Veteran blogger Jason Kottke writes:
For the past few months, I’ve been working on a new commenting system for kottke.org and today I’m launching it in beta. … So why comments? And why now? Blog comments have been long since left for dead, a victim of spam, social media, toxicity, and neglect. But there are still plenty of sites out there with thriving communities.
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 kottke.org to provide a different and perhaps even better experience for sharing and discussing information.
I don’t know Jason Kottke personally, and I started subscribing to the email digest of his 25-year-old blog only a few months ago, but I have been intrigued by the parallels with TidBITS. Most notable is his Kottke.org Newsletter, which joins our weekly email issue in supporting those for whom well-managed email remains a high-signal/low-noise communication channel. Like TidBITS, he relies on Arcustech for hosting and Sendy for email delivery.
But what caught my eye this week is that he’s adding (bringing back?) comments to his blog, a move I applaud for its considered reaction to the evils of social media. We’ve hosted comments successfully on TidBITS articles for decades, enabling readers to ask for help, contribute their expertise, and build a vibrant community. Blocking spammers and keeping conversations on track requires some extra work (Discourse does most of it for me), but the result is absolutely worthwhile.
The key is that blog comments, and the communities that coalesce around them, provide topical social spaces where people can comfortably interact within a specified context. For TidBITS, that’s the Apple ecosystem; for the wide-ranging Kottke.org, each post will likely generate its own context. Context is also why we created a family Slack group—it provides a familial context for all discussions (see “Fed Up with Facebook? Move Your Family to Slack,” 12 February 2019).
A lack of context is one of the many ills of scattershot social media. The context switches constantly to whatever the algorithm shoves in your face, and its goal is to get you to click, react, share, or post—anything to feed the fire and capture more eyeballs rather than encouraging constructive conversation. I’ve reacted by opting out of that hellstew and instead spend my time on comment threads, focused forums, private mailing lists, Slack groups, Messages conversations, and, yes, personal email. You can, too.