Single Page Commentable Consultation Docs

With a new doc out on WriteToReply published by DCMS, I’ve started getting fired up again by the sorts of things that I think the platform is capable of, so over the next couple of weeks I hope to post a few ideas, and will then start looking for ways of trying to get the ones that seem workable and useful actually implemented (and ideally, funded).

So for example, one of the things I’ve been playing with are what we might refer to as “single page consultations” (micro-consultations?). Here are a couple of examples:

Here’s another example:

Lessons Learned from Publishing Local Election Data

Note that this isn’t a consultation, as such, more it’s a set of observations (lessons) that might benefit from discussion, or that independently (at paragraph level) might act as a useful focus of, or foil for, further discussion.

So – my observation, based on the examples above, is that there may be some mileage in exploring a WriteToReply-like way of publishing short, single page documents that would benefit from being able to offer:

– unique paragraph level URLs (atomisation);
– commenting at the paragraph level (commentability), with the ability to track comments associated with a particular paragraph.

Of course, it’s easy enough to add unique URLs within any document yourself using the the name attribute within and HTML <a>/anchor element.

So for example, <a name=”here”>here</a> can be linked to by appending #here to end of the current page URL.

However, the approach I’m thinking of would be more automated than that. For example, a WordPress theme (style sheet) or plugin extension that would:

– allow the user to place a chunk of text to be atomised and made commentable in a particular HTML block element (such as a blockquote, or a div with a particular class attribute) and then do the thing to the content in that block element; this could presumably be achieved by tweaking to only run over a limited set of block elements; for page load efficiency, any necessary client-side code would only be loaded if an appropriate block element was present in the page; or

– allow the user to place a chunk of text to be atomised and made commentable within a WordPress shortcode block (e.g. using the WordPress shortcode API, and then let the shortcode API mark up and include any necessary client side code within the block; or

– allow the user to create a custom blog post type that applies the theme to that post.

To make the single commentable pages work in within the context of a blog with non-commentable posts and an arbitrary visual theme, the commenting mechanic for “embedded” or “inline” atomisable and commentable areas may need to change from the floating comment panel used as a default by for an inline theme (see for example Inline Comments on WriteToReply? or this example of “sub-text annotations”: New Buzzwords: Geo-Aware eBooks and Sub-text Annotations).

I’m not sure whether any of the above strategies would work, but the sort of capability I’m after is some sort of WordPress plugin that would let me run an everyday blog, but then for certain posts, or a subset of the content of certain posts, have it atomised and made commentable. So for example, I could include a list of recommendations, or questions, or references, within a blog post, and automatically let the theme give just those elements unique URLs and make them separately commentable.

PS following a tweet from @girlinthe regarding the availability of a comments feed from a particular page, I added a simple sidebar link to just such a thing.

Page level comments feed on WTR

It’s configured simply by adding a link to: feed, which is a link relative to the current page URL. That is:

Comments for this page on WTR

When the link is displayed, the current page URL is prepended, so the link actually points to

Remember, you can also get a variety of other feeds out from the page too.

For example, the full text of the page can be grabbed as a single item RSS feed from the URL:

An RSS feed of the page containing each paragraph as a separate feed item can be obtained using the construction:

Don’t you just love WordPress, and the theme?!;-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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