Notice: Testing New Commenting System (UPDATED)

UPDATE (April 2 – Bumped to top):  After a little more than 24 hours of testing, it seems that the system has some quirks.  I’m going to disable it for now and either spend time trying to deal with said issues or perhaps look for another plugin.

As one who reads most of the comments on the blog (I don’t get auto-sent emails on posts written by my cobloggers), there are a handful of regular commenters who simultaneously don’t qualify as trolls yet tend to derail the discussions.   So, in theory at least, I like the idea of both a user rating system and threaded debates.

Readers: What did you like about IntenseDebate vice the organic commenting system?  What didn’t you like?

_______________________________

I’m trying out IntenseDebate, a new hosted commenting system that allows threaded comments — i.e., conversations within the conversation — and user ratings that I saw over at The League.

If it turns out to be better than the old system, I may or may not get around to importing old comments.  If it turns out to suck, I’ll disable it and go back to the old system.

Feel free to comment on the new commenting system in the comment section below, using the new commenting system.

Note: For now, at least, the new system displays if you either go to the permalink or click “Discussion.”  Clicking “Show comments here” on posts which already has comments, however, will generate the standard WordPress comments.

FILED UNDER: General,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. James_Joyner says:

    Testing this here thing out.

  2. James_Joyner says:

    That wasn't much of a comment, James.

  3. James_Joyner says:

    True that.

  4. E.D. Kain says:

    See your comment box doesn't disappear off the side like ours does. I'm really not at all sure what's up with that.

  5. Michael says:

    What, we finally get a threaded, moderated comment system on April 1st?

  6. James_Joyner says:

    Presumably, a template ("theme") compatibility issue. I just installed the plugin and used default settings, figuring not much purpose in screwing with it during testing phase.

  7. James_Joyner says:

    Heh. Something that's been on the To Do list for a while but I thought it was going to be harder. This was just a matter of downloading an installing a WordPress-approved plugin.

  8. Michael says:

    Ironically, you've pretty much just killed the "intense debates" happening on several recent posts at this very moment.

  9. Michael says:

    Personally, I don't think you get enough comments on any given post to warrant threading, and moderation will only be used for partisanship.

  10. James_Joyner says:

    That may well be. It makes it easier to have the one-on-one conversations and follow them but it likely has disadvantages. And we'll see how the ratings system works out. My cursory understanding is that it just assigns a credibility ranking and it may allow people to ignore certain commenters at their own choosing. At any rate, it's supposed to be easy to turn this thing off and export the comments to my old system.

  11. Franklin says:

    The ignore feature will be useful to me. I agree that the ratings will often be used for partisanship. But there's quite a few reasonable posters which might help make a pattern out of the noise.

  12. odograph says:

    I actually like linear reading on smallish (less than 50) comment trails.

    Trees break up the group-narrative, but maybe that's just me.

  13. sam says:

    uh, lessee, now is the time for all reasonable people to come to the aid of the new comments thingy

  14. sam says:

    Ok, so the html still works, but I don't see a way to taste your words before you spit them out, ie. no edit function…or did I miss it?

  15. markm says:

    Seems kinda the sameish..sorda.

  16. PD Shaw says:

    Who am I? Why am I here?

  17. Michael says:

    I don't think there will be enough impartial judges for moderation to work, especially giving everyone the ability to moderate anything. We'll essentially be giving the noise moderating authority.

    Shoulda just converted the site to Slashcode.

  18. James_Joyner says:

    Heh. Something that's been on the To Do list for a while but I thought it was going to be harder. This was just a matter of downloading and installing a WordPress-approved plugin.

  19. Michael says:

    I was kind of looking forward to seeing where the other comment threads from today were going to go….

  20. sam says:

    FWIW…I prefer the old way of doing it…

  21. Eric_Florack says:

    There's a lot of WP based plugs to do this, James. Though I must say, your site is responding a lot faster today. Connection? Dunno.

  22. Raoul says:

    Is there a spellcheck here? I have to say- you had one of the best post friendly blogs around- why change it? As to the format – it is not as good- follow up emails- that's good.

  23. Raoul says:

    Wow- it is certainly fast- the name and email don't keep ( a negative which will surely cut down on responses, especially the short type)- and yup- we have no spellcheck- too bad-

  24. Michael says:

    Get a better browser. Firefox does spell checking on all your text fields.

  25. Eric Florack says:

    Well, there's a pluginfor IE to do the same, or was a few months back.

  26. Michael says:

    Yeah, but then he'd have to use IE, which I would never recommend.

