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Webnotes: a simple replacement for comments, pingbacks, and webmentions

One of the best things about regularly blogging on your own personal website is putting your thoughts and ideas out into the world and having them resonate with others.

In the earlier days of blogging—and especially before large social media networks took over—much of that occurred in blog comment sections, or pings and trackbacks from others responding to your post in a post of their own. In the more recent Indieweb era, webmentions are being implemented to carry forward this “have a conservation online” mentality.

Unfortunately, facilitating a public discussion via blog posts can be tricky. Comments and pingbacks/trackbacks are easily targeted by spammers, bots, and other shady SEO types. And not all comments are friendly, warranted, on-topic, or at all useful.

And to manage all of these interactions, site owners need to design their site to accept them, which for many of us, can be a huge barrier to implementing them—not to mention moderate the incoming submissions.

And even when there is useful discussion around your post, it may occur elsewhere, whether on social media, or maybe a discussion board, or even in emails or other direct messages—never reaching your site to begin with.

Enter Webnotes

A simple solution to all of this is something I’m calling Webnotes.

Webnotes are found at the end of a blog post or page that reference comments, links, related posts, and any other useful information that was received (or added) after the item was published.

These webnotes are added by the site author manually and can be displayed and organized however you’d like them to be. This keeps the site author in control of what is displayed on their own website, while still acknowledging useful comments and directing readers to other places where they can find out more.

And because webnotes are not semi-automated processes like comments and webmentions, you can avoid bots, spammers, and trolls—and use simpler website technologies, too. You can easily implement webnotes on any website platform, and you need absolutely no additional knowledge or skills to do so.

Since you decide what is important to add and what isn’t, you can avoid some of the nice-but-mostly-useless stuff—like a comment saying “great post!” or a trackback link from someone’s linkblog or a social media thread that goes wildly off-topic—that can clutter things up without adding any value.

Instead, webnotes simply highlight whatever is useful and additive, and nothing more.

Another thing that I like about the webnotes method is that it allows for conversation to occur anywhere, and still be included with the post.

Maybe that’s an additional piece of information that was provided by email. Or a link to someone else’s own post about the topic that provides a different point of view. Or a relevant resource that you were subsequently alerted to. You can pull in quotes from wherever you’d like, and display them however you’d like too. You can even paraphrase a comment to make it more understandable if you’d like. You can attribute a quote, or not attribute it if that’s more appropriate. It’s your site, after all.

In particular, webnotes are great for email conversations—which is one of my favorite ways of interacting with posts, as they tend to be far more thoughtful and useful than simple social media comments. And since we all have email, it’s an easy way to gather comments and additional resources, simply by providing a contact form or email link after each post.

The downside is, of course, that it requires the site author to add these webnotes manually.

But that friction is, in my mind, good friction to have. It weeds out the chaff, ignores the useless, and is blind to the petty. It respects the reader. And it’s easier to do than you think.


Here’s an example of webnotes on my last post on Using Text Replacements, where I added a link to someone else’s blog post that offered an additional use I hadn’t included in my original post.