All in the <head> – Ponderings and code by Drew McLellan –

Preparing for 24ways

With December just around the corner, you can bet your bottom dollar (or even just your bottom) that I’m in the throes of preparing for yet another year of 24ways. Just as we’ve done since 2005, we’ll be serving up a new web design or development article each day for the first 24 days of December. Consider it something like a geek advent calendar, except without the little doors.

This year, we’re aiming to try something a little different with the comments. Comments on articles can be great, but sometimes they can add more noise than value. This is especially true if an article gains traction and is linked to in places like Digg or Slashdot, bringing in fresh readers without any context. Whereas in many places it’s not uncommon to see hundreds of comments per post, we’d really like to encourage an environment of well-considered commentary that actually adds something to the conversation.

So how do we go about encouraging that? I think the first step is to make people take responsibility for their words, just as the author of each article does. Comments can be anonymous, and often the commenter doesn’t have a good sense of who might be reading, so the first thing we’re thinking of doing is making the commenter’s own site or weblog the primary place to post a comment. Each article will carry a tag, and 24ways will aggregate posts from the web (via Technorati) based on that tag. Sort of like a trackback, but less revolting. More like Tagbacks. Ew.

Of course, not everyone who has something worthwhile to add has their own site where they can post and tag, so I think we’ll need to keep comments open. However, we’re thinking of reducing the weight of the comments, and moderating so that by default nothing gets published. If a comment is well considered, it’ll be published. We’d be adding the signal, not removing the noise.

There’s a few other ideas we have brewing, but I’d really appreciate any feedback on this. As always, it’s a fine line between making sure comments are adding to the conversation, and discouraging people from commenting at all.

Make sure you’re subscribed to the RSS feed ready for December. I think it’s going to be fun.