I’ve been experimenting with a number of commenting systems within the past two months and I have discovered one common thing among all of the 3rd party commenting platforms:
They all suck.
But let me be clear the airwaves of the negativity because, for starters, they are all better than the system that comes out of a white and vanilla install of WordPress and all the “other” blogging platforms, which we shall not name.
So here are my thoughts on the top 5 commenting systems and platforms that will do you no wrong and where I’m going to finally put my foot down and commit.
Things to know before you proceed any further:
- I can neither guarantee an “equal” nor “neutral” review because you can’t forget that all of them “suck”.
- The following is a bit “tongue in cheek” so if you have light sensibilities, please go read something else on your gooreader.
- The reviews showcase my own personal experiences with the platforms… your experience may vary greatly.
- I tend to push all of the platforms to the extreme, doing tests, development with their APIs, etc…
- I will explain the “suck” part at the end.
Ready? Let’s begin.
Sezwho was founded in October of 2006 and was released with decent fanfare and review. Touted as a “universal profile service” it first caught my attention when it went mainstream back when I worked for the man.
This was probably the most attractive thing about it because the homepage looks like an enterprise product mapping with funny looking faces. Add some additional industry-lame quotes like “making the social web truly social” (ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh please..!!!!!!!11111111) and you’ve got a winner grand enough (and is likened) to selling an enterprise-level product (with an enterprise-level price) to a startup with no green.
# of Blogs that unfortunately experienced an install: 2
# of Comments made before “suckage” level was met to force uninstall: 102
Final Thoughts: Watch the demo and get a laugh about how this guy talks about their revolutionary product. You know, it’s almost 2009… right? Web 2.0 isn’t that “new” anymore, is it?
[EDITOR’S NOTE: coComment has vanished from the web. If it reappears, let us know!]
coComment is another comment-enhancement platform which also came out in early 2006. I stayed away from this one initially like one of Roenne’s poopy diapers that I left under her bed.
When it first came out you had to do something to the effect of installing a “bookmarklet” on your browser and using that “bookmarklet” instead of the perfectly good blog interface to leave a comment. Users then, if they so chose, could push those comments and content onto their own blogs with a widget…?
Wait a sec… see the logic here?
And guess what? After a healthy round of funding and some “massive” changes, you still have to install those fuddy duddy “bookmarklets”.
# of Blogs that unfortunately experienced an install: 0 (Why? because I had a “bookmarklet”!)
# of Comments made before “suckage” level was met to force uninstall: 78 (I reinstalled FireFox too…)
Final Thoughts: There are some other services that don’t “suck” as much. I’d say something creative hear but words escape even the most *ahem* creative…
JS-Kit has been covered extensively by a number of large editorials and has gotten a good number of rounds going for funding. More of a Widget-factory, their commenting system first caught my eye because of the sheer amount of coverage.
Installing was simple, getting it to work, not so nice. They’ve rolled out a number of features over the past few months and the product has gotten better over time. Unfortunately partnering with someone like AOL automatically puts this in the suck-bucket, even if it’s just a distribution play.
In addition, there is no back end networking which means that your comments and content get holed into a little place called the “corners of the internet” and all that means is that your comments can have fun, by themselves.
Finally, they have a strategic partner with coComment that was announced not too long ago. coComment, covered above, also sucks, which means by default (and let’s not forget AOL) that JS-Kit sucks too.
# of Blogs that unfortunately experienced an install: 3 (I really tried… I did…)
# of Comments made before “suckage” level was met to force uninstall: 245 (Not bad…!)
Final Thoughts: JS-Kit’s commenting system is awesome for a site that doesn’t already have comments, like the first site you made with Microsoft’s Frontpage. Otherwise, save yourself some time unpacking, uploading, and installing this bad boy.
Disqus was established in mid 2007 and has already gathered together a number of high-profile bloggers.
Like many of the networked commenting platforms, the more you use it the more others will use it and adopt it for their own.
