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.
Intense Debate Comments makes a significant step towards outpacing the competition. Introducing Plugins
Just in case you missed it, Intense Debate just announced that their plugin system has gone live (most likely in direct response to their competitor’s major announcement). This is the kind of news that I’ve been waiting for a while now and I’m very glad this had now been released. At the moment there are not many plugins available, only integrated seesmic and youtube comments, smilies and polls. Of all these, I’m mostly interested in the smilies right now but that’s not the important thing anyway.
The important thing is that now the functionality of IDC can be improved at the whims of the community in any direction people wish to take it. No more do people need to beg the developers to implement the latest shiny feature, they can simply code it themselves. And thus the doors of innovation are now open wide.
It’s impossible to avoid seeing the hand of Automattic behind this latest release (or as I like to call it, the feature to end all features) as they are the makers of the most popular WordPress blogging platform who’s greatest power is certainly the ability for anyone to make plugins for it. Allowing users to extend the functionality of the program on their own is the single most important capability most modern succesful software have had. From Firefox, to WordPress and now, to Intense Debate.
So now all that’s left to do if for us to add the kind of features we want to have. There’s already quite a few wordpress plugins to extend the comment functionality which could not really work with an outsourced system and all those developers finally have a way to port their functionality natively.
Hopefully, this should free the hands of the IDC developers from getting tied into an feature war and let them focus on improving the stability of the platform and squashing many of the long outstanding bugs.
Imho, IDC has just pulled the rug out of the competition. I’m now very excited on what the future will bring and so should you..What do you mean you don’t have Intense Debate installed? What are you waiting for?
In recent months, outsourcing one’s blog comments to a specialized comment engine has become quite trendy for many people. Of those specialized engines, two are gathering the most publicity, Intense Debate and Disqus. I jumped onto this comments outsourcing bandwagon about half a year ago and my choice was Intense Debate Comments (IDC from now on). Not only have I not regretted at all but I’ve become such a staunch evangelist for this system that I have made quite a few converts 🙂
So what is this post about? Well, yesterday, Friar Zero asked my via email why I preferred IDC over Disqus. The simple answer is that IDC was the one I stumbled onto first, quite randomly while using the Get Satisfaction support (GSFN from now). I discovered Disqus shortly after that but since I had already taken IDC for a ride, I saw no reason to start all over again and Disqus was not also using GSFN so as weird as it sounds, that was a major reason for me at the start.
But of course that’s not a proper reason and I think it’s time for me to actually write in detail why I preferred one over the other. And since I’m doing that, I thought I might as well make this my first meme and perhaps trigger others to explain for themselves why they use their current choice. This will hopefully create a body of opinions which might give bloggers enough information about each option from all sides of the argument, to make an informed decision.
So the rules of the Comment Wars meme are the following:
Declare which system you prefer and perhaps give a short history of your decision.
List the reasons of why you prefer you current system choice over the direct competitor (If you’re using IDC, your competitor is Disqus and the other way around).
(Optionally) list the reasons why you prefer your current system over your blog’s default comment system (WordPress, Blogger or Typepad most likely). If you’re still using your default system, instead list the reasons why you consider it superior to both IDC and Disqus.
Link to the person who tagged you for this meme.
Link to any other people who are using any third-party comment system of whom you care to know why they chose as they did. You can also link to any people who are still using the built-in comment system and you want to know why. Make sure to leave them a comment or send an email to inform them that they have been tagged.
So without further ado
Why I prefer Intense Debate over Disqus
1. The threading looks and works much better
The original thing that drew me to IDC was the capability to have threaded comments and this is still the thing that breaks or makes the deal for me. IDC threads simply look natural, with the little arrow pointing to the reply below, with the reply being just a tad to the right (so as to allow a lot of threading before you run out of space) and where the end result just looks natural.
On the other hand, Disqus threading, to me always looked ugly. Blocky comments which simply begun below and quite a bit indented which had the result of quickly running out of space. This became painfully obvious when I participated in a lengthy discussion through disqus and after the 13th reply, it stared becoming very annoying to continue (sample on the right)
On the contrary, in the Division by Zero, I’ve held a 30 deep-thread going without any major inconvenience. Granted, it helps that I have a variable width template (why waste screen real-estate) but it is mostly because of the way IDC conserves space and builds the thread.
