Remark.as - privacy-first, portable comments

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Agreed

Threads, anyone?

Like on reddit or HN, for example.

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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?

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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.

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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.

Any updates on this?

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?

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I don’t feel like this should be a priority at all - Comments always seem like a good idea, but end up being… faff, in my experience.

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I completely agree with what @alfie has to say here. Most of the websites I visit have commenting system but very few people use it and most of them flock to Facebook or Twitter or other social media sites to provide feedback. The better thing to do would be to have a link at the end of the blog post connecting to the shared post on any social media site so that people can go there and give feedback. Often times, comment systems are only used by trolls where they force writers into having a biased preference. I don’t think remark.as is needed at all.

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Personally think it would be awesome if something could show comments from the fediverse embedded. So conversation happens in fediverse but can still be displayed.

Kind of like how blogspot did with google+

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I’d love to see actual ActivityPub enabled comments! I would also spend some money on a crowd funding. I’m not sure about a regular payment for a service though.

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I too would love to see ActivityPub comments; I was fairly confused that this wasn’t a thing since I can follow my write.as blog from mastodon.

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@matt Here’s an open source embedded comments system, similar to Disqus (but no ads, no tracking).
Maybe could be useful, for Write.as? (I’m developing it. Maybe we could cooperate somehow, if I slowly slowly implement features you need)

https://www.kajmagnus.blog/new-embedded-comments (scroll down). Some people like it.

https://www.talkyard.io/blog-comments

Among the features you’ve listed above: Guest / anonymous commenting, & spam prevention, implemented. Import & export is on the roadmap.

About the questions, “What would you like to see”: I have been thinking about integrating the blog comments with the fediverse, so that e.g. Mastodon replies or Webmentions, appear as comments, together with the other directly-posted comments, and can be upvoted and replied to. Sounds like what @geekgonecrazy has in mind?

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Tools that promote real conversation. What is that? No idea, but I know that FB and Twitter et al promote disingenuious conversation by the way they trigger addictive behavior my stimulating the amigdula (I think?). So a good way to start/learn is to do something different than they do. Sardonic grin.

I don’t have much to offer on the technical side. My singular rule for any forum I moderate is people need to strive to uphold everyone’s human dignity with their comments, so a simple way to remind them occationally when they post would be helpful. Thanks! I’ve been puzzling how to have interactive capacity that people use, and comments get used more than email, but as someone said in the thread, people are addicted to flockig to FB and Twitter. Sigh. I really do not want to promote that.

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It’s sad that Write.as doesn’t have a commenting system. And it’s even more sad that you people think this isn’t a priority. I love reading comments so much that I’m with Jeff Atwood here: a blog without comments is not a blog. At all.

Don’t take me wrong: Write.as is the best at what it does, and I know that it strives to be a minimalist, distraction free, focus-on-just-writing platform. Actually, it’s the best writing platform out there. And that’s what it is: a writing platform. Not a blogging platform.

I’m really looking forward for the development of Remark.as, but if it’s not a priority, then that’s a deal breaker for me.

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BitChute is trying to build something like that. They tried to fund the project via IndieGogo and got banned:

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