Display Comments in Context

How can you display comments in context on a wiki or a blog?

One way on a wiki is to simply allow users to insert their comment in the middle of the page text. That is a typical wiki style comment (from my point of view) but it can lead to a very difficult to read wiki page. The flow of the actual document text is broken up by comments. To get around this, you have the option of a comments section at the bottomw of the page or a second page for comments but neither of those options allow you to display comments in context.

On a blog, I have yet to see a way to display comments in context. You could probably allow some form of wiki style editing of a blog post to let people comment in the middle of your text but then you run the risks associated with wikis where some malicious user could vandalize your posts. Of course, you’re also stuck with using a wiki to blog (which is fine if that’s what you want.).

So how can you display comments in context on a blog and a wiki?

My personal favorite right now are the Microsoft Word track changes and comment features. Maybe that’s because I’ve been reading and modifying a number of documents at work recently. ;) Basically the user is able to insert a comment at any point and it shows up as a bubble in the margin. The text flow is un-interrupted so you can read the document text without reading the comments if you want. You can also turn off the display of the comments if you don’t want to see them at all.

Implementing such a way to display comments in context has eluded me thus far. I’ve got some of the parts figured out but the biggest one is the actual positioning of the comment anchor. The point in the text or the selection of text that the comment is being made about. Without that, you don’t display comments in context.

There is also another side to consider when dealing with a wiki page. If someone wants to print off the page, how do you still display comments in context on the printed page? Should they be made as footnotes, put inline or stuffed into the margins like Word does?

Maybe I’ll get around to figuring this out some day. Even better, maybe someone else will figure it out for me and I won’t have to! ;)

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