Commenting Should Be More Social, Discuss

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:

  1. As a commenter you can log in with your WordPress/IntenseDebate/Disqus, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo or OpenID identity.
  2. 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.
  3. Discussion elsewhere (eg. on Twitter) gets pulled back in so everyone reading the post can also see the discussion.
  4. 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.
  5. As a commenter you get a lot of control over how the comments are displayed to you.
  6. 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?

About Simon Wood

E-learning officer, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more…

11 thoughts on “Commenting Should Be More Social, Discuss

  1. Slightly funny note: The comments looked fine on my iPhone using your mobile feed, so I tried typing a comment to tell you that.

    It takes the comment just fine, there's just no way to submit it.

  2. I already ran it three or four times just for it to complete (it kept hanging). I don’t see that I have got any way of telling which comments it missed out, so it just doesn’t seem usable to me.

    I also discovered that when I edited a comment in Disqus, it didn’t sync it back to WordPress, although the pre-edited comment is here (it’s the one with the smiley above – I edited to say smiley’s don’t show up!)

    Now playing with using Backtype directly. Less functionality, but more control and less flakiness.

  3. I already ran it three or four times just for it to complete (it kept hanging). I don’t see that I have got any way of telling which comments it missed out, so it just doesn’t seem usable to me.

    I also discovered that when I edited a comment in Disqus, it didn’t sync it back to WordPress, although the pre-edited comment is here (it’s the one with the smiley above – I edited to say smiley’s don’t show up!)

    Now playing with using Backtype directly. Less functionality, but more control and less flakiness.

  4. I already ran it three or four times just for it to complete (it kept hanging). I don’t see that I have got any way of telling which comments it missed out, so it just doesn’t seem usable to me.

    I also discovered that when I edited a comment in Disqus, it didn’t sync it back to WordPress, although the pre-edited comment is here (it’s the one with the smiley above – I edited to say smiley’s don’t show up!)

    Now playing with using Backtype directly. Less functionality, but more control and less flakiness.

  5. Pity really, it seems to have some promise. I suspect I’ll continuing to plunk away at it for a while. My first few syncs did not finish and was several attempts before I got the completion message. At that point all the comments that I knew were missing from my blog did seem to appear.

    How exactly to you run a comprehensive checksum to see if all comments are on the system? I couldn’t think of a way.

    I’ll have to try the comment editing and see what happens. I’m still unsure about how Disqus is doing the synchronization (or not doing it, as the case may be.)

    I also noticed on your blog that, with Disqus enabled, the comments count on a post actually counted up right in front of me – you could see it changing as the post loaded – and then it gets them wrong.

    I haven’t noticed it doing that on mine and it seems to get the counts right.

    On the plus side, I’ve already used it to discover another lonely blog where the blogger reviews Doctor Who and seems to generally rant about some of the things I rant about. 🙂

  6. Pity really, it seems to have some promise. I suspect I’ll continuing to plunk away at it for a while. My first few syncs did not finish and was several attempts before I got the completion message. At that point all the comments that I knew were missing from my blog did seem to appear.

    How exactly to you run a comprehensive checksum to see if all comments are on the system? I couldn’t think of a way.

    I’ll have to try the comment editing and see what happens. I’m still unsure about how Disqus is doing the synchronization (or not doing it, as the case may be.)

    I also noticed on your blog that, with Disqus enabled, the comments count on a post actually counted up right in front of me – you could see it changing as the post loaded – and then it gets them wrong.

    I haven’t noticed it doing that on mine and it seems to get the counts right.

    On the plus side, I’ve already used it to discover another lonely blog where the blogger reviews Doctor Who and seems to generally rant about some of the things I rant about. 🙂

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