Only until recently this service completely sucked because it remotely stored your comments in their proprietary systems. This means that if you decided to stop using the service it would be likened to chopping off one of your arms; those comments would be gone forever.
Although they’ve recently updated it so that the comments are now sync’d I’ve personally found a ton of buggy user experience glitches and if you like cacheing your blog (which you probably should) then this thing hates that. Also, if you like refreshing the page every single time you post a comment, then this one’s for you!
Finally, if you like your Disqus commenting “forum” to be ranked high on the Google ranks, then go for it. This, personally, sucks. I’d rather you get the content and link to my site instead of the forums (which I’ve never ever used outside and independent from my blogs).
Nice try, but as one review noted, it still needs to “evolve”.
# of Blogs that unfortunately experienced an install: 5 (I really really really tried…)
# of Comments made before “suckage” level was met to force uninstall: 720 (Yeah. A lot.)
Final Thoughts: I’d much rather prefer a “full-cycle” evolutionary experience than a half-baked one. It’s like growing back half of the arm that you had cut off when you first installed it…! (Perhaps half an arm is better than not any at all…)
IntenseDebate is the final review that I’ll be showcasing tonight, even though there are a number of other commenting systems and platforms that I’ve tested, but I’m too embarassed to share that list.
IntenseDebate has been cursed for me from the get-go. After installing on my two most traffic’d blogs I lost 30% of all my comments instantly.
Now I’m not a comment monger, but losing 30% of your comments is like losing… well, 30% of your comments. It’s one of those “OMG… why isn’t my heart beating anymore…?” moments.
A development flaw was found an I was asked to re-import and re-sync them. So, I did. This messed it up even more. But let’s move onto style, shall we?
Apparently IntenseDebate hates your CSS and doesn’t play nice. For those that value the look and feel of their blog and likes a sense of consistency, then you might want to skip the painful process of managing this potential battle.
Also, if you like having to manually “hack” their widgets to get them to work which also requires you to memorize your blogs numerical ID from their dbases, well, then you’ll have lots of fun and you should install this immediately!
Finally, if you like some of their cool “perks” like being able to reply via email only to find that it really doesn’t work as intended and makes you paranoid forever because you’re never quite sure if your reply ever got there… then you must really like Halloween and should also be an instant “install-me-now” move.
# of Blogs that unfortunately experienced an install: 3 (Not bad… I learned from Disqus.)
# of Comments made before “suckage” level was met to force (thinking about an) uninstall: 372 (And counting…)
Final Thoughts: If you love painful installs and broken functionalities then rock it solid bro.
Which leads us to the end and my pick for the platform that didn’t suck the most. But let me first explain a bit of background…
The first thing is that I’ve only highlighted all the stuff that went terribly wrong and the things that irked me the most about the platforms. I did not write about what I really liked about them, which is unfair, but that’s how I decided to write this post.
There are, in fact, much more “positive” things that I could write about each of them than the negatives, and that’s why I could, with a safe and secure conscience, recommend most of them to any blogger who was curious enough to throw down an install.
But all of them still suck. And here’s why:
- I’m not found of putting my comments into the hands of a 3rd party system. For many, this doesn’t really bother them. I’m all about being “social” online but I’m also highly protective of the content produced, as well as the conversations developed. Having them stand in a 3rd party system lessens that level of control as comments and conversations can be now taken out of the original context and can be read independent of the original post. This can be a major issue.
- I’m not able to completely control the styling. Yes, many of them can inherit the CSS of the parent site and made to look and feel similar but it’s still a 3rd party service and unless they go completely open source, there will be limitations because of their construct. I’m into aesthetics as much as the next guy and I like to manage it well… the readers deserve it.
- Plugins, in general, can increase overall page weight. That sucks. Period. They can also cause conflicts with other plugins and scripts and just do screwy things. That sucks too.
