: SixApart announces TypeKey, a service that lets you register once and use that registration across any blog that uses the service. I think this is a good idea both because it’s more convenient for posters and because I’ve found in my experience with forums that when people invest in an identity, they are usually less likely to act naughty or nasty. A few questions:

> Does this require verification of an email address?

> What happens when a blogger and TypeKey get a subpoena trying to determine a commenter’s identity?

> Can we set it up so that readers can view only comments that have an identity (call it the troll filter)?

> Is this a good first step to creating distributed blogging (that is, on my blog, let me link to or incorporate any comments I made on others’ blogs)?

> Will my TypeKey profile page link to all my comments? Does it enable a sort of trackback? Can I then search and look for all the comments made by this commenter?

> Will this work with nonblog applications — e.g., Amazon reviews, the forums on my day-job sites, etc.?

> Forgot to ask the obvious: I assume that a blog could make use of this optional — that is, some comments would be signed, others not.

> And how will it work for a blogger to ban an abusive commenter?

Just asking.

: See a very good comment on comments in the comments from SixApart founder Mena Trott.

: Lots of good discussion in the comments.

: Winer’s questions.


  1. Tom says:

    My concern would be the casual commenter who doesn’t usually post comments on sites. S/he might show up on your blog, have an idea, then *have* to sign up for a profile with TypeKey, and forget what they were going to talk about. So my question would be – how easy is the “sign up” going to be – which goes along with your “email verification” question.

  2. Shelley says:

    You’ve been talking about Howard Stern and censorship, and now you want to turn your comment control over to a centralized comment authority, that can censor and ban people based on whatever pretext the company desires.
    You aren’t very consistent in your viewpoints about ‘freedom of speech’.

  3. hugh macleod says:

    I think it’s a good idea, Jeff. Might take a while for it to become “standard”, but hey, so what’s new…
    Shelly, from what high school debating society did you pull that question out of? (rolls eyeballs and snickers)

  4. Shelley says:

    I beg your pardon MacLeod? My point was valid, though you may not agree with me.
    Technically and socially, centralized authentication has been a problem and a pariah with distributed development for years. That’s why so many systems have been rejected, such as Microsoft’s Passport, and the Liberty Alliance.
    Just because the system is now being authored by a company that’s supposedly ‘one of us’, does not eliminate all the many problems associated with it.

  5. Reid says:

    Shelley: “…a centralized comment authority, that can censor and ban people based on whatever pretext the company desires…
    Couldn’t a similar charge be made about Blogspot, Live Journal, TypePad, etc? Aren’t they in effect “Centralized Blog Authorities”? Have you seen any problems with free speech there?
    My guess is that Jeff’s answer would be one of letting the marketplace dictate. If the folks at TypeKey (or anywhere else) start to ban or censor people, sites will stop using it. Stupid business decisions (and that’s exactly what censoring or banning people on the web would be) get punished.
    Furthermore, it’s my understanding that this would be a centralized authentication service, not a content carrier or aggregator. I could be wrong about that, but if there’s no content, what’s to censor?

  6. Jeff Jarvis says:

    Reid’s right.

  7. Shelley says:

    Good questions, Reid.
    Actually, I know of one weblog that had to be pulled from Blogspot because of content, so it does happen, but rarely.
    The big difference with TypeKey is that it potentially can extend beyond the borders of one weblogging tool, and even extend into environments that are by their nature distributed, such as Movable Type.
    A central authority that controls your ID that gives you access to comments on many weblogs — what happens if one or more people accuse this person of being ‘abusive’? Now the person can be blocked on a weblog, but what if the people go after TypeKey to block them totally? Won’t happen? This is weblogging, people go after other people at the drop of a hat.
    More importantly, though, is that people will have to register with a centralized system just to comment locally on one specific weblog. That puts a very real constraint on the people. This is going to inhibit what people say. Not all people, but some. Maybe even a significant number.
    Six Apart says that they won’t give out infomation, but will they collect information about who uses their key at what site? Though Six Apart has said they won’t abuse this, the potential for abuse is there.
    If people want to use this, then they will have to consider that they will probably lose a lot of commenters, and no, not just ‘trolls’, though that term can be relevant. I have several people who comment at my weblog and only give their first names, but they can make some important points (even though they usually don’t agree with me). There are a lot of people, like me, who just won’t buy into this type of system.
    Too much potential for abuse. Even Jarvis himself asks, “can I search on all comments made by this person?” People will want this. It’s only a short step away. Eventually, there is the risk of this information leaking out. There always is when you have a centralized identification system.

