Should We Use a Blog Commenting System?

by Jami Gold on July 2, 2013

in Over-Achieving Perfectionist

Stick figure with speech bubble and text: Who Wants Comments?

I’ve mentioned before that I wish I could change how comments work on my blog. I’d love for readers to easily see when someone replies to their comments here or provide the ability to subscribe to comments for a post. A system like that often encourages more interaction on a blog by enabling back-and-forth conversations. I’d also love for people to be able to edit their own comments.

Unfortunately, my blog has no such capabilities. Even though most people never come back to check, I reply to virtually every comment on my blog. I appreciate the time readers take to leave comments, and I figure the least I can do is say thanks. I’ll also edit my reader’s comments if they request, as I can offer the service if I can’t offer that ability.

If I were starting from scratch on my blog, I’d use the JetPack plugin to allow people signed in to WordPress to receive notifications of replies and subscribe to comments. But now I’m rather stuck, as other parts of my website would break if I implemented JetPack at this point. (Don’t get me started with that grumble. *sigh*)

Because of my desire for better commenting, I’ve often considered going to a third party system, like DisqusIntense Debate, or LiveFyre. However, every comment system has its own set of pros and cons. For the time being, I’ve decided to stick with this less-than-ideal situation.

Even though I’m stuck, I figured my research might help others make the decision of whether to set up a commenting system for their blogs or websites. What you decide will depend on your priorities, as well as what will encourage your readers to leave comments.

We can’t expect readers to leave comments unless they’ll benefit in some way. While different incentives might work with different readerships, we can study the most common ones.

When choosing a comment system, keep in mind…

  •  People Want Ease of Use

Many comment systems (like Disqus) require readers to log in. That means commenters have to create an account to leave their comment.

I’ve seen polls where over 50% of readers would not leave a comment if they had to create an account to do so. Having to create an account is asking your readers to go the extra mile to comment, and only the most dedicated will do so.

  • People Want Others to Notice Their Comments

Some comment systems don’t automatically pull commenters’ avatars (like from Gravatar) unless they’re logged into their proprietary system. Many people are visually oriented, and they notice the avatars of others they know.

When we take the time to leave a thoughtful comment, we’d like others to read it. Avatars help our friends and acquaintances recognize our comments, and if strangers like our comment, our picture helps them recognize us across the web, which builds our brand.

  • People Want Readers to Be Able to Find Them Elsewhere

Some comment systems, like Blogger and Disqus, link our name on a comment not to our website, but to our profile on that system. That means if someone likes our comment and wants to learn more about us, they can’t just click our name to check out our homepage.

Instead, someone interested in connecting with us would have to go through multiple steps to get to our homepage. That makes our comments—no matter how brilliant—less likely to result in connections with others.

  • People Want Backlinks to Their Websites

Related to the previous point, some commenting systems allow readers to “log in” through their Twitter or Facebook account rather than the proprietary system. However, that ability does not equal a check mark in the ease-of-use column. Linking to a Twitter account or a comment system account still gives any potential traffic to the other site and not to the reader’s homepage. In my analytics, I’ve seen people find my site through comments I’ve left on other blogs, and that wouldn’t happen if I’d instead linked to my Twitter account.

Other commenters hope to increase their Google Rank by commenting on popular blogs. When a commenter’s name links directly to their website, Google counts that link as a “backlink” that can affect Search Engine Optimization (SEO) (where the site shows up in a Google search). While the recent updates to Google’s SEO algorithms make these backlinks less important to Google Rank, they still play a part, especially for quality comments that add to the discussion.

  • People Want to Comment from Their Mobile Devices

More frequently, readers are viewing blogs from their mobile devices, like smart phones and tablets. Some commenting systems work well in a mobile format and some don’t. Again, only the most dedicated readers will come back later to comment from their desktop.

In addition, don’t trust claims of ease and compatibility—test, if at all possible. Visit other blogs with that commenting system from mobile devices to see if it works—easily—as advertised.

  • Visually Impaired Readers Want to Read the Comments Too

For years, Disqus has had issues with their comments being unreadable by the screen readers used by the visually impaired. They promise they’re working on it, but the programming code used by Disqus confuses screen readers because the comments are no longer straight text.

I don’t know for sure, but other commenting systems might also suffer from this problem. In general, the more bells and whistles, the less likely screen readers will be able to decipher the comments.

  • Everyone Wants to Avoid Spam

Every blog needs a way to deal with spam comments. WordPress blogs come with Akismet, which is awesome at weeding out spam comments.

Log in systems are less likely to receive spam comments because few spammers will create an account. Unfortunately, fewer legitimate readers will set up accounts too.

Blogger/Blogspot blogs use Captchas to ensure commenters are real people, but many hate Captchas with a passion and will avoid leaving comments at all. Between this point and the previous points about linking, I know people who refuse to comment on Blogger/Blogspot blogs for any reason.

What Should We Look for in a Commenting System?

The best answer to this question depends on our goals. In general, if we’d like to encourage more comments, we should make sure our choice:

  • Doesn’t require a log in
  • Automatically imports avatars
  • Links to commenters’ homepages
  • Allows comments from mobile devices
  • Is readable by screen readers
  • Eliminates spam but doesn’t use Captchas

However, if we’d like more bells and whistles on our comments, we should prioritize what else we’d like a system to allow:

  • Choice of threaded or non-threaded comments (nested replies). Blogs with frequent conversations between parties might do better with threaded comments. Blogs with commenters who reply to several comments at once would do better without threaded comments.
  • Ability for commenters’ to edit their own comments
  • Linking to commenters’ most recent post
  • Email notifications of replies and new comments
  • Ability to reply by email
  • “Liking” comments, or up/down voting
  • Integration with social media (Facebook comments, Twitter mentions, etc.
  • Deeper moderation and spam control
  • Analytics

An additional concern I have with a system like Disqus is that all comments are stored on their servers. While site owners have the ability to export those comments, they still have to trust a third party with an essential element of their site.

Personally, I’ve been burned by this in the past on too many minor elements of my site. See Google Friend Connect, Feedburner, my first mobile provider, and currently, my social sharing plugin. I prefer true ownership of my online home whenever possible, especially for the critical element of blog comments.

