When you find a blog post that’s interesting and you are motivated to comment on it, where do you discuss it? Once upon a time you’d have had the conversation right there, on the site, on that page. Essentially a one-to-one with the author, other posters reading it might come along and join in (perhaps friends you recommended it to). Just as likely now, you make your recommendation along with your comment, on Facebook or Twitter, and the discussion kicks off there.
I’ve been looking at commenting systems over the past couple of days. This is motivated partly by curiosity (a vast number of sites I look at offer login via something called Disqus) and partly because I think it would be neat if the conversations could be brought back together. Here are some of the advantages systems like IntenseDebate and Disqus (the two of looked at) can offer:
- As a commenter you can log in with your WordPress/IntenseDebate/Disqus, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo or OpenID identity.
- When you make a comment it can be tweeted out to your followers as well. They’ll see not just a link to the post but also (the first part of) your comment.
- Discussion elsewhere (eg. on Twitter) gets pulled back in so everyone reading the post can also see the discussion.
- As a commenter you get a lot of control over the information you share about yourself, not just linking to your own website (as is typical on a comment) but also to your social network profiles etc.
- As a commenter you get a lot of control over how the comments are displayed to you.
- Commenters’ profiles are also linked to all their other comments. So if someone has said something interesting in response to a post, you can see what else they’ve been reading and what comments they’ve made on it.
There are probably other things, those interested me the most.
There are some alternatives that can do just some of these things, and there are some drawbacks: There are plugins for WordPress that do 1 & 2. (And, it turns out, 3). And the drawback with 6 is that it only applies where the commenter has commented on another blog that also uses the same commenting system (the classic dilemma for social networks/IM systems/mobile phones etc.)
Yesterday the Independent adopted Disqus. Now, I don’t read the Indy, but it was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. I installed Disqus on the blog, and it’s there now. But it might not be in a couple of hours. There are some niggles, in ascending order of niggliness:
- Reactions (which I call mentions) didn’t show up at first (though they do now).
- A comment from 2007 got duplicated (but just the one!)
- The counter which tells you how many comments (and mentions) there are before you go and look is ALWAYS wrong. Grrrr.
- And (most seriously) it appears to have borked comments for those viewing the mobile version of the site.
Also I don’t yet know to what extent I’ll be able to style the comments back how I want them (they’re functional and usable, but I want them to fit in with the Little Storping aesthetic!)
I can just switch Disqus off anytime. All the comments get duplicated into the WordPress system anyway. So, if I can do 1, 2 and 3 (using the Backtype plugin) how much value should I place on 4, 5 and 6.
Maybe the most important thing is what the users think… Oh. Ahem. Um, comments, please?