My email signature (automated by Wisestamp) says that I am the “tech monkey behind Body Meow and Songwriting Scene. Those two blogs belong to my wife, who is an experienced writer, experienced songwriter, up-and-coming Pilates instructor, and quite a fine blogger. 😉
My own blog (which has gone through massive revisions and re-brandings over the last few years – first beginning life as the obscurely titled “welcome to i2”, running over on the Blogger.com platform) is called Working Sandbox. That means minimally, it is supposed to “work” at most times; and maximally, it is a sandbox where I get to play with ideas – whether they be writing ideas, life-strategy ideas, bits of humor, or (probably most importantly) technical and design ideas whose sole purpose is to incubate here before migrating to one of my wife’s sites. After all, she wears the content-quality pants in this family!
A few days ago, I met a guy from Disqus during a presentation at the Varick Street Incubator in New York (presented by the NYC WordPress Meetup). You can read all about that in a prior post. I had already been using Disqus for well over a year on this blog, after first seeing it used on a fellow blogger’s WordPress blog – Random Musings.
I had already been thinking of deploying the Disqus commenting system to my wife’s sites – most specifically to Songwriting Scene, since that is the one that we are concentrating on improving the design of and building traffic for right now. Armed with a little deeper knowledge after the presentation, I pitched the migration idea to my wife. She gave the approval.
Advantages of Disqus Over the Default WordPress Commenting System
Now she’s got an upgraded commenting system – here are some of the snazzy new benefits over the default WordPress system:
- Threaded comments – This allows commenters to reply to a specific comment, instead of just dumping their comment into the long stream of other comments. This often provides better context for the discussion at that point.
- Like Button – A commenter can hit “Like” on the post or on any comment. Since the barrier to entry to hitting “Like” is lower than thinking about how to write a comment, this can increase participation and feedback. Caveat: Since we already have a “Facebook Like Button”, some commenters might be confused about how the new “Disqus Like Button” is different.
- Mobile Moderation – While it’s true that a standard WordPress installation has a few decent options for comment moderation from a smart phone, the Disqus app for Android is very snazzy and is, in my opinion, a better mobile experience.
- Notifications – Disqus gives a lot of flexibility to the administrator to add additional moderators and to get notifications on various events during the commenting process.
- Login Options – Disqus gives quick and easy options for a commenter to login using Facebook, Twitter, OpenID, Google, Yahoo, and a few others. This can reduce the barrier to entry for a commenter since they can more easily comment without having to type much identifying info, and it also creates a stronger community connection to other social networks that the commenter might be part of. Another plus is that Disqus gives an easy option to share a comment during posting time with Twitter or Facebook.
- New Widgets – Not available via the WordPress Dashboard, but if you go directly to your Disqus Dashboard (which you can reach embedded via the WordPress admin), you will find a few code snippets that will help you add nicely formatted widgets for “Recent Comments” and “Popular Threads”.
- Snazzy Look and Feel – ’nuff said, yeah? 🙂
The Migration to Disqus – Minor Snags and Observations
The migration went pretty easily – all comments seemed to import and looked good. The new widgets looked great. But there are a few (minor) snags in the user experience, in my opinion:
- Imported Spam (unapproved) – I didn’t notice it on the web site or in the WordPress admin screens, but when I setup the Disqus Android app I noticed that there were lots of spam comments showing in the stream. I later noticed that they were marked as “Unapproved”, but to be honest I would prefer if the import process had given me an easy way to exclude comments that WordPress had already identified as spam.
- Avatar on Old Comments – I know that going forward comments will have great links to the “global discussion” since for my wife and for many others they will be made using a logged in Disqus profile. But I did notice that older comments from my wife do not display her Avatar. From what I can tell, the reason is that she used a link to her music site on those comments, so they were not matched to her new Disqus profile, even though the email address does match. Not sure how Disqus could have handled this better, but it would be nice if there were a way to fix-up the associations on older comments somehow.
- Expand / Collapse in Moderation – This one is really minor. I only noticed it since I was browsing all the past comments to ensure that no spam had been approved for display (see note above). If you try to expand or collapse ALL of your comments in the moderation admin, you will actually “toggle” them – i.e., any that are current expanded will collapse and vice-versa.
I suggest you try Disqus. It’s good. I like it. It makes me feel like I did a lot of work on my wife’s blog design even though the actual work was very easy. 🙂