It would be impossible to hold a 130-reply thread going without good layout and the fact that I did and it’s actually readable from a visitor’s point of view, is a major success.
The only thing missing (from both systems) is a way to connect a reply to the parent comment, but IDC already has the collapse thread function and I know they’re working on better solutions.
2. They seem to innovate in the correct direction
While both systems have taken a generally similar path in features, and even though IDC came later to the party, IDC seems much more full in features that Disqus. I’ve been seeing a lot of new features such as the recent ability to paginate comments in order to keep the page load fast, or the capability to keep your wordpress comments synced both ways with IDC.
I do not know what the recent innovations of Disqus have been to tell the truth as I don’t pay attention to them so I can’t really compare the relevant speed they advance. A quick look at their blog tells me they do provide a lot of good stuff as well but I get the impression that they are more interested in making more fancy features rather than strengthen and make the comments themselves as good and solid as possible.
3. Email notifications rock
By now, I’ve gotten email notifications for replies by both systems (and from builtin solutions) and I can safely say that IDC was the best for the following reasons.
They send a notification immediately after a reply is posted to a thread below your comment. That is, if you leave a comment and someone replies to it, you get a notification. If, after 3 days, someone replies to the reply to your comment, you are still notified, as this is continuing from a point you raised. I find this great to keep a conversation live and going ((It’s been a while since I got such a notification as I generally comment on my own blog where I get an email for everything. Last time I remember, this functionality was the case but it may have changed since)).
On the other side, Disqus seems to send notifications only every 30 minutes or so (thus some times passes before you get informed that you got a reply, and by then you might have gone to do something else) and then you only get notifications if someone responds directly to your comment. You don’t get informed if someone continues the discussion that you started.
The email notification includes your response to that comment as well, so you can immediately see the context of what they are replying to. This is quite important as it’s very often that I do not remember what I was saying at the time.
It allows you to reply by email. Granted, so does Disqus, but not the built-in systems.
This is more of a personal preference than anything else but it really made my day when I learned about it. To clarify, Automattic are the makers of WordPress, the Blogging software the Division by Zer0 stands on and, for me, is the best you can use. That IDC is now backed by the skills and expertise of those people gives me much optimism about the future.
And since WordPress is a Free Software, you never know, perhaps we’ll be able to convince the IDC people to finally liberate their code (it’s for their own good after all 😉 )
To tell you the truth, I can foresee Disqus being acquired by WordPress’ rival in the blogging battlefield: Blogger/Blogspot, or more accurately, Google. If this happens, things will get…interesting.
5. They use Get Satisfaction and their support guys are top-notch
GSFN has become one of my favourite places to seek support and it was actually how I came to discover IDC as I explained at the start. Their support guys are still active over there and they generally provide excellent support (although a few times I did go for weeks without solution). I’ve had issues which were reported only by me actually looked by a developer to find a solution very quickly. Although some times I really felt like pulling out my luxurious hair, eventually a solution was found and the than all was right in the world again. But no matter what, very rarely will you find a support person volunteer to help you scour your blog for possible problems just to make sure that everything is ok.
Unfortunately I do not know how quick the Disqus support is but the fact that they use their own support forum generally does not make me happy.
Another big benefit of GSFN is the ability to separate ideas from other support issues and get an idea of how many other people want the same idea to happen. Quite a few of the things I’ve proposed in the past have already been implemented and the devs generally pay attention to what their userbase asks for. This counts.
6. They integrate very well with WordPress
At the moment of speaking, the IDC wordpress plugin merges very well with the platform. Not only can you manage your comments in the same way as before (bulk moderation etc), but it also gives you some extra functionality, like the ability to reply to comments from within WordPress moderation or filter by author.
I won’t claim that the plugin is perfect as I have suffered quite a bit through it (I was testing it since the alpha) but I can safely say that for most people it should work flawlessly and if you have a problem they’ll be able to fix it for you quickly 😉
And with these six points, I finish my reasons on why I prefer IDC over disqus. Very shortly now, I’m going to present…
Why I prefer IDC over WordPress’ built-in comments
1. IDC has threading
As I said, this is a deal-maker for me. While wordpress can achieve threading with plugins and the newest 2.7 has it built-in by default, in my site it never looked nice and you could not thread more than once (or the theme broke and I couldn’t fix it). IDC worked out of the box, and much much better than I could ever imagine. Indeed, I was so impressed with the Threading capabilities of IDC that I could now change my Comment policy to allow discussions to flow much better.
