CommentPress Comments


The rights to my Library Technology Report on Open-Source Software for Libraries have reverted back to me, so I’m posting the text online under a CC-BY-SA license. More importantly, I’m using it as an opportunity to play with how longer-than-blog texts can be represented online.

The Institute for the Future of the Book has spent some time thinking about that very question, and their answer is CommentPress, a theme for WordPress that enables commenting on each paragraph of a text and organizes posts into a book-like table of contents with the first (and oldest) posts on top.

I like the concept a lot, but under the hood it’s like so much sausage making. One comment reads “Do these functions exist in wordpress by default? I was too lazy to find out.” The biggest problem, however, is that because it doesn’t use the normal WordPress APIs for interacting with posts and comments, it’s at least partially incompatible with a few other plugins.

But, again, I like what it does, and rather than point out its faults, I’m looking for ways to continue work on the concepts its prototyped. Because, my biggest complaint is that its development seems to have stalled (in fact, the whole Future of the Book site seems to be stalled). Anyway, what to do?

First, split the presentation and functionality. I’d like to make a plugin that will enable per-paragraph commenting similar to CommentPress. Actually, I’d add the feature to a lot of elements: each LI of ordered and unordered lists, tables and their cells, headings, and every embed. Heck, if this blog allowed paragraph-specific comments, you could suggest other elements here. And, of course, every element that can be commented on, can be linked to or trackbacked to. The plugin would have to be smart enough to look for anchors in the trackback/pingback, and a bit of javascript would highlight whatever element was anchored.

A properly coded plugin could probably be used with any theme, but themes like CommentPress that emphasize the comments right next to, rather than below, the post, would do it best. And I really like how CommentPress looks — it really is “more rich and nuanced” than most themes. I would very much like to see more themes along these lines.