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A Little Comments Check-In

Hey there everyone. As I quickly touched on over the weekend, I launched a few new tweaks/features for the comments here on

1. Ability to edit comments. After you post a new comment, you’ve got 10 minutes to edit it β€” to fix any typos, formatting slip-ups, or quick extra thoughts. After 10 minutes, the comment is locked. Edited comments are denoted by some text (“Edited”) next to the timestamp of the comment and you can click on it to see the comment’s original text.

2. A (hopefully) less confusing posting interface. I still haven’t totally dialed this in, but the inline reply box wasn’t working, particularly when you tried replying to the last comment in a thread and then you had Dueling Comment Textareas but only one was the One True Textarea β€” chaos. Now everything (posting, replying, editing) is in a popup modal. We’ll see how that works.

3. There’s been a list of recently active comment threads on the front of the site for a couple of months now. One of the biggest feature requests I’ve gotten is a way for people to follow threads that they’ve participated in, to see if others have replied to them, etc. There are lots of potential ways to tackle this problem, but for right now, I’ve added a tab to the front page comment widget that lists threads that you’ve commented in that have new comments. It’s not perfect, but neither is turning the whole site into Reddit or a social media site. Navigating that middle path is going to be tricky β€” I don’t want to end up in a place where several things about the site half-work β€” but hey it’s fun to be out here experimenting.

Given this refresh, this seems like a good moment to check in on how comments are going overall. Here’s what I wrote when they launched back in October:

“Always good, often great, and occasionally sublime” describes a lot of the feedback I get via email and social media β€” readers are a super-interesting bunch and very often share things that are more interesting than whatever thing I posted that prompted them to write in. Reader comments become more valuable to everyone who reads the site when they’re relocated from my inbox and from disparate threads on various social sites to the site itself. Some days, my inbox is the best thing on the internet and I want to bring that vibe to the site.

The timing feels right. Twitter has imploded and social sites/services like Threads, Bluesky, and Mastodon are jockeying to replace it (for various definitions of “replace”). People are re-thinking what they want out of social media on the internet and I believe there’s an opportunity for sites like to provide a different and perhaps even better experience for sharing and discussing information. Shit, maybe I’m wrong but it’s definitely worth a try.

I have been very happy with how the comments have gone over the past 6 months. Borrowing Michael Pollan’s formulation, I feel like we’ve largely stuck to the unstated maxim of “Post comments. Not too much. Mostly interesting.” Every day on the site, there’s are 2-3 active threads going and I learn something new from or am moved (to feel, to action) by a comment or a discussion, but it’s not so much that you can’t keep up with it all. There are a lot of posts without comments and that’s great too. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to participate and adding to the vibe here.

Moderation has been extremely easy β€” having commenting open only to active members has resulted in aligned incentives for everyone and we’ve all committed to the bit, i.e. tried to follow the guidelines to help create something meaningful together.

How about some stats? Around 850 unique commenters have left more than 4300 comments on ~650 posts (mean: 6.5 comments/post, median: 3 comments/post). The most popular post is Who Are the People in the Neighborhood? (350 comments) and more than two dozen threads have 30 comments or more. Only 4 comments have started with the word “actually”. πŸ™ƒ

Comments are open on almost every post now, and that’s been going well. The very few comments I’ve had to hide have either been off-topic, out of place in a community setting, or of the “fighting about opinions” variety. Nothing that I can recall has been mean-spirited or in bad faith. All of the hidden comments would not be out of place on social media at all, but we’re trying something slightly different here.

The last time we checked in on the comments, I shared a few threads that I thought were particularly good for whatever reason and I’d like to do that again here:

  • The job board comments thread is an obvious place to start β€” in the months since I’ve heard of a couple of people who found work bc of it. I’ll try doing this again in a few weeks.
  • Why Weather Forecasts Have Gotten So Good. Not a huge thread but almost every comment is substantive. And Jeffrey Shrader, whose paper was cited in the link I posted, made a comment and took the time to answer questions from other readers. The thread made the whole post so much better.
  • Knitting Anything? A perfect Friday post about something that a lot of people are into. This was one of the most active threads and the most enthusiastic. I don’t knit and am not super interested in it, but I checked back on this one through the weekend because everyone was so excited to share and learn. And now I want to learn how to knit a little?
  • I asked Edith about her favorite threads and she replied with two: this short thread about an interview with Marilynne Robinson (she keeps thinking back on the comments here) and the recommendations in this thread for Middlemarch (“changed my life!”)
  • Where Do You Call Home? Maybe my favorite thread on the site…just so many people sharing personal stories and thoughts about what and where they think of as home and why.
  • I loved Aaron’s question and the resulting thread: What Did You Learn How To Do This Year? Again, lots of sharing and camaraderie around interests.
  • And finally, a short thread about something goofy with folks in the comments sharing related goofy things. One commenter even came back more than a month later to follow up on a recommendation made by another reader (“Recommend! And thanks Elsa!”)

What threads and/or comments have you particularly liked? Maybe I’ll collect some of them under a tag of some sort so we can all keep track of them. Also, please let me know if you’ve got feedback or other thoughts about the comments β€” I’ve got a list of future improvements I’d like to do, but would love to hear of any features you’d like to see or pain points you’re having a hard time with.

Discussion  10 comments

Michael Sippey

I just wanted to thank you for all the work you're doing on this; it feels so good to comment here and be part of the community you're building.

Bert Vanderveen

Actually I think that starting a sentence with actually is something non-native English correspondents should be allowed to do. Just my two eurocents (which is actually a coin over here that has not been made for a while because it costs way more than two cents to mint).

Eliot Landrum

I love to see this. I'm a big believer in the possibility of good community online and it's been frustrating to see so many spaces just completely trashed by bad actors, trolls, and no moderation & rules to reign it in. When NextDoor first launched (and it was much more localized), I moderated the community for my neighborhood and I had a simple few rules that are very similar to yours. We had the best discussions! I even hosted monthly meetups at our neighborhood bar for people to come meet in person. All it took was clear expectations and a firm foot. There are some subreddits like this too that I appreciate. But it takes work, like a garden being tended.

All that to say... it's nice to see that it truly is possible, and I'd like to see more of this on the Internet.

CW Moss

I've been loving the comment section too. Thanks for making a great space for us all!

Jo Ma

And like the reply to a reply fx addition
Best add so far: comments now editable

Request: pics and gifs

Reply in this thread

Mary Wallace Edited

I was going to go back to the Knitting Anything? post and ask if anyone would like to meet up at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival the first weekend in May. I haven't seen anything else like that so far. Would that be OK?
(I misremembered the title of the post and just used the Edit function to correct it. Hah!)

Jason KottkeMOD

Oh yeah, of course!

Reply in this thread


The post where Edith asked who you'd like to draw a portrait of you had great comments resulting in many tabs of new-to-me artists. And I loved reading people's Eclipse experiences on various Eclipse-post comments. I have not often commented other places due to something like stage fright but I don't feel that here at all. Good place!

Elsa Gonsiorowski

Jason said my name… he knows I exist😳!!
new level of para-social fandom unlocked πŸ˜†

Pascal Deville

Great comment features! Now i kinda miss to learn more about commenters aka Kottke members. I little bio/about would be nice when clicking on a members name.

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