WordPress for loosely-coupled comments, part 2

A couple of weeks ago I began using WordPress as a loosely-coupled comment engine. This morning I wrote the glue code that fetches the comments collected there and displays them here. It was straightforward because WordPress supplies a general feed that tells me if any item has updated, and a per-item feed that gives me the comments for that item.

I've been proceeding slowly because I wanted to make sure that I liked using the services I'm acquiring from WordPress. They include:

Now that I've satisfied myself that these services meet my needs, I'm stitching them in. But I'm still rather loosely coupled to WordPress. Comments are just written out to JavaScript files included here. Any process can write those files, and can assemble them from any comment engine that provides the necessary integration hooks.

I was hoping to also gain the services of the WYSIWYG editor that's used in the main WordPress writing interface. But I forgot that the comment engine doesn't use that editor. Which, in fact, helps to illustrate the point of this exercise. If another engine with competitive capabilities adds WYSIWYG comment writing, I'm in a position to switch to it.

Meanwhile, Tim Bray has been refining his new comment engine which, like his blog-publishing system, is a from-scratch effort. There are no value judgements to be made as between his energetic approach and my lazy one. Tim wanted comments, and used the opportunity to teach himself Ruby. I wanted comments, and used the opportunity to try an integration experiment. We both got the job done and learned useful things along the way.

Like Tim, I've gone years without comments, which raises the question: "Why now?" For him, the example of Jonathan Schwartz showed that the amount of interaction would manageable, and that the quality of it would be high. For me, there's a different reason. Blogging, at first, was highly interactive, yet in a loosely-coupled way that I found really compelling. It has surprised me to see how effectively the search and bookmarking services are able to assemble the virtual conversations formed when people link to other people. I came to believe that, ideally, people should publish their own words in their own online spaces, and syndicate them elsewhere as needed, rather than publish their own words directly into other people's spaces. And for a while, that seemed to work pretty well.

What changed? First, after the initial flush of blogging excitement wore off for many people, the level of cross-blog interactivity dropped off. Second, after the advent of TechMeme, things became less interactive -- or anyway, that's how it felt to me.

I've always valued interactivity, and hoped to achieve it in a syndicated way. But when that method stopped working as well as it had, I started to feel isolated, so I've gone back to a traditional comment system in order to reconnect.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2006/10/10.html#a1541