Blog comments are broken, and how to fix them

Disqus Comments

You may have noticed that I’ve changed the comments functionality on this site to use Disqus rather than the default WordPress comments functionality. Why, you ask? Basically because, generally speaking, blog comments are broken and after complaining about it for years I’m ready to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

After five years of blogging, I’ve left bits of pieces of opinion from one of side of the blogosphere to the other. I love a good discussion (ok, maybe debate is a better word), but I’ll be damned if I can remember to check in on 1 out of 10 discussions I join.

Certainly there have been attempts to solve this issue, none of which have really solved the problem.

  • Subscribe to comments via email. While these are great to an extent, we all already get enough email and it’s too often difficult to unsubscribe when you lose interest in the discussion. On top
  • Subscribe to comments via RSS. Yuck. Seriously, yuck. I have 435 RSS threads in my feed reader. Can you imagine how many I’d have if I subscribed to the comments thread every time I left a blog comment? 5 years later I’d literally have thousands. And imagine how much time that would collectively take to add each RSS thread individually. Perhaps this solution was always a solution waiting for a delivery application, a “comment thread feed reader” application, for instance. Yet another thing to monitor for changes. No thanks.
  • Per blog registration. While this sometimes, and not always, helps you see the threads of a single blog that you’ve commented on, this does nearly nothing to solve this same issue outside of the individual blog.
  • Large scale Web applications like Vox or WordPress.com that seek to use one identity for both your blogging and your commenting. Things is, if you’re not a blogger or don’t want to be, there’s not much reason to sign up other than to comment on a blog. So unless you comment on a number of Vox (for instance) blogs, it’s not much different than an individual blog registration.
  • Global commenting systems that replace core blog platform functionality. Haloscan was an early application, with Disqus being a more recent entry in this space. (More on Disqus shortly)
  • Bookmarklet systems like co.comment that require you to click a bookmarklet every time you leave a blog comment on any random site (with limitations). If the site works with the bookmarklet button, your comment is tracked. Great idea, but clicking submit then clicking the bookmarklet button was something that was always well beyond my memory capabilities.

I’m sure there are more options, but let’s move on.

In my mind, the solution lies in a (better implementation of the) global commenting system. I’ve switched my comments to Disqus because I believe they are dang close to being the right global system. Here’s why:

  • It works wonderfully and is easy understand, even for the technology lightweights.
  • It does a great job of keeping you logged in across multiple blogs, so you’re always ready to go with a comment without having to fill out name, email address, and URL.
  • Threaded replies
  • See all your comments in one location
  • Fantastic integration process – it’s super easy to add to a blog, forum, etc.

(Fred also shares his opinions on why to use Disqus, as does this blogger)

I will also say that Disqus is far from perfect and the team has some things they need to solve ASAP in order to get non-early adopter adoption:

  • Trackbacks need to work
  • Exporting back into your own comments system needs to work instantly and without having to be trained as a DBA
  • Ownership of content issue needs to be highlighted and explained in no uncertain terms
  • Because of the javascript used to display comments, it misses SEO

(Daniel from Disqus has promised me they’re looking at those issues)

But those things said, we have to eventually plant a flag somewhere around something. Any global system is only as useful as the number of people using it. Look at how good Akismet, the spam fighting functionality included in WordPress, is at fighting spam. Every user they add helps every other user.

Speaking of Akismet… imagine if WordPress (the software and the Web platform) implemented Disqus across their properties. In one step, a large percentage of the world’s bloggers would be using a global commenting system. Can you imagine how, nearly overnight, the conversation in blogs would change?

I’d encourage you to check out Disqus for your blog. In fact, just trust me, go install it. It’s worth it. If nothing else, create a Disqus account so that I can see a cool avatar next to your name when you comment rather than the generic icon!