First off, I must admit that I’m all for third party comment platforms. Sure, many of these platforms have a long way to go before being a perfect, seamless system, but the added usability, cohesiveness, and other assorted bells and whistles truly are wonderful. They can really add a lot to the look and feel of your comments.
One thing that we must always keep in mind, when deciding what comment system or platform to use on our blogs or articles, is the function of the comment system. Do you want a high quantity of comments, regardless of their relevance, appropriateness, or innate common sense? Do you want a smaller amount of appropriate, PG comments? Do you want a high level of discourse related to the article topic? Also, how much moderation do you wish to perform on your comments?
All of these are extremely important questions to ask yourself before deciding the details of whatever commenting system you will ultimately use. In light of the questions above, let’s go over some features that you may or may not want for your blog.
This is perhaps the ultimate anonymity-buster of comment systems. This comment system inherently links your comment all the way back to your Facebook profile, forcing you to:
- Have a Facebook profile
- Allow any other commenters a link to your profile
Of course, if your profile is private, they will only be able to see your name and profile picture (and try to friend you … which could become extremely annoying if you comment on a high-traffic blog). Still this is a powerful implication that will scare away many commentors. While the level of conversation will probably become much more civilized, it will probably also be a bit more barren and perhaps overly-polite (everyone will be speaking in job-interview friendly words).
A lot of comment systems allow users to post anonymously. This obviously results in a higher volume of comments, but it can also severely reduce the quality of comments. Depending on the controversial level of a given topic, comments can get as low in quality as death threats (while an arrestable offense in real life, they have become acceptable communication tactics online to some people).
If you are allowing anonymity in your comments, you will probably have to moderate at least somewhat. If you want the comments section of your page to be at all useful or valuable, you will probably have to moderate a lot. Some commenting platforms allow increased moderation controls to make moderation easier (such as blacklists and whitelists), and these are definitely worth looking into. At the end of the day, you have to decide how important the quality of comments on your blog is to warrant the amount of attention you need to moderate them adequately.
Tweets As Comments
This is, without a doubt, one of the dumbest integrations with social media that I’ve seen in a commenting system. Have you ever read an interesting article and looked in the comments section to see if there is an extension of interesting discussion, only to find out that the comments are flooded with a bunch of mundane summaries of the article in tweet form. While I do love Twitter, I don’t think that “A summary of this article [link to this article] #somethingrelevantorfunny” is worthy of taking a comment on any website.
Managing comments is a little like walking a tightrope. You want to encourage anyone and everyone to comment on your article, but you don’t want a bunch of thoughtless or rude people polluting what would otherwise be an interesting discussion. And while you can spend much of your time moderating and making the comments section of your page interesting and relevant, would this time be better served writing more articles? Whatever you decide, please don’t integrate every Tweet linking your article into your comments. There’s no reason for this function, and it’s annoying.