06 October 2007

Back to Blogger comments

I've decided to turn off ID comments for now. There are a lot of things I like about their system, but there are several aspects that I don't. First and foremost, unless and until they have broad adoption rates, the only major benefit the system provides is threaded comments. Some of the features that don't work without deep market penetration:

  • Reputation. It seems simple and obvious that high reputation rates as measured by the community should equate to either high reliability or high relevance. During the beta, people are rarely taking advantage of the rating system to up- or down-vote ID members. That means frequency of commenting regardless of relevance/coherence is the determinant. If beta testers aren't voting, it's a near-certainty that late-adopters won't.
  • As a follow-up point on reputation, the majority of ID beta sites/testers (at least those who comment frequently) have politics to the right of Rush. In that echo chamber of inanities, there's nowhere for me to comment without engaging in flame wars with the illuminutty. And again, because each comment posted increases reputation (unless the comment is voted down and see point 1 re: no voting) there's a very Freeper-feel to ID. It's unintentional, as technology has no bias, but still disconcerting to read a stream of moronic comments going by whenever I check ID's home page for activity.
  • The beta is either still really limited, or the testers aren't hammering very much. That "stream of moronic comments" I mentioned is more a very slow drip.
  • People don't want to sign up. Even my one or two semi-regular commenters here are reluctant (understandably) to sign up for YACS (yet another commenting system.) Who could blame them? I have more accounts, passwords, and ids spread about the web than a Mossad agent in the '70s. Without widespread adoption, no one is compelled to get an account. If people remain anonymous, they miss out on many of the features, sure, but they also negatively impact the community.
Beyond the problems associated with adoption rates, there are a few outstanding issues:
  • Display gets wonky with deeply nested comments. This is a pretty big deal for a system that uses nesting of comments as one of its biggest selling features.
  • The comment editor is pretty primitive. Formatting isn't supported yet (will be really soon, I suspect,) resizing of the edit pane isn't supported, and there's no comment preview.
  • While I can delete comments on my blogs, I can't delete the comments I leave elsewhere. I understand the theory behind this, as it has to do with reputation, but with no comment preview, they really should provide comment deletion.
And finally, there is the biggest problem of all which can't be resolved: they run as an Ajax widget. That means: problems for those who have scripting off; problems for browsers with poor Javascript support; and problems like the one my new blogfriend had the other day. She can't comment from her work computer into ID. Somehow (I suspect she clicked the Blogger comment link before ID's Javascript had rewritten it) she once managed to get into the old-style Blogger comment system. Interesting. Also interesting that ID (correctly) does NOT insert itself on posts that have comments in the old system. What that means, however, is that I've got one post from past week with old-style comments while the rest use ID!

That also led me to realize that if a user had Javascript support turned off, or clicked the Blogger link before ID rewrote it, or if ID were down for a period of time, and then entered a comment in the underlying comment system, it would hide any ID comments that might already exist! That's a pretty big and scary hole for ID, and I don't believe there's an easy solution to it. At best, they build support for importing comments from the underlying systems into ID and do so either at timed intervals, or as recipients of comment notifications. Pretty rough.

Now, while it may seem as if I'm bashing this software, I'm not. I'm really impressed with how well it works, how much functionality it has, and how smoothly it operates on different browsers, OSs, and blogging platforms. These guys have done a great job and continue to do so. I will be keeping my account with them and commenting on other ID sites from time to time (more so if some sites that don't make me shake my head in disbelief and disgust come on line.)

And who knows? Maybe they'll get that market penetration they need to achieve a critical mass of users and I'll go back up with ID comments.


Josh said...

Hi Coyote,
Just want to say we really appreciate you helping us test our product. We have made quite a bit of progress and couldn't have done it without the help of people like you.

Derrick Kwa said...

You mention about clicking the Blogger comments link before ID loads. Would disabling Blogger comments help solve this?

R.A. Porter said...

That's a good idea, Derrick. I'd certainly try that out if I moved back to ID. I'm just not sure whether the ID Javascript would work or not in that case, but it's worth a test.

benjamin said...

I love Rush! If what you say is true, I'm even more enamored now with ID than before...