New weblog feature: Reserved comment names

Written by Adrian Holovaty on July 23, 2003

I used to make frequent improvements to the homegrown weblog software that powers this site, but I regret weblog innovation has taken a backseat to other things in my life. Still, I managed to implement an idea this evening that I'd come up with earlier today: Reserved comment names. Let me explain that.

I keep a close watch on this site's user-posted comments, and I do my best to delete spam. But, because anyone can post a comment under any name, there is a chance that one day some mischevious commenter might pose as me, with my name and URL, deceiving the readers of this site until I saw the comment and deleted it.

Such mischief would damage the credibility of this site's comments. But now that can't happen.

Now, every time you see a comment by "Adrian," you can be assured that I wrote it. Why? Because, simply, I'm the only person who can post comments with that name. Likewise, you may not post a comment as "Adrian H." or "Adrian Holovaty," although I will never use those names. If you attempt to use one of those names, you will be notified, pleasantly, that you may not.

Similarly, commenters from the general public may not use "holovaty.com" in the "Web site" form field.

Short of user registration, which I will never implement here, this is the best way I could think of to solve this potential problem.

As for the idea of reserving certain names for certain commenters, I've thought about it, but I have serious doubts about whether anybody would want to reserve his or her name in the Holovaty.com comment system. Let's be honest here: Who cares?

Comments

Posted by François on July 22, 2003, at 6:47 a.m.:

A good idea, which I'd like to see extended as trusted comments on others' weblogs.

One constructive comment to your implementation: what you should protect is the combination of Adrian plus holovaty.com (a clickable Adrian that is ;-). The idea behind it beeing that you brand your own comments uniquely while not keeping out someone who happens to share the same first name. You could even reinforce your comments by giving them a unique visual treatment (e.g. like Apple does on its forums where "official" posts sport their logo.)

Posted by Dave S. on July 22, 2003, at 4:03 p.m.:

Good idea, and I'm with Francois on extending it to other sites. It's something I've been thinking about for a while - imitating someone else on a weblog is hardly a difficult proposition. It's far more valuable to prevent it than to clean up after the fact.

Posted by Simon Willison on July 22, 2003, at 5:17 p.m.:

Trusted comments on other people's weblogs is a great idea. I've written up some thoughts on how it could be achieved, using a combination of bookmarklets (for signing), MD5 hashes and an authenticating web service. It's pretty crazy, but it might just work.

Posted by François on July 22, 2003, at 6:33 p.m.:

Oh, and while we're at it, if it could include a mechanism to prevent comment spamming, or be spamming proof, that would be la cerise sur le gâteau :-)

Posted by A d r i a n on July 22, 2003, at 7:50 p.m.:

Just a simple test.

Posted by Adrian on July 22, 2003, at 8:13 p.m.:

Congratulations! You beat it!

Posted by Adrian on July 22, 2003, at 8:27 p.m.:

François: You make a great point about not keeping out someone who happens to share the same first name as me. I thought about that and made the decision to have a monopoly on the name "Adrian" for two reasons:

1. Having two Adrians in the same conversation would be confusing. Witness the discussions on diveintomark.org that involve a "Mark" (the site's maintainer) and a separate Mark, who sometimes signs his name as Another Mark and sometimes forgets to. If there's another Adrian out there, I encourage him to use his full name when commenting here.

2. It wouldn't do a great job of solving the name-deception problem I'm trying to avoid, because there could still be more than on "Adrian" in any given comment discussion. (Sure, the URLs would be different, but I cannot assume everyone looks at those.)

I do like your idea of an "official" logo, although I'm afraid that might be seen as a bit grandiose. Depends on the implementation, I guess; I'll see what I can whip up.

Posted by Smiler on July 22, 2003, at 8:37 p.m.:

How about just styling your name in the "posted by" bit a different colour....

Posted by john on July 22, 2003, at 9 p.m.:

neat idea Adrian... now, can you add custom graphics like http://www.inmyexperience.com/ ?

John

Posted by Adrian on July 22, 2003, at 11:35 p.m.:

Thanks to the folks who have been trying to beat the system; you've given me some good ideas on how to improve it. :)

Posted by François on July 23, 2003, at 4:17 a.m.:

" [I] made the decision to have a monopoly on the name "Adrian" "

Actually that's fine (your example with Mark explains it very well). Another Adrian will just have to add something else (last name, initials, etc.). It is your site, isn't it :-)

"I do like your idea of an "official" logo, although I'm afraid that might be seen as a bit grandiose"

[ahem] Let's not be grandiloquent then. What about a picture of yourself? ;-) [/ahem]

More seriously, the Apple example simply popped to my mind at that moment. If I there is a holovaty brand on this site, it is surely its pure design (from the école of "perfection is attained when there is nothing else to be removed"), so I don't think a logo would fit here. I was thinking more of a particular textual or visual treatment (beware of colors, don't break this beautiful design) that would make your own comments stand out in the crowd.

Posted by Adrían on July 23, 2003, at 10:02 a.m.:

Yes, it is my site, and I really don't appreciate your snarky comments!

Posted by kevin c smith on July 23, 2003, at 10:03 a.m.:

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Posted by Adrian on July 23, 2003, at 11:43 a.m.:

Ooh, Kevin, good catch. Fixed.

Posted by anonymous on July 23, 2003, at 1:04 p.m.:

Your site, your site...

Posted by Adrian on July 23 at 12:05 PM ET:

François, just fooling around.

Posted by Adrian on July 23, 2003, at 1:23 p.m.:

Ha! That last attempt was so clever that I'll leave it online for all to admire. What the commenter did was to append the entire HTML code from a comment into the comment itself, creating the illusion of two comments when there was actually one. Very clever.

Posted by François on July 23, 2003, at 2:03 p.m.:

N'est-ce pas ? ;-)

Posted by BenM on July 24, 2003, at 9 a.m.:

Just testing for entities, you passed ‌ in the middle of the name, may have worked if the page accepted real unicode characters? seems to choke on it though (maybe char encoding issue?)

and common browser error correction on links, got you on that one!

Posted by Bill Gates on August 29, 2003, at 10:11 p.m.:

I'm with Adrian, you'd be surprised how many people try to imitate me.

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