TypeKey from a different angle

I’ve been poking at the idea of TypeKey, and not much liking it, from the comment registration angle. I saw it as an answer to people begging for comment registration as though that would somehow make trolls go away, or stop spam or crapfloods, which it certainly won’t: trolls and spammers and crapflooders are much more motivated, and thus much more willing to register with a throwaway address, than the sort of casual commenter who knows the answer your post was pleading for, and wouldn’t mind giving it to you if it’s not too much trouble.

Now, I’m not so sure that’s the right angle to take. If instead of seeing TypeKey as a slightly more tolerable (because you only have to lie about your email address once instead of many times) way to implement registration, you look at it as way to implement comment moderation, it begins to look a tad bit better.

My comments are mostly in three groups:

  1. People like Jacques tweaking me for missing something obvious, or Dave misunderstanding me and ripping me a new one, or Shannon whispering sweet nothings (back before I pissed her off): people I know, and trust to say anything they want with any links they want, whether I’ll like it or not.
  2. People I haven’t met before, who may want to say something interesting, or link to something I’ve missed, or may want to link to their sugar-pill store or sell some annoying ringtones. Sometimes I want to include what they say in my page, sometimes I don’t. I don’t really mind their text, for a while, either way, but there’s always the chance I’ll really strongly object to their links.
  3. People I know I never want to hear from again: since I don’t write about controversial things of general interest very often, these are mostly the people who’ve proven that they only want to sell sugar-pills, though if I did write about politics, say, and had the same person leaving a stupid and insulting (as opposed to smart and contrary, which I don’t mind) comment on every single post, I’d include them in the never want to hear from again class.

I want the first class to post whatever they want, whenever they want, with any HTML they want. I want the second class to post, but I might not want to let them use HTML, or link from their name, until I’ve looked at what they have to say, and if their noise got to be too much I might even want to hide them like a Slashdot comment below the normal browsing level, so that they were visible, but only with an effort. The third class? They can find their own place to talk, there’s plenty of places other than here.

Depending on how it’s implemented, TypeKey plus MT 3.0 might actually let me do that: since it’s going to be possible to blacklist a TypeKey identity, it ought to be possible to instead whitelist the ones I know, and dump everyone else into moderation. Then, if I can get at moderated comments, I ought to be able to either display them as a placeholder, possibly linked to a hidden <div> with the comment, for the curious, or display them with HTML stripped until I’ve had a chance to look at them and see whether they are new friends or new unpersons.

Moderation is the only solution to comment spam that has ever struck me as at all useful, but I want a way around having things slow down when I can’t approve comments quickly enough. To a certain extent, I don’t mind not letting people chat amongst themselves while I’m not around: I don’t mind quite a lot of conversation and tangents in my comments, but I also see (and participate in, I’m ashamed to admit) a lot of comment threads that are the weblog equivalent of going to someone’s house, pulling their other guest off into a corner to talk, and completely ignoring the host. If comment moderation slowed things down a little bit when the permanent floating Syndication War argument stops by one of my posts, that might not be the end of the world.

Seen as a solution on its own, TypeKey seems pretty clueless: most spammers will have dozens of domains, hundreds of disposable email addresses, and virtually unlimited IP addresses, and no compunction about signing up for any number of TypeKey identities. But seen as a way to separate the wheat from the chaff, and let the people you’ve met at least once before through, rather than a way to separate the chaff from the wheat, and stop the unknown bad strangers without stopping the unknown good strangers, it might just work. Telling Jacques from a stranger, even one claiming to be him, is easy: check the PGP signature. But until everyone realizes how useful PGP can be for them (and people stop writing things like the Textile filter and the Movable Type import/export format that try to eat PGP signatures), maybe some other form of authentication, like TypeKey, is worth trying.

Now I just have to figure out how to do it in a way that won’t stop Shell from commenting: her comments may not be all that frequent, but I’m not willing to give up even one of them. Hmm. Maybe Gary Lawrence Murphy’s idea of hundreds of competing authentication servers: I’ll blanket whitelist anyone from auth.burningbird.net, since a friend of yours is a friend of mine.


Comment by Roger Benningfield #
2004-03-25 03:48:40

Phil: ”I also see (and participate in, I’m ashamed to admit) a lot of comment threads that are the weblog equivalent of going to someone’s house, pulling their other guest off into a corner to talk, and completely ignoring the host.”

That’s a sensitivity with many bloggers that I will never understand. It’s just completely alien to me. I think it comes down to something I said in Shelley’s comments… some folks believe comment tools should serve the user, and I believe they should serve the conversation.

Comment by Jacques Distler #
2004-03-25 06:25:54