Excuse me? You have a guestbook?

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me to take a look at some websites. What I saw brought back a bit of nostalgia from a few years back when we were all creating web 1.0 static websites. You remember those times, right? This is when everyone use WYSIWYG editors like AOL Press or even FrontPage to create their own sites. One common theme you saw were people using animated icons for their pages “Under Construction” and using various hosting providers like Geocities, FortuneCity, Angelfire, and some even used AOL. But what I remember the most and is the topic of this post is the fact that people had guestbooks.

You remember guestbooks, right? It was all the rage. It all started as a means to have people leave their mark on a website and show how popular you were. But in 2009, when you come across those sites, it’s a shame that people are still resorting to using those sites when the technology has changed to allow for much more sophisticated means of showcasing your appreciation towards someone’s site.

But what exactly are your options when you want to keep up with the times but want to go ahead with the guestbook approach? I’d say stop and don’t go signing up for a guestbook. Instead, let’s look at the overall architecture and functionality of your site. These days sites aren’t supposed to be a place to heap praise. In fact, the world wide web has become an era of voicing your opinion and guestbooks just haven’t been the forum for letting your opinions wander freely. Think of it, most people would leave nice comments on guestbooks because of the nature of guestbooks. If you’re running a personal site, then I suppose it’s kosher for you to explore having one, but if you want to be taken seriously, I’d highly recommend you go with one of the following options:

  • Enable comments – wait, you haven’t converted your site into a blog? You need to have a venue where people can leave comments or perhaps offer their services, thoughts, feedback, issues, etc. Point them somewhere that allows them to do that.
  • Create a discussion board – help form a community and let people jabber on about related topics and watch them vent or heap praise on products or services.
  • Take advantage of video posts – integrate with video commenting services, whether it’s Seesmic, Viddler, or even capabilities on other social media sites like Facebook.
  • Integrate with social bookmarking – are you enabling your site to be bookmarked on sites like Digg, Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, or Technorati? Monitor your site’s fan base and critics through the use of a tag or simply searching for blogger feedback.

So as you can see, people just haven’t found a need to have a ancient form of a guestbook embedded on their site anymore. The technology has improved, but the philosophy and principle behind what it stood for hasn’t disappeared. So won’t you sign my guestbook?

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."