May 2020 Thoughts about Personal Web Publishing and Comments

created May 7, 2020

To chronological-order or not?

April 2020 Hacker News thread that pointed to a post created whenever.

"My blog is a digital garden, not a blog"
https://joelhooks.com/digital-garden
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22876273 - 46 comments

Excerpts from the joelhooks.com post:

Recently I revamped my blog to use Gatsby, and in doing so I went with the "traditional" blog style website. A linear newest-first sorted chronologically oriented list of posts. And I think it fuckin sucks.

I agree, at least for me. I don't mind other personal websites, displaying content in a blog-style format, but I don't like that format forced on me by software. That's why the top of my about page states:

This is not a Blog

I manually maintain the homepage for sawv.org. At the moment, I have placed some posts on the homepage in chronological order, but not all of the posts that I create appear on my homepage.

When clicking the "page 1" link at the bottom of the homepage, the top of the next page states:

(The links listed on the following pages are not organized in any particular order.)

That so-called page one used to be my homepage. I manually maintain page one and the pages that follow.

I use a web-based static site generator, which means that I create and update posts through a web browser, obviously with an internet connection. My simple CMS does not use a database. And my code only updates the page that I created or updated. My code does not rebuild every other post. I have thousands, several thousand web posts. If I make a simple typo edit, why should all of those thousands of web pages get rebuilt?

I have to maintain archive pages manually. I don't use tag pages at sawv.org, like I have used with my websites that used my own database-backed CMS apps. Using a database makes some things easier or possible, such as better string searches, boolean searches, tag searches, archive pages, and related article listings on the page being read.

I suppose that's why many SSG apps rebuild every web page. A rebuild updates pages dedicated to archives, tags, and maybe even related articles.

When my wife and I brewed beer at home, I created this website to house our notes.

http://birdbrainsbrewing.com

A tags page exists at that website.

http://birdbrainsbrewing.com/tags.html

Example page for the Belgian tag.

http://birdbrainsbrewing.com/tag/belgian.html

I maintain all of those pages by hand. Nothing is automatically updated, and that's okay. Surprisingly, I liked the freedom of having to maintain archives and tags pages manually. That website is maintained by the same code that maintains sawv.org.

More from that web post:

For as long as I've been writing words on the internet, I've connected the words that I create in a paginated chronological format. This is the "traditional" blog style website. A linear newest-first sorted chronologically oriented list of posts.

I'm convinced that paginated posted sorted chronologically fuckin' sucks.

What makes a garden is interesting. It's personal. Things are organized and orderly, but with a touch of chaos around the edges.

Just like plants in the garden I've got posts that are in various stages of growth and nurturing. Some might wither and die, and others (like this one you are reading) will flourish and provide a source of continued for the gardener and folks in community that visit.

Chronologically sorted pages of posts aren't how people actually use the internet.

Basically, personal website publishers can do whatever they want with their content, and that's awesome. That's a huge reason for maintaining a personal website. NOBODY can tell me how I should create, display, and organize MY content. It's always for me first. This is one time when it's okay to be selfish.

More from that post:

There are two articles that really got me thinking about this.

The first is from Amy Hoy. How the Blog Broke the Web, which is a direct discussion of this idea of sorting posts by dates and how it effectively ruined the best parts of the internet. We've moved away from hand crafted home pages that required us to curate and present our best content in the best light.

The second article is from Tom Critchlow titled Building a Digital Garden. What I really like about Tom's piece is his discussion of the idea of "non-performative blogging" in your personal space on the web.

Right now I'm very inspired by both of these pieces, and I'm considering how it affects the way I approach my little slice of the web at https://joelhooks.com. It is a blog, sure, but it is also a wiki. It's a spot where I can post ideas, snippets, resources, thoughts, collections, and other bits and pieces that I find interesting and useful. Instead of always being a "performance" level of blogging, it can be a looser more human endeavor that drops the idea of robots sorting the content (in this case simply by date created) and embraces the idea of curation, by me, for you.


Reasons to blog

Or to write on a personal website that is not a blog.

