Friday, December 01, 2006

Administrative: Comments by Holoscan

Last year I replaced the Blogspot comments function with Haloscan. I did that mainly to provide myself with more options to edit and filter the comments. I had been getting a lot of junk mailfrom people who were using my comments section only to tout their own "blogs", most of which were commercial websites completely unrelated to the subject matter in the article they were commenting on.

It worked just fine. Now, when I get junk mail on my comments, I can easily delete it and also ban the author from further posts. Mostly.

More important, I discovered, when I make a comment and later discover an error in what I wrote, I can correct my comment in place instead of having to write another comment describing the error and offering the correct verbiage.

Blogspot is working to improve their comment function, but when they finally catch up with Haloscan I probably won't change back because, well, by then Haloscan will have made even more improvements.

A couple of days ago, I installed one of those improvements. It's a summary of the most recent comments that appears on the sidebar, between the links and the archive directory. I had to modify the code a little bit to get the comment summary to appear against the dark blue background (comment text is in a dark grey, which keeps it subtle so it's not distracting when you're reading articles .... but it's so far down the extended webpage that you probably won't see it unless you're going more than a couple articles down the page, or you're looking for it.)

I added it mainly for my own convenience. Sometimes people comment on old articles, and I often miss them until I deliberately page through articles LOOKING for new comments. This way, it's easy to find them in the summary and then I can read, edit and even repond to them with a minimum of fuss.

Why do I care? The comments I receive on this blog are the reward I get for writing. True, I usually write because I have something to say, because I feel compelled to write. But your responses reinforce the effort. If I haven't made myself clear, or I've said something that is factually incorrect, it helps me to maintain minimum standards of quality in the text.

Often comments prompt me to either expand on the subject (cf: the MechTech article) or to write a new article on a related subject.

Most important, it's a measure of my audience. I read EVERY comment, even if I don't reply. Sometimes the comments give me a much better idea of what people are interested in reading.

I do have a statistics service which tells me how many people are reading me (summarizes the last 1100 visitors) and which articles are repeatedly read because they are are listed in search results. For example, every week I have at least 40 people who just connect to watch Travis Tomasie's "Perfect Reload", which they only find because they have searched for it.

But if a new article is of interest to people who read the blog regularly, the comments are the only indicator I have that readers are interested enough to reply.

I encourage comments. I very rarely have to delete comments, because the people who write them are courteous (with the possible exception of The Hobo Brasser) and on-subject.

In fact, most of the links on the sidebar are there for my use. These are the places I like to read, or which I frequently use as reference sources. It's easier for me to call up my own blog and then access these other websites by clicking on the link.

If you have an idea for a link which might fit within the general IPSC/USPSA Competition venue, please let me know. If I find it as interesting as you do, I'll add it to the sidebar.

Thanks for reading. And for writing back.

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