  8. Shelley says:

    Reid’s right about what, Mr. Jarvis? Because he agrees with you?

  9. China shuts down two internet blog sites.

  10. Reid says:

    Shelley, I don’t mean to say your concerns are invalid. There is indeed potential for abuse here. But I think in this case I put it within a larger context: Reputation.
    If Microsoft were to come out with a similar “service,” I’d have the very same concerns you mention. But in the case of Six Apart, they’ve earned a different reputation, at least in my mind. I’ve seen their efforts to make capabilities like Trackback (and now, TypeKey) available outside of core MT use, and have seen no real abuses of their enviable market position. They’ve earned a reputation with me that means I’ll consider their products in a different light than somebody like Microsoft.
    Naive? Maybe. But that’s all we have on the web, at the corporate and individual level … established reputation by previous words and actions. That’s another reason I’m not worried about TypeKey providing links to all comments someone has made through their service. That’s a sort of “reputation bank.” I would consider that a great feature, and continuation of the tools that allow us to track the relationships of discussions on the web.
    While I agree that it may cut down on an unknowable percentage of people who simply won’t want the hassle of registering once to make a comment, I don’t think it will inhibit the content of those who register. It will inhibit the content of those who always post entirely anonymously. And within my own personal site, in which I stand behind my words with my full name, I’m fine with that.
    I do have two concerns, and not enough info to address either of them. While I’m fine with losing totally anonymous commenters, like you, I think if someone wants to post as “Mike” with a valid e-mail address like “,” then that is sufficient “identity” for me. At this point, we don’t know just how strict this authentication will be.
    And the other concern, Jeff has mentioned: subpoena issues. Does Six Apart have a legal policy in place should they be issued a subpoena to release the TypeKey info they have about a particular user?

  11. Shelley says:

    Interesting point Reid. But I’ve learned never to trust corporate interests, and Six Apart is now a company that is growing quite rapidly, with outside investors. It is not the same as “Ben and Mena”, now. And I’m not particularly overjoyed at how the comment spam problem, which we’ve had for over a year now, has been addressed in the past, or with Six Apart’s lack of communication regarding same.
    And we don’t know about the commercial aspects of this service, and this information won’t be released until, from what I can read at the site, after it’s been in use.
    However, I don’t share your concerns about the subpoena issue. That, to me, is taking ourselves far too seriously.
    If someone is going to threaten the life of the weblogger or promise to blow something up, the only possible reasons why anyone would subpoena for this information, they’re not going to use TypeKey.
    However, if you’re comfortable using this type of system, and you have complete trust in Six Apart, feel free, as long as you’re willing to lose commenters.

  12. Some commenters I’m definitely willing to lose.

  13. hugh macleod says:

    Shelly, I usually roll my eyeballs whenever somebody refers to deleting offensive comments as “censorship”.
    The same way I roll my eyeballs any time somebody uses the word “holocaust” to describe the slaughter of animals for the food industry.

  14. Reid says:

    Regarding potential subpoenas, I was thinking more of libel issues, rather than life or death. If a commenter on my site says “Jeff Jarvis is a fraud,” and Jeff decides to sue over that comment, will TypePad reveal what they know about that commenter if issued a subpoena?
    Obviously, before I would add TypeKey to my site, I’ll have to know a lot more about it. But I would strongly consider adding it for either of two reasons, nevermind their combination.
    One, the problem of comment spam. I don’t subscribe to the MT Blacklist solution (if I recall correctly, neither do you), and while the custom hacks I’ve made on my site have been mostly effective, there needs to be a community wide solution of some sort. I’m hoping this might be it.
    Secondly, on a more personal level, I’m in favor of seeing people stand behind their words, with at least a minimal “Net Identity” (like the aforementioned “Mike”). It builds reputations, which in turn benefits the greater community of reputations that we have given the ugly moniker of “blogosphere.”
    There are plenty of forums on the web where you can post entirely anonymously, and likely always will be. There are plenty of blogs where even the author is anonymous, and likely always will be. But on my site, when I take a strident stand, I do it with my “Net Identity” attached (in my case, my full name, and therefore much more, with a little searching). And I have no problem with asking those who stridently disagree with me in the comments to do the same, at a very minimal level (a “handle” and a verified e-mail).
    Of course, my site has about a tenth the number of comments Jeff does, and since it’s 75% “regulars,” I’d guess they’d be willing to do the one-time registration (most of them comment elsewhere, as well). Even if they resist, I’d further guess that I will sooner or later say something that will demand their response.
    In other words, if it fleshes out as indicated, I think over time it will build up a critical mass of users. Probably a lot quicker than Trackback did.
    Hugh: “The same way I roll my eyeballs any time somebody uses the word ‘holocaust’ to describe the slaughter of animals for the food industry.
    And the same way I do when someone describes the current government environment over broadcast indecency as “Talibanism.”

