Hit Me Up in the Comments

It’s been a long time coming. When I moved my website to Nikola last year, I said:

All the comments on the blog will disappear. They’re not lost, and I plan to get them back, but I need to find the best way to do that. For now, comment via Twitter or Micro.blog.

– Me, Last year

Getting them back, and setting up another system for comments, has taken me till now. I’ve had other things on my mind.

That post was in April 2020. In May I wrote about various commenting systems I had experimented with:

But Disqus is known to track its users and show ads, and I don’t want that for anyone who might comment here. … So far I’ve tried:

  • Isso: you have to run a service on your site. I couldn’t get the service to respond.

  • Staticman: I couldn’t get its service to start. A problem with configuring the private key setting.

  • Remarkbox: at the time of writing this is still active, but I’m not sure I’ll keep it. It works like Disqus, in that the comments are hosted on a third-party site, which is not really in keeping with the whole static site/indieweb ethos. It’s not advertising driven like Disqus, but it behaves a bit strangely, at least on here. We’ll see, though.

– Also me, Not quite so long ago

Remarkbox was active for a while. It worked, but it was just too weird in the way it handled users. I also tried Intense Debate, which is made by Automattic, the WordPress people, and is hosted on their servers. It worked, but I could only post comments using Chrome, for some reason. I’m a Safari user, and even if I weren’t, that’s a no-no.

So for a while I didn’t have comments at all. I wonder if anyone noticed.

But recently I tried Isso again, and something clicked this time. It worked more or less without me having to do anything – at least, that is, when I ran it from the command line on my server. When I ran it as a service – that is, automatically, in the background, the way something like that needs to run – it just didn’t work. A bit of Ducking led me to this post, which, despite being partly about Apache, when I use Nginx, gave me the pointers I needed to get it all working.

Isso keeps the comments on my server, rather than being an external service, so it’s much more in keeping with the principle of owning my own content. And I’ve imported the old comments from the WordPress site. I got some error messages when I ran the import, so I don’t know if they all made it over, but at least some of them are here.

I need to work on the styling a bit, I think, but other than that it’s all good to go.


Static Leads to Static

I’m almost beginning to wish I hadn’t switched my site to static generation. Not really, though. I’m very pleased with the way the site is performing, with how it looks, and with how easy it is to change things.

It’s just the non-static parts that I want to get working that are complex. By which I mean comments, of course, and Webmentions.

Comments are obvious. And the “obvious” way to make them work with a static site – and one that has good support built into Nikola, the generator application I’m using – is Disqus. But Disqus is known to track its users and show ads, and I don’t want that for anyone who might comment here.

So I’ve been trying other options. But none of them work as easily as you’d hope. There are always complexities, difficulties, bits you have to glue together or even build yourself.

So far I’ve tried:

  • Isso: you have to run a service on your site. I couldn’t get the service to respond.
  • Staticman: I couldn’t get its service to start. A problem with configuring the private key setting.
  • Remarkbox: at the time of writing this is still active, but I’m not sure I’ll keep it. It works like Disqus, in that the comments are hosted on a third-party site, which is not really in keeping with the whole static site/indieweb ethos. It’s not advertising driven like Disqus, but it behaves a bit strangely, at least on here. We’ll see, though.

Lots of blogs manage without comments, of course, including many of the most successful and long-running ones. But I’ve always had a fondness for them. They were building communities online long before there was a Facebook or a Twitter.

The other way to join the conversation is to send and accept Webmentions. I won’t try to explain those here, but again, there’s a certain amount of infrastructure needed to get them working, and I’m not quite there yet.

Still, it all means I’m learning things, which is good. And my posts and pages are just text files, which is as they should be.


Rational? Twitter, Micro.blog and Social Engagement

I had vaguely seen references to “ratios,” and was aware it was something to do with engagement on Twitter and elsewhere. But I hadn’t understood what exactly people meant by it. Then last night I saw a tweet in which someone said, “I accept I’ve been ratiod.” (Should the verb form rather be “ratioed”? Hard to say. Neither looks quite right.)

A search for understanding led me to this article on Know Your Meme. It tells us:

The Ratio refers to an unofficial Twitter law which states that if the amount of replies to a tweet greatly outnumbers the amount of retweets and likes, then the tweet is bad

and goes into some detail about the origin of the term.

It makes me sad to read that. Imagine an interaction system where, if people reply to something you say, that’s bad. Well, it seems we don’t have to imagine it: we can see it right here on the “social” web.

I like to get replies on Twitter or elsewhere. A reply means, to me, that someone has read what I’ve written, thought about it, and found it worth responding to. I’m aware that I speak from a position of some privilege, in that I’m not in a group that is likely to experience the mass abuse that many do. But something has broken down in our systems of interaction if getting replies mean what you said “is bad.”

I’m far from the first to have made that observation, of course.

But consider Micro.blog, the still-young social network based on blogs that I’ve written abut before. Micro.blog has replies, but it doesn’t even have the concept of likes or retweets/reblogs. If you read a post and want to say something about it — even just that you like it — you have to reply. With words, in human language.

It’s a much friendlier place than Twitter.

This conversation from the last day or two gives a good flavour of the kind of thing you can expect.

If you clicked through that link you’ll have seen that it appears to be — and is — on the blog of the user who made the original post. The responses appear as blog comments. But while every Micro.blog user has a blog, you don’t have to interact with it as a blog if you don’t want to. You can do it all through the Micro.blog app or one of the third-party clients, or just the Micro.blog website, where you can see the same conversation.

Similarly, you can see all my posts here, as well as at their natural home.

It’s well worth a try if you’re looking for a less toxic social-media environment.