Why Does Our Commenting System Matter?

Our commenting system matters if one of our blog’s goals is to receive comments. As I mentioned, polls often show that readers are less likely to leave comments on any system that requires them to log into an account. I’ve heard from friends that their blogs’ comments decreased after switching to a commenting system.

For example, I recently took a look at the website of someone who was concerned about the lack of comments on her blog. While many variables can affect blog comment numbers, in her case, I saw her blog commenting system was working against her when it came to encouraging comments.

The system required creating a proprietary account or logging in through Twitter or other account. After I pointed out the issue, she was able to allow comments by URL (just leaving the website information, like I have here), which I hope helps her, but even so, her website provider doesn’t link to Gravatar. Avatars show up for a commenter only if they’ve logged in.

We Must Provide Benefits If We Want Commenters

Avatars and links are incentives for people to leave comments. Those elements help commenters build their brand and name recognition, as well as help them create an impression of quality content.

Providing benefits to our commenters can only encourage more comments. Some blogs will do better by offering the bells and whistles as benefits, and other blogs will do better by offering branding benefits. By becoming more aware of the issues, we can make the best decision for our readers, our blog, and our priorities.

Were you aware of the problems with commenting systems before? Have you ever refrained from commenting on a blog because of the commenting system? If you’ve switched systems, did you notice a change in the number of comments you received? If you use a commenting system, what were your reasons and priorities for going that route? If you don’t use a system, why not? Do you think I should use a commenting system on my blog? Why or why not?

P.S. Have you entered my Blogiversary contest yet? This is your once-a-year chance to win “me”? *smile*

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73 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Kathryn Goldman July 2, 2013 at 6:11 am

Jami, Thank you for this great outline and discussion of commenting systems for blogs. The need for effective mobile interaction cannot be overstated. Developers should be working hard on this and we need to keep an eye on it.

I’d like to add two more points for consideration:

First, the order of comments under the post matters to the person who comments. In my view, the most recent comment should be at the bottom of the list of comments, not at the top. Having the most recent comment appear last gives the conversation context. And provides an incentive to comment earlier in the life of a post (when combined with a link to the website) because other readers will see the comment and perhaps click on the link to find out more about the writer.

Second, commenting systems with some html capability are nice for people who speak html.

I will be using your checklist as I analyze my options going forward to launch a blog later this year.

Thanks, again. Kathryn

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Jami Gold July 2, 2013 at 9:00 am

Hi Kathryn,

Great points! Yes, I like sites that set the most recent comments at the bottom so the conversation flow is maintained. I have several posts here where people comment on ideas they saw from other commenters. That flow is broken in a bottom-up setting.

I agree with you on the html capability as well. I actually have that here with “strong & /strong” (for bold) and “em & /em” (for italics) in <> marks, but the system doesn’t mention it anywhere. I’ll have to take a look to see if I can include the instructions somewhere. 🙂

I just thought of a another issue as well, and that’s how does the system handle high numbers of comments? Some systems can specify a maximum per page or unlimited, but then the question is how does it handle replies.

For example, I recently saw a Blogger system that acted like it handled threaded replies, but when the post reached a high number of comments, later replies–even to early comments–couldn’t be seen unless the reader clicked the “load more” link. That made the conversation very confusing, as early commenters thought they were seeing all their replies but they weren’t.

In contrast, my system’s cutoff of number of comments per “page” looks at parent comments only. So all comments that appear on the first page will also have all their replies show up with them.

Thanks for adding to the list and thanks for the comment! 🙂

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Kathryn Goldman July 2, 2013 at 11:22 am

BTW, I came back to see your response.

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Jami Gold July 2, 2013 at 11:40 am

Hi Kathryn,

LOL! Yay! 😀

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Jami's Tech Guy July 2, 2013 at 9:52 am

Hi Jami, great post on how foreign commenting systems (Discus & similar) impede the very conversations most bloggers want on their blogs.

My two main beefs with foreign commenting systems are that they create a “barrier to entry” which discourages posting and can slow your site and/or cause visitors to see errors.
(Renee: I can hear your inner 12yo giggling.)

The more hoops you make people jump through, the fewer will go through the process. Sorry, but I won’t register an account at joesCommentSystemAndCrabShack.com to post my witticisms and insight on your site. Especially when they want to know all sorts of personal info and take my first born. (Though this morning, sending them my first born is tempting. But I digress.)

Two of the factors Google and other search engines use to rank sites are page load speed and site error rate. We work very hard to keep our hosting clients’ sites running lightning fast but obviously can’t control when there’s a problem with Shareaholic or other tools which depend on their own sites.

It’s no fun taking unhappy calls from clients and explaining that we’re not the reason their site is down. Especially when our stuff is loading in a small fraction of a second but Shareaholic (picking on them since they broke hard recently) is taking 5-10 seconds to load when it isn’t causing errors to display. Our clients can’t always see which of the sometimes 20+ external services they depend on is broken so they call us first. *flashes back to getting yelled at by the parents for something the little sister did*

-Jay
@jaytechdad

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Jami Gold July 2, 2013 at 10:45 am

Hi Tech Guy,

Ooo, great point about how those third party systems can slow down and/or break our site–which then affects our Google ranking. Yikes! Yet another reason to limit those plugins and external systems.

Hope the TechKids start behaving for you. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your insight and for the comment!

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renée a. schuls-jacobson July 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Bwahaha. You’re right, Jay. I did laugh — and then I saw you call me out! You know me too well! Gah!

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Jami Gold July 2, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Renee & Jay,

*snort* You two crack me up. 🙂

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Wulfie July 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Good post as always.

I often subscribe to sites via email to save myself time from surfing out the blogs I like. But if I want to post a comment I’ll hop over to the site from there. (PS I hate those email signups that force you to go to their site to read the rest of the post. Boo, hisssssssss Gimme the whole thing, please and thank you, never mind blackmailing me into coming to the site for a hit count. I’ve dropped a few blogs for being a pain in my time allotment for that!) Anyway, if I want to comment I’ll pop over from email to do it. If the subject is of particular interest, I’ll sign up for notification of further comments. If that option isn’t available, I’ll bookmark it and come back later to read the comments that have been added. (I can spend a couple days checking them out on Chuck Wendig’s posts sometimes, fun stuff! Love the community feel of that. And, like you, he replies which is awesome.

