I love that people can comment at Search Engine Land directly within stories. I not only want comments — I want people to contribute links as well. I thought it would be useful to talk more about this, plus get feedback from readers on how we can improve the commenting system going forward.
Currently, we require registration and use TypeKey to handle this. Yes, TypeKey is a hassle. I deeply appreciate those of you who were not already using that system for taking the time to register so you can comment.
I said when we officially launched that we were going to develop a better system. Plans for that are in the works, and I hope to have it live in a month or so, fingers crossed.
Registration won’t go away. I know how great it is to go to a blog and be able to comment quickly without having to register. I know registration cuts into participation. I know that there are systems to automatically catch comment spam. But I also know registration is the absolute best way to keep comment spam under control. I want to spend my time talking with people and ensuring they can contribute, not policing the comment spam.
Since we launched, we’ve had maybe one or two spam posts out of over 600 comments. I’ve also banned only one person out of nearly 300 people registered. Registration works well. It’s not going away. Plus, we have an audience that rocks!
I like to build guidelines up over time, in reaction to problems if they develop, so that things are as free as possible to start. I only have two to begin with:
- Be respectful and polite
- Drop links only if they are relevant
Fortunately, everyone’s been respectful and polite with each other. I will merrily nuke any post if I feel people are behaving in some type of aggressive or immature manner that they’d never do to someone in person. No one’s acted that way so far, which is wonderful. Debate with each other. Disagree with each other. Argue forcefully with each other. Just keep it respectful :)
As for links, so far they’ve all been relevant as far as I can see. In fact, I want you to drop links more. Really! Here are some good examples.
In my interview with Gabe Rivera of Techmeme, Don Dodge came along and mentioned a great interview he’d done with Gabe last year. Excellent. I want people to know that. Thanks for dropping the link, Don — it makes the story better.
In my story about Microsoft’s eye tracking study, I later saw that Gord Hotchkiss had a good follow up post that extended what I’d written about and added other useful observations. As we were emailing each other on something else at the time, I asked him to please come by and link drop. He did. And the story is better for it.
We don’t have trackbacks. Trackback spam is so bad that I’m simply not going to enable it, sorry. But commenting is a form of manual trackback that I encourage you to do. However, remember the relevancy issue.
If you’re simply mentioning a story here but not going that much beyond it, dropping a link probably isn’t that appropriate. Let me come back to Don as an example of doing it right.
Don blogged about my interview. That post didn’t really extend the coverage for my readers that much. Dropping a link to that post wouldn’t be that relevant – though if it were part of something like, "Mentioned your post here, and I love the service to. My favorite thing…," I’d probably be OK with it. But Don naturally did the better drop. He pointed to the content-rich interview he’d done with Gabe last year.
Overall, if you’re considering a link drop, just ask yourself if people heading over to your site are going to learn something new, unique or different on top of what we’ve written. If you honestly believe so, drop away! You’re not going to get banned. If you somehow seriously miss the mark with relevancy, we’ll give you a heads-up.
Links are all flagged as nofollow right now, except for a small number of people I’ve explicitly marked as trusted commenters. In the new system, we’ll likely make it easier to become trusted automatically and have no nofollow links. Hehe, no nofollow!
When adding links, I vastly prefer if you embed them in anchor text. In other words, don’t do something like this:
Instead, enter it into the comments box like this:
And that will make it look nice and neat like this:
Don’t worry if you’ve done it the other way already. I’ve never asked anyone to do embedded links before, nor do I make it easy at the moment. And if you just aren’t comfortable doing the HTML code for an embedded link, just leave a URL. That’s fine. Remember, you can preview your posts to make sure they are OK before actually posting them.
Also, you can use a limited number of other HTML elements to format posts. I think the full list is here. However, use these sparingly. Two reasons for that. First, you can’t currently edit comments. So if you screw up, I or someone else has to make time to fix it. Second, it’s easy to go overboard.
In addition, a general tip. Before I post anyway, I ALWAYS copy and paste what I’ve written and place it into an email message that I save as a draft. If I’m writing something long, I compose outside the comment form, then copy and paste into it. Forms can go wrong, here or anywhere. Save what you’ve written, then it’s safe to delete when you see it show up.
Now for your feedback about comments. Here are things I’ve thought about needing:
- Ability to edit posts within a short period of time
- Ability to easily format posts to indent, add bold, add links using
- Ability to post using AJAX, so that when you enter something, you see it appear as you type, how it will look and can submit without having to load a new page.
What things would you like to see added? Any sites you especially like in how they offer comments?
Finally, yes — a comment feed is coming, for those who want to keep up on what people are saying at Search Engine Land.