Tuesday, April 28, 2020

New blog feature: Chat with other commenters

Moderating comments on this blog is a constant pain. That’s partly because there are always commenters which ignore the comment rules, thus forcing me to step in and reprimand them. Trust me, I don’t enjoy it. But this is a minor hassle. The real trouble with comment sections, here and elsewhere, is that they fulfil two different roles which conflict with each other.

See, my main interest in the comment section is that it contributes to the topic of my blogpost and adds valuable information for other readers. Many commenters, however, would rather use the comment section to discuss their own ideas or have an exchange about something else entirely. Now, in principle I think it’s great if my writing stimulates discussion, but I don’t want it to clog my threads. This brings me in the unfortunate position that I constantly have to tell people to shut up and go elsewhere instead of encouraging them to discuss.

But I may have stumbled over a solution for this problem.

Late last year, I got an email from Ben Alderoty, who had been working on an app that allows website visitors to have private one-on-one conversations. The app is called “Conversful” and if you’re on a laptop or desktop you should see it appear in the bottom right corner of your screen.

Click on the icon, and you are asked to enter a name or pseudonym and a topic you want to have a chat about. I would suggest that you use the same pseudonym that you use for commenting here, so that others recognize you.

Since blogs tend to collect like-minded people, I hope the chances are good that you will find someone to exchange thoughts with, especially since many of you have gotten to know each other over the years already. This blog receives most of its traffic from the USA, Canada, the UK, and Germany. This means that the traffic is the highest between the morning and early afternoon Eastern Time, or between the early afternoon and evening Central European Time, respectively. During these times you are most likely to meet other commenters here.

I want to emphasize that this is a test-run of software which is not yet fully developed and does not have all the functionality you may want from it. But I believe that this idea has much potential. It essentially turns websites in virtual meeting places, where you can have conversations without blasting your words out to the whole world.

If you have feedback or comments on this feature, please let me know, most easily by leaving a comment on this thread. The feedback you provide will go directly to the Conversful team for them to make improvements to the app. If you are running a website yourself where this app might be useful, please get in touch with Ben at ben@conversful.com. For more information about them and their vision, you can also check their website conversful.com.


  1. I was a little nervous about using this, but put in my full name and tried several topics. No one responded in the brief time that I waited. But, undoubtedly, a longer wait will produce some feedback from other users. One feature that would be nice to have with this app is a list of existing topics displayed someplace.

    1. Hi David,

      My name is Ben and I'm the founder of Conversful. Thank you so much for giving the app a try. Hopefully you had the type of nerves you get before you try something new, but then are so happy with yourself after you do it kind :)

      We've seen a number of users struggle with long wait times. We are working on a number of features to help resolve this problem over the coming weeks. Just keep an eye out in the bottom right corner and you'll see when those changes go into effect. When they do, I ask you to give it another try and I think there will be a much better chance of meeting someone worthwhile who's on the site at the same time.

      Additionally, I am planning a series of user interviews that I'm looking for participants for. It should only take 30 minutes and will just be in the format of a conversation. Please email me at ben@conversful.com if you (or anyone else reading this) is interested. At Conversful, we are always trying to better understand the needs of readers, so we can continue to adjust the product to meet their needs.

      Thanks again David!

  2. Sabine, I am grateful for your forum. I hope it is working out for you. You put in extraordinary time into it. Hope it gives you at least enough notoriety and income to help in your endeavor to discover the structure of the universe.

  3. I have looked there a few times, but it was empty. So let me ask/suggest a different form of communication.

    Due to the current situation, many institutions have started open online seminars anybody can join, including e.g. PI: https://www.perimeterinstitute.ca/research/seminars

    They offer completely new experience, possibility of life discussion of people all around the world.

    We have started such QM Foundations & Nature of Time Seminar ( http://th.if.uj.edu.pl/~dudaj/QMFNoT ) gathering people from FQXi, EmQM conference, convenient for US and Europe time zones - it is great and hope it will last for a longer time.

    Probably there are more of them, but they are difficult to find - do you know other interesting online foundations seminars?

  4. Hey Jarek,

    Ben here from Conversful. Thanks so much for trying out the app. We're rolling out a few new features this week that are going to make things a bit more lively. Keep an eye out from a guest blog post from me that will explain our app in more detail.

    When you see these changes, try submitting a topic again for a conversation and it will be much, much more likely that someone takes you up on it. It'll be quite evident when they do :)

    Feel free to email me at ben@conversful.com to say hi as well. We're a startup, just trying to figure things out and need feedback from people like you to make the app better.

    - Ben


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