So yeah, love comments and commenting but hate having to jump through hoops to do it. The other day a site let me enter the comment then wanted TWO captchas, and all for the comment to go into moderation anyhow. Hello, redundant much?! lol

Thanks for the post, glad to see this topic covered.

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Jami Gold July 2, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Hi Wulfie,

Oh yes, I’m with you–those teaser-style RSS or email updates are worthless. Hate those.

Wow! Two Captchas? And moderation? That’s enough to make a reader feel unwelcome, isn’t it? 🙂 Thanks for sharing and for the comment!

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Teresa Robeson July 2, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Jami, GREAT post…seriously! I’ve pondered this for a while myself. The one thing that made me go with Disqus was the fact that when I replied to someone, it actually goes to them via email so they know I replied. I know Disqus is nowhere near perfect (I know a lot of people who can’t get to the comment section of my blog…funny thing is, they can get on some other people’s Disqus system…go figure.), but my biggest concern was having people be aware that I am answering them.

When I used to read a ton fewer blogs, I’d go back to those blogs all the time to see if I got a reply. Most of the time, those bloggers don’t answer commenters, so I’ve wasted my time hopping back there to check, which then led me to not bothering to go back to check AND that means I’ll miss any answers that I might have gotten.

The great thing about you is that you consistently answer everyone (I try to and succeed 90% of the time, but not always), so even though I forget to come back and check most of the time (now that I read a ton of blogs, I can’t even remember where I’ve commented!), I know I got an answer from you, and I truly appreciated it.

The fault doesn’t just lie in the system (though I hate Captchas with all my heart and while I still comment on blogs that have them, I comment less frequently and curse under my breath when I do), but also with the blogger. If bloggers would consistently answer or not answer (I don’t really care which), then people will know what to expect and whether to make a note to themselves to go back and check, especially if they had an important question.

A blogging friend of mine also did some research and decided to go with IntenseDebate. She says she prefers it to Disqus.

Personally, I don’t mind getting an account and logging into something to comment. Usually, signing into Disqus or Wordpress will then get me into all blogs that use Disqus or Wordpress so it’s not like I have to log in every single time I comment somewhere.

I saw the absolute worst comment system the other day: it required you to play a little game of grabbing graphics and placing it somewhere (e.g. grabbing floating veggies out a bunch of other floating objects and placing into the ground to make a garden) to verify you’re a human. You are kidding me, right?! LOL!

Anyway, thanks, Jami, for yet another thorough, thoughtful and in-depth post! And sorry for rambling on… 😉

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Jami Gold July 2, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Hi Teresa,

Oh, no rambling at all! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Yes, I seriously wish there was a way for people to know when they receive replies here. That’s the main thing I’m bummed about. *sigh*

But you make a great point about whether or not the blogger is consistent with their behavior in replying. 95% of the time, I reply within 24 hours. I take some weekends off, and then when I’m on vacation, my replies are often understandably delayed, but otherwise 24 hours is a consistent turnaround time for me. Honestly, about 50% of the time, I answer within an hour or two.

Like you though, I often leave a site open in a tab (yet another reason I have hundreds of tabs open in my browsers!) to check back. It’s frustrating if you feel like you’re wasting your time.

Personally, I don’t mind getting accounts at some places either. I have a Disqus account and obviously a WordPress account, for example. But other systems annoy me to no end, and I refuse to get an account there. 🙂

Oh! I think I’ve seen that style of Captcha or whatever it is. I think I saw one where you had to put all the butterflies in one pile. You’re right–that’s so bizarre! And those systems would need a different solution for visually impaired readers too, or else they’d be completely left out. Thanks for adding your insights and for the comment! 🙂

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renée a. schuls-jacobson July 2, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I’m one of those people who refuses to try to comment on Blogger anymore. And it’s too bad. But it’s just too much of a time suck to have my comments disappear.

One of the things I really dislike is when a blog doesn’t remember me. And I have to sign in over and over again — even when I’m subscribed.

*smiles*

This is why I often only read your blog instead of leave a comment. For some reason your blog makes me enter all my information every time, even though I’m subscribed. I’ve been meaning to ask you about this for a while, as it isn’t an issue with anyone else’s blog that I’ve subscribed to.

One of the Plug-ins that I think is actually unnecessary (but people seem to like) is CommentLuv. I can tell you I have NEVER clicked on anyone’s post in that way, but people seem to LIKE the IDEA that there is a CHANCE that someone MIGHT MAYBE click on their link.

*shrugs*

I have two favorite blogs: @kferrandino’s and @NinaBadzin’s. Kiran’s blog remembers me. It is also personalized so commenters can add their Twitter handles. I LOVE this because Kiran can respond to Tweeps via that interface (fast in 140 characters or less) or she can respond to others (who aren’t on Twitter or who don’t provide that info) right there on her blog. It’s pretty nifty.

Nina’s blog is clean and sleek. Everything is well integrated. If you are looking to check out blogs that run well, those are two that I’d look at. I think they both use Askimet, too.

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Jami Gold July 2, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Hi Renee,

Great feedback! Hmm, as for my blog asking for your information each time, I’m not sure what to tell you. That’s not a setting from my blog. I think it might be a setting from your browser. Maybe?

Many blogs I go to have that problem, and usually if I just click in each text box, the browser will auto-complete the right information. But yes, I can understand that being a pain. If I figure out some hidden setting to change that behavior, I’ll let you know. 🙁

Thanks for the suggestions on blogs to check out! As I said, there’s no one right answer for everyone. I think the important thing is figuring out what benefits and “barriers to entry” (hee!) matter to our readers. Thanks for the comment!

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ChemistKen July 2, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I currently use Blogger, but plan on switching over to Wordpress sometime within the next year. Thanks for the information. I hadn’t realized that choosing a commenting system was something I needed to do. (So many things to worry about and I haven’t even finished my first book yet! Arggg!)

I like those comment systems that take your URL address and adds a link back to your most recent blog post.

