Each post on this blog, when viewed on the website (versus an RSS reader or the like), now concludes with a little button containing a star and a number. These buttons appear by way of Starble, a weekend project inspired by last week’s thoughts about how I use various online services’ “fave” buttons.
Implemented as a simple web service, Starble works the way I thought that MetaCPAN’s “++” button did, prior to surprising discoveries made while writing (and subsequently related within) that post. Anyone can now “star” a post on this blog without needing to manually sign in to any account anywhere. The current implementation is a bit naÃ¯ve, such that an enterprising soul could easily find ways to star a post multiple times. As I note in the project’s pre-FAQ, I do not find myself moved to worry much about this.
I hope that Starble offers this blog’s readers, both regulars and passers-through, a convenient feedback outlet that will function, perhaps, in the same vein as my own starring of GitHub projects: a single switch to toggle on when one wishes to send a simple acknowledgment to the author. (Greetings too complex to fit within a single binary digit remain free to move to email or Twitter.)
In this blog’s first months, I tried to achieve the same effect using Twitter widgets that looked somewhat the same, inviting readers to tweet posts’ URLs at a click, and counting the number of links each post had so far accrued on that service. However, with a couple of exceptions, this number invariably read “1” — a reference to my own tweet that had announced that particular blog post. This just made the blog look bad, I decided, as if it had no readers other than myself, pathetically shouting each post’s link into the wind. After a while of this, I removed those buttons.
While I preferred the cleaner look, I still found myself wanting to offer something for readers to do when they reached the end of a post. I would later add a little footer to individual posts containing prompts to contact me if desired, and I do delight at the feedback folks have since sent by email now and again. However, I recognize the vast gulf of effort separating one inspired to compose mail in response to a blog post, and the (I expect) far more common case of the reader who wishes merely to say “yo”. (No relation, again, to any existing social media phenomenon.)
I looked around for existing services that might already offer something like this without tying into a vastly larger system. The closest I could find was Disqus, which offers fave-buttons along with its well-known portable comments sections — but you can’t take one without also accepting the other, and I do not want to add comments to this blog, no matter how lonely it may otherwise seem.
And so, Starble, which I see as a companion to Plerd, the custom software that powers this blog. (Starble’s experimental nature, along with various technical reasons, encouraged me treat it as a separate project, rather than attempt to mash its functionality into Plerd’s codebase.) Like Plerd, it will likely kick around for many months before enjoying a proper, fully documented release. I look forward to letting it find its starry footing through this blog, and hope that it might thereafter prove useful enough to find application alongside other projects as well.