Filed under: comments

TECH NOTE: Comments — BUMPED, REVISED, 12/17/07

NOTE, 12/17/07:

This has been bumped to the top of the blog’s index page because I discovered a reason to revert to the Haloscan system.

First, I know I risk sounding argumentative to some when I say that I had no problem with the functionality of Disqus comments. As a user I immediately grasped how they worked, found them easy to follow, and I loved several key features: threading replies to various comments; pagination; making a profile by which you could follow your own path commenting on this or any blog using the same system. As a user of the comments, I didn’t have a single problem, and here’s the argumentative part — I still don’t understand the commentators (a vocal minority) who seemed to lose their minds over the change. I kinda understood the complaints about points, but frankly not the intensity of the complaints.

As a blogger, as the person responsible for keeping this blog up-to-date and making it usable, I discovered today some key problems that did bother me — mainly, I went through three different templates, following the Disqus directions precisely on how to integrate the comments with the template, and Disqus didn’t show up, once. Why it integrated once with no problem and then wouldn’t integrate again, I don’t know — but Haloscan not only integrated fine, it re-attached all the previous Haloscan comments to their respective entries. I don’t like picking through code. I like things that have push-button functionality. When it comes to integrating a third-party commenting system with your blog, Haloscan appears to still have Disqus beat.

That said, I’m still using Disqus on my personal weblog, StevenHuff.net. Disqus integrates more readily with the WordPress publishing system than it does with Blogger — I was able to keep all my existing comments at Random Lunatic News, but all new comments on new posts there will be Disqus comments.

For a blog that seems to attract as active a community of commentators as this one does, I truly like the idea of making the comments resemble something like a message board or forum discussion. That means avatars, if people like them. It means threaded discussions. It makes visual sense to me, personally. “Flat” comments — one message stacked on top of another, the oldest at the top — are a little confusing to me when it comes to tracking responses between various posters. Confusing, and when you have threads 2155 comments long, incredibly hard to pick through — that’s why paginated comments are awesome.

Those of you who campaigned (in some cases, I feel, childishly) for the Disqus system to go may be pleased, but be advised — the moment it’s out of Beta, I’m checking it out again with this blog in mind.

I can only think of a few suggestions for Disqus at the moment, though I may add more:

— Allow the blogger to turn off the point system for their blog, if possible. In WordPress I once tried a point system for comments, and discovered that some people use them for their own nasty little purposes. A point system can be abused, and I guess I’ve got some readers or lurkers who aren’t above abusing it. Bloggers using Disqus should be allowed the option to have no points system at all. I understand why Disqus has it, after reviewing other sites, but it just won’t mesh well with some blog audiences. Didn’t with the folks who read this one, that’s for sure.

— Simplify the timestamp. Let it go ahead and just stamp the post time.

— I’d go all the way with the profiles. Allow more customization for that. It’s a clever idea that makes a ton of sense, and so far you all have done it better than Typekey. Let people really personalize those profiles.

— Make the photo upload and editing system for avatars easier. At the moment it isn’t as intuitive as some other Disqus features.

— I could be wrong, but commentators would love, love, love you if you found a way to put in a little WYSIWYG type control panel for posts, with format control buttons (b, i, blockquote, etc). I am certain that a lot of blog readers and commentators would really like the chance to format their posts with the click of a button. There are WordPress plugins for that, but as far as I know you can’t do it in Blogger, and if there’s anything Blogger weblogs need, it’s user-friendly comments. Disqus might get a leg up over Haloscan’s reliability if this were a feature.

Sorry if that’s all been asked & answered.

For the reader’s reference, here is the Disqus True Crime Weblog link:

http://truecrimeweblog.disqus.com/

Since it is formatted like a type of message board, you may wish to continue discussing certain cases there. If you don’t want your discussion to be fragmented, and prefer it to stay attached to the blog entry that sparked it, you may want to return to whatever thread you left.

I’ve already said this in a note on another entry, but my little “hiatus” will actually begin tomorrow.

Those of you who were patient with the change in comments, even liked it — thank you. If you really liked it, you can use it at my personal weblog, should you ever read it (I get 10% the readership there that I do here). And it may be back here, once some of the administrator functions are improved.

*****

When I was a kid, a truism around my house was that if it was the weekend, then my mother was rearranging furniture. My mom’s restlessness or boredom came out that way — moving stuff around. It never bothered me, because on some level, I understood.

If you’ve followed any of my blogs for any length of time, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve had a bad habit in the past of playing with my blogs when I felt restless, or simply felt a need for some sort of change. I’ve also done it at many turns to make the blogs more reader-friendly. Blogging I did prior to using my real name was often anything but reader-friendly; I was the king of the super-ugly, almost unreadable template there for a while. Then I learned the joys of minimalism in blogging, and never looked back.

I did make a pact with myself when I settled on this domain and this blog — that I’d stop farting around so much with blog features, and establish a site that looked and acted the same way each time you visited. I’ve been doing pretty well on that score.

I’ve discovered a commenting system that integrates with Blogger (though it is a standalone URL, this is indeed a BlogSpot blog) that active commentators may find strongly appealing. However, before I decide to integrate the system with this blog, I need to point out a few things and get some input:

  • Comments you’ve made under the blogger/haloscan system currently in use would still exist; however, they’d no longer be linked to blog posts here. I’d have to provide you with direct links to the old comments. I’d be glad to do that for the most popular entries (Madeleine McCann discussions, the Michigan “thrill-kill” murder, etc.).
  • This system would be much, much more akin to a forum, or message board, even though it integrates into the blog. If you’ve ever left comments on a blog like DailyKos, you are familiar with threaded blog comments — they can make for a much more readable experience than the current system I use.
  • Input from readers: would you be amenable to a commenting system that resembles a forum, and allows for paged comments as well as threads marking out responses to other commentary?
  • The new comments would load faster, from what I’ve seen — an additional advantage, as it appears that haloscan sometimes slows the blog as a whole.

That’s all I can think of, but it should be enough to generate some discussion. Your feedback below is greatly appreciated.

COMMENTS MODERATED

Due to a number of trolls and the use of sock puppets, all comments for this blog are moderated for the time being.

This means that no matter who you are, no matter how many times you’ve posted, your comment will be held in moderation until I see it and approve it.

I make no apologies for this. Until people can behave like adults or a reasonable facsimile thereof, I’m riding herd on what gets posted on any of my blog entries.

I’m not changing my routine or the way I work, either. That means there will be lag times between your post and its publication. I have a life.

I am truly grateful to everyone who takes the time to discuss blog subjects with intelligence and civility, and to them, I do apologize for having to lump them in with the immature, obsessed, and just plain idiotic. Unfortunately, the commenting software I use with this blog doesn’t discriminate between friend and foe when it comes to moderation. From those readers and commentators (they usually know who they are) I ask for patience.

I’ll disengage comment-by-comment moderation once people have calmed down.