2. Email Notifications
While wordpress can do this with plugins again, it doesn’t do email replies.
3. I can keep my site is less bloated
WordPress can indeed handle email notifications and threading and whatnot but all of these are extra code that needs CPU power to run and on a shared hosting like mine, every little bit counts. Granted, IDC hasn’t been the fastest kid on the block until now, but recently the devs put it on a diet and with some new comment organization features, they’ve made it much faster to load.
That means I can get all these functions and anything more the developers cook up, without having to worry about updating 3- or 4 different plugins which might break each other or slowdown the site.
In my eyes, IDC is and will remain the better choice for most people who want something superior than what comes with the box. I’m certain that the competition with Disqus will remain heated but this only benefits us all in the long run
Below you will find a poll where you can vote, as a blogger or as a commenter, which system you prefer. If you take part in the meme, feel free to link here for others so that we may get a bigger view.
And finally, to tag some people to get some opinions and spread this meme. I’ve tried to tag a nice spread of systems to get various opinions on this.
The solution to that exists. When you comment, you have the option of providing your email address, which I notice that most people do not fill in, I guess because of concerns about spamming. That’s not a problem in itself but I wanted to point out the benefit you have when you do provide it. Mainly that you get email notification about new replies to your own comments.
The way it works is this: If you’ve filled in an email address, whenever someone responds to a comment you made directly, by using the “post reply” button directly under your comment (not the one in the end of the comment list), an email is dispatched to your address informing you that someone replied to your comment and also quoting what you had said (to jolt your memory).
At this point, you can follow the provided link which takes you immediately to the new comment, so that you may reply directly, or you can reply by simply replying to the email itself (that is, no need to visit the site at all). ((The later option is still a bit flaky sometimes but in general it should work.))
The biggest advantage thus is that you can continue in the conversation without having to take any extra action by yourself like subscribing to the comment RSS or visiting repeatedly to check if any new replies have been posted. It allows makes the discussion to progress faster and more intensely (pun intended)
There is also one side benefit to providing an email address in that if there is something wrong (as was the case when the “see more replies” link broke) I can send you a direct email to inform you that no, your comment is not lost or deleted (as many assumed) and I’m working on fixing the problem.
So that’s all, if you can, I would ask you to provide an email address so that you don’t lose track of the conversation and you can easily continue without having to scour through the comments.
I’m aware that you may have a valid concern about providing the email that I have not considered and perhaps we can find a workaround. So if you still do not wish to use it, I’d love to hear why.
After the recent exciting events I thought it is time to attempt and convince the guys behind Intense Debate to open up their code to the Free Software community and as a result reap all the known benefits such an action will produce.
After the recent exciting events I thought it is time to attempt and convince the guys behind Intense Debate to open up their code to the Free Software community and as a result reap all the known benefits such an action will produce.
I’ve been thinking of proposing something like this to them for a while but with all the recent alpha testing, convention-going and all the rest they were doing, I thought it might just fall through the cracks. However their acquisition from Automattic embolded me to go ahead and propose it.
I absolutely think that such a move will be an extreme success, both in terms of popularity and development. Currently they are being outfeatured by their main competitor, Disqus who has already managed to rollout the version 2 of their wordpress plugin and also have various other necessary features like trackbacks (including trackback agnostic platforms like blogger).
Opening the source will also allow all the ideas that are currently waiting on the backburner to be worked on by anyone interested to have them. IDC can then just keep control of the commits and with two or three dedicated developers totally outrun everyone else.
There are of course more benefits other than fast development. For one, they will finally be able to put their wordpress plugin in the Plugin Codex so that we can get automatic upgrades. It will also open up the system to people with very specific needs who cannot currently use it. Those people could simply install it locally and tweak it for their own uses without taking up valuable support time.
So if you like this idea, go ahead and vote it up. All you need is a Get Satisfaction account and to click a button. Show them how popular this will be.
I would also love to hear any other ways you can think of that liberating the source will help. We can then use those as extra reasons for them to switch. Of course, if you have reasons why this would not be a good idea, also speak up. Lets discuss it 😉
Automattic is one of my favorite companies. Not only because they make the best blogging platform but because they are doing it through free software and good ethics. When IDC announced that they would be using Akismet for spam control, I was glad. Now that I know that they are wholly under the umbrella of the Automattic group, I’m stoked!