  15. Jeff Jarvis says:

    Shelley: You asked a question; Reid answered it; I agreed.
    There is no need to be rude and hostile… unless you’re merely demonstrating the need for a better system for blotting out trolls.
    Be nice or be gone.

  16. KMK says:

    In order to get a subpoena from a court you would have to walk in with more then “Jeff’s a fraud.” If someone posted where he ate breakfast, lunch and dinner then you might have a stalking case or if you said I know the real Jeff and he doesn’t have a blog this guy is a fraud then you might have defamation of character. You get the idea.
    As far as controlling comments each site has the right to control. If it were a public domain I would argue differently.
    “Hugh: “The same way I roll my eyeballs any time somebody uses the word ‘holocaust’ to describe the slaughter of animals for the food industry.”And the same way I do when someone describes the current government environment over broadcast indecency as “Talibanism.”
    —Now that’s a chuckle. The two people I thought I’d never see come down against creative writing. (don’t get defensive it made me laugh).

  17. MacLeod, I wasn’t discussing the issue of deleting comments, but of blocking a person from commenting at any TypeKey controlled site because of complaints. There is this potential while this is a privately run service.
    Reid, I think you’ll will find that if libel was an issue in comments, we’d all have our butts in front of a judge by now.
    I can understand about wanting to block the comment spam — I’ve been hit by the script kiddies probably more than most webloggers (who don’t intentially bait the kiddies). I do use mt-blacklist, but not the blacklisting portion. The application comes with a really nicely integrated email function to delete a ‘bad’ comment, or bulk delete comments and rebuild. I also use a modified version that throttles the automated spams. I’ve had very few problems since adding these two functionalities, and am quite happy with my comments now. But it’s a hacked approach that many of the webloggers I support aren’t comfortable with, which is why I hoped these types of features would be incorporated in MT 3.0, and was surprisesd to hear about an authentication service instead.
    I don’t want a community solution to my comment problems. I want to manage my site individually, and that includes monitoring and if necessary (rarely) deleting comments from people posting opinions. And easily cleaning up spam, and blocking deliberate overloads.
    As for reputation, I don’t trust the concept of ‘reputation’. If anything we have that too much in the weblogging world — with popular blogger’s views given more credence than less popular ones, even if they spout drivel half the time. Or one small group of people labeling another person with tags such as ‘vicious’, when all they’ve done is disagree.
    Reputation in weblogging isn’t necessarily a healthy thing.
    As I’ve said, I’ve had some great anonymous comments — I won’t risk them for the safety of a safe, community-driven solution. And I’ve had over 9000 comments at my site.
    But I respect your choice. If I disagree with you it’s only in how fast TypeKey will spread. I don’t think people are going to welcome this with the same open arms we did trackback. We’re growing up, and becoming, rightfully so, more wary of ‘new and innovative’ technologies. Especially ones from a central authority that is a private vendor.
    Unfortunately, though, I think we will suffer a loss in communication with this service. And not the ‘bad’ kind of communication, either.
    I guess we’ll see how tightly it’s integrated into MT, and what the commercial aspects of this product are, and the performance issues, And go from there.

  18. Reid says:

    I enjoy creative writing. But hyperbole parading as argument makes me want to type words I can’t use in this space. I gather Hugh has a similar reaction.

