For those of you who don’t know of Disqus it is a rapidly growing startup providing a blog comment platform that allows you to easily access all the comments you have made on Disqus supported blogs. Daniel Ha is one of the two founders/developers behind Disqus and he was gracious enough to take some time and answer some questions about Disqus via email.
Along with my questions I checked in with Frederic from The Last Podcast (TLP) and Corvida from SheGeeks‘ to see if they had any questions they would like to ask as well. Below is the questions sent to Daniel and the replies verbatim that he sent me back.
How about we get the boring and dried type of questions out of the way and start with – Who is Disqus?
Daniel: Cliched PR-esque answer: Disqus is all of you – bloggers that make these conversations come alive!
Real, straightforward answer: Currently, as of today, we are a team of two. I’m Daniel Ha and my cofounder is Jason Yan. We’re old friends who first met in 7th grade Algebra class. While this is the first startup for both of us, we’ve worked on many geeky projects together.
WinExtra: Why Disqus? – What prompted you to develop the service?
Daniel: Both of us were always heavily involved in online discussion communities. We frequented (and ran) message boards/forums, lived on IRC, and participated in Usenet newsgroups. Disqus grew out of a project that aimed to add the notions of reputation and attribution to people’s involvement in forum conversations.
Neither of us are big bloggers. However, like many people, I consumed blogs daily and often. And like many, I would join the discussion by leaving comments. That’s when we realized how applicable our project was to blogs. We began focusing on building a service that we felt bloggers would be very happy with. The available tools for blog conversation were just plain crappy, and we knew we could do better.
WinExtra: Where is everyone located – are you a telecommuting team or do you have a central office you are all working from?
Daniel: Disqus is located in San Francisco California
WinExtra: Because everyone has an interest in the money angle how is Disqus situated for backing and to be blunt – what’s the business model for Disqus? Do you have plans for the monetization of the service and if so can you give a hint or two as to what they might be. (this was asked by Frederic as well)
Daniel: Disqus does not have a conclusive “revenue machine” implemented just yet. We are very confident in the value Disqus is providing to publishers across the web. At this point, we are just focusing on building out the service. In the near future, we will be able to test some hypotheses regarding revenue.
For those concerned about this question mark, I can assure you these things: Disqus as it is today will always be a free service; we will never do anything obtrusive or risk violating privacy or trust; if “opting in” applies to what we introduce, it will be opt-in.
WinExtra: Okay enough with the boring stuff In the last week FriendFeed has been going gang busters and part of that feature burst was the addition of Disqus to the number of services they pull. How’s it been around the Disqus office since that happened?
Daniel: We’ve been hearing some really positive buzz (and experiencing new metric highs) so it’s been fun. Aside from that, it’s been business as usual. While we are in the process of expanding, the team is currently only 2 people and we had to stay on top of everything.
WinExtra: Who approached who with the FriendFeed option to pull from Disqus or did FriendFeed just go ahead and do it?
Daniel: We’ve been in contact with the FriendFeed team early on and have always had plans to work together. Paul Buchheit, cofounder of FriendFeed, is a friend of Disqus and has been helpful with advice since our early stages
WinExtra: Have any other services like FriendFeed approached Disqus to do the same thing?
Daniel: Yes :) – We’ll have more news soon.
Frederic (TLP): I was wondering if you are planning any alliances with any of the bigger blog networks at all.
Daniel: We have had discussions regarding this, but no news to report today
WinExtra: What are your thoughts on your competition like sezwho and IntenseDebate? Are they doing things that you wish you had thought of? Are there features of theirs that you might look to improve on and add to Disqus?
Daniel: I’ve learned that my thoughts and opinions around this don’t matter that much – they’re already massively biased. Instead, I listen to what bloggers and commenters have had to say. So far, so good.
We have not looked to competitors for ideas on functionality. If any competitor is doing a better job at something than Disqus is, we’ll just hear about it from one of our users. That’s the opinion we care about
WinExtra: One big question – or perhaps concern would be a better word – is concerning the comments being on the Disqus servers .. to best typify the concern I quote Mike in a comment to a post on webomatica talking about Disqus
Disqus looks quite interesting, though it clashes with my want to store all of that on my own server. I mean, what if Disqus goes away one day? Though, I suppose blog comments on old articles aren’t a tremendous deal
What would you say to those people concerned about this as I know it was; and still is a concern of mine as well?
Daniel: Disqus is indeed a hosted service. With that, we bear a lot of responsibility in regards to performance and reliability. We know this and we don’t do a single thing without making sure we make good on those two basic things.
Everything on the web is hosted by someone (yourself if you have your server under your bed). There is a certain trust you give your web host, Gmail, or even social networks. We are working extra hard to earn that trust.
Even though we host discussions, we don’t make any claims on them. If you made a comment, it is yours. If a comment is made on your blog, you are free to export and take that data with you.
We have a little more information on our FAQ: http://disqus.com/faq/#faq-4
Frederic (TLP): Is Disqus just for blogs or can it be integrated into non-blog type sites?
Daniel: Disqus can most definitely be integrated with any website, including non-blogs.
Frederic (TLP): Do you have plans for the internationalization of Disqus so it can be used in non English speaking blogs?
Daniel: Disqus can already be used on non-English speaking blogs (we have hundreds of fairly popular non-English blogs using Disqus). However, we do understand that we need to internationalize the user interface and website.
To be honest, we don’t have the means to internationalize right now. We’re open to volunteers, though!
WinExtra: If people are having problems with Disqus such as Corvida is having with it not displaying info properly what is the best way for them to get the problem dealt with?
Daniel: We address a lot of common questions through our FAQ (http://disqus.com/faq/) and on our own community page forum (http://disqus.disqus.com). If you need to reach us, we enjoy helping out users: email@example.com
WinExtra: I know from experience the support for Disqus has been really good – how important is that to you guys – like will trying to help a user out come before that startup get together over beer?
Daniel: One of the ways startups can differentiate themselves from a big company is through personal interaction with users and customers. We are very proud of our support and response time. I definitely know how it feels to send a help email and expect it to go into a black hole.
So yes, users first. Support via iPhone is not an uncommon occurrence here at Disqus
WinExtra: Is there any chance that you could give the readers a bit of a feature roadmap forward for Disqus? What kind of goodies can we expect from the Disqus team?
Daniel: We are currently working on expanding the team and operations. During this time, we are making sure everything is running smoothly and scaling properly. There are a few features that we’ve taken down to rework (thread management, inline editing, private messaging) that should be returning soon.
I don’t want to completely ruin any fun surprises, but I can divulge a little. Expect more interactivity and media in comments – discussion won’t just be about typing out a response. For the data-conscious, keep an eye out for reworked plugins that make Disqus integration a no-brainer decision
And that is the interview for which I would like to thank Daniel very much for taking the time to answer my and a couple of friends questions.
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