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Comments are hard

Building a comments system is really hard. I tried to build one for Known, which powers my website, but found that spammers circumvented it surprisingly easily. You can flag spam using Akismet (which was built for WordPress but works across platforms), but this process tends to require you to pre-screen comments and make them public after the fact. That’s a fair amount of work and a fair amount of unnecessary friction for building community.

If you have a blog - you do have a blog, don’t you? - you can post a response to one of my posts and send a webmention. But not everybody has their own website, and the barrier to entry for sending webmentions is pretty high.

So I’ve been looking for something else.

Fred Wilson gave up on comments and asks people to discuss on Twitter. That works pretty well, but I’m not really into forcing people to use a particular service. That’s also why I’m not particularly into using Disqus embeds, which also unnecessarily track you across sites. Finally, I was using Cactus Comments, which is based on the decentralized Matrix network for a while, but it occasionally seemed to break in ways that were disconcerting for site visitors. (It’s still a very cool project.)

I love comments, and I guess that means I’m writing my own system again. To do so means getting into an arms race with spammers, which I’m not very excited about, but I don’t see an alternative that I’m completely happy about.

Do you run a blog with comments? How do you deal with these issues? I’d love to learn from you.

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