Blog comments should be immediate and easy

31 Comments

Writer2121_012310This is just a mini-rant for something that has been bothering me for a while and since I just hit it again on a site it’s time to speak up.  I believe that one of the greatest values that a blog provides is the exchange of ideas with the readers.  For this to be effective it must be simple and quick for readers to enter a comment.  What bugs me are blogs that force readers to register before they can leave a comment.  Now before you go off on a tangent I understand why sites go this route, I truly do.  But I can’t tell you how many times I have read a post on a blog and had something important to add to the conversation, at least from my perspective yet was confronted with a registration process before I could do so.  If you’re like me you don’t have any free time to begin with and you certainly don’t have any to waste with a registration process just so you can add what very well might be the only comment on that blog you’ll ever post.  So you probably do what I usually do and in fact did just now.  You leave the site without adding to the conversation.  Somehow I don’t think that’s what the author wants to happen.

31 Comments

Maky

The good news is that bloggers have hounded the editors and the system will be changing shortly to hopefully improve the community aspects of the blogs

MicroAngelo

And not just blogs! IMHO almost all content-driven websites would benefit from a simple commenting system on almost every page. OpenID is obviously the weopen of choice for logging in, but anonymous posting can still play an important part.

As an example, I accidentally ended up on a MSM webshite following what looked to be a link to an interesting tech article the other day. We all know how the MSM has completely missed the point online, so I won’t list all my greviences, but suffice to say that after clicking through the 6 ‘pages’ of the article (urgh!), I thought I’d do my bit for the community and their readers and correct a technical misunderstanding in the text.

They had NO comment system! The author name wasn’t a mailto, and at that point I gave up. Their loss, and more importantly their reader’s loss.

Digital divide, anyone?

Cody B

Could we get a comment RSS feed from jkontherun? I would love that, it would make my week (at least).

Thomas R. Hall

James – I agree that putting your comments somewhere else could be an issue if they were ever to go belly up. But, just like your blog (hosted at TypePad), you want to back all that stuff up, right? TypePad could (theoretically) go away.

Having anything “in the cloud” means having a good backup strategy. Disqus easily allows you to export comments – I would just automate that.

In the end, I see too many advantages to using a system like Disqus than disadvantages. If some users do NOT want to log in, they don’t have to – they can post without an account just like they do today. But adding Disqus doesn’t harm them – it helps everyone else. I _like_ being able to see my comments for all sites that use Disqus and getting email replies and threading of responses and all of the neat features. I guess I’m just saying that you may want to give it a second look. MUCH bigger blogs than yours use Disqus, believe it or not. Even FakeSteve was running on it, and many other well-known sites as well.

You’d be able to import your comments, people can even “claim” their previous posts, and other neat features. Keener Living just enabled Disqus and he has a post on it that may be worth reading: http://www.keenerliving.com/2008/08/21/disqus-commenting-enabled-at-keener-living/

Thanks for your reply, by the way… I appreciate it.

sbtablet

I personally don’t mind registering at a site I intend to use regularly, especially if, like some of my favorites, they can automatically sign me in via cookie so I don’t have to mess with logging in once I’ve signed up. And don’t spam me, either.

I agree that the height of rudeness is the site where I have to “audition” to be good enough to post there. What a Life. . .cough, cough, strangling thing! I will never, never post there. And half of their comments from approved commenters are absolutely dumb. Go figure!

JLC

I just checked out openid because I liked the idea of it. One password. There is not one single site I go to that uses it! Good idea, unusable for me.

Frustrated JKOnTheRun

I’m just trying to see if this comment loads. I thought the blog subject quite ironic after I have failed many times to get a comment loaded on JK on the run. It shows as posted OK then disappears never to be seen again. Well maybe this one will work using a different email.

Somename

I largely don’t comment in places that aren’t pretty much anonymous, and don’t tend to want to make all that much effort to ensure privacy, so no registration but a capcha is about at the limits of my invasiveness-tolerance.

James Kendrick

We have looked at Disqus before but there’s one significant thing that scares the heck out of us. Once you go Disqus your entire comment system including all comments are on their system, not the blog. Should they ever go out of business, and these things happen, your blog comments are all gone at once. We have over 30,000 comments here so imagine if in a year or two they all just disappeared.

Thomas R. Hall

I agree with olly. Disqus is a great commenting system to use. It’s easy to integrate and gives you more of a community identity. You register once and use that all over the place (including being able to claim previously posted comments based on email address). Since you have an account, if you are a spammer, the site admin can block you. Lots of negative “karma” about your account also helps mark you as a spammer. I would be interested in seeing what James thinks about this and give it a try…

Genghis Khent

Jim, interesting reading on recaptcha. However, the idea should be that a human can solve the captcha without hours of effort. rapidshare, with !@#$%^&* cats around some of the letters, drove me nuts.

Matthew Miller (aka palmsolo)

I agree with you James and wanted to publicly state that I am sorry our ZDNet blog system is currently setup for registration. The good news is that ALL of us ZDNet bloggers have hounded the editors and the system will be changing shortly to hopefully improve the community aspects of the blogs. I prefer simply systems like what you have here and as you can see on my blog there are very few comments on most posts and I think most of the reason is because of the Talkback system (hopefully it isn’t my writing).

The good thing (for the most part) is that we don’t hold comments in queue or anything so they are not reviewed by anyone before they get posted. People slam me all the time in the comments and the comments stay up for all to read.

Aaron J. Walker

No, even worse than that, is the way some sites want you to register and then they’ll take a look at what you posted to see if it’s “cool” enough for you to get a membership and be able to comment in the future.

Then you read the comments of those “they” deemed “cool” enough and you scratch your head. Purely juevenille.

