New comment feature: notify me

Sunday 13 November 2005

Last week, my post about the French riots drew more comments (37!) than any other post on this blog ever. Also, during the time when most of those comments were accumulating, I was getting about twice the number of hits as usual. Looking at the stats, it looks like a lot of it was people refreshing the comment page to see if there were any new ones.

So I’ve added a new feature to my home-grown comment system. Now at the bottom of the form is a checkbox: Email me future comments. If you check it and provide an email address, then all comments after yours on that post will be emailed to you. Please try it out, and let me know if you have any problems.


Keith 11:58 PM on 13 Nov 2005

Ned, I've been wanting to do a similar thing but haven't because I don't want people to be bothered with comment spam and flames. Any ideas on that?

Julien Couvreur 3:03 AM on 14 Nov 2005

Comment tracking is definitely a useful feature. I'm not sure I love email as a way of doing this, but it seems the way to go for now.

The other implementation that was interesting: "the RSS feed of comments left on threads where I commented".
You have one such feed per site (instead of one per blog post) and the name you type in is used as the identifier. Can't remember where I saw this, could dig it up if you wanted.

Peter Bengtsson 4:57 AM on 14 Nov 2005

Why don't you make it by default on and don't even ask here on this form? That's what I do over at for the comments.

Ned Batchelder 6:53 AM on 14 Nov 2005

All good points.

Keith: I don't get much comment spam. I've had a few specific pests over the years, but I've tweaked Reactor so that it doesn't let them in for the most part. As for flames, judging from which threads get the most posts, I think that's what people want to see!

Julien: RSS is an interesting option, but I think I would personally never use such a thing, because an RSS subscription feels like a more permanent thing than the comments on a particular post. It's certainly an option for the future, but email felt more like the right weight for something like this.

Peter: I suppose I could leave it on by default, but looking at how people use the comments here, I'm not sure that's best, especially given Keith's concerns about people being annoyed by the results.

Nate Finch 9:16 AM on 14 Nov 2005

Definitely do not turn it on by default, that's a great way to piss off new readers. As soon as they leave one "hey that's cool!" post, they get spammed to death and have to come back and figure out how to turn the damn thing off. I like the RSS feed idea. Then again, I'm perfectly fine with just going back to the comment window a couple times a day.

Keith 3:22 PM on 14 Nov 2005

I've actually just added IP blacklisting and comment moderation for blacklisted IPs to my site, so that will possibly make a big enough difference to allow me to have this feature.

When I said "flames" I was really thinking of a stalker I have. :) He goes through proxies so I can't reliably block him by IP. I even tried some other clever things but nothing stuck or disuaded him. I only just thought of using IP blacklists last night, so I'll see how effective that is at stopping most of his comments.

> but I've tweaked Reactor so that it doesn't let them in for the most part

Would you mind going into any details? I'm wondering if anything would be useful for me.

Ned Batchelder 8:41 PM on 14 Nov 2005

Some of the things I did to Reactor to prevent spam were:

1) prevent comments that had more than 6 links,
2) prevent comments that had emails in a particular and unusual pattern that one spammer kept using,
3) pick some particular words that spammers kept using, and my readers did not (the names of drugs, for example), and prevent comments containing them.

Tim 7:24 AM on 15 Nov 2005

The email notification works well. It's probably best for one offs.

The idea of a feed for any entries a user has commented on would be a great idea for a blog that you frequently comment on.

Michael Chermside 12:57 PM on 15 Nov 2005

It's missing an important feature. There's no way to "subscribe" to an article that you DIDN'T post in. Some us have more to learn than we have to say.

Ned Batchelder 1:00 PM on 15 Nov 2005

Yeah, I thought about people who would want to be notified of comments but hadn't added anything yet. Maybe I'll throw that into the next rev.

James 2:35 PM on 15 Nov 2005

"RSS is an interesting option, but I think I would personally never use such a thing, because an RSS subscription feels like a more permanent thing than the comments on a particular post."

Funny, i have the exact opposite reaction. If I subscribe to an RSS feed and change my mind. I hit delete and it disappears from my computer. Unsubscribing from an email list should be just as easy, but often I find it is not.

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