Comment Wars Meme: Why Intense Debate is superior to Disqus

The last post on war: Thoughts, wishes, duty.....
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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 writeย  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:

  1. Declare which system you prefer and perhaps give a short history of your decision.
  2. 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).
  3. (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.
  4. Link to the person who tagged you for this meme.
  5. 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.ย  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

Some Horrible Threading in Disqus
Some Horrible Threading in 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.

4. They are (now) owned by Automattic.

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.

[poll id=”4″]

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.

Anyone else who is reading this, feel free to take part as well and let us know why you chose as you did. let the Comment Wars begin!

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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 notย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚
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.