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?
Anne is a New Media Lecturer at the University of Amsterdam. She participates as a blog researcher in the newly found Digital Methods Initiative of the University of Amsterdam. Anne also writes about blogging and academics on her personal blog and the collaborative Masters of Media blog.