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Connecting blogs

I wrote about the IndieWeb about two years ago and, as part of that post, I mentioned webmentions, as one of the protocols they promote.

I was thinking, how can I introduce the idea as simple as possible? We could compare it to other linkback mechanisms, but then I realised that perhaps not many people remembers what trackbacks or pingbacks are.

Webmention is currently a W3C recommendation –not quite a standard yet– that enables cross-site conversations. It is a simple protocol to allow your site to tell a different website that you mentioned one of its posts as a comment, like (or other types of responses, apparently).

In a way, is similar to the experience we have in social media: you know when someone replies to you, or likes, or quotes. The difference is that we own our website, so we move to a distributed and heterogeneous landscape, instead of centralised and uniform –all using the same social network–, in which we need to add the glue between us so we can share that information.

I was thinking about implementing it here, even if is not going to be easy because this blog is a static website, but then I remembered that in my old blog in Spanish –that I closed after 18 years online– had comments support, but very little use. I got some comments over the years, but mostly in the early days –around 2003–.

Comments helped to improve the posts, but they also connected blogs because it was common that the commenters had a blog as well, and as part of the comment they could provide a link to their blog. As you can imagine, the idea was eventually perverted –and somewhat ruined– because spam. Those comments where a cheap way to get incoming links to a website, and that helped with SEO –search engine optimisation– and positioning in the search engines’ results. The spam is bad, of course, but I’m also unhappy with the incentive: those sites wanted traffic because they had ads and that meant income.

In my blog I had to disable comments automatically on a post after a number of days, include simple captchas, do fancy stuff with cookies and sessions. Very messy, for little benefit –the occasional comment–. And trackbacks lasted even less than comments. I think I disabled them shortly after finishing my implementation because not many real people used them, and it was only spam.

This blog doesn’t have comments, although you can always send me an email if you want to comment anything, and some people have done that. Not often, but if I have received a handful of emails, that’s more comments that my old blog had in its last few years.

So I am undecided. Although I read blogs, I don’t seem to quote them often –perhaps I should, I should find my small blogosphere like I had in the early 2000s–. Would it be worth it to add support for webmentions here?

Sending them is easy, I can do it as part of the publishing step that renders the posts –in markdown format– using Hugo. Receiving webmentions will require a bit of extra work, and likely some non-intrusive Javascript to show them in the post somehow. I may give it a go for fun, I can always remove it if it turns out it was a bad idea.

In any case, I have the feeling this is something that should be widely supported, if blogs stand a chance against centralised social media.

Would you like to discuss the post? You can send me an email!