Comment Hell with Intense Debate

Intense Debate has b0rked and is phasing in and out of existence. Needless to say, this is fucking up all conversations.

The Rocket Breaks Down album cover
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For the last month, Intense Debate has been behaving extremely badly. It’s been hiding comments from everyone, on seemingly random rates and times. Basically, at various occassions, replies to particular threads would disappear. Sometimes it would be just one or two replies, at others it would be the whole thread past the first reply.

And while this started out mild, as the month passed, it has grown progressively more intense, to the point where now there’s always at least some replies missing, and at worse, hundreds of them. This is even more annoying since those comments still exist in the system (ie, I can see them in the dashboard) but appear sporadically. So in one refresh I will see 90/100, and the next refresh I will see only 15.

Unfortunately, the developers have really dropped the ball on this. Even though this seemed from the start as a quite important problem, and even though this was reported early on, there was initially no response, then there was some non-functioning workarounds, and finally the problem was acknowledged just last week after me and other started screaming bloody murder. Incidentally, it was at this point where this was becoming unbrearable which I assume meant some of their big name clients started complaining as well.

So now, this is creating a comment hell situation for me, especially for the long discussions I’ve opened with Lockeanists and the like. Not only do many people get confused about their disappearing replies, but they also get the impression that I’m secretly deleting comments. And this just too much.

So for now, I’m going to stop replying to comments until this fucking issue is resolved. This is not say that I will leave your replies unanswered, but that I will only start a conversation, when a conversation can be maintained. Of course, this assumes that IDC will get their act together and fix this annoying bug ASAP. If this does not happen, I may have to do the unthinkable and remove it altogether in order to be able to discuss again.

Needless to say, this whole situation is seriously pissing me off, especially since I’ve been a devout proponent of IDC for a while now.

I’ll be updating this post with the status of this comment hell in the future.

UPDATE1: It seems that the IDC folks have finally located the code causing this and have produced a fix to stop this from happening in the future. Now all that’s left is fixing the problem as it already exists and they plan to push an update for this once they know the fix worked.

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The Debate is Intensifying

Just thought I’d let y’all know that Intense Debate is stepping up their game.

The obvious thing that has changed is that they have completely revamped their hompage layout. It now feels more clean although imho the old one was not looking bad either. You can take a look at how it looks for me from the thumbmnail below.
Nevertheless, I like the new one as well and I can’t be unhappy when finally my OpenID works as well 😀

My Dashboard

The also have support for Akismet which is awesomeness. Anyone cooperating with the WordPress guys is top man in my eyes. Any money that goes to them is certainly coming back to me in the form of a better WordPress.
Plus, Akismet is pretty fucking efficient 😉

But the best part is yet to come. I’ve been waiting for their new version of the WordPress plugin since June for many sweet stuff has been foretold about it. SEO on comments, keeping your comments in your wordpress etc. Well, apparently this is coming out today as well, or at least the announcement dates. I can’t help but feel that this is partly in retaliation to the recent Disqus upgrade. Hopefully they did not rush this out for a very buggy plugin will only turn people off.

Still, this plugin has great shoes to fill. Reading about the Disqus features, my mouth waters and I need IDC to not simply catch up, but overtake them. I have faith that they will achieve it as I know some of the names working on it and that makes me feel hopeful. Add to that all the ideas I’ve given them over the past few months and I’m certain that great things are a-coming.

Still, this rapid pace of upgrades only shows how good open competition between startups is for the rest of us 😉

IDC is growing better by the week it seems and I keep finding more uses of it constantly. So, get in the game already and join my growing list of converts. Don’t worry, no mind-altering techniques have been employed, other than my charming wit of course 😉

Threads and Comments.

Threaded comments are the next best thing to happen to blogs since trackbacks. It provides fluid and concise interaction and the ability to keep easy track of the discussion and the commentors engaged.

yeah man, like totally
CC - Credit: skampy

Let me get this out first: I love comments! It is very enjoyable to interact with people who happen to read my little corner in the internetubes. Yes, seeing from the stats that 100 or 200 people have read an article is nice but how do I know if they agree or disagree. How do I know if I made a horrible mistake in thinking or gave someone a fantastic insight without realising it?

This is why, if there’s any thing I’m constantly improving here is the commenting experience. I wish it to be as easy as possible to see what others have to say and hopefully strike a conversation and this is why I have found Intense Debate Comments (IDC) to be so great for that purpose.

I’ve explained before how IDC owns Blogspot native comments and now I want to explain to you why IDC is so good if you’re as big a comment addict as I am.

