Linear Comments Are Dead

This is a Guest Post by Vin Thomas.

In my humble opinion, forums are lame.

Commenting is where it’s at. But traditional formatting for comments doesn’t work very well. That’s where threaded comments come in. They give you some of the features of forum style posting, but none of the lameness (yes, that’s a word).

Have you noticed that fewer and fewer blogs utilize single level commenting systems? I for one am more than happy to see them go. The ability to reply to individual comments without having to use some kind of janky workaround is great. A perfect example of comments done right would be right here on ChurchCrunch.com.

WordPress recently released threaded comments directly within their app, but there are some other great commenting systems out there that integrate really well with almost any platform. Here are my two favorites:

1. IntenseDebate

ChurchCrunch uses IntenseDebate (and I use it on my blog as well). The thing I love about IntenseDebate is that it is owned by Automattic (the company that also develops WordPress). This gives me peace of mind that it will always be compatible with WordPress.

2. Disqus

Disqus is very similar to IntenseDebate and has many of the same features. I like the default UI of Disqus better than IntenseDebate, but since IntenseDebate allows custom styling this isn’t a deal breaker. It seems like Disqus is more popular than IntenseDebate among Non-WordPress blogs.

In addition to offering threaded comments, both systems offer:

  • Facebook Connect
  • Twitter Sign-in
  • OpenID Sign-in
  • Multiple Sorting Options
  • RSS Feeds
  • Custom CSS Styling
  • User Profiles
  • And TONS more

Linear comments are pretty much dead. I hesitate to leave a comment on blogs that won’t let me subscribe to replies ONLY. So if you have a blog that has more comments than the ones you mom leaves, then you should check out IntenseDebate or Disqus. They are both great commenting platforms and will make managing comments on your blog much easier.

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Eric Dye

I am an entrepreneur and human rights advocate. I spend most of my time as writer and editor for ChurchMag and Finding Justice, but you can also find me working on Live Theme and for the International Human Rights Group. All while enjoying my family and sipping espresso in Italy.

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  1. says

    I am very glad that this is the way comments work. It would be really difficult to not have threaded comments.
    I just recently got rid of ID on my blog, mainly because it was losing comments and triggering errors. It got to the point where I could not handle it anymore and switched over to disqus. I have been happy with the transition, except for the fact that I lost about 1300 comments from ID and cannot get them back, or at least do not know how to get them back.

  2. says

    I am very glad that this is the way comments work. It would be really difficult to not have threaded comments.
    I just recently got rid of ID on my blog, mainly because it was losing comments and triggering errors. It got to the point where I could not handle it anymore and switched over to disqus. I have been happy with the transition, except for the fact that I lost about 1300 comments from ID and cannot get them back, or at least do not know how to get them back.

  3. says

    I agree that forums aren't the best, but in some cases they provide a better framework than blogging to meet certain goals. Our ministry uses forums heavily to create healing online communities. This just wouldn't be possible on a blog via comments. A forum allows members to start their own threads and reply to each other freely rather than only having the ability to comment on blog post.

    I love blogs and threaded commenting as well. It's just a different tool for a different purpose.
    My recent post The Purity Report – Deeper Than Purity

  4. says

    Forums are hardly dead, not yet. As much as I get a lot of my online interaction from blogs and twitter and FB, there is so much more that come from two forums I post on. Not to mention the fact that almost ALL of the information I get to solve a problem (that actually solves the problem) comes from forums. Definitely not from blogs.

    think part of the appeal of forums is that they are like the neighborhood pub. You can always go there and find a conversation. And the conversations are relatively easy to locate. In blog comments, you need to first find a post that you are interested in, and then get some people to come over and comment on it. Forums breed more familiarity than blog comments. ______
    My recent post Sunday Setlist – January 24

  5. says

    And IntenseDebate is HORRIBLE. It has to be one of the worst web apps I've ever had the displeasure to see. Usually I refuse to even try to comment on a blog that uses it. (This is an exception.) It would be great if it ever worked right. Either comments don't get posted, or the thing just locks up, or comments get posted twice.

