27 Jan 2009

Should You Use a Commenting System?

January 27, 2009Social Media

If you’re reading this post, you likely are familiar with blog sites, posts, and the comments left on them. But are you familiar with the software that powers blogs? WordPress, Typepad, Moveable Type, are some of the platforms that drive the largest percentages of blogs on the Internet today. These blogging platforms, and most others have built in commenting capabilities, and why wouldn’t they? The very nature of blogging is basically a two part process: I’ll write and publish this post on our website, and you’ll read and (hopefully!) leave a comment telling the world how much you agree with what I’ve said 😉

Or you’ll disagree with something I or one of the other commentors before you have said. And you’ll enter your comment into the built in form that comes with the blogging application. You then hit “submit” and depending upon how the site owner has things set up, your comment is shown on the site immediately, or just as soon as the administrator approves of your words.

What then is this new added feature known as “Commenting Systems”? If comments are already a part of the platform, why is there a growing number of website owners and administrators that are opting to replace the stock commenting functionality and using these third party commenting systems?

The quick answer is that these sites are hoping to increase readers interactions with blog authors as a result of the commenting systems “social community”. Several of the leading commenting systems in the marketplace today are deployed to tens of thousands of websites. Features of the systems include allowing the viewer easy access to statistics of commenters including excerpts of comments they have left on other websites. Not only can a visitor receive more meta data on commentors, they may even choose to head to another site where that registered user has left comments.

And that little aspect is another big reason why many site owners like using commenting systems: they offer the promise of increasing a web site’s incoming traffic. But at the same time, the very mechanism that brings them in, takes visitors away just as quickly!

So who are some of these commenting systems? Likely the top three:

For the most part, the systems all work the same. In a nutshell, you read the blog post, and any comments that may have been left prior to your visit, and should you decide, a form that invites you to leave your own comments on the post and/or other comments. All systems are simple, straightforward, and if you have ever left a comment before, you’ll know how to use these new systems.

But what if you are a web site owner or administrator and you’re considering installing and using a commenting system? Should you take the plunge? Well, the first thing you might consider is reading the indepth evaluation on blog comment systems that Scott Jangro wrote up not too long ago. In his article, Scott goes into great detail about the various differences between the systems, and I highly recommend you add the article to your reading list.

Why might you not want to use a commenting system? Well, one of the early arguments agaist using them was the fact that you lost control (read ownership) of the actual data that made up the comments your visitors left on your site. Thankfully, the developers of theses systems, realized this and all have the options to both export and import the content data from and to your websites. Clearly making back ups of all your data is the smart move prior to trying any of these data movements, but I’ve only read a very small number of bad case scenarios concerning data corruption causing a loss of comments, so the numbers are very much on your side, and you’ll experience a high rate of success.

The only real reason you might not want to consider one of these systems is that you’ll be locking yourself into a proprietary system of commenting that won’t interact with any of the other commenting systems. To date, there is no universal system or standard that provides for interactivity between Intense Debate and Disqus. So, if you have decided on Disqus and want to get the attention of the thousands of Intense Debate users, you are pretty much out of luck. Of course you can employ other techniques to bring in traffic to your site, and you should do that regardless. Just realize that until standards are in place, comments whether hosted by your platforms built in system or a third party commenting system will all do pretty much the same thing. It’s just that the size of the commentor pool will definitely be larger. And that just might make it the smartest choice.


  • Alex | Fast VPN Feb 01, 2009

    I am using wordpress with some nice plugins, everything works just great!

  • Tina - Tattoo Removal Feb 01, 2009

    I agree with your observations, but i’m wondering which among the three commenting system is the best? Like Alex, I am also using wordpress although it has some nice plugins but i want to use customized commenting system. Where could i get that?

  • MarbleHost.com Feb 01, 2009


    Thanks, I do own part of VSB and manage all tech on the site. I often struggle with going with one of these commenting systems vs using what’s built into wordpress. The commenting systems have good promises, but it’s putting a lot to rely on them to 1) stay up and 2) stay for the long haul. web 2.0 shops open and close daily, but I know my wordpress or movable types system will always be there, and if they’re not, I know I can export all entries and comments unto a text or xml file and take them where I need them to go.

    I think those commenting systems are most useful for their special features and are for those not tech savvy enough to fiddle with their movable type or wordpress (recent commetns, most commented etc.)

  • James Feb 02, 2009

    @Tina Only you are going to be able to answer that question, Tina. What is best for me and my sites may be completely unacceptable for you and your sites. I’d suggest spending some time at the websites of the comment systems providers listed here and go with your “gut instinct” after you have a good feel for what you learn. Let us know which one you choose!

    @MarbleHost You make a good point, and that was my overall message: that should a site visitor opt to go with a comment system, they have to take on the technical aspects involved. To most of the system providers credit, however, there is very little technical “expertise” required to install and operate.

    Your points about exporting and taking your comment data are also quite valid (though, I would submit they are going to require more technical expertise than installing a third party commenting system 😉 )

    Thanks all for your comments.

  • James Feb 02, 2009

    As a follow up to this article, I just wanted to note that we received a direct email from Chris Saad, the VP of Product Strategy over at JS-Kit.com letting us in on their offerings.

    And I have to admit that I was somewhat deficient in failing to include a brief review of all that JS-Kit offers the small (to large) website owner/operator!

    With over 600,000 participating websites having installed JS-Kit’s services, they are definitely a force to be considered when choosing a commenting system.

    The only challenge is that you’ll have a ton of other features to choose from in addition to commenting systems. If you’re unfamiliar with them, as I was prior to Chris’ email (thanks Chris!) then I can highly recommend you spending a few moments to peruse their site and learn more about their comments, ratings, reviews, polls and more.

    I know I’ll now actively consider including some of JS-Kit’s systems in both my own sites, as well as the freelance development I do.

    Have a great week!

  • Free book of Success Feb 13, 2009

    It’s not just about driving traffic but more on the interaction process, a way to outreach and good camaraderie is always in the offing.

  • Harvey Sep 17, 2010

    Thanks a lot. Just looking around for the correct system to use on my website. Now I see you thought a lot about these things and you use obviouly Disqus. So, guess I made my mind up.

  • spondylolisthesis Feb 23, 2011

    I prefer to use wordpress with some good plugins as well.