I always come back to see your replies, BTW.

I have to enter my information everytime I comment on your blog too. It’s not too much of a pain since IE remembers those input boxes and I only have to type one letter before it fills it in for me.

And just so everyone knows, the Captcha system on Blogger can be turned off if you so wish.

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Jami Gold July 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Hi ChemistKen,

On WordPress.com, I’d choose the default system, and on WordPress.org, I’d probably go with the JetPack plugin (written by the WordPress/Automattic people). I haven’t used JetPack, so I’m not sure if they store your comment data on their servers rather than your hosting server, and that’s the one thing I’d be concerned about–going back to that ownership issue.

As far as the link to the most recent post, I know the CommentLuv plugin can do that. I’m not sure if there are others. But yes, I like that too, even if no one ever pays attention. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Kathryn Jankowski July 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Thanks for the heads up about JetPack. I’ve just installed it.

Do you think Jay would know about the ownership issue?

I also stick around for your replies. 🙂

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Jami Gold July 2, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Hi Kathryn,

I think he mentioned he was going to set up a test site with JetPack to learn more about it. 🙂 I’ll let you know his answer if he doesn’t comment here again. Thanks for the comment!

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Jami Gold July 3, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Hi Kathryn,

Jay just got back to me and said that it looks like JetPack stores comments both on the local hosting server and on the WordPress servers. In my investigations yesterday, it looked like Intense Debate was written by the Automattic people who started WordPress, and it supposedly works the same way. I’m going to look at Intense Debate to see if they’d have the same problems for me as JetPack, but that might be another option for people who want more ownership. I hope that helps! 🙂

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Jami's Tech Guy July 3, 2013 at 6:39 pm

I knew I should have posted here before mailing Kathryn directly.

It reminds me of WANACon where Jami and I were racing to see who could find and post stuff mentioned by the presenters. 🙂

-Jay
@jaytechdad

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Jami Gold July 3, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Hi Tech Guy,

Heh. 🙂 Seriously though, thanks for checking on that!

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Melissa Maygrove July 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm

When it comes to blog posts, you knock ’em out of the park every time. 🙂

Were you aware of the problems with commenting systems before?
Yes, but I didn’t completely understand the issues or the choices. This post helped a lot. 😉

Have you ever refrained from commenting on a blog because of the commenting system?
Yes.
I rarely have to re-log-in to Blogger, but with other systems, I have to log in every day. They seem to remember me if I happen across another blog with that system later that day, but still… When I come to one of those blogs that makes me type everything – my name, email, and blog address – all over again (*blush* yours is one of those), I think twice about leaving a comment. Sometimes I move on and don’t.

Do you think I should use a commenting system on my blog? Why or why not?
It depends.
I DO like the blogs that add a ‘blog luv’ link to my blog (even though I hate that they make me type the http:// — Gah! Why can’t the system add that?). And I like blogs that show my avatar (score 1 for Blogger *grin*).

I HATE dealing with Captcha. Not only does it say ‘newbie,’ but it is often the reason I don’t bother to follow a blog. (I’ve been known to gently nudge people about their word verification settings.)

The one feature I wish ALL blogs had was one that allowed me to follow (nested) replies to *my* comment only. Not the whole blog. Not just comments to that post (although sometimes I do). But just replies to my comment. I rarely get time to go back to a blog and check the comments again, and not all bloggers reply by email.

And that brings up another thing. No-reply@blogger bloggers make it near impossible to reply to comments by email. If folks want to hear back, they should turn that setting off. 😉

Great post! I’m tweeting this…

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Jami Gold July 2, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Hi Melissa,

Ack! Well, that’s good to know. (See? I learn things from my commenters all the time. 🙂 )

Because I don’t have a “system” per se (just the default WordPress system), I don’t think there are any settings for me to allow “saving” commenter information. As I mentioned above, the auto-complete is more of a browser setting. I’ll definitely look into whether other plugins could provide some of the bells and whistles without going to an external system though. Thanks for the information! 🙂

As for the avatar issue, my blog–like all WordPress blogs and many other sites–ties into Gravatar. Gravatar is email based, meaning that if you comment here with an email address you’ve “associated” with a picture on Gravatar, my site will pull in the picture. That’s one account I do recommend setting up, simply because Gravatar is so widely used. I hope that helps!

Thanks for sharing your take and thanks for the comment! 🙂

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Melissa Maygrove July 3, 2013 at 5:02 am

I’ll look into the auto-fill setting. I thought maybe it was the PC Clean software wiping everything about once a week, but I had to fill my info in again today, and the PC cleaner hasn’t run in several days.

Thanks for the info on Gravatar. I’ll look into that, too. 🙂

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Jami Gold July 3, 2013 at 9:15 am

Hi Melissa,

Hmm, interesting. Yes, that would seem like a likely culprit, but no. *sigh* Things are never as easy as they should be. LOL! But your Gravatar is working great! 🙂 Thanks for the information and the comment!

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Carradee July 2, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Disqus actually does allow anonymous comments. I think that’s something the admin can turn off, though. Personally as an admin, I always leave anonymous comments on, captcha-stuff off, and figure trolls and spam comments can make good story fodder.

I use Disqus on my sites, but that’s because I find it easy to use, both on the admin and the commenter end. Sure, it has some problems, but most things do. Disqus lets me write basic HTML in my comments without eating it (or the comment), it lets me edit them easily, and if I change site hosts or setups, I can easily move the comments over.

Granted, I also use a third party blog host—Blogger—so I actually prefer having comments hosted by a different third party. I also back up both (though with less regularity than I should). That way if I lose one, I won’t lose everything.

However, the issues with Disqus are why I don’t yet have a comment system on my static site, which I recently recoded by hand with the intention of making it universally friendly. Using the Disqus comment engine would kinda shoot that in the foot. Sure, I still have some kinks to work out, but the goal is to eventually have the site as close to universally compatible as possible.

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Jami Gold July 2, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Hi Carradee,

Oh, I’m glad you checked out this post. 🙂 I remembered that you’ve used Disqus and was interested in your insight.

