Editing Blog Comments

Wednesday, May 5, 2004 at 12:54 am | Comments off

After reading Jason Fried's recent post at SVN, "The anatomy of a new feature", where he introduces a new feature to Basecamp called comment editing, I thought it'd be nice if blogs would implement this feature as well. For those who haven't read his post, I'd recommend that you go do so before you continue reading this. I'll wait for you.

I've noticed that from time to time, I'll hit the post button on someone's blog to leave a comment, only to see that I misspelled something or that I would like to clarify something that I said. I've never run across a blog that allows you to edit your comment, but perhaps this is about to change. It is on this blog...

There are a couple different ways that this could be done. The point of this post is to ascertain which one makes the most sense, so I can implement it into xBlog. Here are the options that I have thought of:

  1. Time-based editing: Similar to how 37signals chose to do it, this option would allow you to edit your comments for a set amount of time. This way, people would be able to fix any errors that they notice in their comments, but not allow them to edit the comment after the conversation has drawn on.

  2. Permanent editing: This option would allow you to edit your comments for the lifetime of the cookie that would have to be set to identify you with it. The problem that I see with this would be people editing/deleting their comments after other people have commented on it, which is always very annoying.

  3. Latest comment editing: This would allow you to edit your comment until another user has posted a comment in the entry. In other words, only the last comment for each entry can be edited. The problem I see with this would be if two comments were posted in quick succession, it would not allow the first of the two any time to edit.

  4. A 1 and 3 combo: A combination of 1 and 3. You always have a set amount of time to edit your comment, but if your comment is the last one, you can edit it beyond this time limit until a new comment is posted.

So, which of those do you think would be best, not only from the commenter perspective, but also the blog owners? Also, feel free to let me know if you think of any other methods of doing this - now's the time to speak up. Overall, I think this will greatly enhance the user experience, by giving them a bit of time to make changes to their comment if they notice something they want changed. It should also help eliminate the double (or more!) posts that we often see on blogs.

The floor is now yours...


Will Rickards
May 5th, 2004
1:23 AM | #

I vote for Time Based Editing Only.

Because once someone has read your comment and is going to reply to it, then you possible change the conversation by allowing edits. By judging how often new comments get read, you can chose an appropriate delay to minimize this situation but allow editing of mistakes.

IMHO, a preview feature is definitely required, an edit feature is not.

May 5th, 2004
3:14 AM | #

I like the 1/3 combo. I have this planned for my site, but given that it was supposed to be up on Jan 1, I MAY not get around to implementing it for a while...

Although, I think the way to go is a small indicator to show that the comment has been edited. Perhaps with a date-time group?

May 5th, 2004
11:21 AM | #

I say, 'none of the above'. Let them learn the lesson they never learned in elementary school (or in junior high, high school, or college): proofread your work.

I mean, come on. There is a "preview" button right there.

I just don't like the idea of unaccountable editing. Let the information "flow". If someone needs to clarify, let them post again. It's like a conversation you have with someone. You don't go back and change what you said, you clarify what you were saying by speaking again.

Not only that, but assuming a time-based version of comment editing, you will have inevitable confusion as a result. If this is something you *are* going to do, however, I would recommend some sort of design treatment to let others know that the entry/text was edited. For example, you could create a neat little PHP script to compare the two and put a line through the newly deleted stuff and an underline under the newly added stuff. I don't know, something like that.

But that's just my $0.02.

Robert Wellock
May 5th, 2004
12:04 PM | #

"Time-based editing" is properly the best solution; the others just lead to possible abuse of the system.

With my disability the 'preview' button is invaluable aid but even so I am prone to making typographical errors after proofreading and using the preview.

The core question is how long you set the timer for, maybe five minutes.

May 5th, 2004
12:22 PM | #

You could add a Spell-Checker. Though that is not available on all servers, depending on the OS and if PHP was compiled with that functionality. You could always make the script check for that extension and if it exists than it enables the spell-checker.