IDC has already shown amazing support for WordPress. Their new plugin (which I’m testing in the Alpha version) already has awesome features that make your comment managing so much less of a headache. Now that they have the people with the definite wordpress knowledge backing them, the features and integration can only grow better.
I’m getting more excited just by thinking of the possibilities.
One thing that I’m certain will follow from this, is that we are finally going to have ID Comments on WordPress.com. As other have said, the default comment system of wordpress is in dire need of an overhaul. While definitelly superior to blogger’s (not only in comments), it is still lagging behind in necessary features for a good discussion, one of which is good threading.
Unfortunately, due to the limited nature of WordPress.com, it meant that individual users could not install either IDC or any of their competitors but now that Automattic got them, we can all foresee what will follow. WordPress.com is about to get (even better).
The only way blogger can now keep up, is if Google acquires Disqus, which I don’t find as very far fetched to tell you the truth. At least then blogger might get a decent commment system at last.
So, for all of you who have not yet jumped on the IDC bandwagon, especially if you’re self-hosting WordPress, there’s no better place than now to join.
Unfortunately for now, IDC has gone back to invitation only so if you want to try, let me know and I’ll try and get you a code if you can’t wait 😉
So, Barefoot bum’s new shiny, wordpress-powered self-hosted blog is now ready. I’ve finally finished with all the imports and the thing is ready to use. Of course the layout might change if Larry wishes but the thing is ready to be used.
Here’s a step-by-step summary of the setup process, just to get an overview of what was required. Keep in mind that for a new blog, you don’t need more than 10 or so of these.
Setup the domain to use php5 and not to use the needless www. prefix.
Use One-click install to setup wordpress and wait 5 minutes.
Total time to setup all these, from start to finish, while also doing other stuff (like chatting on ICQ and reading blogs): 5 hours.
Finally received some help from Intense Debate on how to import IDC comments from blogspot to WordPress. I got a plugin which automates this in the mail.
Plugin did not work as my host does not support a php function for security reasons.
Contacted the Josh Fraser, the author of the plugin for help. He was amazingly responsive and helpful and provided me with an updated version of the plugin that could work around the php restriction. Josh you rock!
Import went perfectly and all comments were back into wordpress. Unfortunately one post did not get them as the title has italics which wordpress stripped and they names did not match. Nevertheless, the rest worked. (I will do a follow-up post on this later)
Total time for this part: 1 hour.
Of course this process was a learning experience for me as not only did Larry have a pretty customized blog with widgets, images, etc) but he is also subscibed to a lot of services I do not have access (Feeburner, Scoutle, etc). Finally this was the first time I was trying to migrate ID comments from blogger to wordpress sso this took some extra research as well.
For someone who has a very simple and uncustomized blog, the migration time can be cut to 1/3 easily.
Nevertheless, this first experience will now allow me to know what I need and streamline the process. Specifically, there is the issue that I cannot setup a lot of stuff without access to one’s accounts, while other times I may need feedback.
This is the stuff I need to know in order to bug people less:
Feedburner password: In order to setup your blogspot feed to redirected to your new blog
WordPress.com password or API: So that I can setup your stats
Blogger password and username: So that I can start the import process and see the codes for any widgets you have on your sidebar (Mybloglog, scoutle etc)
If the codes are not visible through the blogger gadgets, I need to have them so that I can put them in the sidebar.
How do you want your tags and categories? As blogger only supports the generic “labels” which gets translated to wordpress categories, I need to know which ones (if any) to turn into tags
How do you want your permalink structure to be? By date (as in blogger, like a newspaper), with categories? with a custom text (like here under /blog/ ?)
All of these are information that I will need to set it up with the minimum of input from you. If any of these is missing, unfortunately I will have to ask you or you do it yourself (for the last two options I can just make a choice myself which you can change later on).
All in all, it went quite well and nothing horribly broke. So I’m quite glad. This will go much faster for someone with a more simple blog (as in, one hosted in wordpress.com, or not very customized blogspot)
I’m only a bit saddened that Larry chose not to start using it yet. If he keeps using his old blog, new comments and posts will be more difficult to transfer over as it cannot be done as part of a mass import.
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.
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.
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)
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)
For 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.