Remark.as - privacy-first, portable comments


#1

I’ve heard from several people that they’d like the option to have comments or otherwise interact with people around their blogs, so I’m planning to build a product called Remark.as just for this. I’d love to get your input!

Overview

Commenting system you can easily embed on your Write.as blog or any other website, similar to Disqus.

Features

(Tentative)

  • Anonymous or pseudonymous commenting
  • Export your comments, as site owner and/or comment author
  • Import comments from other platforms
  • Spam prevention / filter

Questions

  • What would you like to see in a commenting system?
  • What problems / pains have you run into with comments before?
  • What good experiences have you had leaving comments on the web?
  • Would you like comments on your blog? On anonymous posts?

#2

Lol…your going to have a lot of products.

As far as comments, if I used them, I would want to be able to delete and block people…as to control the trolls. But thats the main stuff I would like for.


#3

There was a short-lived social media platform called Imzy that did anonymous comments in an interesting way:

Instead of all anonymous commenters being lumped under one “Anonymous” name, everyone who commented anonymously was given their own randomly generated anonymous name for that post, and that post alone. For example, you would be AnonymousRibbonCowBerry when commenting on one post’s thread. When you moved to a different post, your randomly generated anon name would change.

So even though you were still anonymous, people would know that the messages on one particular post were coming from the same person. They just didn’t know who that person was in the bigger scope of the site, and they couldn’t connect who you were across different posts.

This system also made it possible to ban certain abusive anonymous commenters without banning anons as a whole, which is always a plus.

I’m not sure how well this setup would fit into your general plans for the platform, both technically and philosophy-wise. Among other things, it requires sign-up and some way of keeping track of a user, so that’s already more difficult than simply letting people plug in a name and comment. But it’s a nice middle ground between traceless anonymity (where anyone can post anonymously without any way of tracing them) and non-anonymity. If it is possible, I would be interested in seeing both traceless anonymity and this sort of middle-ground anonymity as options, since I can see both privacy and moderation being concerns for different groups.


#4

Another thought from another platform:

On Dreamwidth, there is an option to create an “Access List.” This Access List is used for all sorts of privacy-based things, such as being a whitelist of who can view certain posts you make. One thing it’s also used for is commenting. You can set it so that only people on your Access List can comment at all, or that all comments by other people have to be manually approved by you before they’re shown while people on your Access List are approved automatically.

I’ve seen the latter used far more than the former, but both have been used by people writing about sensitive topics that attract harassers. Sometimes it’s easier to manually approve everything than lose sleep worrying that people had a field day while you were gone.


#5

Really great feedback – I didn’t know about either of these services (or at least how they worked) before. The name assignment for anonymous users makes a lot of sense, both for having better conversations and doing moderation.

Going off this idea, I’d imagine sort of progressive identities, where you can generate a new one any time (but no more than 1 per post) and switch between them like you can on Write.as. This way you could stay anonymous between posts, or carry a name across certain posts if you want – whether that’s 2 different ones or for all the commenting you do.

The access list is another great idea. The options could be something like:

  • Open comments
  • Comments require permission (you’re able to request)
  • Comments only by invite (you can’t request access)

I do think moderation is going to be important for a lot of people, especially since many are already writing on a privacy-focused writing platform. I’d like to have support for varying levels of anonymity too, but I’m thinking the best route might be to give the site owner that ultimate control, and the service just provides a range of options.


#6

I’m thinking like including ActivityPub/Federation support would be a nice feature, as suggested in this this tweet. I could imagine people commenting on a website and responding to other commenters in mastodon on the same comment box. That’d be cool.


#7

Yep, I’m thinking the same thing. Having replies to federated Write.as blogs appear here would fit with our design philosophy, and enabling anyone to embed an AP-enabled commenting system would be really useful.


#8

Agreed


#9

Threads, anyone?

Like on reddit or HN, for example.


#10

I liked the features you’ve suggested. I’d like the ability of blocking people and removing comments. It’d be good to also have a per-post option to:

  • Disable new comments;
  • Keep new comments hidden until they’re approved.

Are there any news on this product?


#11

It should be able to “carry” comment threads in from wherever they’re happening, like the antithesis of Disqus. If someone, instead of first signing up and choosing route their input through the anointed commenting service, is right now discussing it on Twitter/Fritter/Mastodon/HN/Reddit/etc, then the commenting service should be able to cope with that. Doubly so if the original author is also on those platforms and responding. The idea is that the author should be able to highlight/engage the discussion wherever it’s happening and not lose anything over a reason as dumb as “not posted here”.

For a commenter, the service would enable you to discuss it in the venue that’s convenient and still have a shot at it being part of the canonical discussion. (But no one should be entitled to it. See below.)

For an author, the service would act as an aggregator/dashboard for all the platforms where a supported backend exists. It would reveal where the article is being discussed across the Web—even the parts not built by and inhabited by fediverse activists—and assemble them into a big, unfiltered metathread. The author would be able to sign off on individual subthreads, and they’d get syndicated into the canonical comment section. If the author has an account on those platforms, he or she would be able to link those accounts so that subthreads can automatically be blessed by virtue of the author having participated in it (or liked it).

The lesser (long tail) value proposition of a service like this would be to offer powerful tools for tuning your defaults. Maybe comments in /r/programming are by default killfiled unless the author explicitly intervenes to highlight that subthread, while people you’re following or with whom you share an org on GitHub are able to have their Twitter comments automatically approved.


#12

All I know is comments can too easily take me from the process of writing, so I don’t know what I think about comments in general.


#13

Any updates on this?


#14

No actual progress on this yet, besides gathering ideas.

What would speed up development is if we see more demand for this, or if people were willing to pay for it, or contribute to a small crowdfunding campaign to get it launched.

Would you say this a much-needed feature for you?