Discussing Disqus

June 12th, 2008 41 Comments

DisqusIf you’ve read and commented here in the past, you’ll have noticed we switched to Disqus to handle comments about two months ago.

Rich made the change, and I was initially skeptical because frankly I had no real idea of what switching would get us. Disqus has a few distinct advantages over the built-in WordPress commenting system we used in the past.

  1. It threads comments, making it obvious to whom you’re replying. This is more helpful when you have a bunch of comments.
  2. It centralizes your comments, which is only useful if you comment serially on sites that use Disqus.
  3. The plugin provides a flyout of the commenter’s profile and recent comments that you can view in the comment stream.
  4. Anyone can rate comments. Did you notice that? There are up and down arrows next to each person’s comment. Sure, you have to register with Disqus, but this nice for lurkers who don’t want to join the discussion.

Another nice plus is that you can add your Disqus account to FriendFeed, although this does tend to fracture the conversation even more.

Disqus does have two major gaps that have bugged me from the get-go.

  1. It doesn’t show trackbacks in comments, which is a critical omission.
  2. You can import your old comments into Disqus, and you can’t export them either.

While I understand that Disqus has no motivation to support exporting comments out of its system, importing old comments would a great way to become indispensable to the blog owner.

Another negative, not necessarily specific to Disqus, is that adding a commenting system increases the HTTP requests of your blog, slowing its load time. And you’re at the mercy of Disqus and its availability. So far, I’ve only seen a couple outages, nothing too long.

Overall, I think Disqus has promise, but it’s got some holes to fill. So why a whole post?

Disqus engages its users and responds quickly with help. About a week ago, Aaron Hockley tweeted at me that he wanted to comment on my Scariest Ride Ever post, but that we don’t use OpenID. A personal line in the sand for Aaron: he doesn’t comment on blogs that don’t support OpenID.

Anyway, Disqus does support OpenID, but its plugin doesn’t have an OpenID option, another negative. Long story short, I tweeted my frustrations with Disqus and forgot the whole thing.

Tweet

Later that day, I get a reply from Daniel Ha, co-founder of Disqus, acknowledging the lack of trackbacks and pointing me to a WordPress hack written by Scott Jangro, an avid Disqus user. I implemented this hack yesterday, and it seems to be working fine.

So, thanks to Daniel for helping me and thus raising my opinion of Disqus, and thanks to Jason for hacking out a solid workaround for trackbacks. I now have a higher opinion of Disqus, and even though it has shortcomings, I feel better about them overall because they were responsive to my complaints.

Take note people. This is how you successfully do Intertubes.

People are out there talking about you and your company. You should be in that conversation.

And while we’re on Twitter, if you’re new (or not), make sure your account is set up to show all @ replies to you. This makes it easier to communicate without having to follow everyone. To set this:


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41 Responses to “Discussing Disqus”

  1. Andy C Says:

    I share your reservations about import/export but hopefully the forthcoming Disqus write-enabled API will help to address this.

    However, you're right to praise Daniel Ha's proactive attitude to scanning the various channels for Disqus chatter and proactively approaching people offering assistance.

    As an aside, you can actually export Disqus comments (Configure-Extras-Export) into XML or RSS 2.0 formats. However, it's not immediately clear how you would import this data into WP, Typepad, Habari (insert popular blogging platform).

  2. Jake Says:

    Import should be high on their list, obviously export probably not as high.

    I hadn't seen the export comments feature. I suppose it must be there for a reason though. Maybe someone will chime in with an answer.

  3. megbear Says:

    Thanks for the @replies suggestion, didn't understand it until I went to Twitter but I'm of the mind if Jake says to do it then I do it (and figure it out later). Snaps to the hack-age that brought in OpenID. I have to tell you that your switch to disqus totally messed me up trying to comment (a bug I know) and somehow I had to sign up for something (again I did b/c I trust Jake) and so on… glad to know it's all worked out b/c I don't want to understand another technology to comment on blogs… seems too much investment for a girl like me.

  4. megbear Says:

    hey — where exactly *is* the openID?

  5. Jake Says:

    Agreed, Disqus seems aimed at serial commenters, not casual ones. They do allow anonymous posting I think.

    The hack didn't do anything for OpenID. It brought trackbacks back into the post view. WP track comments and trackbacks. Disqus doesn't do trackbacks yet, which is a key gap. The hack allows you to pull from WP's trackbacks list for a post and display it in Disqus' comment plugin.

  6. Jake Says:

    OpenID would be perfect for you, given “I don't want to understand another technology to comment on blogs… seems too much investment for a girl like me.”

    OpenID does away with registering and maintaining credentials for web sites; think SSO for consumer web. You register once with an OpenID identity provider and then you provide the URL to your OpenID. The web site does the rest w/the provider. Wikipedia entry may help: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Openid

    Not sure what “where” you mean. OpenID isn't a single place; many different providers exist.

  7. Anonymous Bosch Says:

    I've been looking into Disqus too. I think the issue of availability issue is the killer. Should Disqus go down (or go out of business) there go my comments. They do offer an export, but it doesn't seem to be one readable by my blog software, WordPress. I suppose I could hack something together to slurp them into where they ought to go, but I don't want to.

  8. Jake Says:

    Spot on, the service has potential, but I think they need to close those gaps first before widespread adoption will happen.

    We should all bang on Daniel to get this stuff done. I'd have nothing but kudos if they could address these features. I suspect they're already in development.

  9. Andy C Says:

    I suspect 'export' is there purely to say 'Look – you are free to export your data anytime, anyplace, anywhere. We don't own your comments.'

  10. Jake Says:

    Heh, probably true and again understandable since they're not in the “leave Disqus” business.

