Jeremy Sarber

Static site comments using email and manual labor

According to a recent poll on Twitter I conducted, fifty-nine percent of people believe blogs should have a comments section. Thirty percent are indifferent. The remaining eleven percent say a comments section is unnecessary. I’ll let the majority rule on this one—sort of.

I am always hesitant to add new features to my website when they will potentially work against the site’s intended purpose. I agree with Justin Jackson who said, We’ve become obsessed with fancy designs, responsive layouts, and scripts that do magical things. But the most powerful tool on the web is still words” (This is a webpage”).

See also Manifesto for Lightweight Web Pages”.

I write words, and I publish those words on a fast, lightweight, accessible website so as many people as possible can read them despite poor internet connections, small screens, or visual impairments. If I were to add a comments section with its JavaScript and database queries, my website instantly doubles in size and takes twice as long to load. Does that help people read my words? No, I’m afraid not.

Even so, I know the value of writers connecting with readers. Jesus, for instance, did most of his teaching through dialogue with his disciples, not exclusively monologue sermons. Put Christ’s ministry into a modern context, and I suppose he would have a comments section on his blog. I’ve decided I will, too.

I’ve spent a few days playing around with Commento, a fast, privacy-focused commenting platform.” While I haven’t ruled it out just yet, I’ve opted to experiment with a different kind of commenting system better known as email.

Beneath each post on my site, visitors have the option to email me their comments and questions. I can, then, read them and reply. If our conversation proves potentially beneficial to others, I can manually insert our discussion on the page. I would, of course, seek permission first.

In short:

  • I will allow comments on my site;
  • Trivial or spammy comments will never appear;
  • Published comments will add value to the reader’s experience through my careful curation;
  • My website will remain free of JavaScript, cookies, and other web technologies that could slow it down or undermine visitors’ privacy.

It’s only an experiment at this point, but I think it’s worth a shot.

My hope is to receive thoughtful comments from readers who don’t feel restricted to writing only a sentence or two. Your emails can be as long as you want. Dive deeper into the subjects I cover on this site. Add your own commentary to the Bible passages I address. Ask probing questions. Disagree with me if you feel I’m wrong. Iron sharpens iron (Pr 27:17). Let’s have an edifying conversation with one another that can, in turn, edify others.

Please know, however, I won’t publish every comment I receive. I’ll use my best discretion, and again, I’ll ask the author’s permission first.

Let the experiment begin.

Further discussion

Kevin Halloran on May 21st, 2020:

I’m sure this idea also helps build relationships with readers—genuis!

Jeremy Sarber on May 21st, 2020:

I assume it can’t hurt.

Benjamin Vrbicek on May 21st, 2020:

That’s really interesting. I’m intrigued by the minimalist design of your site. I like your rational for it.

Jeremy Sarber on May 21st:

Basically, I build and tweak my site based on what I would love to see on other websites while always remembering people with disabilities and slow connections.