Promote Comments Plugin Idea [en]

[fr] Une idée de plugin que m'a soufflée Bruno Giussani: pouvoir "promouvoir" un commentaire et l'intégrer sans peine au contenu du billet.

A few days before LIFT’07, I had dinner with Bruno Giussani, who now happens to be one of the lucky people to live in beautiful Lausanne.

Amongst other things, he told of his frustrations with current blogging software (he’s using TypePad) and how the perfect tool didn’t seem to exist. I guess one simple reason this is so is that “perfect” means different things to different people.

I use WordPress, like it, and generally recommend it around me, because to my mind it’s the most complete and user-friendly platform out there, and because the plugin architecture allows for nearly any functionality to be added to it if somebody takes the trouble to code it.

Bruno shared with me one shortcoming of today’s blogging technology that he and Robert Scoble were talking about at LIFT last year (so this is not a “new” idea). Here is a write-up of this idea (with his permission of course), with a few implementation and interface details, in the hope that someone out there will pick it up and write the plugin. (I’ve heard enough people recently asking for plugin ideas to work their mad coding skillz on…)

Here’s the basic idea: there are often valuable contributions in the comments of a post, and we would like a way to be able to effortlessly “promote” a comment (or part of it) into the body of a post. This allows the blogger to easily act as an editor for the conversations taking place on his blog.

All this, of course, would have to be nice and ajaxy. Here’s how I could imagine it happening.

First of all, the plugin recognises that the author of the post is logged in, and adds a “promote” link next to each comment, in addition to the “edit” link. If that link is clicked, the comment text is automagically appended to the post content in a blockquote, complete with author name and link to original comment.

If part of the comment is selected when the promote link/button is clicked, then only that excerpt is quoted in the post.

Instead of the dreaded confirmation pop-up, a nice confirmation message should appear alongside the promoted comment in the post body, with an undo link.

From a back-end perspective, the promote link “knows” which post it belongs to (check the ID of the comment <div> it’s in). It shouldn’t be very difficult to grab author name, author url, comment permalink, format them all nicely (blockquotes, credit, microformats), edit the post, and add it to the end of the content with some introductory text (like “promoted comment”) and an “edited” stamp with time/date of promotion.

Possible problems:

  • if part of a comment is selected and the wrong “promote” link is clicked, what behaviour would be expected? Probably an error message of some sort, or even better (but probably trickier to implement), a choice: promote the whole post (based on link clicked) or the excerpt (based on selection)?
  • should promoted comments really be added into the post content, or stored as post meta data?

Taking this a step futher: wouldn’t it be nice to let the blogger introduce the promoted comment, or write a few lines after it? In this case, pressing the promote button/link would bring up a pop-up where more text can be added, with the option of displaying it before or after the quoted text.

And even another step futher (but I’m not sure it’s an interesting one): how about allowing the blogger to make a new post out of the promoted comment, instead of just appending it to the current post? Would this be interesting?

Additional thoughts on this basic idea are welcome (Bruno, let me know if I forgot something, it’s been a while since our conversation). If you’re a plugin author and you feel upto it, go for it (just make sure you give Bruno credit for the idea). I’ll be happy to try it out.

3 thoughts on “Promote Comments Plugin Idea [en]

  1. (sorry, I’ll reply in french, my engliah isn’t enough fluctuant for a fast typed answer 😉 )

    Je trouve cette idée très intéressante ! Ca fait un moment que je “joue” dans ma tête avec l’idée que l’article d’un côté, les commentaires de l’autre, étaient finalement séparés d’une manière bien trop imperméable, sans réelle capacité d’être liés l’un à l’autre, entremêlés, ou je ne sais quel concept qui permettrait de coller un peu plus avec l’esprit “les blogs démarrent des conversations”, comme dirait l’autre 😉

    Bref, j’aimerai beaucoup réfléchir à un système qui engendrerait de vraies conversations, là où aujourd’hui on a “un monologue / un gros volume de réponses éparses / un autre monologue / etc…”. un truc qui soit :
    – plus lisible et consultable qu’un forum,
    – plus structuré qu’une sorte de “tchat asynchrone”
    – plus orienté “dialogue” qu’un wiki
    – plus interactif qu’un blog

    en tout cas, l’idée de ton ami est excellente ! si je peux aider d’une maniere ou d’une autre…

  2. Hello Stephanie, thank you for this, you didn’t forget anything. My guess is that promoted comments should be added at the bottom of the post, and show up as such in both the “general” blog page and the permalinked page, in a way that’s graphically clearly identifiable, as you suggest. The overall idea is really that some comments are extremely valuable and leaving them in the “comment” page, almost “physically” separated from the main post, kills part of that value.
    I see an additional element that you may want to add to your list: if a new reader wants to post a comment to one of the “promoted” comments, the new comment should be appended — as any other comment — to the main comments section: the blogger will always have the possibility to “promote” it or part of it later. In other words, the “promoted” comments become part of the post, and all the other functionalities (permalink, comments link, etc) remain the same.
    Overall the whole idea is to increase the “conversationality” of the blogosphere, which right now is pretty much a simulacrum, and it is so not because bloggers are not trying, but mainly because the tools we’re using are still very much publishing tools rather than discussion tools (I know, I should not make this kind of general statements, CoComment and Twitter and all, but my point is that blogging platforms don’t seem to have much evolved in the last couple of years). Bruno

  3. I was looking for an idea to test plugin capacities of wordpress as a developper, what a great start to work on this stuff !

    I’ll take a look at it in the following days… 🙂

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