  11. Andrew Badr Says:

    Hi all, Andrew from Disqus here. Not only do we think data portability is the right decision for our business, but it's what we believe in on a personal level too. Better options for import and export are in the works, and will be part of our next major release. As for trackbacks, they should be out some time in the next week.

    Disqus doubled in size this month as Devin and I joined as new software developers. After we're all up to speed, you can expect improvements at a faster rate.

  12. Jake Says:

    Native trackbacks, FTW! The hack I got from Daniel (by Steve) is great, but the links are trickling in slowly, not sure why. Rather than muck around to figure it out, I'm stoked to hear you're deploying trackbacks soon. I assume they will pick up all the trackbacks for past posts, and that you're using the blog's trackback db, rather than your own?

    Glad to hear about imp/export too. Those are key points. I wouldn't blame you for making it hard to get comments out of Disqus. So, gravy to hear that's on the radar.

    Also glad to hear you're growing, which will help close the feature gaps. I appreciate that you guys engage whiners like me with real feedback.

  13. Andy C Says:

    I appreciate that you guys engage whiners like me with real feedback.

    Brilliant ! Signed – a fellow whiner. You have to keep these developer types on their toes :-)

  14. Jake Says:

    It is a free service after all. I actually preferred when Twitter just went offline for no apparent reason. Now the mystery is gone, and they just continue to confirm how hosed they are.

  15. Andrew Badr Says:

    Unfortunately, for this first trackbacks release, we won't be able to detect them for previous posts. Please keep giving us feedback (what you call whining ;) and we'll keep trying to make sure you're happy.

  16. Jake Says:

    Hrm, I guess I'll keep using the hack for historical trackbacks then, or something. Is this planned? Not a huge deal.

    Glad you're willing to listen to my whining. I'll try not to wear out my welcome.

  17. Blog Comment Systems Galore| Zoli’s Blog Says:

    […] (6/15/08): Almost a year later two of my main issues, which back then I discussed both with Disqus and Intense Debate are still open.  These are: […]

  18. Anonymous Bosch Says:

    They aren't of course. But nor are they in the “erect a barrier to using Disqus” business.

  19. Jake Says:

    I'm happy with what Andrew says in his comments about data portability. I'm content to wait and see new features for now.

  20. Why Disqus Is Winning the Web Comment Battles, and What’s Next | Techno Portal Says:

    […] busy letting people know about upcoming features, promising the addition of trackbacks “sometime in the next week.“, on the Oracle AppsLab blog. He also answers many people’s fears as to the portability […]

  21. jarek91 Says:

    New Disqus user here…both as blogger and commenter. Looks like they did get the trackbacks in place but we still don't have an import tool for WordPress blogs to get old comments in. Not huge for my tiny blog but I can see how that's a show stopper for many. Hopefully that'll be added real soon…

  22. Jake Says:

    Yeah, trackbacks are nice, but not historic, e.g. this post has a couple that won't be captured by the Disqus feature. So, I'm keeping the WP plugin for now.

    They say im/export are coming soon, and they're pretty responsive to feedback. So, we'll see.

  23. ReadWriteWeb Integrates FriendFeed & Twitter Into Our Comments - BuzzYA! Says:

    […] for a large multi-author blog like ReadWriteWeb – there are question marks over ability to handle the load, what happens if the service goes down, SEO, and other issues. And to be frank, personally I […]

  24. Mesothelioma Attorney Says:

    Disqus rocks man Trust me on that

  25. Mesothelioma Attorney Says:

    Disqus is the best mate!

  26. laurusnobilis Says:

    OK, trackbacks are OK, but there are lot more nice features on Disquss, like reply to comment.

  27. Jake Says:

    Why is this post getting so much “attention” lately? We still use Disqus, so . . .

  28. Brandon Cameron Says:

    can i use facebook login? for disqus?

  29. Jake Says:

    Yes you can, just turned on the Facebook Connect integration.

  30. jon Says:

    I have been considering installing DISQUS
    I have a gadgets blog / site with very few commenting activity, I was hoping the “conversation” nature of disqus would entice visitors to comment

    Thanks also for pointing out the good and the bad of this plugin

  31. lic agent Says:

    OK, trackbacks are OK, but there are lot more nice features on Disquss, like reply to comment etc

  32. samuelstanislas Says:

    Disquis turned out to be quite a very interesting service for blog owners. Besides being practical, it looks good and people seem to use it more and more. It isn't as customizable as WordPress, but it's better in some ways.
    Samuel Stanislas,
    part of the Infiintare firma team.

  33. Seln Says:

    Yeah, trackbacks are nice, but not historic, e.g. this post has a couple that won't be captured by the Disqus feature. So, I'm keeping the WP plugin for now.

  34. Jake Says:

    Sure, especially considering they didn't have trackbacks when we switched :) I probably would have stayed with WP's comments, but it's a bit late for that now. I suppose we could switch back, but who knows what would happen. Sleeping dogs for now.

  35. Jessica Aberson Says:

    I used to DISQUS and I moved over to Disqus as well. Much nicer and I can see all the comments I make in one place.Disqus has a better feature set.

  36. Alyssa Edwards Says:

    Wow … this is a great blog! Pretty informative as well! That has really helped me a lot in learning some of this stuff that I wasn't familiar with.

  37. Kristalyn Foster Says:

    I am a happy Disqus customer. Implementing Disqus comments on this blog, enabling people to track their conversations around the Web

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    Testing, not navel-gazing I promise ;)

  40. Anonymous Says:

    I probably would have stayed with WP’s comments, but it’s a bit late for that now. I suppose we could switch back, but who knows what would happen. . Its like they did get the trackbacks in place but we still don’t have an import tool for WordPress blogs to get old comments in. przeprowadzki. Great helpful information shared.

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