Going Back To Our Old Commenting System!

On Friday, I announced we would upgrade our commenting system. It was tested over the weekend, and ultimately I have decided to go back to the wordpress system.  Here are the reasons why:

1. Our old comments never got transitioned over.

The intenseDebate system says I can just click a single button and it will import our old posts into the new system.  I did this Friday and the page never moved from 0%. I tried again Saturday night, with the 0% import still there this morning(Monday). Our old posts simply never imported. I don’t know if it was because our database of comments was so large (I doubt it) or what. I went to contact their support, but found them out for the weekend. That’s no big deal, but I wonder if the importer was a manual thing and no one was there to do it? If so, they should probably put a warning on the importer page.

2. It wasn’t failing gracefully.

I had many emails and comments saying that the comments were not showing when people were using script blockers, or certain android devices. The intenseDebate website claims that their system will show comments even if someone is using a script blocker. I did not personally test this, and frankly I don’t have to. Even if those people are mistaken or have peculiar setups, I simply can’t ignore complaints that our content isn’t even showing.

3. I couldn’t expand all replies by default, or maybe I’m an idiot.

I didn’t see an option anywhere to display all comment threads expanded by default. Maybe I just overlooked it. Maybe there’s some css trick to it. We HAVE to have our comments expanded. Often there is more useful information in the comments than the article itself. With replies nested you would have to go through and click every single thread just to see if there was anything useful. This is such an obvious feature that I’m convinced I just went stupid for a while and didn’t read the button that enabled it, surely they didn’t omit it.

For these 3 reasons, I removed it.  Just like they said it would, it came out with no issue.

101 thoughts on “Going Back To Our Old Commenting System!

    1. Speaking of first (see i found a way to whore off this space!) this has to be the first time a website admitted a mistake and reverted back to an older system that i have ever seen

  1. Please still consider upgrading to some other comment system at least. I know WordPress “just works”, but I hate their comment system. I always have to login no matter what (remember me doesn’t work?) and of course they don’t use openid or some such so I have to remember yet another username and password

      1. Same here, Window 7, IE or Firefox, no blocking extensions of any kind installed. plain vanilla install. It remembers my e-mail and screen name and always shows them once I start typing a comment.

    1. and NICE! It *remembered me* and I was just able to simply post. I like to be able to do that, rather than to log in to some other social network (that I don’t use) to comment on one of my favorite blog places.

    2. I wonder if there are other sites that used the formerly-new system that have it uncollapsed, I just can’t imagine that isn’t something demanded by everybody.

      Not that I want the formerly-new system back.

  2. Whilst I didn’t entirely like the new system (I find the notion of up/down voting quite childish), I am overal sad that it hasn’t worked out. Not least the loss of the new features that lots of people have been demanding (editing posts) but the effort Caleb had put into trying to get it to work :-(

    Don’t give up, at least we can find out which systems suck! (hmm, can we hack them? ;-)

    1. I’m willing to cope with a certain amount and type of complaints. They are innevitable. Any change brings out angry rants and whining. However, I also love hackaday and read hackaday. I can clearly see when something just isn’t going to work. I found the comments, being nested, to be so ridiculously painful that I couldn’t stand it.

      1. Actually, now you say that, I have to admit that I find myself reading posts for hacks that I’m not that interested in only to read the comments to find out if there’s some interesting tidbit from another reader.

        1. yes. I don’t mean comments like “this is stupid, you could’ve just used a 555”.

          I mean comments like “Hey, I tried that but ended up using this(link)”…
          or “you can fix that (insert issue here) by adding a cap on blah blah”

          1. Comment drift is one of the greatest things! The best ones drift completely into open water and end up steering me into looking up new forms of laser fusion, or some other crazy thing. There’s a wide range of esoteric knowledge here, and I learn all sorts from the things I wasn’t expecting to see.

            As for “555” comments, doesn’t bother me. There’s very little actual bitchiness, and a robust opinion hurts nobody. We’re all men here. Except Jeri. Ahhhh, Jeri…

    1. Oh god please no.

      I like the fact that the HAD comments work without javascript, and Disqus most certainly does not. (plus it tends to have issues with uptime).

