Commenting System Changes: Check my math, please.

Hey Everyone,

I’m really adoring all of the wonderful comments happening in these posts, and I’d like to make this a nicer place to chat. There’s a commenting system I’m looking at called Intense Debate (don’t be fooled — it doesn’t make you argue) that I think could be really helpful here. But it might also be a significant culture change, so I just wanted to run it by you first. If we switched, here would be the pros and cons (from what I can tell):



Threaded conversations: If there are 5 comments and you want to reply to the second one, you can just hit “Reply” under the second one — you don’t have to add your note to the very bottom. I think this is going to make a huge difference in our ability to have real conversations here.

Email notifications: If someone responds to one of your comments, you’ll get an email letting you know, so you don’t miss the conversation. You can also check a box that says you want to get emailed when anyone adds a new comment to that post, even if it’s not in direct response to you.

Reputations: You can easily/quickly give a comment a thumbs up or thumbs down, and this helps give that user a reputation. If you stick around for awhile and lots of people give you thumbs-ups, people can tell when you leave a comment that you’re a known and valued member of the community. (Another good thing: this reputation is just a number, and it’s mostly out of the way — there are no actual privileges associated with it, so it doesn’t actually create an exclusive social hierarchy.)

Reporting abuse: You can easily/quietly send me a note about any comment that offends you to make sure I know about it.

Staying logged in: If you want to, you can set yourself up so that you’re always logged in as your commenting identity. This means you don’t have to enter your name and email every time you leave a comment.

OpenID: Also if you want to, you can use your OpenID to leave a comment instead of showing me your email address (if you don’t know what this is, don’t worry — you may already have one) .


One Big Con:

I know, I know… I just opened up the ability to comment anonymously and it’s a pretty wonderful feature for newbies, closeted folk, experimenting and questioning folk, and those who are shy. It’s important to me that people in these groups can feel safe and comfortable leaving a comment.

This comment system doesn’t support anonymous commenting. What it supports nicely, though, is pseudonym-based commenting. If you don’t want your identity here, you can go get a Gmail address (or set up an OpenID account) under a fake name and use that fake name ’round these parts. Your fake name will develop a personality if you leave comments regularly, and people will get to know you without “knowing” you. You can drop or change your fake name at any time, or shift at will between multiple identities.

And a sidenote: the Think Out Loud form would still fully support anonymity.


Personally, I think the pros outweigh the cons, but I want your input. Would this work for you? (If you hate the idea, please take advantage of anonymous commenting while we still have it to gimme a piece of your mind…)

I’ve started testing this comment system out on my personal blog, Dopp Juice, if you want to see it in action.


Posted by on March 29th, 2009 at 01:59 pm

Category: faces 19 comments »

19 Responses to “Commenting System Changes: Check my math, please.”

  1. genderkid

    I think threaded conversations and email notifications are available with WordPress (I have both on my blog, which is hosted at; maybe self-hosted sites don’t include those features).

    Does this site get a lot of spam and offensive comments? If it does, then the “report abuse” feature would be handy, since this is such a supportive site.

    I’m not such a fan of the reputation feature — wouldn’t the less-voted commenters feel discouraged?


  2. raphael

    sounds okay, i’m not especially opinionated. except your blog loads reaaaaally slowly for me and i don’t know if that’s a feature of its layout inherently or of the commenting system.


  3. Sarah

    Hey Raphael — the site loading slow is mostly because of the photos. (1) we try to put a lot on one page, and (2) they’re being served up through flickr. We can’t speed up flickr, but we could reduce the number of entries per page. I’m torn on whether that would be good or not — it’s kinda nice to scroll instead of clicking when you browse. What do you think?

    Genderkid: with that setup, can you get email notifications on *just* the threaded replies to a comment, or do you get them on the whole entry?

    Spam/abuse isn’t a big issue now, but i suspect it will increase as conversations become more active. Still, I may just be fixing a problem that’s not there.

    And I have mixed feelings about the reputation stuff, too. you can see it on Dopp Juice — it’s just a number next to your name. I don’t think it would discourage anymore, but it would be… different. I dunno if it’s good or not.


  4. Sarah

    Okay, I just changed the site from displaying 20 posts per page to 10 posts per page. Lemme know what you think.


  5. raphael

    i meant that it was ‘dopp juice’ that was loading slowly, not here. (:


  6. Sarah

    Ha. Ah…

    Well… this site loads slowly, too. But I guess no one’s complaining about it, so maybe I should unfix it. :)


  7. Sarah

    Do the single post pages load at about the same rate as the homepage for my blog, raphael? If it’s the same, then it’s my blog. if it’s significantly more slow on the single pages, then it’s probably the comment system. would be good to know.


  8. B

    I think that new commenting thing sounds nifty ^^


  9. scarlettraces

    i think that this sounds like a really great idea for commenting, it would definately, in my mind , add a flow to the comments that sometimes goes missing with the old skool way……


  10. stii

    I’m not really sure about the reputation feature. I wonder if some people who only comment occasionally, or those who find it hard to express what they want to say might feel a little excluded. What about the possibility of someone getting a ‘thumbs down’ due to a misunderstanding of some kind, or due to spam/abuse?
    I don’t know, you know more about the workings of a system like that than me, Sarah. Maybe that wouldn’t be a problem.

    Overall, though your ideas sound really good, especially threaded conversations. And the work-around you describe for the anonymity problem seems like a good one.


  11. stii

    also, is there any possibility of being able to edit your own comments, even if it’s only for a fixed amount of time?


  12. Quinn

    I really like the idea of threaded comments. I’ve been part of the Live Journal community for years, and I love the ability to reply to people’s comments. It really does encourage discussion on things, because you can reply to just one person, or one specific thing that was said.

    I’m a bit up in the air about the reputation, frankly. Like someone up there said, people could get a bad rep just from a misunderstanding.


  13. genderkid

    Sarah, you get an email whenever someone comments on the post (not necessarily in response to your comment). That does get annoying sometimes.

    The ability to have more dynamic conversations sounds interesting; that makes me want to try out the Intense Debate system.


  14. Sarah

    Stii — yes, actually, i’m pretty sure you can edit AND delete your own comments, which is actually a huge benefit, and maybe even one of the best reasons to switch.

    And! If you take the route of storing your info in the system, you can keep track of all the comments you’ve left on the site in one place, which is something you were asking me for….

    (okay, now i’m leaning toward installing it.)

    i hear the concerns about the reputation stuff. i suspect that it’s something that we’ll just be neutral about — it’s not prominent enough to be discouraging to anyone, i don’t think.

    how about we go for a month trial run and if it’s not working, we revert back to old-school?


  15. stii

    sounds like a plan!

    and ah yes… keeping track of comments would be cool ;)


  16. Laura

    I would be all for the new commenting system… It looks great on Dopp Juice, and the features sound perfect for the community. I vote for a trial run.


  17. hayden

    i think the new comment system would be amazing. :)
    … simply put.


  18. AgentRusco

    I think a new comment system would be a good thing as well.


  19. sarahdopp

    Testing testing 1..2..3..


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