I discovered a new dimension to my recent frustration with Google, today. In addition to being arbitrarily locked out of web mail, site stats, and browser syncing, I’m no longer able to comment on blogs that only permit comments from registered Blogger users. Like the other items, however, this is more of an inconvenience than a real loss, as I generally don’t participate on sites that require registration to comment. However, I tried to offer something substantive and useful (an exception, I know) on another site concerning the FCC’s approach to the multiple ownership rules, only to discover that it wouldn’t post because, well, Google hates me (temporarily, I hope). That’s a real shame, I think.
Registration for comments is cumbersome and time consuming, and it provides yet another vector through which an email address can be lost to the aggressions of spam lists. I suspect that the proprietors of most sites with registration requirements don’t realize that they’re closing the doors to many would-be commenters. Further, to the extent that registration requirements are imposed to prevent spam or ban certain people, those can be efficiently handled on the back-end without too much work (ask anyone who uses Akismet, for example).
So what do I like? Open comments that permit a user to pick her own name, attach a URL (if desired), and aren’t moderated by default. An option to be notified of future comments on that thread is gravy (which I recently added here, by the way). This can be one of many identity options in a commenting system including Blogger, OpenID, etc., but it should always be an option.
Who does it right? Well, most anyone with an open commenting system. It’s easy to participate at any of these places, because they’ve chosen to offer simple and open commenting. A good example of a hybrid system is over at the Freewheeling Spirit, where not only do you have the option of simply using your own chosen ID and url, but you can pick from a plethora of existing ID systems that you probably already use (e.g., OpenID, Blogger, Typepad, etc.). And, for gravy, you can simply pick “anonymous.” I’ve not asked, but I suspect it wasn’t all that hard to set up.
Who does it wrong? Lazy sites that restrict comments to registered Blogger users. Sites based on SoapBlox or similar infrastructure that require far too many hoops to jump through to leave a simple comment.* Sites that show a commenting option, but then say “Comments restricted to team members only” when you try to post (and, of course, there are no team members). Sites run by such control freaks that each and every comment must be approved before posting, making it impossible to carry on any sort of conversation there.
That’s enough meta for now. I just ask that, if you run a site where you welcome conversation, please take a look at your commenting process. A few easy tweaks here and there could improve the conversation for everyone. Thanks.
*Big community sites (such as DailyKos or RaisingKaine) are another matter entirely.