Thanks, everyone, for the high-quality discussion and suggestions about comments and dates and updates and so on; if this were an IETF Working Group, I’d be comfy declaring “rough consensus”. I’ve made the obvious changes; herewith a description, along with general remarks on how this whole commenting thing is going.

How’s It Going? · Great! So far, I’m very pleased with the quality and tone. For example, if you cared about my piece Dynamic-Language IDEs or the follow-up Oooh, Cédric, I guarantee that you want to go back and read the comments on each; you’ll learn more about the ins and outs of this (important) subject than you would have from my original posts.

Also appearing in the comments have been pointers to interesting open-source projects, rejoinders from technology insiders, and humor.

That Last Discussion · Craig Andera writes “About the only time comments are interesting in a feed to me is when I've left one and I want to keep tabs on the responses”. Gack. I disagree.

Dare Obasanjo suggests (along with others) using Atom Threading Extensions, so I have. I’ve implanted replies links and thr:in-reply-to wherever it seems to make sense.

Antone Roundy, and others, point out the problems with per-entry comment feeds; namely, that various idiotic clients will poll each and every one regularly from now until the heat-death of the universe and there’s no way to stop them; given the volume at which I post, this would be untenable.

Sam Ruby argues that you shouldn’t mark an entry updated for new comments unless the comments are right there in the entry; and also urges consideration of atom:author and atom:rights. Can’t see anything to disagree with.

Justin Watt asks why I haven’t joined in the discussion in the comments. I’m not going to say that I’ll never do that, but at the moment I’m disinclined; the ongoing fragments are my space, the comments are for the rest of the world, and I’d rather not get in the way.

Paul Hoffman suggests “Feel free to update a posting with ‘There was an interesting comment about ...’ That’s you adding content to your own blog.” That’s the right answer, I think.

Postmodern Sass wonders why I’m adding comments now after three years without them. The primary influence was probably Jonathan Schwartz; I thought it would be just crazy for him to turn on comments but he did anyhow, and it’s worked out pretty well.

Sam Ruby checked back in to, among other things, complain politely about my cowardly insistance on moderation. Cluck cluck cluck. I’ll give it a try, but I need a couple more defense perimeters in place. Also I need tool for efficiently mass-deleting comments in large numbers, because I’m not going to win every round in the fight with the spammers.

Rough Consensus · The vast majority of people are irritated when the arrival of a comment causes their newsreader to flag an item as updated. Also, they want a comment feed of some kind.

What I’m Doing · There’s now a global ongoing comment feed. It’s still a work-in-progress and has at least one escaping (sigh) bug.

The number of comments is still shown on the ongoing front page, and I think that’s OK, but neither atom:updated nor the summary nor the content are touched.

I will, when I think a comment is particularly material and interesting, update the top of the entry to say so, in such a way that it shows up in the feed and summary; exactly in the way I’ve already been doing in response to interesting comments, either via email or on other blogs. If the experience so far is any guide, you can expect this to happen a lot.

To-Do List · The most important to-do is to chase out a few lingering escaping bugs. I’ll keep on tinkering with anti-spam defenses, but I admit to severe nervousness about dropping the moderation; and I have to say, at this point the conversation doesn’t feel broken. Finally, I should improve the comment-authoring setup. I’d really like to avoid writing any code; there are all sorts of cool WYSIWYG-ish comment-writing tools out there, so I’ll try to put one to use here. In the meantime, I encourage people to write comments in the comfort and safety of their own blog, and just drop pointers into my comments.

Oh, and I really must fix whatever is stopping people using IE6 from seeing the “please contribute” message. It’s actually pretty amusing, whenever I say this to people face-to-face, the reaction is usually “yeah, whatever” (as in, they don’t use IE), except when it’s “who cares what IE users think?” I do. I’ll get on it.

The Software Infrastructure · Since I’ve been writing ongoing, the code that I write has been a fruitful generator of blog prose. Not this time; the thing works more or less as outlined here. My take-aways: It’s nice working in Ruby; no frameworks required; no databases required; XMLHttpRequest sure is handy. But I’ve said those things lots already.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Thomas Broyer (Oct 09 2006, at 00:19)

As for the IE problem, when I open Ongoing in IE, it says there's an error at line 177 in 'ongoing.js'.

Thanks to Visual Studio .NET ( :-P ) I can debug the script: the error is in 'gotInFeedList()', 'titleEl[0].firstChild' is null.

That's because IE has an incomplete DOM support.

You should get the fragment's title either from 'document.title' or from the <h1/>.

Also, wrt people commenting on their own blogs, you should add pingback/trackback support too ;-)


From: walter (Oct 09 2006, at 02:17)


Please stop updating your feed everytime someone posts a comment.

If you insist on updating for comments then please at least put the comments *in the feed* - preferably at the top of each item.