  19. Shelley says:

    Be nice or be gone?
    By your standards since I don’t agree, I’m not nice, so I’ll be gone.
    Thank you Reid, though, for being the one person on this thread willing to actually ‘talk’ with me.

  20. Mena Trott says:

    Our announcement about the TypeKey service was focused on the TypeKey service, not the way we’ll be handling comment registration. But, without going into too much detail, I will say that we’re not starting this service in order to police or ban users. From a liability standpoint alone, it doesn’t make sense. Movable Type 3.0 has a robust comment registration system that allows the user to ban or accept users on their own weblog. TypeKey is a way to say “this person has an account and has entered a verfied email”–now you, as the weblog owner, will decide how you will handle this commenter.
    We operate in California, a state where the legal system advocates personal privacy. We feel the same way, so of course, we’re not going to be providing a public list of all the blogs you’re commenting on without explicit user approval.
    And regarding the subpoena issue: While Ben and myself founded Six Apart and the company still reflects our vision, we are a company that has counsel and if and when these situations come up, we follow legal guidelines. This certainly doesn’t mean just handing over user data.
    Six Apart didn’t just decide to create TypeKey on a whim. We weighed the pluses and pros of both decentralized and centralized registration. Believe me, the decision didn’t happen overnight. Ultimately, the need to not sign up on every weblog you wish to comment on and the ability to say that your TypeKey identity is your own (rather than having decentralized comment registration where someone could possibly snap up your identity on a particular weblog) were two of the major issues that made us choose a centralized authentication system.
    We’re going to want to compile a list of questions that people may have and add those to our FAQ. But, ultimately, we’ll want to get the product out of alpha before answering too many speculative questions :)

  21. Jeff Jarvis says:

    Shelley: I was happy to have a conversation with you but I challenge you to look back at your comments and tell me you were not hostile and rude for no reason. Why do I have to deal with rude people here, in my house? You can be mature and polite and get much farther. Weren’t you ever taught that? I keep open comments here but I do get fed up when people think they can come in and be snotty and mean for no reason. You are dealing with people, remember, not machines. So, be nice or be gone.

  22. Shelley says:

    Jeff, I was neither rude nor hostile. You did not answer me directly, and you responded to Reid’s statement with a cryptic, ‘you’re right’. Reid ended his comment with a question — he was right about the question? Or that he agreed with you? Or that you liked his reasoning? I can’t tell from ‘you’re right’.
    Now, you have to look at your own response to me. Who is being hostile, and condescending. What puzzles me, though, is you are more so with me than I’ve seen you be with several gentlemen who have really racked you across the coals. Why is that?
    Snotty and mean?
    Rude and hostile?
    Was I not taught these things?
    I’m sorry, but you set standards for me, that you don’t enforce with other commenters, and especially don’t enforce for yourself. And I am still puzzled as to why I am treated with so much more hostility than the gentlemen in some of your Stern posts that write in all caps and practically spit when they tell you what they think of you.
    Hmmm. I guess since I cannot tell how you judge ‘rude’ and ‘nasty’, I will be gone. The only reason I am commenting now is to direct a note to Ms. Trott.
    Ms. Trott, you may want to post your comments publicly rather than in specific weblogs posts. That way even those who may not read Mr. Jarvis can hear the same words. Just a suggestion.

  23. Mena Trott says:

    You’re right, that’s why I said:
    We’re going to want to compile a list of questions that people may have and add those to our FAQ. But, ultimately, we’ll want to get the product out of alpha before answering too many speculative questions :)
    So, please feel free to send us a question and we will hopefully be able to address it officially on or Six

  24. Jeff Jarvis says:

    Reid’s right about what, Mr. Jarvis? Because he agrees with you?
    I’d call that nasty and hostile. And yes, it gets my dander up.

