Commenting Issues in the Blogosphere

Filed as Features, General on November 11, 2007 6:31 pm

Lorelle previously noted that her personal number one flaw in WordPress is the commenting system. Not only is commenting flawed in WordPress it is flawed in the whole blogosphere. The blogosphere is a distributed network that scatters your comments around the different blogs you comment on. How do you know if someone replied to your comment? How do you keep track of the discussion you might be participating in?

There are two kinds of comments that we need to keep track of: Comments left by other people on your blog and comments left by you on other blogs. How do we manage these comments?

Turn on e-mail notification for comments. In your admin panel go to Options – Discussion – Email me whenever and tick the desired boxes. This is how I prefer to manage the comments on my own blog. Whenever someone comments on my blog I receive an e-mail. I prefer this over checking the comments on the blog itself or in the administration panel because my e-mail is always open and my blog is not.

Reply from within your administration panel. Install a plugin that will allow you to reply to your comments from within the administration panel. The Admin Panel Comment Reply Plugin by Cindy Moore was developed after Lorelle published a list of plugins she would like to see realized. Ozh wrote a similar plugin titled Absolute Comments: Comment Manager with Instant Reply that is worth checking out.

Managing the comments on your own blog is the easiest part because the comments are usually stored in one single place: your blog. What about the comments you leave on other blogs, how can we keep track of those?

Subscribe to comments. One of my favorite ways to keep track of my comments is to subscribe to comments. It allows me to receive an e-mail that will notify me of subsequent comments on a blog post. This is only possible if the owner of the blog has enabled this option. A great plugin that will enable your commenters to be notified of new comments is the Subscribe to Comments plugin.

Use a comment aggregator to keep track of your comments. There are two kinds of different comment aggregators: those that collect the traces of your comments on a central server such as CoComment and those that outsource your comments to an external server such as Haloscan or Intense Debate.

The CoComment system. By installing an extension for your browser CoComment is automatically enabled when you leave a comment on a blog. It sends the information to the CoComment server where it is stored on your personal page. All your conversations are placed on one single page which makes it easy to keep track of things. The extension will also alert you if a conversation has been updated. Even though I like this service a lot it is not a one-way solution.

CoComment has been slow in updating my conversations recently. Yesterday it notified me of a new comment in a conversation I was engaged in 19 hours after the comment had been placed. I sure hope this is a temporary bug. Another major problem is that CoComment currently doesn’t work with Movable Type blogs. Even though they are working on this issue it limits the blog conversations you can follow. Not all blogs are WordPress blogs.

Haloscan and Intense Debate. I must admit I have not tried these service. Why? Because I don’t like the idea of outsourcing my comments to an external server. I have visited blogs that use those services and because the comments have to be loaded from an external server the sites were slow. In one case I actually thought there were no comments at all because it took such a long time to display the comments. Even though Intense Debate does seem to offer some nice features such asimporting and exporting your comments to your blog, threaded comments and a reputation system I am reluctant to hand over my comments.

If you outsource your comments you lose complete control over them. I am an advocate of removing the nofollow attribute on comments and Haloscan automatically places a nofollow on comments. Several WordPress plugins allow you to remove the nofollow attribute but if you outsource your comments you no longer have this choice.

How do you keep track of your comments? Do you outsource your comments?

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  1. By Andy Beard posted on November 11, 2007 at 6:47 pm
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    Haloscan is actually worse than nofollow, because the comments are displayed on a blog using javascript, which isn’t seen by search engines as part of your site.

    One service that looks interesting is http://disqus.com/ which seems to leave your content intact, and works with dofollow plugins just fine.

    I am not sure if there is a way for it to work with other avatar services

    Reply

  2. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on November 11, 2007 at 7:24 pm
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    I’m so glad I’m not the only one frustrated with the way comments work, both inside and outside our blogs. I’m thrilled at the work being done to incorporate AJAX into the Comments panel on WordPress through three different WordPress Plugins (competition will definitely help users), and I’d like to mention for those on WordPress.com or similar “non-Plugin accessible” blogging services, WordPress Comment Ninja Greasemonkey Script is a great way to get a similar “instant” reply to your WordPress.com Comments Panel. I’ve been using it for a couple of months and it speeds up the process of replying tremendously.

    As for monitoring comments, we are bereft of any good technology. Personally, I hate the email method. I get hundreds of email a day, so adding tons of comment-driven emails to the stack – I can barely cope as it is.

    With all the creativity out there, why can’t we get a better and easier process for monitoring comments?