      It’s great for small webcomics, but probably not a good idea for HAD.

      1. Indeed, you need JS for disqus. I hate it when you get third-party involvement in a site. I think it is bad enough that wp is needed for HaD. Theinquirer.net went over to disqus and haven’t seen a comment since.
        What happened to “my site, my server, my code, my data”? Why do you need third parties snooping on everything? What is so difficult about an integrated system that you cannot manage it on your own site? You cannot control third parties and they foul up a lot.
        Thumbs up for reverting.

    1. Why do we need 3rd parties tracking us? Surely somebody on this planet can freaking write something that works locally on the existing backbone? Seriously the internet has been around for ages, and kids get taught coding in school in the millions.

          1. I wouldn’t mind being able to occasionally edit my own comments, but it would be a lot more fun to be able to edit the comments of others (heh, heh, heh…)

    2. I’ve used it on some sites. This is better. Cleaner, quicker, simpler, and much quicker. Yeah I said it twice. Also Disqus requires login, this doesn’t.

      This system’s great. The simplicity is valuable, something nobody else in the world remembers any more.

  3. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    My biggest complaint about the other system was that you couldn’t see comments that hadn’t been approved, leading to me, and a number of other people, posting nearly identical comments.

    Keep the system as-is, it actually works.

  4. the only thing i liked about the new system, was the ability to change the sort order of the postings to “last activity”. it’s a pain to find the new postings in this (old) system if you revisit the article to check on updates.

      1. Never bothered me. It’s always been easy and quick for me to find new comments. My brain skips over what I’ve already read. I’m a fast reader anyway, and I can skim what to ignore well.

        I don’t like disappearing, or hiding posts. For one thing you’re never 100% sure you haven’t missed anything.

        And the little column on the right that tells you the latest posts, if you click, always takes you straight to the newest ones. I like it this way, I have for years.

    1. No, disqus is horrible… I stopped visiting every site that used or switched to disqus due to all the issues with it, this current (old) system is FAR better than anything disqus has ever done.

    1. I was going to post the same thing! I’m glad HaD has the balls to say “Eh, it’s not working, screw it” versus most sites trying to force their new flashy features whether they work well or not.

  5. Avoid third party comment systems like the plague; use plugins to add the features that you want.

    Intense Debate is a complete mess, with terrible support. We used the system for about a two years, and always had problems with duplicate comments.

    There are plugins for comment ratings and most of the other features Intense Debate adds, so roll your own.

  6. Thank you very much!

    I greatly appreciate the old style comment system’s return.

    This layout just feels ‘right’, the actual comments are back to being more prominent than the layout used to display them, plus they’re not buried behind 3rd party javascript which adds to the page load time and subsequent computer processor usage.

  7. I’ve used Disqus on a number of sites without any problems. Probably the best thing about it is that it has graceful fallback. It duplicates comments using your native comment system so that if you ever turn it off (or it goes away or breaks), all the Disqus comments are still there as old-style comments. (And I’ve never had a problem importing old comments.)

    Also, I know this is Hack a Day, but two words: Staging Server.

      1. Yeah, thanks for acknowledging and sorting that, and more thanks for listening to yourself and to your readers by scrapping what wasn’t working instead of trying to shoe-horn it in place! It is exactly this kind of user-centric attitude that gets my respect and guarantees my continued readership and i’m sure I speak for the majority when I say that. I know that the problems I had with the changeover were nothing to very small in the grand scheme of things but still Thankyou for making it go away! :)

    1. We didn’t have no Gravatars on Usenet. The original and best discussion system in it’s terrible glory! People share ideas here, and most of us seem to have something useful to say. That’s the opposite of cliquey likey votey nonsense. Reddit seems to have evolved into an incestuous hivemind obsessed with it’s own droppings. Unless you switch it to NNTP, I like this way fine.