  25. This was an interesting thread because it shows the best and worst aspects of commenting. I typically see four kinds of comments on my blogs:
    1. Intelligent, germane remarks, which may be supportive or critical of what I have posted or, if a link, to the story in question.
    2. Expansive remarks that provide more detail about the subject in question, often from the principals (cf. Mena, above)
    3. Discussions that form in the comments section that are germane and useful to the discussion at hand (everyone in this thread)
    4. Off-topic remarks or poorly written remarks that don’t extend and expand on the comment.
    5. Ad hominem attacks, rudeness, stupidity. (These posters always claim, when confronted, to not be exhibiting this behavior; viz., above.)
    6. People who don’t understand that the comments are for specific articles and post totally weird things, like requests to order books or sell stuff.
    7. Comment spam.
    Categories 4 to 7 led me to turn off comments altogether on my blogs until a better solution existed. This includes, which often generates a large number of good posts in the 1 through 3 category, even when they’re totally critical of my point of view (but not rude or attacking the site).
    The biggest problem I’ve found is category 4. People who cannot recognize their own tone are often wily enough to be able to register, enter obscured text, confirm their email address — these are the folks that moderation solves the problem of.
    I really want an integrated system that requires verification of a post (so the TypeKey solution provides me a mechanism of verification) and moderation of a post (so that I as a site operator can choose whether a post is in categories 1 to 3 or 4 to 7).
    I’ve run mailing lists for years, and when I was running the Internet Marketing discussion list back in 1994-1996 (Jeff Bezos and many other folks who were evolving companies were members), I ran it moderated. I would have problems with posters every few weeks in which someone wanted to post every damn thing they thought of. I would reject, and sometimes explain.
    These folks would scream bloody murder at me. Fine, I would reply. If you want an unmoderated forum, then you should create one. I will even link to it and promote it as a forum in which moderation isn’t the key. And you know what happened: a couple people started an unmoderated forum and it devolved into useless nonsense and spam within a couple of months.
    Meanwhile, my list grew from 1,000 in the first week (in 1994) to 7,000 by 1996 when I shut it down because the conversation had become tedious and useless. I did promote some new lists that formed, none of which lasted longer than a few years themselves.
    The point (I’ve meandered) is that moderation is a good thing and validation of an identity is good thing *for the people running sites*. They may not be the best thing for people who want to post comments. In which case, the way the blogosphere works is that you post comments on your own blog, and TrackBack, Google, RSS readers, and other tools link your ideas to the offending post.

  26. (Make that “seven kinds of comments.”)

  27. Sissy Willis says:

    Do you realize how hard your long posts are to read?

  28. Jeff Jarvis says:

    Shelly: Look back, too, at what Reid said. His questions were rhetorical.
    He did a good job responding to you and I was merely seconding what he was saying.
    And then you slap me.
    And, as Glenn says, you don’t hear your own tone.
    You’ve also slapped me before, as I remember.
    I would be delighted to have you stay here and join in any conversation. But if you slap me, you can’t expect me not to respond and say ouch.

  29. Shelley says:

    Mena, you’ve made two good points — wanting to get product out of alpha and a FAQ. Most of my discussion now is geared more towards influencing alpha than anything, and most of my concern is focused primarily on whether MT people can choose not to use TypeKey, registration, and whether throttling and comment management have been added to 3.0, which I will post as a question.
    Mr. Jarvis, I don’t particularly see that statement as hostile or nasty, but your space. Apologies if you’ve been offended.
    The problem with banning people and depending on reputations is that so much of this is subjective. I don’t see good things happening from a centralized authentication system, but that’s my own opinion, which I will save for my own space.
    BTW, Mr. Jarvis, you’re welcome in my space, and I even allow people to be rude and nasty, as long as they do so with elan ;-)

  30. Mena Trott says:

    I’ll add those questions to the official FAQ (for Movable Type 3.0, not TypeKey since we want to show that TypeKey is not limited to comment registration). The short answers to your questions is, yes, those options are available in 3.0.

