Thursday, November 07, 2013

Comments about Comments

You may or may not notice, but I have switched over the comments for this blog to the system that is integrated with Google+. This change has several benefits for me (and possibly you who comment), but at least two drawbacks.

Drawbacks first:

Anonymous comments are no longer possible. While some were insightful and useful, some were attack-oriented and mean. I purposefully left anonymous commenting on from the beginning, hoping that it would allow people to respond honestly. My hope is that some form of anonymous commenting will return, but in the meantime, please feel free to create a throwaway account in the Google ecosystem to make comments that you feel obligated to say to me without me knowing who you are.

Some old comments have disappeared. Comments made in association with a gmail account remain, but some older comments that were either anonymous or linked to a different platform are now lost. Unfortunate, but nothing I can do about it, alas.


The new commenting system allows the comments for the page to expand into the larger internet. Any publicly-shared comment or re-post that is made about a specific entry will be displayable in the comment sheet, even if it isn't done directly on my page. Pretty cool, especially with the following corollary.

The comments can be as private as you want to make them. If you use your G+ account and make the comment public, then everyone who visits the page will see it. This is similar to the way comments worked before. But now you can limit who can see your comment to certain circles of people, or even individuals.

Lets say that I write a very exciting entry about how much I hate left-handed people. Juan is left-handed and doesn't care to comment openly, fearing that the right-handed majority will rip him limb from sinister limb. He won't want to comment publicly. But if he has a circle of left-handed friends who like to debate these issues, he can chose that circle when making a comment. Then only members of that circle will be able to see his comments. Even I will not be aware that comments are happening, because they are visible only to members of this particular circle.

In essence, visible comments are now controlled at a personal level. If you want me to see your comment, you can make it public, or just specify +Andrew Schwartz (then ONLY I will see it). If you don't want me to see it, just include a circle or list of people that doesn't include me. The comments portion of the page will therefore be different to everyone who visits, but I think it's an interesting concept.

As an example, I wrote an entry earlier this year about death (And so I drink the muddling draft and sail until I wake). It was very personal to a friend, and they shared it to a limited circle of friends on G+. But if you, dear reader, visit that page, you will see an eloquent public comment from Josh, but you won't see the circle-limited comment from my other friend (unless you are also in the circle they shared to).

Just to be perfectly clear, any public comments will be tied to your G+ identity, including your real full name. For some, that will be an inescapable conflict, and I understand that. Hence the disposable account if you feel the need to comment in an anonymous fashion. And if you don't want a copy of your comment echoed to your Google+ page, simply uncheck the box marked "Also share to Google+?". The comment will still be public, but not "advertised."

Hopefully, most people will continue to leave public comments, because that's more fun for everyone. We'll see where this goes. I can still revert to the old comment system if I want, but I'll let this run and see if anyone has strong opinions.


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