- 3rd party systems are, well, 3rd party systems. If the service is unavailable… well, so are your comments. And heaven forbid one of the systems goes out of business… whoops…?
- Platform advertising and branding. I’m a stickler for aesthetics and sometimes I just wish I could use services without saying “Powered by…” or “This comment system is brought to you by…”… Leave my readers alone! If they like the experience the proprietary registration system will kick in and you’ll get a new user. And what if their logo “clashes” with my color schematic? Boo. (Sometimes hacking their embed plugin code, like Disqus, can get rid of their logos… hehe.)
- Functionality crapshoot. Essentially, with the different product offerings that each system has or does not have, you’re just stuck. For example, I really liked Disqus’s Seesmic attachment. That was awesome. IntenseDebate doesn’t have it but has very cool features that Disqus doesn’t have. I want the best of both and all worlds… but that’s too much to ask.
- Finally, the user experience that I ultimately hope for is still incomplete. NO commenting system is perfect or provides the best uX… yet.
So, now that you have heard the rant, here’s my pick moving forward:
IntenseDebate sucks the least.
And here’s a few reasons why:
- Their dashboard is awesome. It’s just functional and not overcooked. I appreciate that.
- I can manage the comments right in my own WordPress admin instead of having to go to their site. I like that.
- Sync your comments actually works as intended.
- Multiple options to enhance or simplify the end user experience. A lot of the other platforms have this too, but it’s dead simple here.
- User’s ratings and reputations are shown with their avatar. That’s nice. That’s very nice.
- The profile system is robust and pretty. Mouse over a user and you can see their additional social networks, their blogs, and stats. I mean, it’s like getting to know your commenters even better than just what they choose to spew on your blog!
- You can follow particular commenters and see what else they are commenting on. This is a good and bad thing, perhaps, but I like to see where some of my trusted community goes to hang out online.
- Twitter hook up is cool, but I’m not using it… but some may really like it. For example, you can tweet your latest comment automatically… this could have some really good affects to drive traffic…!
- This one is EPIC: You can directly reply to a comment through your email inbox. When it works, this thing saves me TONS of time. You can auto delete, call spam on it, or just ignore too… I mean, snap… that’s a beautiful thing.
- Add-ons are half-way decent. The top commenters plugin is used on this blog and my other one as well. I’d love to see more options crop up for customization (like resetting the scores every once in a while) but it’s cool to increase the level of engagement and visually see who’s coming back.
- Metrics, metrics, metrics. You should see the metrics dashboard, especially if you manage multiple blogs like myself. I can see the number of comments made in total, per week, and percent of the comments that are mine and/or from others. It also shows you total comments ever on your blog, the number made today, the number of blogs that you’ve commented on that have the ID system, and the average length of a comment in characters…! A simple to understand metrics-pull was something that won me over big time.
- Automattic owns them. This is a big *sigh* of relief because Automattic isn’t going anywhere. And if you happened to either forget, they’re the makers of WordPress. Oh yes. That’s right. So having WordPress and IntenseDebate on the same team means that tighter integration is possible, better offerings for Automattic’s other joints (Gravatar and Akismet), and a resulting better and more robust product offering as a whole. WordPress is constantly evolving and getting better and that type of philosophical backing will make IntenseDebate really shine. And, since Ma.tt is all about Open Source… who knows… but ID could go Open Source too…? (I can dream, can’t I?)
- Finally, their logo is awesome looking. I mean, the flame-design is kind of old, but I like it. They also offer their logo in an official press kit for easy manipulation and other Photoshop-foolery. Small beans to some, but hey… I like it!
So, with that, I’m diving deep into IntenseDebate. It’s not perfect, but it’s got a good start. If you’re using one of the other mentioned platforms and comment-enhancing systems, I won’t be dogmatic and do something like suggest you ditch it for an obviously superior product…
But I’d kindly suggest you give it a try.
Cheers! Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!