You’re absolutely right. Try, as a new commenter, to leave a comment on your blog. Seriously. It’s horrendous. Here’s my approach:
Act 1: First, I saw the WordPress logo. So I tried to enter my WordPress username and password. Oops, I guess I shouldn’t have told you that, since now you can dig into your logs and pretend to be me on WordPress.com hosted blogs. When that didn’t work, I thought, well, maybe I’ve forgotten my login info. So, I tried a few other options, none of which worked. I guess you could probably log into a few more sites as me now, assuming you’ve been keeping careful logs…
Act 2: Giving up on the username / password option, but not wanting to go through the login dance for what was now clearly “just your blog,” I tried to use my OpenID login, for which Google has chosen a not-totally-unreasonable URL: http://google.com/profiles/romeda - but, of course, that didn’t work. So I tried again, this time using my experience as a web developer to change the URL to http://www.google.com/profiles/romeda, just in case http://www.google.com was returning something more useful than google.com, or in case your OpenID library wasn’t following a redirect or something. Fail.
Act 3: Now, since I *really* wanted to leave a comment on your blog, I clicked the dreaded ‘register’ button. And, to my delight, I saw that it wanted a username and an email address. Right, because I’m going to remember my username for the WordPress install at netmesh.info/jernst. Ha! Thankfully, I got my first choice. I guess the kids haven’t started lining up around the block…
Act 4: Being a good piece of software, WordPress did not ask for my password. So, off I go to my inbox to retrieve the password, which thankfully is sitting right there. It’s a horrendous mess (‘*QOj9rc8D$%X’ fwiw) and Chrome doesn’t like the idea of neatly selecting it, because it’s not really a word, y’know? I manage nevertheless, and go back to the other tab (whatever did we do before tabs?!).
Act 5: Now I enter my password, eager to make my blog post. Click enter, and *bam*, I’m pushed face-first into my brand-new netmesh.info/jernst WordPress profile page. W00t!
Oh, right. I was trying to make a blog post.
Act 6: So, back I go to netmesh.info to find the post that I wanted to comment on. No, wait, wrong page. Rewind. Back I got to netmesh.info/jernst to find the post that I wanted to comment on. The post footer says I’m logged in as romeda (oh, wait, I guess I didn’t get my first choice - why did I use ‘romeda’ instead of ‘blaine’? D’Oh!), so I click on the textarea, and away I go!
Now, Umm, What was I going to say?
Facebook Connect is the best experience for both parties, because chances are the commenter has a Facebook account (and if they don’t, do you really want to hear from them?) so that’s good for the site, and it’s really just one click on that pretty blue Facebook Connect button and then one click to approve the connection (nevermind the privacy implications, pshaw), so that’s great for the user.
But that only works if you trust Facebook. You Dumb Fuck.
So, if you’re like me, and try not to be a Dumb Fuck, you should just skip all the bullshit and use email addresses. That do automagical discovery, thanks to Webfinger. Which is a shitty name, but do you have a better idea? (no really, if you do, PLEASE tell me) Tantek’s called it RelMeAuth; I think we should forgo HTTP URLs altogether for this, simplify, simplify, simplify, and just use email addresses. Whatever happens under the covers doesn’t fucking matter one iota. You start from the user experience and then, as web developers, we make it work. Period.
So to say it again, you’re absolutely right. The Open Pile is a totally useless heap of marketing buzzwords. The only thing that matters is user experience (well, the experience of developers building this stuff matters, too, but it’s a secondary concern. We wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t enjoy at least a little pain). Except that the Open Pile has some real gems in it, and I very much look forward to mining for them with you next week [at the IIW]!