For those that want them - Why not offer distinct comment feeds for each post ?


From: Sam Ruby (Oct 09 2006, at 04:33)

Here's how I deal with the "heat death" of the universe issue:


From: James Snell (Oct 09 2006, at 08:35)

Looks good. One minor issue with the in-reply-to in the comments feed. The type attribute specifies the media type for the href. Since you're pointing to a page, make it "application/xhtml+xml" instead of "application/atom+xml".


From: Craig Andera (Oct 09 2006, at 09:16)

Well, I guess that's what I get for commenting hastily - mentioned first and in a negative light. :)

I'll amend my original comment to, "Most of the time comments are onlyy interesting in a feed to me when I've left one and I want to keep tabs on the responses. Occasionally, I care more, and in that case, a per-entry comment feed would be handy. The marginal value over simply visiting the page with the original entry, however, is not very high."

You probably still don't agree. ;)


From: stephen o'grady (Oct 09 2006, at 09:50)

just did quick searches on the previous thread, but didn't see this suggested. any chance of getting date/timestamps applied to the comments themselves? it's a little disconcerting reading comments and not knowing when they were applied.


From: Justin Watt (Oct 09 2006, at 14:06)

Actually I'm "Justin Watt" :)

You may find (in time) the discussion that brews in the comments to be more interesting than the fragment that started it off. In any event, I find that leaving comments on my own blog actually helps keep the conversation going. It basically communicates to the people leaving comments, "I hear you, I'm listening," just like answering email.


From: Kevin H (Oct 09 2006, at 15:16)

I agree with stephen that comment date and times would be very nice to have on the webpage. Somewhat related, I'm seeing very unlikely timestamps in the atom:updated of the comments feed (

3 Additional suggestions I have:

1) You should consider adding some whitespace to the bottom of your webpages. When you linked to the interesting open-source projects( comment, my browser couldn't position the comment at the top of the window as it typically does for fragment identifiers, because there was no room left to scroll. I had to scan all 5 comments looking for the one you were linking to.

2) Even if you drop-in a WYSIWYG authoring box, please consider providing a "preview" button.

3) Please consider accepting, at a bare minimum, the anchor tag within comments. Following the text I want to link with a link in parentheses feels really clunky. Blockquote, emphasis, and bold/strong tags would be nice as well.


From: Norman Walsh (Oct 09 2006, at 16:23)

For what it's worth, comments on NWN are moderated and I don't feel any inclination to turn off moderation. It was a tedious pain to remove the spam when it did occur.

I wonder if some potential commenters are disuaded from doing so by the fact that they don't get instant feedback. Maybe. I suppose I should write an essay of my own and ask :-)

One thing I might do is enable OpenID logins (now that I've got working code that does it) and let "authenticated" users comment without moderation.


P.S. A preview button would be nice.


From: Sam Ruby (Oct 09 2006, at 17:12)

For bloglines users, it would (1) be nice if the overall atom:title for the comments feed was more unique, and (2) if the name of the commenter could only appear once:

Oh, as freedbacking (yes that's the magic word), it would be nice if Bloglines could do something useful with the author uri.


From: Asbjørn Ulsberg (Oct 10 2006, at 03:23)

Three things: 1) Why do you have the comment form on its own page instead of on the same page as the fragment (with its comments)? Commenting now pulls you out of context and if you want to view the fragment or any contributions made to it, you need to have two windows/tabs open to do so. Not optimal, imo.

2) Even though I don't have a feed reader with threading support, I don't think the current threading is that useful. What you seem to be doing is refer to the global comment feed from your global ongoing feed (which seems logical), but in your entries, you refer to fragment identifiers in the HTML version of each entry. That's a bit weird. I understand that creating a comment feed for each fragment may eat up too much bandwidth, but there must be a better solution to this problem.

What I would expect from a threading-supporting feed reader when it finds a threaded feed with comments, is to be able to thread all comments related to an entry as a branch below that entry. With your current setup, that wouldn't be possible even if my feed reader supported threading.

3) Could you add a way to preview entries, plus add a way to use HTML in comments in a constructive way? Having a human readable link text instead of the URI which is being referenced is nice. Please have a look at Sam Ruby's comment form and procedure, which I find to be one of the best on any of the blogs I read and comment to regularly.


From: James Holderness (Oct 10 2006, at 04:47)

From: James Holderness

I agree with Sam's second point. I really dislike duplication of metadata in the content. It's both a waste of space and a misrepresentation of the data. The content element should contains the words I say, not the words you would like me to have said. But because I'm a nice guy, I've kindly added "From: James Holderness" to the top of this comment so you don't have to. ;)


From: Kevin Lipe (Oct 10 2006, at 16:03)

Of course you know, now your comment feed icon has to be green to match the one in the sidebar. What a <i>faux pas</i> ;)


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