That’s good to know about anonymous comments. And you’re absolutely right that everything has issues. 🙂 As I admitted, my blog’s comments are far from ideal. That’s why the best we can do is figure out the best solution for our blog’s situation. Which pros are most important to us and which cons are things we can live with. LOL!

Thanks for sharing your reasons for using Disqus! Using that instead of Blogger’s system makes sense to me. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Tamara LeBlanc July 2, 2013 at 6:07 pm

WOW!!!! This is sooo chock full of info I’m gonna read it again the minute I’m done commenting.
I’ve definitely been turned off in the past because of a blogger’s commenting set up. I hate when it kicks you out for whatever reason and you lose maybe a paragraph or two (or five *grrrrr*) of a comment you just left.
I’ve never had any issues on your blog *grin*
I really like all of the bullet points you offered when it comes to a commenting system. I would have never thoughts about my visually impaired readers. Leave it to you to think of that.
You’re truly awesome!
This is a pin!!!
Thanks for your wisdom 🙂
Have a great evening,
Tamara

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Jami Gold July 2, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Hi Tamara,

Yes, as I mentioned above, personally, I don’t mind Disqus and have an account there. However, when I learned about their issues with screen readers, they went down several notches in my book. *sigh* Thanks for the comment!

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Janet Boyer July 2, 2013 at 9:29 pm

So I read this post hours ago, right? Kept making mental notes to come over here and post. And, to say that DISTRACTIONS often keeping me from posting on blogs I enjoy.

And if it wasn’t for your tweet, I would have probably postponed commenting…or forgotten altogether. Arggggh!

I have good intentions, I do. It’s just with writing, social media, answering emails, homeschooling my 14 year old… Le sigh.

I guess I won’t feel so bad about people not commenting on MY blog…and just assume they’re as distracted and/or as busy as me. :oP

Great post as usual, Jami!

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Jami Gold July 2, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Hi Janet,

“I guess I won’t feel so bad about people not commenting on MY blog…and just assume they’re as distracted and/or as busy as me.”

LOL! Isn’t that the truth? 😀 I’ve been so bad with my blog reading lately, much less blog commenting. *sigh* Thanks for the comment!

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Jordan McCollum July 2, 2013 at 9:49 pm

(Side note: would a simpler/older plugin like Subscribe to Comments create the same problem? I definitely miss that here.)

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Jami Gold July 2, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Hi Jordan,

I’ve been looking at various plugins today, as a matter of fact, trying to figure out if there’s a low-impact way to add features. 🙂 Just give me a couple of days of no other distractions and I could figure this out. LOL! Thanks for the comment!

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Jami's Tech Guy July 3, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Jami,

Let me know if you want a test site set up so you can safely experiment.

(Same for anyone else. If you want a WordPress test site for a while to make sure it does what you want – or to test that adding features won’t break what you have, I’m happy to set one up for you.)

-Jay
@jaytechdad

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Jami Gold July 3, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Hi Tech Guy,

Ooo, awesome! That might be a perfect way to test this out. Thanks again for being the best tech guy ever! 🙂

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Janet Boyer July 2, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I recently noticed that TypePad (the blogging format I use) has an option to subscribe to comments. Not sure if it works, but I’m glad it’s now there!

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Jami Gold July 3, 2013 at 9:13 am

Hi Janet,

Yes, anything we can do to make things easier for our readers, or provide more benefits to them should be looked at. 🙂 Thanks for the information!

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Sonia G Medeiros July 3, 2013 at 10:06 am

I agree with your points. I definitely don’t like to log in (as with Disqus) to make a comment. It’s annoying. I have a free WordPress blog, so I have whatever native comment system they have. I’ve commented on a few blog without being logged into WP and it seems to work well. They don’t have that great of a notification system though.

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Jami Gold July 3, 2013 at 10:11 am

Hi Sonia,

Yes, on WordPress.com (the free version) sites, the native system is like the JetPack plugin for WordPress.org sites. Those logged in to WordPress get the little toolbar notifications. (Personally, I love those. They don’t fill my inbox. LOL!) Those not logged in only receive notifications if they go through the whole “subscribe to comments” thing (I believe).

Great for WordPress users, do-able but less easy for others. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Jocelyn Rish July 3, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Reading this blog post was a flashback to all the pro/con arguments going on inside my head eight months ago when I was wrestling with this same issue. My website can’t send email notifications about responses to comments, and I really wanted my comments to be more of a dialog. But when I looked into other systems, I ran into the same issues you’ve so clearly outlined – where was this post eight months ago when I needed it?! 😉 I did try Disqus for a while, but I got emails from people saying it sometimes didn’t load and others who couldn’t figure out how to use it. So I’m just using the same ol’ system I started with until someone comes up with something that covers all my needs.

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Jami Gold July 3, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Hi Jocelyn,

I hear you. The bells and whistles can be nice… Except for those it doesn’t work for or for those times it breaks. *sigh* There seriously is no one best answer here. At least we know we’re not alone. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Donna Hole July 4, 2013 at 2:13 am

I think ultimately what you have to decide is what works best for YOU as a blogger. If it is not complicated to add a comment (captia, weird sign ins and such) then however it works best for you to respond is what you should add.

Its hard to get used to change, but really, it doesn’t take long to adjust.

…….dhole

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Jami Gold July 4, 2013 at 10:05 am

Hi Donna,

I understand. And honestly the default WordPress system is fine for me as a blog owner.

I know many who hate different systems with a passion, so I worry about changing things. There’s the phrase “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke,” which I think applies to some extent here. 🙂 Yes, some things are less than ideal, but I wouldn’t want to break anything by addressing those. Thanks for the comment!

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I.J.Vern July 4, 2013 at 3:03 am

Hi Jami.

Great points and analysis on your article.

As you already know, I’ve built my website on my own. The comments were one of the most complicated part to design.

1. I hate commenting systems and many times I’ve refrained from commenting when a site uses them (Disqus is among the top on my “dislike” list). I don’t like that I must have an account in order to comment and I don’t like the control they have on the comments. Plus, there are many times problems with them and I have ended up a lot of times with trying 3-4-5 times to post a comment.
As a website owner, those reasons were the first to rule such systems out based on those reasons. Another reason is that I want the control to be in my hands, since I greatly respect the time and effort people make to post a comment. I don’t want their comments with their data to be susceptible to risks.

