July 2, 2013

Should We Use a Blog Commenting System?

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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Comments — What do you think?

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Kathryn Goldman

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

Jami's Tech Guy (Jay)

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 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…  — Read More »

renée a. schuls-jacobson

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


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.

Teresa Robeson

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…  — Read More »

renée a. schuls-jacobson

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…  — Read More »


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.

Kathryn Jankowski

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. 🙂

Melissa Maygrove

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…  — Read More »


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.

Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

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,

Janet Boyer

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!

Jordan McCollum

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

Janet Boyer

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!

Sonia G Medeiros

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.

Jocelyn Rish

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.

Donna Hole
Donna Hole

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.



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…  — Read More »


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 :).


[…] Ward lists 5 alternatives to Google Reader, which went away July 1st; Jami Gold explores the pros and cons of using a third-party commenting system on your blog; and Jane Friedman has 3 reasons why Facebook cannot replace an author […]

Sue | London Life Coach

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. 🙂

Melissa Sugar

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…  — Read More »

Jessica Thomas

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).

Melissa Sugar

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!!!!

kim cleary

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.

Rinelle Grey

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.


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.


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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