If you haven't noticed yet, AP comments are now powered by Disqus. It took a really long time to squash all integration bugs and accept some downsides of moving to a non-native comment system, but when two complicated systems and over a hundred thousand comments are involved, migration gets a little tricky (to say the least).

After studying the code of the Disqus plugin to the point that I am now familiar with it more intimately than I ever cared to be, over 200 emails with the Disqus team, reporting multiple bugs and submitting code patches, many sleepless nights, ripped our hairs, and cursing, I was finally satisfied enough to pull the trigger last Saturday night. The beast was unleashed, and after about a week rolling with Disqus, I wouldd say it's a big success. There are still numerous issues that the company will hopefully work out in the next few months, but for the most part, the pluses outweigh the minuses.

image

Benefits

On the surface, here are some user-facing benefits of using Disqus:

  • you're automatically logged in on all sites that use Disqus which means less email/name/url typing. If you don't want to sign in, you don't have to - comments can be left without having an account as well
  • alternate login methods, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and OpenID
  • threaded replies (actually, this is not really a benefit over our system, as we also had threaded comments)
  • comment editing - you can edit your comments at any time, which wasn't possible before
  • track your comments from one central location
  • slicker, JS/Ajax-powered interface that doesn't require reloading the page after posting or logging in. In fact, new comments show up live too
  • comment ratings so that bad comments are buried and good ones surface to the top
  • comment flagging - see a spammer? Just flag the comment, and the moderators will be alerted
  • comment sorting - newest first, oldest first, best rating, popular now
  • post ratings so that you can tell how many people and who liked any given post
  • replies by email - you can reply to Disqus notifications right from your inbox (just make sure to clean up your signature) and they'll get posted right up.
  • mobile support - Disqus has excellent mobile support and integrated seamlessly into our mobile site. On the mobile front, I have 0 issues with Disqus, they really did it right

On the backend:

  • a Javascript-based comment system will allow us to implement better caching, letting the same hardware handle more page loads. It should also help move to multiple web servers
  • email moderation, including deleting, spamming, and approving comments

In general, less friction should translate to more comments, and if it's easier for you to join a conversation, we are doing something right after all.

Problems

Here are some problems with Disqus that may not be immediately apparent:

  • there are occasional bugs here and there in both the JS interface and the backend. While I've finally worked out integration issues, bugs in day-to-day operations, unfortunately, still exist
  • comments are synced back to the local database for a number of reasons (SEO, an option to move away from Disqus and keep past comments, to name a few), except there is a fatal flaw in this sync - it's done every 5 minutes only to new comments.
    This means edits, spamming, deletion, and other moderation is not replicated correctly - once a comment gets synced once, it's left in that state and never touched again.
    All of this left a really bad taste in my mouth, but I've accepted that it's how things will be for now after the Disqus team promised me talks of a proper sync process are already on the table.
    Due to bugs in WP, duplicate comments sometimes appear in the local db - I think it's related to poor wp-cron implementation in WordPress <3.4, which is documented here and this subsequent bug report I opened here.

In Disqus' defense, other comment systems aren't perfect either - for example, when I tried LiveFyre, I found it to be nicer in certain aspects but lacking severely in others, prompting me to go back to trying to implement Disqus.

Bonus - Sneak Peak At Disqus 2012

If you think the regular Disqus interface is nice, just wait till you see what they have in store for us for 2012. The new "Disqus 2012" interface, currently in limited beta, is much-much cleaner and nicer. Check it out:

image

What a refreshing look, isn't it? Notice comment downvoting in addition to upvoting, letting you bury the bad guys just like you do on Reddit. We also get easy comment sharing options, more profound Community and My Disqus tabs, and for moderators - more streamlined controls which require fewer clicks. I absolutely love it, but it is missing some core functionality right now due to being an early preview.

Disqus 2012 isn't something I can turn on for you - it's a client feature attached to your Disqus account. You can test drive it here, if your account is eligible. Let's just say I'm very excited and can't wait for it to be completed.

So, enjoy better, easier comments on AP, folks. In fact, why don't you take Disqus for a spin right now and leave a comment or two? Go on, we love to hear from you.