I’m not going to name those blogs, but the system is in place at a few of the big ones.

Thankfully, not JKOTR!

Woadan

I agree with you James. And I also avoid the blog unless I really want/intend to post routinely.

I’ve also noticed that some blogs, when you register, have pre-checked boxes so they can send you email. Ba-a-a-a-a-ad!

Woadan

PJ

I agree with you, JK. I just started reading blogs few months ago so I don’t really have much in-dept knowledge on blogging and commenting. As a matter of fact, my first blogging comment was left on this site due to my interest on Samsung Q1UP, which I ended up purchasing after reading many good articles by Kevin. I had a chance to do the same with other blogging websites when HP was giving away the Dragon, but I soon found out that I never went back to the sites that required registration in order for me to leave comments. In this sense, I don’t really like the google reader. It’s an awesome reading tool, but not a good commenting tool, at least for me. =) anyway, thanks for all your awesome articles, Jame & Kevin.

olly

I think that a good compromise here is a service like Disqus — yes, you have to register, but once you are you can use that same profile at any Disqus site — plus on the fly registration is about as easy as it gets.

Andy Petty

Single-Sign On is NOT a very good method since I would not trust any government or private company to safeguard such valuable information. Can you just imagine somebody like Microsoft with it dismal security-related track record handling your private info. I think NOT. As an example of trustworthiness look no further than the Department of Defense (DOD), they allow MS Exchange servers, but immediately move the email from the Microsoft Information Store to hardened Unix Servers that are the secure backbone of the Defense Messaging System (DMS). This is done because Exchange is a very insecure platform and cannot be “trusted” by DOD.

Eric S. Mueller

Site registrations are painful. I don’t mind when they use a Blogger or Typepad or WordPress login, but having to register for every single site I want to post on is a pain, and I often leave.

One blog in particular left me dazzled. The blogger asked a question that I believed I had a direct, personal-experience answer to, but his blog required registration. I registered, and waited hours for the email to let me know I was registered. That email came in sometime in the middle of the night (I was at the end of the workday when I read the post). By the time I was registered on the blog, I had long since lost interest in replying, and the post had so many comments that I figured mine would get lost in the noise anyway.

Jez

Another great thing about not having to register to leave comments is that we can use this area to also ask questions….

When you’re in starbucks or out and about with your laptop do you lock it to the table when you have to go for a toilet break or do you put it all away and take the bag with you?

Jez

AllanCJ

Well, as we’re on the subject of blog comments, I’ll venture a thought that has been kicking around in the back of my mind. I must make this as general as possible, because I’m really not implying anything about this particular blog. (Really I’m not.)

If blogs are interesting at all, it’s usually because there are interesting posts from the bloggers, and from commenters. Content comes from two sources. There isn’t equality between them, but in some sense the bloggers and the commenters are playing the same game, and the success of the blog (arguably) depends on both.

Now, suppose you get to the situation where some contributors, the bloggers, are paid and some contributors, the commenters, are not. Well, maybe that makes sense. The bloggers do more, have gone out on a limb setting up the blog, and so on. In addition, there are precedents. In newspapers, the journalists who write the articles get paid; the people who have letters published do not, even though the letters are sometimes better than the articles.

All the same, there could be a case for recognising the contribution commenters make. Just as some newspapers have a prize letter, some blogs could, say, award a monthly something-or-other for the prize comment. It could be an incentive to commenters to polish their contributions a bit. (You see, I’m not referring to this blog, where comments are already so polished that I wear dark glasses when reading them.)

Allan

Mike Cane

OpenID!! I’m not adding any more damned passwords to my brain. It’s clutter. I have 3 frikkin OpenIDs: WordPress, YahooMail, and Blogger. That should suffice to tell a blog my Comment is legit and not frikkin spam!

As for CAPTCHAS (&^%$#@!), I like the Google swervy ones, HATE HATE HATE these fuzzy TypePad ones. JK knows that.

Cody B

Speaking of comments, I have one request. Can we get the “recent comment” section placed on the top again? I used the feature of your sidebar the most. I like refreshing the page to see what the recent comments are.

Cody B

There are several blogs that I refuse to read the comments on. I think an account is needed on a few sites, and then when someone posts 30 comments in a row that don’t add to the conversation they get blocked for life somehow. I’m sick of comment threats that have over a hundred comments but nothing really worth reading; it’s a big let down when you get to the bottom.

I don’t only follow this blog for just the content. I really enjoy the conversation that’s held in everyone’s comments here as well.

Bhavishya Kanjhan

I could not agree with you more. It may only take about 2 minutes for registration but those 2 minutes are enough to break my flow and train of thought.

The continued insistence by websites wanting you to register only shows their unwillingness to adopt the new means to make life easier. OpenID would just about serve us all and a lot of the websites should adopt it.

James Kendrick

Most blogging systems have pretty good spam filtering and the use of CAPTCHAs get a lot too. I think the main reason for signup requirements is to prevent airheads from leaving obscene or degrading comments. A simple system like TypePad uses here gets most of that and lets face it, the blog owner should be responsible for moderating the comments, not the commenters.

Chris

James, The reason this happens so often is spam, people are sick and tired of having their comments sections filled with adverts and rubbish. I have a totally open comment system on my site but do have to approve each comment, I do not mind doing it and would much rather have it this way than making people register, your right most people would just give up and bloggers do love to get comments.

Genghis Khent

I agree. You can prevent spamming with capchas as you do. As long as we are on pet peeves, mine though is capchas that are impossible to read, requiring a soothsayer to interpret. Fortunately yours are simple enough to read; otherwise this comment wouldn’t have gone through!

Bryan

James, the answer is single sign-on (SSO). This could be implemented by using a third party authentication service such as accepting/integrating with a MS Live ID.

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