2. IMO, there are 3 important features on a commenting system. Threaded comments, subscription to comments & replies and ability to comment with Name/E-mail/URL (i.e. no log-ins or accounts needed). In that order, :). HTML capabilities is important too and it’s not a feature for those who “know” HTML, since to learn simple commands like (open caret)b>, (open caret)i>, etc. to be able to emphasize a comment is very easy. So, I designed my commenting system with the first 3 in mind. I didn’t care so much about avatars, but I added that too.

Threaded comments is pretty obvious why is important.

A subscription to comments feature is important for the person who comments. For me, it is easy to receive e-mails to see if there is a reply to my comment. I can’t remember all the blogs that I comment on to go back for a follow up. That matters when I comment. I won’t comment on a website which does not have a follow up system by e-mail or I will comment only once (you’re the only one for whom I come back to check if there are replies, but you’re my friend 🙂 ).

And the Name/E-mail/URL option is very important to me, because I’ve had so many issues with the other systems that I don’t comment anymore on websites that do not have the Name/E-mail/URL option.

As for the various CAPTCHA plugins, I don’t think them necessary. And they are messy both for the users and the websites. I’ve tried many applications, which messed up my website or made it a frustration for the persons commenting. I protect with other means the website from spammers.

To sum it up, after several trials and messes with my website, I designed the comments to be threaded and in the website’s design, I use the “Subscribe to comments” plugin by Marc Joaquin, the Wysija newsletter plugin and the Simple local avatars plugin (wordpress blog). All are simple and light plugins, which work smoothly. IMO, the simpler a system, the better for all involved. 😀

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I.J.Vern July 4, 2013 at 3:05 am

Oh my, I forgot to block the HTML codes I put as an example and the comment is bold and italic. Please, please, please correct it. Sorry :).

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Jami Gold July 4, 2013 at 10:22 am

Hi Irene,

I don’t know if there’s a specific code to “block” processing of code. (I’m lower than a newbie with HTML coding compared to you! 🙂 ) But I changed the < symbol to (open caret). Let me know if there's a blocking code I could use. That would be good to know! 🙂 Thanks!

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Jami Gold July 4, 2013 at 10:20 am

Hi Irene,

“I greatly respect the time and effort people make to post a comment. I don’t want their comments with their data to be susceptible to risks.”

Exactly! That’s why the “ownership of data” issue is very important to me.

Great list in your #2 point! Most times, I don’t mind people using a commenting system I don’t like as long as I can still comment with just name, email, URL. That’s all I really want. 🙂 Then if I want the bells and whistles, I can decide if I want to sign up for an account on the system.

I agree with you on the subscribe to comments/replies issue, and that’s why I’m constantly looking at my options. That’s the main thing I consider “broken” about what I have now. The issue is how to fix that without breaking something else. 🙂 It’s good to know that plugin works for you. I’ll definitely be testing different options.

As far as the HTML, the thing that drives me crazy is that some sites use the caret-b-caret (for bold) or the caret-i-caret (for italics), like in your example. But other blogs, like mine, use caret-strong-caret for bold and caret-em-caret for italics. You have to experiment sometimes to see which it is, and that’s frustrating.

Most Blogger blogs seem to use “b” and “i” and most WordPress blogs seem to use “strong” and “em,” but I haven’t paid close enough attention to notice how many exceptions there are. And then I have no idea which commands the various third-party systems take. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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I.J.Vern July 4, 2013 at 11:36 am

Hi Jami.

1. Wrong use of the word “block” on my part. However, what exactly do you want to block? Maybe I can help.

2. Your blog understands too the “b” for bold and “i” for italics. See? 🙂 That is why on my comment above, when I forgot, the comment came out in bold and italics. I didn’t use “strong” and “em”, neither on the comment, nor on the reply. 😉

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Jami Gold July 4, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Hi Irene,

Wow! I learn something new every day. LOL! I thought those symbols didn’t work because I thought others had tried using the “b” and “i” and the system didn’t take it. Maybe those other commenters had confused the system in a different way–not using the carets properly or something. 🙂 Good to know!

Anyway, I was wondering if there was a command to say “Yes, I know what follows this looks like HTML code, but ignore it until you see this tag close.” 🙂 Not sure if a command like that exists or not, but if it did, that would be useful for giving these types of instructions on how to use HTML codes. Right now, if I try to add in the instructions, the codes are interpreted rather than taken as straight text. I hope that makes sense. LOL! Thanks for the comment!

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Sue | London Life Coach July 5, 2013 at 5:26 am

Your post makes a lot of sense. Bloggers should take note of the key points you mentioned above. You’re right, people love to read comments. But it looks like you didn’t approved any. 🙂

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Jami Gold July 5, 2013 at 10:49 am

Hi Sue,

Heh. Yep, no comments at all about commenting. (Or 50 comments or so–one of the two.) 😉 Thanks for the comment!

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Melissa Sugar July 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Hi Jami, I’ve been on vacation so I took a blog break and am just now reading this, but I am so glad you wrote it. First of all you write the best post and I always stop by to read ( even though I don’t always leave a comment), bad of me , I know. Second, thank you for always replying to my comment and following up to any response I leave to your reply.

I use blogger for my blog and Disqus for comments and I ABSOLUTELY HATE DISQUS! I’ve had the worst experience with Disqus and I’ve been asking people for as long as I can remember, if anyone knows how I can switch back to blogger comments, without losing all of my comments. I installed Disqus a long time ago when it was not possible to reply to a blog post comment, inside of the comment. I liked it at first, but I don’t any longer. I can’t tell you the number of people who have emailed me to tell me that Disqus will not permit then to leave a comment. It’s so frustrating. Disqus does allow anonymous comments, but then I don’t have any way of connecting with the person who left the comment. The only way I can connect to the commenter is if they either have a Disqus account or of they actually type in their website URL each time they comment and I know that stops many people from commenting. Another reason I don’t like Disqus as a third party app combined with blogspot is because all of the emails that come to my email account, alerting me that I have a comment, read: ” Melissa Sugar has left you a comment.” WTF, I didn’t leave myself a comment and I have to log into my blog or Disqus account to actually see who the comment is from. I realize that a lot of my problems with Disqus are because of my limited knowledge of computers, tech stuff and HTML, but I want far far away from Disqus.