  8. Glad to see those phoney 3D effect bars gone. Why anyone uses optical tricks to confuse the eyes while creating anything that has to be seen clearly is beyond me. Text on flat apearing clean surfaces with out dirt, cylinder shapes, shadows, or imitation glare. Yes Imitation glare, something simply known to bad! Call it boring, we don’t need any more AAAD-AADHD in the world. The first A is for aquired.

  9. I really respect HaD for being willing to try out new things and having the insight to understand when something isn’t working and to drop it. That being said, software is complex and you’re always bound to hit some snags. Sometimes you need to work out the kinks during a rollout before you can properly determine whether the tool was good for your or not.

    It’s usually standard practice to have either a development system or a sandbox system so that you can test whether the rollout will be successful. Did HaD try it on a cloned system to see if the comments would be transferred properly?

    From my understanding, the fundamental thing that the new system provided, besides some avatars and some extra visual garnish, was a voting system (like Reddit). I think this would be a really good way to self mediate the comment system. We all know that occasionally nonconstructive comments get equal visual space as constructive ones and with a voting system that allowed comments to be hidden by default should they fall under a certain threshold would go a long way to creating a much more enriching comment thread (imo). It would be a shame to throw away this idea just because you had a bad experience with one system.

    Don’t you guys have a bunch of hackers working for you (“Hack” is in the name after all)? Aren’t you guys able to work out these kinks or develop something yourselves?

    If the answer is no to both of those questions, I would be willing to help out with some programming if you wanted me to. If you did a shout-out to the community for some help, I’m sure you could snag some developers that are much more qualified than myself. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll email you.

    Regardless, good luck with everything.

    1. Yeah but if it doesn’t even have support to explain that and the migrsate thing doesn’t work and and and, I think caleb just did the smart thing rather than desperately try to make a thing that isn’t going to work work.

      And I must say I have new respect for the current system after seeing that new thing, I mean even with a better layout, I don’t like votes and the polarization it causes and the effect of people not even responding but just view comments to vote people into oblivious for vague socio-/political reasons. That’s not for a tech site.

    2. Screw “voting”. The truth isn’t a democracy! And god save us from Facebook-style popularity contests. People can respond as they always did, by speaking their mind.

      I bet the Ancient Greeks didn’t bring big foam hands to stick up in the air, when they went out to see Socrates debate for an evening. Or whoever. So some complete stranger “likes” something? So what? It’s not even a good system for choosing governments!

    3. You have basically just listed every reason the new system has been abandoned! Caleb stated that he couldn’t stand having nested replies in the comments which ultimately was the reason he pulled the plug. Having a system like reddit is just a precursor to destroying the comments section entirely, it would just encourage every reader to vote on other people’s comments possibly down-rating perfectly valid comments and vice-versa. I cannot see how it would add any useful debate to the conversation. It certainly would not encourage anyone new to comment for fear of unmerciful scrutiny and would likely cause the opposite effect. Also reddit’s system seems to be built to handle thousands of users, HAD has had 2-3 posts go over 200 comments (that I remember) and one of those may in fact have been the post announcing the considered change to the website layout ( the other one was about a vapouriser i think). I think that HAD needs to keep it’s system simple while it has a small contributing userbase, let Reddit & Slashdot keep their “browse at level whatever” systems for the millions of users they need to regulate.

      1. HaD has had nested comments for a while, so I’m a little confused about the terminology. Do you mean “accordion” comments, whereby you can only see some comments if you click on an ‘expand’ tab?

        HaD is one of the more popular blogs, especially within make/hack circles. There was even a point where the HaD crew made a specific plea to it’s audience to not be so negative in the comments, followed by a plan of adding the ‘report comment’ tag and having moderators scrutinize comments more heavily. While the people who comment might be few, HaD gets quite a bit of views. I’m sure there is a large portion of views that look at the comments section without ever commenting. If this were true, this means that comments have a very real impact on the tenor of the site, both from who views the posts to begin with and who keeps coming back. If the comments are good, people stay longer on the site. If they’re bad, they might get soured and not come back. I think saying that comments don’t matter is a little ignorant of the history of HaD and a bit defeatist.

