary to read through such a large number of comments and then respond is so great that most people would rather not, or they might respond without reading. Jason has a devised a hypothetical solution, however I can’t help but draw a different solution.
SUGGESTIONS FROM JASON’S ARTICLE/READERS
Jason believes that periodic summary comments, which he is calling “milemarkers,” could keep visitors informed. These would work when comments get long and without having to sift through the whole discussion. While I do agree this would do a lot of good and help a large amount of blogs, I can’t help but think on the larger scale this will still be ineffective. The worlds top blogs receive hundreds of comments to an article within hours of posting. Keeping up with this amount of comments across multiple entries would take at least a full time person to manage. In Jason’s original article, reader Steve Killen suggested user submitted milemarkers which is an interesting idea, however only if your blog has a very engaged and helpful audience.
MAYBE COMMENTS ARE NO LONGER EFFECTIVE?
After reading Jason’s article what immediately came to my mind is the possibility that maybe the comment system is broken and can’t be made to scale to larger blogs? Following such large amounts of rapidly changing content might not be possible. There are a number of potential solutions to this problem, including threaded comments, comment RSS feeds, and email notifications. However none of these solutions, including milemarkers, are ideal.
Instead maybe what we really need is a shift in the way of thinking about comments? Maybe there is a new technology that should be developed that would replace comments all together?
MAYBE TRACKBACKS ARE AN OPTION?
I have been thinking about it for some time now and the only potential solution I can come up with is removing comments and instead encouraging trackbacks. This is less of a solution and more of a work-around; however it does accomplish two things. First, comments that are left without proper thought and consideration will be drastically reduced, and two it will create conversations where the author is forced to recap the original source. Yes it will exclude those without a blog, which is exactly why it is not ideal.
This is my temporary solution, however I am not satisfied. I will continue to brainstorm potential solutions but it is going to take something truly innovate to solve this problem. I would love to hear what you the readers think, even if it may be ironic considering the context of this article…