  31. Jeff Jarvis says:

    Glenn: Great comment. Thanks.
    I’ve had similar discussions over time regarding the forums I run in my day-job sites.
    In the early days, some nervous folks asked for registration as a cure-all to rude and bad posts. I always said it would not work because, of course, anyone can go to Hotmail and start an account and call themselves George Bush and start posting. Having to verify email is a fool’s paradise, then. And it’s a pain in the butt for the poster; it stifles interactivity. So I’ve never liked that.
    However, once we instituted chat with individual identities (i.e., there can be only one “bubba”) that alone helped raise the level of discourse, for people invested in their net identities and tended to misbehave less. So we expanded that to the forums.
    But, in the end, you also need the kill bad posts the way you clean graffiti off schoolhouse walls. And, of course, that can get people mad at you and accuse you of various horrid sins. So be it.
    I think the TypePad scheme has advantages: For one, it allows posters to have a cross-site identity (there will be only one “bubba”) and to invest in that identity.
    But nothing will stop someone who wants to be abusive from leaving an abusive comment; heck, people who put in their email addresses and blog addresses do it sometimes.
    The legalities do bring up big issues that I think we need to grapple with as a blogosphere. Note that some bloggers have been threatened with suit. I predict it won’t be long before a blogger is subpoened to produce an IP and other identifying information for a commenter. That’s an issue for bloggers already; TypeKey adds another dimension to the questions (as Mena says, they’re in California, so they will operate under one standard, others on other standards; what kind of information can they be forced to hand over?).
    But I do think a cross-site comment identity is a good idea and a good thing. Could it be handled in some distributed method (the kazaa of identity)? I don’t see how. Can a company handle this with goodwill? Yes, I think so.
    But it’s good to have this open discussion of all the issues now so that bloggers and commenters are comfortable if they choose to join in.

  32. Jeff Jarvis says:

    Thank you. Virtual handshake.

  33. Actually, one of the things that I hold out for from sites like Technorati is that implicit trust could be turned into a tool like the explicit rankings in eBay or explicit trust on Friendster, Orkut, etc. If Jeff Jarvis links to me a lot and I post on Jeff’s site using a key that ties into my Technorati profile, then I’m trusted to post as myself there, and no one else can post as me. This could help fight spam, too…give higher scores to people who link to each other and then register their email addresses with any system that would provide a sort of spam ranking score.

  34. Jeff Jarvis says:

    Good idea; I agree.
    The irony is that what you really need is comments on your announcement. I’m happy to take the traffic and links but I think this good discussion shows that discussion is needed and helpful.

  35. KMK says:

    A rose by any other name………..
    A hyperbole is a figure of speech in which statements are exaggerated or extravagant. It implies strong feelings or is used to create a strong impression and is not meant to be taken literally.
    Seriously, I read you site Reid and while you aren’t a flagrant abuser of hyperbole’s “bombing the ballot” isn’t exactly subdued writing. Of course I feel like Forrest Gump posting this after such intelligent conversation but (you knew a but was coming) I think hyperbole is in the eye of the beholder.

  36. Mithras says:

    I’m wrestling right now with the issue of identity verification for an institutional blog, so this development is timely for me. I think the direction we’re moving in is to let anyone comment, but give registered commenters better access (and also, prevent non-registered commenters from imping registered ones), such as letting them vote in polls, giving them free non-blog content, etc. I think Typekey will probably end up working this way, too. People will develop “value” in their online commenter personas (just as bloggers do) and so add an interesting layer of community; anonymous commenters will persist and be regarded as anonymous bloggers are now.

  37. triticale says:

    It occurs to me that such a system would actually increase the validity of nicknonymity by confirming, for example that every comment signed by “triticale” was indeed from triticale-at-hotmail-dot-com, and thus make nicknonymity less like anonymity.

  38. blow past me says:

    #4 Off-topic remarks or poorly written remarks that don’t extend and expand on the comment.
    Can’t you find something redeemable in a hair brain comment? Don’t they ever give moment for pause?

  39. Joe Peden says:

    Shelly, I’m with you.

  40. hugh macleod says:

    Mithras. Wow. “Comment Identity”. That’s actually a SERIOSULY GOOD concept.
    Having had my life completely swallowed up by my blog, my opinion is that the more powerful the internet as a tool, the less anonymous it is becomes. The converse is also true- give up your anonymity, and more interesting things start to happen.

  41. hugh macleod says:

    Mithras. Wow. “Comments Identity”. That’s actually a SERIOSULY GOOD concept.
    Having had my life completely swallowed up by my blog, my opinion is that the more powerful the internet as a tool, the less anonymous it is becomes. The converse is also true- give up your anonymity, and more interesting things start to happen.

  42. Don Park says:

    This comment fest certainly was entertaining if not informative. Thanks to all. :-)

  43. Jeff, Mena,
    If either of you are still reading this, I highly recommmed you also take a look at this post by Jacques Distler.
    Let’s just say that there are some serious issues that need to be addressed before getting this service off the ground if TypeKey isn’t to give rise to more hassles than it solves.