Sunday, March 29, 2015

Disqus support fatigue

#Disqus has become the de facto standard in commenting, being used not just by small blogs, but even major newspapers and other high-traffic sites. I was one of the early adopters of Disqus, after having tried the Blogger 'left-behind' system, then the Intense Debate which ended up acquired by Wordpress parent. Compared to alternatives, Disqus is still the best, but there have been and still are problems, and that is what this article is about.

imageI have to be careful when criticizing a free service that is well above its competition yet is not exactly perfect, since I would not want them to “go away” but at the same time, I would like them to get better. I am simply assuming that if they read this article, they would not start sulking or feel the need to “punish” but rather take it as constructive criticism and improve their product.

The Blogger native commenting system is a disaster. People don’t seem to get that they can comment with a URL using the Anonymous / Name option, and truth be told, that’s quite counterintuitive. Switching altogether to Google Plus commenting is undesirable, as discussed previously.

Intense Debate, an older competitor, was acquired by Automattic and was far worse, promising features that did not exist and causing me to lose comments when I gave it up. It still seems to be around, but I would not trust it again.

Disqus is and remains the standard. So then why am I complaining?

Firstly, I’ve had people regularly telling me that they cannot comment on some of my blogs which use Disqus and that they are having this issue with all Disqus sites. More recently, somebody some of my blogs started forcing me to manually approve all comments, including my own. The moderation for that blog (zamo) has always been set to None and this happens even for users and emails that have been whitelisted.

Another very annoying issue is that Disqus is syncing all comments on my Blogger blogs, even the ones to old articles, only to the newest article on the blog. I first let Disqus know about this issue about a year ago, and they said it’s a problem with Google Blogger. Since then, all comments continue to be synced to the last article. If I ever give up Disqus, I will be left with a blog with comments spread out everywhere.

In all fairness, the sync issue is very possibly a Google problem. Google has nearly abandoned Blogger as a platform and I would not be surprised if this great blogging platform were to go the way of Wave or Reader – i.e., the way of the Dodo. Google has been almost purposely screwing Blogger through a massive failure to update it and keep it current. The Blogger online editor is sadistically changing, to this date, all paragraph marks into line breaks in HTML – no other editor has ever done that. As a result, most bloggers don’t ever switch to “visual” and stay in HTML only, which is a time sink when it comes to fast blogging. This is particularly puzzling, since other blogging platforms have shown what a good editor can do (see Tumblr, which is growing by leaps and bounds even though they don’t even offer a simple way to take your data out when breaking up with them).

Yet there are many issues with Disqus that are most definitely a result of carelessness or lack of interest / focus on the Disqus side. Yes, it is a free service and what they are providing for free is still amazing, but I am writing about these issues so that Disqus adopters get a clearer picture of what they’re getting.

Not long ago, I noticed that Disqus started giving me error messages with syncing (the same zamo shortname). There seemed to be an error in the Disqus comments database as I always had a few hundred messages that would not sync no matter what, causing me to have to constantly re-enable syncing. Disqus support suggested I re-import the comments (even though I had done that the first time I installed Disqus), which I did, only to find, to my horror, that now most articles in my blog had just doubled their comments. Even though they could just run a bot on the database to clean up duplicates, Disqus support suggested I manually delete comments to each of the approximately 2000 articles I had on my blog!

Obviously, I am not 100% happy with Disqus, but I’m sticking with it because the alternatives are worse. Though I wish some things were better, I still recommend Disqus to any blogger or aspiring online publisher. If that is you, just bear in mind that it is a free service and keep your expectations low – it’s the key to happiness! :)

Sources / More info: ab-dsq, rba-pullplug, downd-dsqs

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Thank you for commenting and rest assured that any and all comments are welcome, whether positive or negative, constructive or distructive. Unfortunately, if you comment in this view I might not know about - please use the regular (Desktop) view.
I am using Disqus for commenting, but Blogger is not showing it so your comments may end up not being displayed - tell Google about it!