Improving the WordPress comment system

Filed as News on December 18, 2006 7:37 am

Do you think WordPress needs better comment management functionality? Prolific WordPress blogger Lorelle VanFossen discusses what she thinks is WordPress’s most significant weakness, the lack of a simpler and more intuitive way of handling comments in the popular blogging platform.

I’€™m sure that your ‘€œnumber one flaw’€ or lacking feature in WordPress might be different from mine, but this is one that really bothers me. I think the solution is simple. So the question is: Why hasn’€™t something been done to fix this flaw?

The flaw? Comments.

Comments are critical to blogs. They are the number one distinguishing feature that separates them from websites, those static billboards on the web. It is through this interaction that blogs continue the conversation started by the author. Feedback, input, advice, answers to questions, questions needing answers, all enrich the dialog that makes blogs blogs.

The first blog publishing apps used to have no provision for comments and discussions until the likes of Greymatter, MovableType and much later, WordPress, came along. Weblogs have always been synonymous with personalized conversations and comments have been integral in the growth of several of the influential weblogs today.

With WordPress’s logarithmic growth, being the popular choice puts it in the limelight highlighting not only its strength but also its weaknesses. Several months ago, comment spam was a time–wasting concern for most bloggers until Akismet was made available, somehow easing the comment moderation burden.

For high–traffic, large–discussion blogs however, the current WordPress version seems inadequate for handling discussions. It is quite hard to get a grip on the actual number of comments recently posted and you only have a paginated interface for going through comments chronologically. Unless of course you go through each entry and check for recent replies to the specific discussions.

A very helpful addition for comment handling would be an overview page similar to the standard dashboard but with more important information on discussions and activities. We have plugins that list down recently commented entries, why not make it available on the administration side too? A listing of unread comments similar to an email inbox could also be a welcome addition and complement the default email alerts for comments.

What other comment handling features do you think would help make WordPress better?

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  1. By Ajay posted on December 18, 2006 at 8:43 am
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    Several months ago, comment spam was a time–wasting concern for most bloggers until Akismet was made available, somehow easing the comment moderation burden.

    I disagree on this point. Even before Akismet were a few good spam protection plugins like SK2 and BB, which are still doing a much better job that Akismet IMO.

    Regarding comments, I think Lorelle is correct and the suggestions you made above are definitely needed.
    The main things needed to work on is better management on the comment screen. While you can use the search function, it would be easier to search by email, search by url etc. that needs to be integrated.

  2. By Lorelle posted on December 18, 2006 at 11:32 am
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    WordPress developers have always stepped up to the plate, so I expect our voices will be heard.

    On a similar note, I didn’t even know you had comments until my cat stepped on the keyboard and the page scrolled way down and I “found” the comments. The huge space between content and comments isn’t very intuitive. Nor is embracing the trend to put all the “good links” in the footer. I would have never found those without the cat, too. ;-)

    Increasing comment interaction is as much writing as design sometimes.

  3. By Tony posted on December 18, 2006 at 6:26 pm
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    I agree Lorelle … thanks for the input.
    We are working towards a new theme for the BlogHerald in the new year. However, its going to take some time for it to emerge.

    In the mean time, we’re going to see what we can do to make the current theme more accessible.

    Cheers
    t

  4. By J. Angelo Racoma posted on December 18, 2006 at 10:47 pm
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    I wish I had a cat who would automatically approve legitimate comments and trash the spammy ones.

  5. By Markku Seguerra posted on December 19, 2006 at 5:13 am
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    Ajay, good point regarding SK2 and BB, though admittedly they weren’t as widely used as Akismet is now. Personally, I never found them useful enough and SK2 even had several issues with false positives, at least in my experience.

    Lorelle, I do hope our suggestions are indeed heard and implemented. But I don’t think it could make it for 2.1, right?

  6. By Ajay posted on December 19, 2006 at 6:19 am
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    I don’t think SK2 wasn’t widely used because I am aware of over 10000 plus downloads quite a few months back.

    The only reason Akismet is so widely used is because it is bundled with WordPress. I got nothing against Akismet, but I prefer having my spam protection system on my blog and server itself as opposed to relying on an external server exclusively. I still have Akismet in use via the Akismet-SK2 plugin.

    I’ve had very rare cases of false positives with SK2, and I figured out because I set my settings too high up not expecting the volume of users commenting on my blog ;)

  7. By Jessica Doyle posted on December 19, 2006 at 3:36 pm
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    I track my comments using cocomment. Integration of this into my dashboard would be very welcome to me and my cat.