Option to display snippets of most-recent entry comments on reading page
reading page, comments, styles
Allow for styles to display snippets (with context) of most recent visible comments to an entry on the reading page. It might show a small version of the comment's icon, the username, "in reply to [a comment by <username> | the entry]", the timestamp, and the raw or markup-stripped first ~255 characters.
The ability to read comments without leaving the reading page would probably be at least as powerful as the ability to expand cut tags from the reading page. I believe it would lower the barriers to interaction and entice people who would not have otherwise interacted into interacting, rather than enabling the laziness of readers and allowing readers who would have otherwise read all the comments to skip over them. It would be impractical to load a whole page of comments (complete with threading) on the reading page, however. Two or three to ten or fifteen might be reasonable.
This would be a choice made by the reader in turning on the option for their reading page style, and would not show them anything that they wouldn't be able to see by opening any entry in ?view=flat and looking at the last page of comments, so if it were implemented, it would be difficult to justify allowing a journal owner to disallow comments from their entry to be loaded on the reader's reading page. (If a journal owner had recent-comments view turned on in their own journal and a reader wanted to turn it off, ?style=mine and ?format=light both should turn it off.) People who rely on Google Analytics to track readership numbers for their specific entries might feel as though this cheats them out of page views, if there is no technical solution to track this (for readers who are not blocking Google Analytics code, which can be done easily).
The suggested form represents a compromise between loading all the comments and loading none of them, with aspects drawn from independently hosted blogs, Twitter and some of its clients, Facebook, and YouTube.
I suggest most-recent comments as the ones to display, because the first comment may not even be useful, replied-to comments can't be edited and won't change, and the only way the first comments are going to change is if they're edited or one is deleted. I suggest snippets because Dreamwidth comments can be very long. I suggest raw or markup-stripped because when you're doing snippets, there's a danger of having markup that starts but doesn't end. If the comment is longer than the bit given, there should be a clear indication that it continues, a la the Latest Things page (which also cuts off long entries).
YouTube sorts by most-recent first and allows the viewer to flip between pages of comments inline, which is a neat trick. YouTube comments can also be a pit, and I don't know how much of that is attributable to the interface, how much is the commenting community, and how much is the broadcast attitude & not-much-moderation of the video creators.
It could be a latest-comments module that is turned on with a tickybox in the styles area, and further stuff could be customized either with controls there or as advanced editing. Things like number of comments, icon display, icon size, format of timestamp, size of text, minimum/maximum height of the area given to each comment (maybe a fixed height and scroll bars would be a good idea), perhaps maximum number of characters to display (again, very long comments are possible) might be good settings to have.
I don't know if data like the username of the parent comment is a thing that is stored to be easily fetched, or whether it would have to be expensively derived each time. If it would have to be expensively derived, a regular parent link could be used. (Something really shiny from Twitter would be displaying context of the parent comment inline when clicked, if the parent is visible to the reader.)
Inline ability to reply to the comment would only be advisable if the whole comment were displayed, and even then I find it questionable. However, there are or were ways to add inline top-level commenting to LJ friends pages (not sure if it's possible on Dreamwidth) and I did not see much difference between those comments and other top-level comments. It's also possible to get comment notifications, and reply to comments that one gets the notifications for without reading any of the other comments to the entry.
Poll #7714 Option to display snippets of most-recent entry comments on reading page
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 47