"Why it's great to write blog posts"
https://sanderknape.com/2020/04/why-great-write-blog-posts/
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23067352 - 75 comments


Commenting methods for personal websites

"Ask HN: How to self-host comments on your otherwise static blog?"
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23095273 - 51 comments

I accept the IndieWeb.org's Webmentions here at sawv.org, but Webmentions are displayed on this page.

http://sawv.org/webmentions.html

If I feel like it, then I will add the comment (webmention) to the page being commented to.

But I mainly prefer email as a commenting system for my personal website.

I ran may small, local message board, toledotalk.com, for over 16 years from January 2003 to March 2019. Obviously, that hosted discussions. That site was open to anyone who followed the site's posting guidelines.

But at my personal site here at sawv.org, I'm not interesting in letting others clutter up my web posts with their comments. I can add their comments to my web posts if their emails point to web posts, hosted at their personal websites.

http://sawv.org/2017/04/27/lofi-approach-to-accepting-comments-on-a-personal-website.html

In a nutshell:

Comment from that HN thread:

I thought about just letting people send an e-mail with an ID that associates it to a blog article, but I'm worried that it increases the barrier of entry too much..

Perfect. In this case, the "barrier" is welcomed. Some call it "friction."

In my opinion, barriers and friction increase quality. At toledotalk.com, I added more barriers to entry, which improved the overall quality and civility of the site.

Not every personal website publisher wants to manage and moderate comments.

https://marco.org/2010/06/16/comments

I don’t see my writing as a collaborative effort, and I don’t see my site as a community in which I need to enable internal discussion via comments. A blog post is a one-to-many broadcast.

We already have a widespread many-to-one feedback: email. So that’s the feedback system that I allow on my site. Anyone can email me, and I will read it.

Those who truly want to start a discussion usually have their own blogs, so they can write their commentary to their audience.

I don’t make it difficult to give me feedback. What’s not possible is reaching my audience, on my site, without my permission.

Here's an HN reply to the above HN comment about using email but being concerned about the barrier.

That's what I do. Each of my pages has a comment link, it's just a mailto:. If I think the comment is useful, I'll append it to the comment section with my reply.

And a reply to that reply:

I bet it has a higher abandon rate than a webform. But that may be desirable I guess.

Yes, it is desirable. That's the point of the barriers or friction.

The barriers to entry that I added to Toledo Talk might have dissuaded others from joining the site, but I know that the barriers also annoyed trolls, spammers, and flamers because those troglodytes nearly vanished.

People who truly want to contribute and be a part of a community for the long-term won't mind the barriers in the short-term.

Another HN comment:

I had a blog with comments. But spam made it painful to administer. Almost nothing beats spam except for very sophisticated captchas but then normal people also have trouble writing comments. So I have no comments on my blog now. If you want to "comment" you'll have to email me directly.

Another HN comment:

For my site, I think I might as well not add comments at all, as I haven't found them to be terribly useful. The most useful discussion happens on HN, Twitter/Mastodon and email.

One more email-related comment and probably the best comment in the entire HN thread:

The best balance of usability, Freedom, and civility for me has been relying on people to email me, then sometimes—and with permission—edit their comment into my posts/pages.

Of course, many suggestions for actual commenting systems were mentioned, but none of that discussion interested me, except for this comment:

That open standard exists, it’s called Webmention. You can use a free Webmention server like https://webmention.io and download comments with your API. Comments are just webpages where people respond to your blog.

Webmention works like this: Someone writes a reply on their blog and then sends you a Webmention. You can add it to your site or do whatever with it. It’s decentralized and there’s no vendor lock-in.

The same user posted this comment too:

Use Webmention W3C standard and the free service at https://webmention.io/

Webmention works like this: Someone writes a reply on their blog and then sends you a Webmention. You can add it to your site or do whatever with it. It’s decentralized and there’s no vendor lock-in.

See it in action here: https://aaronparecki.com/2020/05/04/10/

You can even use services like https://brid.gy to back feed Twitter comments into Webmentions.

A reply to that comment:

I just finished setting up brid.gy for my blog a week ago. while I havent handle and display the comments or reactions to the posts, it is satisfying to see the response from my friends on twitter or mastodon about my contents.

reading this thread makes me want to finish the reaction displayer design & script :D

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