a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

webmentions & reply buttons; what's the right amount of interactivity?


You can now reply to any post,1 anonymously or with a name, by clicking or tapping the raccoon/thought bubble emoji at the end of a post. The interface for doing this isn't great on mobile, but since I have to rely on third-party services, there's not much I can do about it, sorry.

I say "reply" and not "comment" because this will never be the sort of blog to have a "comments section"—however, I will pick a day to post replies I've received throughout the week, along with any response I might have. If I ever start getting a lot of them, I might declare Saturday to be a "mailbag" day.


So, I set up webmentions. When I had a wiki, this was a lot easier; I just installed the webmention plugin and I was pretty much good to go. With a blog platform that doesn't support them natively, it's a little trickier. I'll go through the process if anyone is interested:

First, I registered with webmention.io. The way they do this is really clever: I temporarily put a mailto: link with my e-mail address in the navigation header. When I signed up, they found that address and sent me a confirmation code to verify that I own the page. Once I did, I could remove the link. I'll have to add it again if I ever need to log back in for whatever reason, but I now have a secret link I can use to see any webmentions I receive, and there's even an atom feed I can subscribe to. It's pretty nifty.

So now, if your platform supports webmentions and you link to any of these pages, I'll automatically be notified. If your platform doesn't support webmentions, you can click the mention link at the top of the page, paste in the URL of the page you want to reply to, and paste the URL you're linking from. I don't expect anyone to actually do this, but I need some sort of link up there for webmentions to work at all, and I guess the markdown engine strips out any <link> tags, so I can't do an invisible link like they recommend. It's not a huge deal though.

reply buttons

Most importantly, this gives me a pretty simple way to allow anonymous replies. Well, it's complicated to explain, but simple for readers to use: in all future updates, the raccoon emoji I put at the end will be a link to commentpara.de, which allows you "log in" anonymously or with a name to quill, a site for updating a micropub account; micropub being another indieweb thing.

It's a bit of a mess, and I'm using several third-party services not quite as they were intended, but the upshot is that all you have to do is click the raccoon, choose whether you want to be anonymous or type in a name, and fire off a reply. It'll go to my webmention.io account, and after I determine it's something that I want to appear on the site, I'll post it.

There's no way to automate the link on my end, but that's okay—I have to copy and paste the raccoon emoji from somewhere anyway, so it's not that much more effort to copy/paste the code snippet from the previous entry and update the URL.

I have a couple anonymous contact methods on the contact page, but I didn't want to link to them in every post because there's no easy way to auto-fill the URL of the relevant page. With the commentpara.de method, there's no friction on the reader's end. They click the link, and they're replying to the thing they just read.

Sending mentions from my site isn't hard either, I just have to go to webmention.app and paste the URL of a new entry, it'll find all the links, determine whether the other end accepts webmentions, and if so, send one. I just have to remember to do it.


I've noticed that brid.gy is popular for people who want to let people use a mastodon account to interact with their site, but I don't really see the point: I connected my cybre.space account with my blog, and all that seems to happen is that when I post a link to a blog post from my account, brid.gy will let me know when anyone likes, boosts, or replies to it. Which doesn't do me any good, because I already know when people like, boost, or reply to it—it's my account.

I guess it's for people who want to use the API to make these interactions automatically appear on their blog, and if that's the only thing it does, then it's not for me; I don't want anything to ever appear on my blog unless I explicitly put it there (or opt into it, in the case of the "toast" button on the Sunday posts.)

Maybe I'm just a control freak, but my personal homepage (be it this blog, a wiki, a neocities page, whatever form it takes at the moment) is special to me. It's not like social media. Other people don't get to decide what's on it. That's why, once I could no longer afford to pay for webspace and a domain, it took so long for me to figure out where my next home on the web would be. Neocities didn't work out, because manually doing all the HTML and CSS was too much friction for me, and it doesn't allow you to install even a light CMS unless you pay. None of the other dedicated writing platforms I found gave me enough control, they all foisted some sort of interactivity and/or metrics upon me. All bear asks for is a link to the project in the footer, and that's totally reasonable. Other than that, the space is mine.

I don't understand why someone would want their personal homepage to have likes or share buttons or comment boxes. This is my home away from social media, I have no interest in turning it into social media-lite. Having a reply button is, in my opinion, the sweet spot for interactivity. I want people to know they're free to send me a letter any time, but I don't want to leave my living room windows open and invite people to gather around with megaphones to yell at me. There's plenty of other sites for that. This place is not a place of ardor. No hotly steamed debate is elucidated here 🦝

  1. Going forward. I may feel froggy someday and add reply buttons to all the previous entries, but today is not that day. Look for the raccoon with the thought bubble.