I was reading this excellent post about getting more comments on things you write and it gives some solid tips of which many I plan to follow in the near future. The very first tip was the most important imho as well

1. Be active in your own comment threads.

If you’ve commented recently here you’ll have noticed that I very rarely leave a comment unanswered. The exceptions usually are when the discussion is at an end or when there’s nothing to really reply but “thanks” (and sometimes I even do that). Now, normally, in a classic commenting system, comments just fall under each other which makes them not so easy to read through. People utilise blockquotes or threading hacks to make this easier but most of the time it only become marginally better.

If I write a post and then go to bed and get 10 comments, in the old system the only thing I can do is create a long reply and just reply to each commenter by name (classic way is by prepending @name before each reply or with blockquotes). This is generally not only time consuming but doesn’t look half as good as it does with threading. Using a threaded system I can reply to each commenter directly and have it look as it should: a personalised reply. If that person decides to reply more, this allows us not  have a conversation at this point which just flows so much better. Just see my latest post as an example.

But there’s another hidden bonus when you use intense debate. When you directly reply to someone, he automatically gets an email informing him of that, along with the reply text and what they replied to. As someone who is using his emails as a primary notification system, I can tell you that being able to see their comment along with my reply makes me very eager to reply. If you want to maintain reader interaction, there’s nothing better.
Oh, and did I tell you that people can reply to comments via replying to that email? Can’t get any sweeter.

But the benefit of threading do not end here. Do you know those very complex and long-winded discussions where each person end up quoting the others points in order to reply to each. Have you noticed how each point becomes a discussion of its own and the whole answer becomes pretty much impossible to follow? Nevermind that the length of each comment is doubled due to the quotes and the extra time and checking it takes. I’ve had that. A lot. It’s ugly.

However, recently in a very…err, intense debate I asked my opponent to stop using blockquotes and instead reply once to each specific point he wanted to and I would do the same. If one of us wanted to reply to subpoints in a reply, we were to split it with blockquotes to two different replies so that the opponent can then reply to each if necessary.

To my eyes, the results were much, much more readable. You can see that even though the discussion went for quite a length and there were many points to be discussed, a third party can easily start reading a point to its end without getting confused with the rest. Compare that with this lengthy argument I had at Dailight Atheism and decide for yourselves which one is more easy to follow.
Plus, I practically reduced the size of the discussion in half by taking away all the quotation and it went much quicker due to the email notifications. I’ve now made this a comment policy at the Division by Zer0:

If you’re going to have an argument here, thou shalt use threaded individual replies and keep thy quotes to a minimum.

Of course it pays that I have a variable width template here and the comment box can be wide enough so that threading does not end up squeezed at the side. Not unless I get a 20 deep thread I guess 🙂
Still, I never understood why people go for fixed width templates and sacrifice all their screen real-estate.

I’m going to close this article here for now but rest assured that this just one of the benefits I’ve discovered with the threading through IDC. I’ll go into them in a future post.

Intense Debate Comments > Blogspot/Blogger Comments

Dear Blogspot/Blogger users, I can see that unfortunately my previous arguments for switching to a better free blogging platform has not convinced you. That is unfortunate but I however have another request to make of you.

As I mentioned in the previous article, the blogspot commenting system sucks donkey balls. It pains me every time I have to leave a comment and I have to suffer the horrible captcha and interface (among others). It honestly deters me from leaving the occasional comment as I can’t be bothered to go through all this hassle.

You may have also noticed that I have recently taken a liking to Intense Debate Comments and I have already installed it on all the wordpress blogs I manage, even though the wordpress commenting system is quite adequate for most.

Thus I would like to ask you all blogspot users for a small favour: Please, please, switch to the IDC system. It is painless and it will also grant you so much of a better way to handle them than before. I don’t have to list all the features here as you can easily check the website itself for that but in short, what you will get over blogger is:

  • Comment writing on the same page of the main post (no need to open a new one)
  • Comment editing
  • Much more ajax-y, web 2.0, sleek look. That way people find it easy to leave a comment
  • A greater management of comments (reputation, threading etc)

Screenshot of Evolved and Rational with Blogger comment  systemScreenshot of Evolved and Rational with Intense Debate comment systemFor Comparison, on the left you can see how Evolved and Rational looked before, and on the right, you can see how it looks with IDC

So, dear Blogger/Blogspot users, please listen to my appeal and give it a try. Do it for my peace of mind. And if you have any problems I’d be glad to give you a hand.