Brief Ramblings on Commenting Systems

Amongst the many convoluted ideas I have that involve technology, I decided to keep the principle of "less friction" in mind for this blog up. While I spend many hours knee deep in data sets, analytics, and sometimes develop strategies to capture user activity during the day, I left all that stuff at the door on this project.

Of all the regular "maintenance" that I do to keep my web services up and running, I wanted to avoid that mess as much as possible when creating and using this blog. Not that I don't enjoy maintaining web services, but rather I wanted a place to write where I would rarely have to think about maintenance. Murphy's law never seems to fail us, so I expect there will be some tinkering with SSL certifications, or upgrading outdated software packages. But rather than constantly reconfiguring this thing until I've broken it so badly that it consumed a whole weekend to fix (as I'm sure my wife would very politely point out), I intend to keep the amount of work required to maintian this blog to a minimum.

I started looking at a commenting system for this blog while keeping the principle of "less friction" in mind. What I found was a plethora of options available to me. From commenting services with attractive free plans, to embeddable comment widgets from your favorite social media sites. From well known services within the blogging community, to services originating from countries known for questionable activity on the internet. The prevelant theme that I noticed was, each and every one of these services (that I have evaluated on this search) tracks the visitors of your website. Most of the time this tracking data is not shared with the site owner who implements the comment system.

User tracking is pretty pervasive these days, and it's written about quite often, so I'll keep this bit short. It has become a beast of many heads, in a sense. The ways users are tracked can something as obtrusive as some line of JavaScript or PHP (commonly used programming languages) contained in a webpage which are easily identified and blocked by tools designed to do just this, to covertly scraping connection information from the log files stored in a file tucked away beyond the reach of your web browser. In the case of the ladder, the previously mentioned tools have no effect on this method of tracking.

As someone who is fascinated with web technologies, and has an affinity for data, I am very tempted to deploy some of these tools on my blog. With a bit of effort, any variety of user tracking tool could have been deployed on the web server hosting this blog, and I would have clear insight into where an individual connected, where they came from, and even where they went when they were done reading my blog. From there, I could begin building a data model to help me understand the relationship between the type of content I'm posting, and the response from my visitors. Of course, then I would have the information needed to completely change the way I use this blog in ways that would drive my number of visitors and return visitors way up!

But, as devilishly fascinating as that sounds (at least it does to me), I created this blog for my own personal interests in mind. As a place to share some thoughts with the world, as well as write my personal thoughts that I might want public. Tracking my visitors, their reactions and responses, and their conversion rate (as it's dubbed in the user analytics world) would completely disregard the intent behind this blog.

If you're curious about the comments thing, I'm still considering my options. My first post mentioned that visitors could log in using their preferred login provider (facebook, google, etc), but I'm second thinking this decision as the same implications apply as with commenting systems. There are other options available which do not track user activity, which I'm exploring. At this point it's a matter of weighing my options, and deciding if the work involved for a particular option falls within prinicple of "less friction". Either way I'll surely make a post about my choice and why I chose it. I may even get into the technical details if I'm feeling frisky.

This was more of a mind dump than a blog post, but none-the-less, Thanks for reading!

Show Comments