    It's been better as of late, but it still stinks. Perfect example. It took me three tries to get the comment above to actually post. And this comment was supposed to be part of that comment, but it was "too long"

    My recent post Sunday Setlist – January 24

  6. says

    If this was a WordPress blog, your ID comments should have synced back to the WordPress native comments database. Then you should be able to import them using Disqus.

  7. says

    I would assume that as well. i just cannot find them.
    When I go back to post I had last month when I was using ID there says there is no comments even though I know there were several. Trying to find them

  8. says

  9. says

    Sorry to hear you ran into issues. I'm happy to help. What web browser and version are you using? When you say they got gobbled up, did that happen after you submitted your comment? Or did you type your comment and then logged into Facebook Connect, and when the page refreshed your comment wasn't there? Please let me know specifics, I'm happy to help troubleshoot. Thanks.

  10. says

    Hi Vin – hope you don't mind me jumping in your comments here to provide some support. I'm always happy to help correct any issues with ID. John recently contacted me with an issue and we're working to get that corrected. However, please feel free to email me with any additional issues in the future – [email protected].

  11. says

    Thanks for the offer.
    Actually I have already have had this sent in and replied to by Michael Koenig and we got it figured out.
    i just had some errors on my part and we worked it out and now have them imported.
    Thanks though

  12. says

    Michael,

    Thanks. I was using IE7 (a work requirement) and was already logged into FB connect. When the comment was submitted, the little wheel just kept spinning for several minutes. I refreshed the page, and the comment was still populated in the box. I was then able to send.

    I've experienced the same thing on IE8 and chrome, but it seems to happen more on IE7. I had one friend's blog I was never able to comment on, ever.
    My recent post Sunday Setlist – January 24

  13. says

    My biggest problem with ID was one that I did personally, I installed it as a widget.

    HUGE mistake.

    ID read the different paths that people used to get to blog posts as actually different pages. Example, if you got there from twitter, it only showed you comments that other people made who got there from twitter. If you got there from facebook, only comments that people made who came from fb. Etc.

    That's since been fixed, but that was a….neat….problem for a bit.

    Still, I'd much rather see ID or Disqus at the bottom of a post than the typepad comment system. Talk about eating comments and being a piece of garbage. *shudders*

  14. says

    I've heard a lot of horror stories about ID. I haven't had any yet (*knocking on wood). I will admit that I've been tempted to pull the plug, and just go comment naked.

    I will admit that the ability to reply by email, and give people the option to log in via different services, are what keep me here with my fingers crossed that nothing bad happens.

  15. says

    And THAT is why I made the switch from Disqus to Intense Debate. Customer service. I tweeted about my frustration, and they picked up the pieces. Word.

  16. says

  17. says

    The trade-offs are important. Loosing comments, being unable to get them back. Sometimes the most valuable thing about the post is the comments.

    I would prefer if an add-on was created for my CMS (Expression Engine), that could handle threaded comments. At the moment, I don't get much comments on my site, so it doesn't matter.

    Software wise, threaded comments aren't really "threaded" in a software sense. They are just hierarchical with a parent comment containing children comments. I would suspect this could be fairly easy to implement.

    My understanding was that Disqus and ID had the added "social" dimension of being able to view a persons comments on various blogs. Has anyone found THAT to be useful. If that's not useful, then forget ID and Disqus, someone just needs to develop a threaded comment add-on for WordPress, Expression Engine, etc.

  18. Tom says

    I know that these two systems are all the rage right now, but I've got serious usability issues with both of 'em:

    I've seen IntenseDebate actually gobble up comments never to show them again on a site. This happened just last week here on ChurchCrunch (though it's not the first time I've seen it). I don't want to wonder if my comments are gonna show up or not.

    Disqus seems alright, but I hate being prompted to either create an account or post as a guest every time that I leave a comment in Disqus. I'm not going to make another online account just for commenting – that's like micro-managing part of blogging.

    Finally, I don't want to tie Facebook or Twitter or OpenID or any other service into my blogging experience. I just want to converse with the author and the other readers. Granted, I totally recognize this a personal thing, too.

