Loosely-coupled comments

Last fall I had a virtual blog-to-blog discussion with Jerry Slezak about the absence of a comment system here on this blog. Like Matt Roth-Cline and Mark Bernstein, I've felt that the loosely-coupled virtual discussion mode encourages thoughtful and respectful discourse and discourages flames. But while virtual discussion as mediated by my array of link sensors (e.g., Google, del.icio.us, Bloglines) can be remarkably effective, there's been less of it lately. I think that's because the activation threshold for blog-to-blog discussion is fairly high, and as the novelty of blogging fades there are fewer folks who have the time and energy to cross that threshold. So I've been thinking about how to enable comments.

Like Tim Bray, I'd prefer to review and approve comments post facto, rather than try to mount a front-line spam defense. I could build such a system for myself, or implement Tim's if he winds up releasing it, but I'd just as soon pay a small fee for a hosted system that does what I need. Problem is, I can't find anyone to pay that fee to. The likeliest candidate appears to be HaloScan, but after trying it I couldn't quite pull the trigger.

Why not? It's a tightly-coupled bundle of stuff: a datastore, an editing system, an administrative interface, and a display mechanism. I'd like a commercial service to provide defaults for all of these, but also enable reconfiguration and component substitution. I should be able to swap out the popup editor, with its minimal tag set, for a dynamically shown or hidden inline element supporting richer tags or whichever wiki-style markup the commenter prefers. Or I should be able to reach into the datastore to perform batch operations and combine its contents with my search results.

If anyone has crafted this kind of loosely-coupled assembly of WS-Light services, combining a solid default experience with well-designed mechanisms for substitution and extension, I'd like to hear about it.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2006/05/24.html#a1454