Genii Weblog

Should blogs include mail notifiers?

Wed 10 Mar 2004, 11:42 AM

by Ben Langhinrichs
I am considering adding a flag so if you post a comment to our blog and want to know when others comment on the same post, you could get an e-mail notification.  I envision that next to where you can add your e-mail address, there would be a checkbox "Notify me of other comments", and if checked, new messages would trigger an e-mail to you.  This would make it easier to follow a thread posted in our blog.

Do you like the idea?  Do you think this is the right approach for blogs in general?  Should I suggest it for the open source blog templates?  On the other hand, is there a better approach?

Copyright 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

128.1. Colin Pretorius
(03/10/2004 12:26 PM)

I like it - has it and it's really nifty. I occasionally get emails about posts months old.

Another very useful thing is to expose your comments via RSS *hint hint* :)

128.2. Ben Langhinrichs
(03/10/2004 01:29 PM)

I could expose comments via RSS, but then you would have to wade through lots of comments to find any in threads that interest you. Also, I haven't looked at other people's RSS feeds with comments, but how do you have a comment to a very old thread there?

128.3. Colin Pretorius
(03/10/2004 02:57 PM)

Unless you're really prolific or have a lot of visitors posting comments it's not too much of a problem, since most RSS subscribers are probably equally interested in all responses. To that end, even if a new comment appears in my RSS reader, in response to a 6-month-old post, I'll still check it out. Very often people will appear with very insightful comments long after a discussion has run out of steam and been forgotten about.

I'd say the ideal is an RSS feed for the masses who follow your site, and to have an option for people to subscribe for emailed responses to a topic as well.

128.4. Tony Campbell-Cooke
(03/10/2004 04:36 PM)

Totally agree with you Colin. I feel that a lot of the benefit of RSS feeds is lost because I'm not getting notified of comments against an article that I'm interested in. Good on you Ben for suggesting this - as ever, a forward thinker! If you need help testing, please let me know.


128.5. Tony Campbell-Cooke
(03/10/2004 04:43 PM)

Just re-read your post Colin, and am not so keen on the email bit. Couldn't it be an alternative RSS feed that would provide comments as well? I'm not an an expert on the technology, so apologies if what I'm asking is impossible.

And Ben, would be nice if your site dropped a cookie so that when I do a second post, I don't have to type in my name and email address all over again (when you have a name like mine, it's a pain!).

128.6. Rob McDonagh
(03/11/2004 05:46 AM)

I like the e-mail notification option, and I've used it a few times at NotesTips. I only subscribe to RSS comments on a few sites, because I find the usability aspect *ahem* creates a strong vacuum. A comment isn't very useful without the article *and* previous comments it is a response to. So I'm not a fan of the standard RSS comment features on most blogs. If RSS readers were written in such a way as to bring the comments in *under* the article as responses (the way Notes would handle that sort of thing, natch), I'd be much happier. But then you'd need additional information in the RSS feed to indicate what the comment responded to, and I'm not sure that's allowed by the spec (I'm not one of those people who memorizes the specs, though, so I could certainly be wrong about that).

PS Ben, if you're taking hints about your blog design, I'd love to see a much larger comment posting field (it's tiny, at least in FireFox), and preview a la BlogSphere is a truly beautiful thing. Maybe when your releases are out the door and you have some time to spare, you could tweak the comments UI a bit?

128.7. jonvon
(03/11/2004 08:02 AM)

personally the rss comment feed is just too much for me. there are already so many feeds to keep after, i can't keep up with them all as it is.

i tried subscribing to vowe's comment feed at one time and was rather overwhelmed. had to turn that one off. but i know a lot of people are into that sort of thing, i'm just not one of them.

i do like the idea of the email notification. that way you are "subscribing" to only one comment feed. sorta like. which is nice. cuz generally speaking there would only be one comments thread in a hundred that i'm interested to be reminded about later. not that i don't return to the scene of the crime in the browser for good threads...


just my opinion.

128.8. Colin Pretorius
(03/11/2004 09:10 AM)

Two pet dislikes I have are the RSS response titles which say "Reponse by Joe Soap" - not enough info :- some comment feeds have a title of "Re: StoryTitle - Joe Soap" - I like those best as it's easier to scan topics.

It's also a *lot* easier if the full response is available in the RSS feed, rather than having to click through to the actual page. Admittedly it hogs more bandwidth, but there you go...

Those two things make it a lot easier to follow a conversation via RSS, especially if, as I said, you're following a site that's not too busy.

128.9. Ben Langhinrichs
(03/11/2004 12:27 PM)

I am looking at different formats for the e-mail notification. The RSS comments will have to wait, but when I add them, I'll have to make sure they are explicit as to the subject.

Rob - Does this look any better in Firefox?

128.10. Rob McDonagh
(03/11/2004 03:30 PM)

Ben - absolutely! That's a huge improvement. Thanks.

And I agree, comments that are identified only as "comment" or "response" are completely useless.

I also think the entire comment should be in the feed - bandwidth is relative, we're talking about a few hundred extra characters in general, so nobody but a WAP user should be upset about the performance hit (and WAP users should be, well, WAPped, as a rule anyway)...

Then again, I don't practice what I preach, since BlogSphere (or at least my version - I'm not up to the latest beta) doesn't include the whole article in *my* RSS feed. So may *I* should be WAPped...