    Anyway, all of this is why I've been reluctant to embrace either of these plug-ins on any of my sites. WordPress' native threaded system seems to be doing okay. Add in Subscribe To Comments and you're gold.

    Well, maybe not gold. Perhaps bronze, at least.
    My recent post Fighting a Case of the Mondays with District 9

  19. says

    Yeah, I haven't switched. This post was about to push me over until I started reading some of the comments here. Perhaps I'll just stick with normal wordpress comments. My theme has threaded comments built into it so that's not an issue.

    I would like the ability to subscribe to individual comments (instead of entire comment threads… even though my site doesn't seem to get enough comments for this to be a problem for now). The main benefit I'd get from it would be to reply via email. Is there a wordpress plugin or something that could take care of that for me though instead of having to switch comments systems altogether.

    Thanks for the discussion, guys.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.
    My recent post How your serving can solve 3 problems with small group studies

    • David Knapp says

      I switched over to Intense Debate yesterday. One problem: It is too big.

      I am contacting them right now to see how to fix the problem.

  20. Tom says

    Yes – the reply via email is a major plus. That's one thing that I give the third-party apps. It makes replying much easier. I'm with you there.

  21. says

    I have my issues with IntenseDebate as well, but I find that disabling some of the annoying features make it better. For example, ID offers pages of plugins that a user can add. These are usually cheesy and don't add much to the experience (except a cluttered UI). IntenseDebate is my choice for now, but I have thought many times of switching to Disqus.
    My recent post Joining Others in the CFCC

  22. says

    Michael,

    Thanks for jumping in here. Who better to have in this discussion that they IntenseDebate people themselves!?

    I haven't had tons of technical issues with ID, more just cluttered UI issues. I want to clean up the stylesheet with some custom CSS on my own site (http://vintom.com). But overall I love IntenseDebate and find really useful.
    My recent post Joining Others in the CFCC

  23. says

    Sometimes I'm tempted to just use the WordPress default threaded comments since they're so much prettier IMO. But I have grown to love some of the advanced features of IntenseDebate.

    One of my favorite features that I didn't list in the post was moderation via email. You can simply reply to the comment email to reply to that comment. Or you can reply with the word "spam" or "deny". Very cool!
    My recent post Joining Others in the CFCC

  24. says

    Word!!! Just imagine when Comments become like Google Wave. Where we can talk in real time; taking the discussion and conversation past a simple reply and close page.

    • says

      That could be very cool! Back when Google Wave was all the rave there was talk about it being integrated into blogs as comments. It seems like the noice about Wave is dying down though. I have an account, but rarely use it.
      My recent post Joining Others in the CFCC

      • says

        yeah, Wave seems to have fallen a bit off the map, but I somehow doubt that it will disappear – in fact I think that there will be a resurgence. And if it comes to comments then it will certainly be used by many.
        My recent post Metro Kids Christmas Box 2009

    • says

      whoa… that would be cool! Honestly… I don't use Google Wave that often. My girlfriend and I have an open wave that we both check about once every 3 – 4 days and we just leave each other random (not time sensitive) messages on it. That's about all it's good for in my book right now…
      My recent post Web Savvy Pope = Web Savvy Church

      • says

        it cam be useful, like we have seen. but also crazy. Is a post becomes popular like this one then there can be a new concept; Tangent Commenting.
        My recent post Metro Kids Christmas Box 2009

  25. says

    I'll just say that I really love ID. Yes… I've had a comment or two get eaten up by it never to seen again. That's a little annoying. I'm not going to pretend that ID is perfect because it's not. I do use it on my blog and I like being notified of "replies" only via email.

    I know that the default wordpress comment system can be prettier at times and easier for the majority of people to use, however I just really like having ID handle all my comments. On a personal note… I was sad to see ID leave ragamuffinsoul.com.

  26. says

    Right. My thing with GooWave is just that it's so rare that everyone is online at the exact same time. (i.e… the 15 minutes it took me to get back to my computer to reply to this comment).
    My recent post Web Savvy Pope = Web Savvy Church

  27. says

    I am a fan of ID. I tried Disq but didn't like how it displayed and took over/deleted comments. Switched my blog template and have been using ID eversince and have been loving it.

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