Also, about the time based editing, what if they notice some errors they made, and while editing they passed the time limit? Like if you notice the error say a minute before and then take 3 to edit?

Robert Wellock
May 5th, 2004
12:38 PM | #

In my situation a spellchecker would be of no added benefit, though it's a good point about the clock being frozen/reset during editing. Then it poses the question do you allow he user to delete a post...

Then you really do enter dangerous territory.

May 5th, 2004
9:00 PM | #

I think that a nice generous time limit of an hour would be good, but don't allow someone to delete their post.

An extra feature might be that if a user is editing their post, you don't let them re-post something which is less that half of the original length.

Paul Jr
May 6th, 2004
6:37 AM | #

I'm with NateL on this one. Though, if you do an an edit feature, I'd go with the time based one, and make it fairly short--we don't want people going back and changing what they've said in the middle of a conversation.

May 6th, 2004
6:48 AM | #

Thanks for all the comments, guys. Obviously the most important issue is retaining the integrity of the comments, and how to best do this will require a bit of brainstorming. While none of the options are perfect, a time-based option seems most logical, as there's not a whole lot of potential for it to be abused.

There's also the question of letting users completely delete the post. They could essentially do so, even if it is not allowed, by editing out their entire comment.

Also, if this is implemented into xBlog, it will be customizable or be able to be disabled altogether. The site owner will be able to turn off comment editing, if it seems to be a problem on their particular site.

May 6th, 2004
1:47 PM | #

Hi Ryan, don't know if you spotted this:


during your research but you might find it useful...

May 6th, 2004
1:48 PM | #

Gahh... yes you did - and you made the posted the first comment on the page!

*sounds of forehead slapping*

May 6th, 2004
7:53 PM | #

I suppose being able to delete posts might come in handy sometimes, I'm sure Richard would agree. :P
If you do decide to implement a delete feature I would only give it a short timeout though.

Robert Wellock
May 7th, 2004
1:25 PM | #

The problem with delete is you end-up turning the Blog into a flat forum, hence why it's probably best to omit that feature.

May 8th, 2004
5:27 PM | #

Why is that bad?

May 11th, 2004
12:40 PM | #

Yet another cool idea Ryan. This should be widely implemented in my opinion. The "preview" is great, but there are some typo's that you just can't see until a comment goes live.

May 14th, 2004
10:48 AM | #

Ryan, when I thought about it, I became more and more intrigued by the practicalities of comment editing. I was curious enough to write some code...

I have put together a "proof of concept" so that comment editing can be tried out and any problems identified.

Whilst I'm satisfied that the system is working as I intended, it should be considered beta at the moment as I have not been able to test it extensively as yet.

Please feel free to try it out.

Overview: http://urbanmainframe.com/folders/blog/20040514/page_1.htm
Testing: http://urbanmainframe.com/folders/blog/20040514/user_comments.htm

May 15th, 2004
12:43 AM | #

It's interesting to see the concept in action. I've not had time to implement it into xBlog yet, though when I do, I'll use a slightly different set of rules/implementation. Overall, I like the ability to edit comments and feel that it will be a useful addition to this blog.

May 15th, 2004
12:56 AM | #

I will be one of the first to play with it when you complete it Ryan.

July 13th, 2004
12:07 AM | #

I think editing is bad, because you must thinking before post something. If you nervous bustler - let's all people know it.

July 13th, 2004
1:02 AM | #

I disagree Sam. I've found the editing facility to be much appreciated by my users (and myself).

The vast majority of the comments posted on my site are sans-edits but, every now and again, the feature is used and, as I can see what's changed due to the "diffs" engine, I can see that my initial worries were unfounded - my visitors don't change their message they just correct typos, punctuation, etc.

I am very happy with the facility.

January 2nd, 2005
6:29 AM | #

I don't know why, but this particular blog entry seems to be a spam magnet. Can comments be disabled on this entry without hiding all of the already existing comments?

May 25th, 2005
9:46 PM | #


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