I do not mind using intense-debate as a commenter. I don’t know how much blog owners like it, but to leave a comment, it works fine for me. I signed in once and whenever I come across a blog that uses it, it always seems to remember my info.

I really want to switch from blogger to Wordpress, but just reading about all of the plug ins and other phrases that are foreign to me, scares the hell out of me. I don’t think I am sophisticated enough ( computer and blogging ) to fully grasp or comprehend how to operate a Wordpress blog.

I didn’t realize that non blogger users had such issues with blogger that so many of them actually refuse to even leave comments. I don’t know what it’s like to try and comment on a blogger blog from Wordpress or any other non blogger blog, but it’s good information to know. Thanks for the alert.

Other things I dislike include, Captchas. I swear I will never leave another comment when a blog requires this and then I find myself attempting to type those tiny damn letters and numbers in again . If I really want to leave a comment, I will attempt the word Captcha , once or twice but more often than not I give up without my comment appearing.

Thanks for all the useful ideas and tips in this post.

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Jami Gold July 7, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Hi Melissa,

Yikes! I don’t know enough about Disqus to give you any advice on those issues, but if I come across any information, I’ll be sure to pass it on.

That’s good to know about Intense Debate. If I do anything, I’ll probably either add in some low-level comments or switch to Intense Debate. But I’d want to do a lot of testing before switching.

As far as switching from Blogger to WordPress, have you talked with my tech guy yet? Jay Donovan is on Twitter at @jaytechdad or you can email him at jay@techsurgeons.com. TechSurgeons has several hosting options, some for technophobes. 🙂 I don’t mean to sound like a commercial, but they specialize in hosting author websites, so they get our needs and neuroses. LOL! (And no, I don’t get a kickback or affiliate discount or anything, this is just me being a happy customer. 🙂 ) Anyway, he’s worked on helping people switch from Blogger to WordPress, and the technophobe package deals with all those plugins for you, so you might want to see if he could help you.

Good luck and thanks for the comment! 🙂

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Melissa Sugar July 8, 2013 at 1:51 pm

You really are amazing. You always reply to my comment (and everyone else’s). You mentioned something in your blog post about wondering whether or not people even bother to check back to see if the blogger responded to their comment and I wanted to say something about that. On days when I comment on a lot of blogs it’s really difficult to remember which blogs I commented on, but if I asked a specific question and the answer is important to me then I always check back. I don’t always leave another reply because I don’t want the post author to feel compelled to reply again and then we start a back and forth wondering who should finally just say, “thanks & goodbye.” LOL.

Thanks for the contact info for your tech guy and I’m most definitely going to contact him. You nailed it; I have a gigantic techno-phobia.

I would appreciate it if you would pass any info on to me about switching back from Disqus, if you ever come across any. I hate the thought of losing all of my comments. That, of course, strengthens your recommendation that we should “own” our on-line property. The use of third parties, even & especially google (blogspot, GFC, Reader, etc) is a prime example. Ditto for Disqus! Thanks again for the info. You are always helpful.

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Jami Gold July 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Hi Melissa,

Good point! If someone asks a question, you’d think they’d check back. 😉 But you’re also right that some people might not reply to that reply. I’ve been known to email or send a tweet to people with the link to my answer when I know it’s important. So for me, personally, I like seeing their acknowledgement of the answer just so I don’t feel like I need to contact them directly. 🙂

Yep, and my tech guy might be able to help you figure out how to download those Disqus comments too. *fingers crossed* 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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Jessica Thomas July 8, 2013 at 6:51 am

I don’t like any of the third party options right now. Disqus happens to be my least favorite because they make it so difficult for a commenter to enter their own URL. I know I personally don’t want to link people back to my Disqus comment thread. It’s too Big Brother. Too easy for the though police to track what you’ve been doing and saying on the Web. Not that I say anything I believe to be controversial, but you never know these days.

I have jetpack hooked up on my personal blog but I don’t like that there’s no option to import addresses. It also puts a lot of control into the hands of Wordpress, which is what they want (and which is understandable from a business perspective).

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Jami Gold July 8, 2013 at 10:18 am

Hi Jessica,

Great point about how comments we leave on different posts giving a broader picture of our thoughts than we might want–or at the very least be aware of. With all the fan fiction stuff, I have said controversial things in comments, but nothing I haven’t also said here on my blog. 🙂 I’m consistent in my comments anyway. LOL!

Interesting! I haven’t played with JetPack at all, so I’m not sure about the addresses information. Do you mean that you can’t see the email addresses of those who comment? *makes note to keep an eye out for that with Intense Debate tests too*

Thanks for letting me know and thanks for the comment!

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Melissa Sugar July 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Hi Jessica,

I was wondering what happens when people who do not have a Disqus account attempt to leave a comment on a blog that uses Disqus. Will Disqus allow you to type in your URL if you do not join Disqus or open an account? I was wondering because it seems like so many people who leave me comments DO NOT leave their URL. I always wondered why they didn’t at least type in their url, because without it, it is so hard for me to find them and visit their blog. I sometimes google their name, but too often come up blank.

Also, I really DISLIKE that when I do click on the name or photo of a commenter that it takes me to their Disqus thread or account, rather than to their website or blog.

Thanks for the additional info on how difficult it is for people to leave comments using Disqus. If I had it to do over again, I would never add Disqus as my commenting system. I should have researched it further. I switched to Disqus back before blogger offered a way to reply to a comment inside of the comment. Now blogger offers what I needed, but I can’t manage to get back to blogger.Ugh!!!!

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Jami Gold July 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Hi Melissa,

I’ll butt into this conversation to share what I’ve seen. 🙂 Even here–with my basic commenting system–not everyone leaves a URL. For one thing, not everyone has a blog or website. I think I was leaving comments on blogs for about a year before I had this site. Other people do it for a sense of anonymity (and their email address might be fake). For others, it might be laziness.

