Tools of the Trade: Comment Services

image by marc wathieu

Image by Marc Wathieu

Have you ever noticed that some sites have fancier comment systems then others? Some simply have you fill out a form, while others allow you to post but require you to authenticate using Google or Twitter? Most often this is done using a third-party commenting system.

What are we talking about?

WordPress, one of the most popular content management systems, contains a standard commenting system where users can post comments on posts and pages created in WordPress. It includes moderation tools and various other features and plugins that make it a functional comment system. Most content management systems contain similar comment components.

What we’re talking about here is third-party plugins that replace built-in systems or add comment functionality to a custom website. I’m going to focus on Disqus in particular—it’s a free service that allows you to quickly bolt a robust commenting system into almost any platform or into a static website.

Disqus has advanced moderation tools and authentication via services such as Twitter, Google and Facebook. And Disqus allows users to view an individual’s comments across sites—basically, anywhere they have commented using the system. Even better, link-sharing tools are built into Disqus to make it far more than just a comment enabler.

Why use them?

Well, some of the basic features are compelling, like authenticating via the user’s favorite service (so they don’t have to create a new account on your site). But the primary reason to do this is to boost your site’s traffic. By using a tool like Disqus, each comment has a greater impact because it’s reachable from the other places the user has left comments.

Another huge reason is that it’s amazingly simple. Got a single-page site to promote or sell something? You can bolt this commenting system on in a matter of seconds to let users leave feedback and promote the site. Simplicity is a huge factor.

Let’s face it though, traffic is the real reason to use a system like this. This fantastic article from Disqus gives some clear insights into how comments can greatly enhance a site.

Who does this?

One great indicator of the value of third-party comment platforms is the list of sites that have signed on. Since we’re focusing on Disqus, here are a few little sites you may have heard of that use the plugin: Engadget, Time and CNN.

How do I use it?

Implementing these kinds of systems is insanely easy. If you use WordPress, Drupal or another popular CMS, you can probably implement Disqus with just a few clicks. Check here for platform-specific instructions. And if you want to plug the system into a custom-built website, you only need to register a Disqus account and grab the embed code. You’ll have comments enabled on your page in a matter of minutes.

Other options

Here are a few alternatives to Disqus, if you want to shop around: