Scott Penrose


Scott is an expert software developer with over 30 years experience, specialising in education, automation and remote data.

UPDATE I have now embedded onto the site. It is an experiment, but it certainly meets most of my needs. It also has an API so I could embed my comments into the site for better styling and SEO. But it probably is not worth it.

So I get asked to have a Comments / Feedback / Opinion section on my site quite often.

This is probably a good idea, I am just not certain what the requirements are yet or why I would do it, and the maintenance aspects.

The short version:

  • Simple to embed (javascript), cross site, cross application/language
  • Ability to rate - low priority but good
  • Ability to tell friends - low priority
  • Ability to comment - essential feature
  • AJAX (show content in page when requested, reply etc withou reloads) - desired.
  • nice presentation, such as Gravitar icon.

Here are some ideas and guidelines to help:

  • Easy Embedded
    • Static Link (with reference or trust referrer)
    • SSI - some form of server side includes
    • Object expansion - use remote call to embed (not very useful)
    • Javascript (with reference or trust referrer)
  • Delete comments
    • Site users must be able to delete their own comments
  • Optional 3rd party service
    • Zero install
    • Sign up on site and add Javascript
  • Standalone
    • Add across sites
    • Across applications (from Static pages, to your wiki to your blog)
  • Simple View
    • Allow collapsed view with Javascript
    • Just show number of replies and expand button
    • Use javascript to expand it.
    • Provide anchor to full page for accessibility
  • Simple validation/authentication (if enabled force, else support anyway)
    • Email authentication per message (click to confirm)
    • OpenID trust (any OpenID) or restricted (Federation)
    • Remote system login, use same name/password (e.g. XYZ site provides this as javascript drop in, then allow their login email/password to say already authenticatd).
  • Monitoring
    • Admin of page, and individuals to monitor site via:
      • Email
      • RSS
    • Per:
      • Page
      • Site

Easy Embedded

The first one is that it must be easy to embed. Having a Javascript tag in as some services offer is a good idea. Rightly/Wrongly I am not going to pass over control and content to a 3rd party - within reasons. I am not against 3rd party control but I like choice.

Embedding it directly through server side includes, XSL or other methods would also be a big plus on desirable side.

Embedding by link is also good - i.e. a link to the comments about this site - rather than having them all embedded. Perhaps even a combination where the Javascript / server side embed can give a summary of comments (number etc) but link to the other site for more details.

Delete your comment

You MUST be able to delete a comment. Most systems I have seen to do this only allow logged in users to do a delete. The simple answer to this is:

  • Provide an email to each post (yes you can lie, but you are only hurting yourself)
    • Keep them private
    • If someone wants to be REALLY private (lie about email) then they can't delete
  • User can click delete on any comment. They enter their email address.
    • If it matches it sends. If it does not it doesn't - no user feedback (or maybe some?)
    • Only original user is emailed
  • User receives email with a link (Auth Token) to delete message

So user really has to click delete, type in email address, click approve in email - simple.

Using another service

What about other services. You could comment on, rate or Tag.

I am not a fan of Stumble as it requires login and plugins. Neither of which I want to do to rate or view a site or read other peoples comments. All information should be at least read only from Stuble.

But the concept is right. Click on a link and see comments about any web site/page. This way you don't even have to maintain them as they are discussions that can either happen naturally or you can review. If on the other hand they are on your site you really must audit them - they become part only of that post. The distance element is an advantage to all three parties - the page publisher, the commenter and the reader.


This is CRITICAL. Web applications are usually overcoupled with features and unable to interact or interface with each other. If I have a Static Pages, Wiki, Blog and Voter system on my site, why can't I have the one comment system across all of them.

Putting lots of effort into a great comment system that fits in one thing like Wordpress - means it is only used by Wordpress. Why not make things more reusable !

Nice Presentation

Firstly by CSS. Some options such as adding a Gravitar or similar icon. Finally some templating.

The choices

I am still reviewing the choices and have not come up with a suggestion for my site yet but the choices top level start with:

  • Write my own
  • Use an existing open source solution
  • Use a service (3rd party site)

I need then to document under those the choices. I don't use Wordpress or similar and I mix my software on my site, so the system must be stand alone.

3rd Party Solutions

    • Looks great
    • But requires API installed on server side
    • And does not support any code I am using yet (could be written)
    • Does not have any of the easy embed (javascript) type optinos
    • What it needs is a integration with chat support
    • Could easily be written, even 3rd party but I would like something that already exists.
    • A simple perl system for comments
    • Does not require any special database
    • Support most features
    • But must be installed locally
    • No Javascript embed, SSI only - although could be written
    • Easy to embed
    • Comments are too simple
    • None of the other features

  • Social Networks