Specifically to Disqus, some might not know they can, or they get confused. *shrug* Don’t know, but those are some possibilities. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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kim cleary July 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Hi Jami, I am up to blog post number 7 now, and I count myself very lucky if I get any comments at all lols. I haven’t really thought about managing comments on my blog, so this post has been a really interesting read.
When I am commenting on blogs though: I don’t leave comments if I have to sign in to something else. I love it when my gravatar shows up, and I was delighted once to see my last post appear at the bottom of my comment. Was that something I did? Or was it the blog owner? Anyway, I loved it. Sometimes I comment on blogs where the previous post has happened for other commenters but not for me :/
So far I am making a point of answering anyone who leaves a comment for me … of course its easy at the moment lols.

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Jami Gold July 8, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Hi Kim,

Believe me, we’ve all started at the bottom. At first, only my then-critique partner read my posts. We made it a point to comment on each other’s posts so we’d always have at least one. 🙂

The “last post” feature is something done by the blog owner. The most popular source for that functionality is CommentLuv. Sometimes with CommentLuv, it doesn’t pick up our URL’s feed right away. You could try copying your comment and reloading the page and pasting your comment into the reply box again to see if it picks it up on the second try. Thanks for your input and thanks for the comment! 🙂

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Rinelle Grey July 9, 2013 at 1:19 am

I really dislike disquis! Half the time it won’t even work on my system (no idea why), and when it does, it won’t let me log in through twitter without creating an account. Either way, I can’t get it to link to my website, so I usually just don’t comment. Too hard.

I’m lucky to have jetpack set up for my comments, and I do find this means I’m more likely to keep up with replies to my comments on other blogs, and I do get more ‘conversations’ going, both on my blog, and on others.

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Jami Gold July 9, 2013 at 9:21 am

Hi Rinelle,

Yes, so far I haven’t heard from an “I love Disqus and it’s the best thing ever” contingent. LOL!

That’s what I’ve found with WordPress.com/JetPack’s comments as well–that I see replies and have conversations more naturally. Thanks for the insight and the comment!

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Gargantua July 12, 2013 at 11:01 am

I may be a little late to this party, but I really appreciated your overview of commenting. It was insightful and gave me a few things to think about.

My situation might be slightly different since I use Joomla to manage my website, and it isn’t something that has a commenting system. For those kinds of “bells and whistles” you have no choice but to find an extension, hopefully one that both works and integrates with your template. After much searching I finally chose an extension that plugs into Intense Debate. The options I found were numerous, in that I could allow my visitors to log in via any number of services (WordPress, FaceBook, Twitter, etc) if they chose, or they could leave a comment as a guest. It also allowed me to include “Linklove” which provides a link back to their latest post. I also found that people could respond via email, subscribe to posts and/or comments, and lots of other features. Overall, this seems the best way for me, and if their server blows up and I lose all my comments, I’ll just pick up and start again.

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Jami Gold July 12, 2013 at 11:05 am

Hi Gargantua,

Thanks for weighing in. 🙂 I wonder how many of those features are inherent in Intense Debate and how many are part of the extension. I’m planning on looking more closely at Intense Debate, and those details would be good to understand. Strictly selfish curiosity on my part. LOL!

Anyway thanks for sharing your experience, and that gives me more insight into which elements to check. Thanks for the comment!

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Runsun August 16, 2013 at 10:39 am

Hi Jami, great post. Thanks for sharing it.

I’d like to share some of my flavors about commenting system:

1. Threaded (this is mentioned by others above).

2. Other than “most recent in the bottom,” I’d like to have some buttons of choices to let reader decide what they want. For example, [Most recent top/bottom], [Threaded/flat] … etc. This gives new comers an idea of “flow of context” as you suggested, as well as the benefit of speedier read for returning readers;

3. Better quoting approach in replaying. Very often I saw a conversation between two opposite opinions, and the third one comes in saying, “I totally agree with you,” causing confusion as which way it goes.

Forums usually have this feature: quote the text you want to reply. But it often results in a bulky reply when the replyer manages to quote the entire post of others for a simple “I agree”.

One thing, which I believe is easy to achieve, is that when one hits a [reply] button, the name and date, time of the post to be replied to is automatically shown as:

[In replying to XXX, 2013/8/15:]

4. Following the #3 above, I’d like to have posts “numbered.” Threaded posts can be numbered like 8.1, 8.2 … etc. It’s much easier for readers to follow the discussion when one can say:

blah blah blah (as said in post.#8)

or something similar.

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Jami Gold August 16, 2013 at 10:48 am

Hi Runsun,

Great thoughts! I know what you mean about #2–conversation vs. most recent. I don’t know of any systems that allow readers to switch back and forth, do you?

Yes, I’ve seen those issues with #3 as well. Of course, no matter what we offer, just because the ease of use is there doesn’t mean people will use it properly. 🙂

Those are all great suggestions–who do we tell so we can have the perfect system? LOL! Let me know if you have suggestions. Thanks for the comment!

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Runsun August 16, 2013 at 11:22 am

I don’t know any system that can do the switch (between top/bottom of most recent replies). I do believe that it shouldn’t be difficult to build, as long as the builder of the system has the idea in mind. Very often the technical part is not the issue, but the idea (or lack of it). And the idea comes, in great part, from a consideration of the user’s point of view. It’s the mind like yours — taking great concern for the user’s sake — that many developers lack. That’s why I think your post is a treasure.

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Jami Gold August 16, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Hi Runsun,

Aww, thanks! I agree with you that too many developers don’t think enough about the end user experience. Even as I write blog posts, I try to keep my readers in mind. Otherwise, I’d be so self-absorbed that I may as well be talking to myself. 🙂 (Er, actually I have been known to talk to myself too, but that’s a different issue. LOL!) Thanks for the comment!

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Amit Swarup Kumar Rai August 8, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Same, I love Disqus. Of course I don’t use WordPress either, so I don’t have as nice of a free native commenting alternative. Still, I always found Disqus ridiculously easy and provided people with a lot of choices of how they want to comment.

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Jami Gold August 10, 2014 at 11:43 pm

Hi Amit,

True that Disqus allows options. I just know that some people hate it and refuse to use it, but sometimes we have to go with the best choice because there is no perfect choice. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

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