    Reply

  3. By Amos posted on November 11, 2007 at 9:20 pm
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    Yeah, I find commenting/keeping track of comments on WP to be a minor drag. Comments have always seemed to be a different system almost, like they don’t integrate well into the whole. Never has felt seamless to me.

    Anyway, thought I’d mention two plugins I noticed today. Maybe you’ve already seen them; WordPress Comment Moderation Notifier for Windows and one for OSX. Seems they notify you of new comments in your system tray, for Windows, or via Growl, for Mac.

    I have not given the Mac version a try, yet another WP todo, but it looks promising on the notification front.

    Reply

  4. By Neena posted on November 11, 2007 at 10:57 pm
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    I was not aware that there was a plugin that allows you to respond to your comments from your admin panel. The inability to do that has frustrated me to no end. I much appreciate the info.

    Reply

  5. By ian in hamburg posted on November 12, 2007 at 2:22 am
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    I have been using the email notification method since day one, since I go the moderatation route. That’s impractical for blogs with huge readership, but the most of us don’t have to worry about that. I like what wp.com has for tracking comments I leave on other wp.com blogs, but I’m looking for a good way to keep track of the comments left on all the others. Thanks for the tips.

    Reply

  6. By Aurelius Tjin posted on November 12, 2007 at 3:44 am
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    Thanks for bringing this up. It is as important as getting our PR up. You have very good insights and tips in here.

    Thanks for sharing! :)

    Reply

  7. By Andy C posted on November 12, 2007 at 4:06 am
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    There’s another category. Comment threads you are interested in but haven’t necessarily contributed to.

    Currently, I am trialling CoComment, Commentful and use co.comments.

    Using email to track comment threads is so 90′s so obviously I just use RSS feeds for comments on my own blog, comments I have made and threads I am tracking.

    Until Disqus has some migration tools for existing comments, and a conversion utility from their black box, I won’t be using it.

    Reply

  8. By Andy C posted on November 12, 2007 at 4:07 am
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    There’s another category. Comment threads you are interested in but haven’t necessarily contributed to.

    Currently, I am trialling CoComment, Commentful and co.comments.

    Using email to track comment threads is so 90′s so obviously I have setup RSS feeds for comments on my own blog, comments I have made and threads I am tracking.

    Until Disqus has some migration tools for existing comments, and a conversion utility from their black box, I won’t be using it.

    Reply

  9. By Andy C posted on November 12, 2007 at 4:09 am
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    Anne – please can you delete my earlier duplicate comment which looks stoopid.

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  10. By Anne Helmond posted on November 12, 2007 at 6:13 am
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    @Andy: That is indeed another important issue to point out. If you choose to use such a service you are separating your blog content.

    @Lorelle & Amos: Thanks for sharing more plugins that might help us deal with comments. I am definitely going to try out the WordPress Comment Moderation Notifier. It might be a good e-mail notification replacement.

    @Andy C: You are absolutely right about the other category of comments. This is an overlooked (by me and others) and even more difficult category to follow. Thanks for adding the “Subscribe to the comments feed” too.

    I think subscribing to comments through e-mail works best for blogs with low to medium participation and subscribing through rss works best for high participation blogs.

    Reply

  11. By Travis Seitler posted on November 12, 2007 at 11:51 am
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    Blogger also just rolled out an update, providing a comment subscription for anyone who leaves a comment on a Blogger blog.

    Reply

  12. By Scott Frangos posted on November 12, 2007 at 3:57 pm
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    Hi -
    Thanks for a thought provoking post. Reading it and the comments so far makes me wonder, in the spirit of evolution, what we are really after here? Is it as simple as a central repository for all of the comments one makes online, or is it a next generation conversational threading mechanism — a sort of “meta-bulletin board?” What would be the advantages of such a system? I mean, is something else going on here beyond simply collecting your comments in a timely manner?

    I guess that I have more questions than answers, and will look forward to your replies — If I can remember that I posted here.

    See you on the “Meta Board.”

    Yours -
    Scott

    Reply

  13. By Esther posted on November 12, 2007 at 4:42 pm
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    Thank you Anne for this elaborate analysis of these comment management tools. Personally I find it really interesting how these tools might shape conversations. Bringing distributed conversations together and the time factor really seem to be the most important issues here. All of these tools bring back the freshness of the discussion by updating its participants with an alert. (I really hope CoComments time lapse is a bug).

    Each of these tools you describe however also have their specifics and I wonder if these specific tools shape the conversation differently.

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