For those of you who don’t think comments are important please carry on to the other important stuff like Facebook and their spam ad platform but for those of you that do value the comments; good and bad, made on your blog posts then you might find this post of interest.
I love getting comments on my posts as it is a validation that what I am writing about interests some folks out there enough that they want to have their say. I read every single comment that is posted. It is part of my over coffee morning ritual and while I may not reply to every comment made I do read them. For me comments are an integral part of my reason for blogging in the first place because being the information and learning sponge that I am they add to my knowledge and understand of human nature, of human thought.
Like most bloggers who enjoy comments I am sure we all have our favorite commenter’s who always are willing to add to the conversation, willing to point out where your are right or wrong and do it intelligently. It is commenter’s like that who make the time spent writing what we do enjoyable and help us grow as bloggers. Sure we have the daily ordeal of fighting the waves of spam the sometimes make us feel like we are drowning in a sea of ringtones, viagra and small dicks but that unfortunately is as far as I am concerned just the price we pay for wanting to have our voices heard.
Lately though I have felt that there is something missing about the whole commenting systems used; specifically with WordPress because that is the one I am most familiar with, and that there had to be ways to recognize our favorite commenter’s, to allow them to become more than just an avatar picture in the corner of the comment and a way for their personality to become apart of your blog – to enhance the community conversations around your posts.
Now originally coComment was one of the first services to enter this field but they were; and from what I can see now, more of an amalgamation service of your own comments made at other blogs. They don’t seem to do that much around increasing the profiles of those who are commenting on your blog. However in the last while several companies have surfaced that are intended to do just this. Their methodology is different in each case but the end result is that they are trying to enhance the community feeling around your blog comments.
So last night I decided to spend some time looking at the three major players in this field; or at least the three that I have seen in use elsewhere or have been recommended / mentioned on places like TechCrunch. The three I looked at are Disqus, sezWho and IntenseDebate. what follows is my brief overview of each of the companies and my thoughts about their different ways of pumping up your comments.
Disqus (pronounced as discuss as in discussion) was the first service I looked at and signed up for which was very easy to do. At first I had a few questions regarding how the service worked and because they also tie it into a forum like back-end I wanted to know if this was a requirement in order to us their service fully. You can see my question here on their site and I was quite pleased with the speed in which there was a reply made to it.
I should note at this point as well that the main reason that Disqus was my first choice to try was because one of the founders of Disqus had seen my passing reference in another post about comment enhancing services and took the time to email me suggesting that I give his company a try. that kind of reaching out especially to a small time blog like mine means a lot to me and definitely created a good feeling about the company. Also their quick reply to my questions helped a lot.
To use Disqus was a simple matter of creating an account, providing your blog URL and then install their plugin. Once installed your comments can be viewed in either the standard flat format or in a threaded view. you can also allow comments to be displayed with several different sort method. Additionally unlike another of the services Disqus is simple for the commenter as well with them able to enter their comment and the typical Name, email and blog URL and they are done.
But along with this the commenter can create a profile account with Disqus via the comment area which adds additional features to the commenting options. Commenter’s can upload a profile graphic and other information. the nice thing is that then your profile is available on any other blog using the Disqus service. Also with Disqus you can rate commenters. The only thing I didn’t see was some additional widget you can use on the main page of your blog to signify top commenters or hot topics etc.
Now there is big caveat with Disqus at this time and that there is no way to currently import your existing comments which means you will be starting fresh with zero comments available for all your posts. The folks at Disqus say they are working on this and there should soon be an import feature.
Because of that one thing I would only recommend Disqus for blogs just starting out or just starting to allow for comments. Other than that I probably would have gone with Disqus as the way to pump up my comments; or at least it would have given sezWho a good run for being my favorite.
sezWho is another comment enhancing service but they go about doing things a little different. Rather that override your existing comments system sezWho acts as a wrapper around your comments. They provide the same sort of commenter profile idea along with a way to score comments made; which are then included as a part of the commenter’s profile. As they put it on the main page …. is as distributed context, rating and reputation service for blogs ….
Increasingly as commenters become more a part of the larger discussion across the web and blogs their reputations are becoming as valuable as the blog authors on whose blogs they comment on. Personally I think this is a great idea and something I would like to implement on WinExtra if I could find the right service. As with the other services the commenter profile carries over to other blogs using the sezWho service and by viewing the commenter’s profile you can see a list of other comments they have made elsewhere.
Additionally sezWho ships with several sidebar widget which allow you to show off commenter information and a feature much suited to a stats nut like myself there is in integrated stats page to feed your numbers habit.
Again signup was simple but you will need an activation key; which is sent to you as part of the signup process, to activate the sezWho plugin. My big problem with sezWho is that for some reason the install and activation of the plugin didn’t quite work out as well as I had planned with it leaving two lines of code visible on all pages of the blog and it also shifted the page contents to the left which didn’t quite sit well with me. I left a message about this problem on their support forums but I am 12hrs on with still no reply to it which doesn’t make me feel any easier about the service.
That said though I will admit that if I had been able to get the service to work it is probably the one that I would go with as it provides all the things that just made me go ah cool. As it stands if you can get it installed without any problems I would give this service a heads up over Disqus for the simple fact that it will work with existing comments and adds some nice extras.
From what I saw on the IntenseDebate site and a couple of other sites running the service I could almost like it – and I stress almost – but there was one thing that stop me from even considering it and that was their way of handling the actual comment. I didn’t like the interface they have chosen to use for people to add comments.
One of the biggest things about comments is actually getting people to make them. Everything should be done to make it as simple and easy to use as possible but IntenseDebate adds a tabbed user interface for entering comments along with too much information and options. Such as the cool idea of using your OpenID as your sign in for making comments. I might be just being overly cranky here but in the real world of new and even some experienced blog commenters the fact is that OpenID is an esoteric and confusing ID system that is only just becoming semi useable and only then by folks who know what the hell it means.
The whole comment entry interface for IntenseDebate is to cluttered and confusing and I think will actually dissuade new commenters from adding to the conversation which is too bad because the feature set for IntenseDebate looks pretty good but I don’t see me adding it here at WinExtra anytime soon.
So there we have it – my impressions and thoughts on some available services that allow you to pump up your comments and hopefully create a stronger community of commenters who will keep coming back to add to your conversations. As it stands though for the time being I will be sticking with the standard comment system that comes with WordPress due to the problems I have mentioned in each of the services I looked at. However don’t let that stop you from giving any of them a try and hopefully add value to your blog by encouraging commenters to come out from lurk mode and add to the value of your blog.
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