  27. Creating a new account was kind of a pain compared to most other commenting systems. Also, as a blogger, I'm not fond of the fact that my posts here now link to my profile page on IntenseDatabase rather than directly to my own blog.

    On the plus side, I really like threaded comments, and the automatic e-mail notification is nice for those who want it. I also like the ability to rate replies and maintain a cumulative score for posters (at least in theory, we'll see how it goes in practice).

    I'm undecided on the profile picture thingy – it strikes me as both nice and cheesy at exactly the same time.

  28. As I posted that, I also just noticed that after my new comment posted, it turned yellow then faded back to white… which is kind of cool looking, but why didn't it just stay yellow? Having an easy visual indication of which posts were mine was actually kind of nice for the two seconds it lasted.

  29. Another note: the threaded comment feature doesn't appear to be working when I click the "show comments here" link for inline comments rather than clicking through to a separate page.

  30. Michael says:

    The old comment system would send email notifications too.

  31. yetanotherjohn says:

    With the new comment system, I have to type in name and email for every comment. The old system that would save those as a cookie was nicer as far as that goes.
    I do like having the one click comment (instead of the old two click that first sent you to another page to review your comment and then to another page to actually post your comment). It is nice to click once on the back button to get back to the main page vs having to click twice.

  32. Yes, now that you mention it, I recall that.

  33. Yet another note… it's probably not the fault of the comment system, but your posts no longer contain a trackback URL. They still have the "send trackback" link, but since the page that link points to requires that the user enter an actual trackback URL, it's essentially useless now.

  34. Steve Plunk says:

    Do not like. The old system was fine.

  35. More notes: (sorry, the thoughts come up as I'm using this in another thread to comment)

    This system lacks formatting controls that the old system had. Also, it provides no indication as to whether or not it accepts formatting tags. Do HTML tags work? BBCode? Nothing?

    There's no preview feature, so amongst other things I can't try out various tagging codes to see if they work.

    For whatever it's worth, I really liked this system at first, but the more I use it the more I'm disliking it.

  36. Also, with the "e-mail replies" feature enabled, I get an e-mail when I reply to my own comments. This is *very* annoying. It should be smart enough to know that I'm well aware of any replies that I myself left.

  37. rodneydill says:

    You only have to type in the name and email if you are not logged in

  38. rodneydill says:

    I like thread based systems (like slashdot), but I predict the rating system will be misused (more so) on a political blog format as commentors will rate on their own conservative/liberal affiliation as much as on the merits of a given post. To work (better) in a political format you would need at least a conservative scale AND a liberal scale. and the registered commentors would be registered as either conservative or liberal moderators, but not both. Eventually you would need to weed out liberals that were trying to 'poison' conservative's ratings and vice versa.

  39. This'll probably be my last note, because if it were my own blog, this would kill the new comment system for me, hands down. Over on your post on the tax code from this morning, the threads are all boned up now. They're not displaying correctly at all – comments are being threaded with other comments that are completely incorrect, even though they were matching up fine earlier in the day. If the key feature (threading) breaks down this easily (that post only has 15 comments currently), it's worthless.

    For what it's worth, my final opinion is that this was a noble but failed experiment.

  40. This'll probably be my last note, because if it were my own blog, this would kill the new comment system for me, hands down. Over on your post on the tax code from this morning, the threads are all boned up now. They're not displaying correctly at all – comments are being threaded with other comments that are completely incorrect, even though they were matching up fine earlier in the day. If the key feature (threading) breaks down this easily (that post only has 15 comments currently), it's worthless.

    For what it's worth, my final opinion is that this was a noble but failed experiment.

  41. James Joyner says:

    Testing re-instituted organic comments.

  42. Janis Gore says:

    The old system doesn’t have as much visual clutter as the new one, especially where short posts are involved.

    But it would be convenient to be able to address specific commenters without kicking the thread out of kilter.

  43. Michael says:

    I agree with Janis, the old-style comments are easier to follow than the threading on IntenseDebate. Further, threading actually made it harder to follow conversations than non-threading, as you can’t just jump to the bottom of the page to read new comments. I just don’t think there’s enough parallel conversations going on at any given OTB post to make threading useful.

    Most of us have gotten pretty good at ignoring the trolls like Zeldorf. And really, there aren’t enough of them to require moderation. I’d be more worried that people like Bithead and anjin-san will be modded down (by each other, mostly) simply because people disagree with what they’re saying, not because they’re being a troll. We certainly don’t get so many comments that we need to have some automatically hidden from us.

    Oh, and previewing comments is very helpful for proof-reading before posting. Especially long ones like this. I typically edit my long comments 3 or 4 times before posting. Many times I’ve canceled posting it all together when I wasn’t happy with the quality of what i had written.

  44. mannning says:

    What is the real purpose of a rating system? This seems to me to be self-defeating, in that the political or social biases of the users would dictate the ratings handed out.

    In the end, you would have a small group highly rated by each other, and the rest of the commentors with low ratings, whether their their comments were “useful” or not. (Note the singling out of Bit, for example, in a previous post.)

    Sounds quite cliquey and perhaps a bit intellectually arrogant to me.

  45. Michael says:

    the rest of the commentors with low ratings, whether their their comments were “useful” or not. (Note the singling out of Bit, for example, in a previous post.)

    Note that I singled out Anjin-san in the same sentence, who is ideologically opposite of Bithead. I picked both because of the reactions they receive to their posts, not because of the positions they take.

  46. anjin-san says:

    Note that I singled out Anjin-san in the same sentence, who is ideologically opposite of Bithead.

    Do you really see me as someone who is driven by ideology? I am a pretty strong Democrat now, but really just because the Bush family drove me to it. I voted for Reagan twice, and my first choice for President in 2008 was a Republican.

    Or maybe you just mean my posts make sense, as opposed to bit’s 🙂

  47. sam says:

    One other thing: linking. Many of us post links to other blogs, papers, what have you. The link function in the old (current) commenting scheme is very convenient for this. Without it, you’d have to do it manually. That’s easy enough (you can look up the schema)…unless you fatfinger it; then, without the preview/edit function, you’re post would be defective as the link wouldn’t work…and your devasting repoiste would fall flat.

  48. sam says:

    Even with the edit function, I can still write ‘you’re’ for ‘your’ :)…

  49. Michael says:

    Do you really see me as someone who is driven by ideology?

    We’re all driven by ideology, anjin-san. Some, like you and also Bithead, follow your own ideology instead of someone else’s, but it’s still an ideology.

    I am a pretty strong Democrat now, but really just because the Bush family drove me to it. I voted for Reagan twice, and my first choice for President in 2008 was a Republican.

    Did your reasons for picking candidates change, or did the candidates of your previous party simply not match your existing ideology?

    Or maybe you just mean my posts make sense, as opposed to bit’s 🙂

    No, not at all what I meant.

  50. Our Paul says:

    Having turned down my excellent gustatory suggestion of sweetbreads on your trip to Toronto, I have to wonder if this is an exercise in futility. Girding my loins, may I offer the following:

    (1) I tried yesterday to enter the system, but failed. The system failed to recognize my usual password (? Due to Caps, or old password), and failed to recognize my E-Mail address. It had no way to establish a “new” individual to comment.

    (2) Never liked rating systems in this type of forum. They are easily manipulated. Keep in mind that the more partisan a person is, the more likely he / she is prone to rate.

    (3) Nesting comments makes it difficult to address the comments of two or three participants at one time. This is a major problem if the discussion gets hot and heavy. (Time for another round on Health Care?)

    (4) Your old posting system was a “darling” when it came to adding HTML tags to a post. In my view, the Preview function is essential. See sam ( April 3, 2009 | 04:46 am ).

    (5) Do not know how hard it would be, but if you assign a number to each comment, it would be easier to reference another writer’s comments (see the way I reference sam, above).

    Under no circumstances scrub “old comments” from your previous posts / threads. I suspect your readership and those who write a comment have stored their comments, especially if they display critical links.

    Pssst: from the epicurious dictionary: Prized by gourmets throughout the world, sweetbreads…

  51. mannning says:

    This whole argument was conducted a few years ago on the site “Warblogging”, and it was a furious dabate between those who wanted to exclude one type of blogger or another from the roles, versus those who wanted an open and free-for-all system.

    It is perhaps the case that Warblogging went off the air at least partially because of the rancorous debate the rating system proposed had caused.

    The main reason given for trying a ranking system was to exclude or diminish: 1)trolls; 2)conservatives; 3)idiots and mere humans of all idiologies that took up bandwidth.

    Perhaps the intent here is to try to exclude “conservatives of a different bent”, anti-intellectuals, and liberals, and others, but I have seen nothing here that sets forth a clear and rational reason for a rating approach.

    One reason to object to ratings is the obvious trend that would emerge to write to score a high rating, which has its upside and definitely its downside, i.e. writing for ratings, not the author’s truth.

    Michael has a valid point in that opposite poles of debate spark controversy and spirited commentaries, never mind the actual content.

    I suggest that installing a rating system would diminish the value of the site.