        Ideally, the voting system would just be another way to moderate content. I’m not talking about the broken system that they put in place, but a system that only allows for logged in users to vote, allowing only one vote to be cast per comment and maybe even having a rate limiting vote, either by some ‘karma’ system or just allocating a fixed number of votes per user per day. With this in place, the system should be able to be shaped by it’s users. If you like a comment, up vote it. If you don’t, down vote it. It’s a simple system to make sure posts of quality percolate to the top, but more importantly, makes sure trolling posts get downvoted much more heavily.

        Of course no system is perfect, but the hope is that you gain more than you give up. Which is better? A system where the occasional comment gets downvoted into dropping under default viewable threshold or where all trolling comments are treated on equal ground as the rest? I genuinely don’t know, but my view is that a voting system could at least be tried to help with this.

        I just want to say that HaD comments are for the most part now much better than they were. I think the moderators struck a good balance to allow for constructive criticism while not devolving the comments into sycophantic platitudes. I don’t think it’s really a big deal, and the current system seems to be pretty decent, but if there’s room for improvement, it seems like it should be tried.

        I also don’t understand the hate against a voting system. HaD has moderators. A voting system turns the audience into moderators. At best a voting system replaces the privileged few who get to remove comments and at worst it makes their job easier.

        1. Voting is generally perceived as negative. I’ve witnessed other sites hampered by voting – comments that get many votes appear at the top. Often those comments are loud rhetoric and not useful content.

          The only time voters have self-control is when the votes are tallied by name. As in “Gizmos approves this” then there is some accountability.

          1. Interesting. I think you’re right that a Reddit like voting system is broken in some pretty profound ways. I think they call it the “fluff principle”, whereby less weighty ideas float to the top, which, if I understand, is the thing that you and others are trying to guard against.

      2. Reddit is broken because of user Karma. A simple up/down vote without an associated score, and without any benefit to the voter is not the same thing. Just look at slashdot. Very little (if any) karma whoring goes on there.

  10. Just want to say: thanks for sticking with a system where I can read comments without enabling javascript!

    Btw, I definitely saw *some* of the comments made w/o scripts into the scripted version.

    And at least once, the nested comments seemed to come pre-expanded.

  11. Ahhh, the classic.

    Yeah, the other one just didn’t feel right, as well as a bit of bitching I did at the time.

    But ta for listening to people’s opinions, stupid corporate types would have bulldozed on regardless. But not you, Caleb, man of the electronic people!

    I feel at home. Now to see if it accepts my comment without me logging in. Which I’ve never done. Or even signed up. It still worked the last time, here goes…

  12. It’s to me- abut what we risk LOSING while still keeping a forum even remotely on track, flame free- and generally de-crapified. We risk losing ease of use-security- and overall viability for the forum.

    Lovecraft allegedly STARVED to death while answering Fan Mail!

    We cannot doom admins to starvation while decrapifying so we try tools :}

    And so far- most tools are Epic Fail on one or more of the elements with added fails baked into the commonly used ones. Perhaps unavoidably so?

    Being serious on this- absent a real AI with better than mere Turing Pretensions – a human needs to moderate comments unless the participants are up to self-censoring= not posting stupidly should not be there-crud.

    There have been/are a few crowsourced human moderation/retromod schemes with results between amusing to exasperating. Hackerspaces-lists and b-sides as examples where the errata drowned the content.

    I sadly concede that the “Least Bad” system is a human retromod of either the sites “Own Admins” or trusted delegates. Or-

  13. I like this system. It’s simple and it works. Disqus sucks. I’ve stopped commenting on sites that use it or any other lamely done third party comment system. bracketing replies so you can keep up is nice, but at what expense? Lame, over-done avatars (about as unique and original as tattoos these days)? emocons? like buttons (just because they liked your way of saying something doesn’t make you a better or more “likable” person)? way overly complex verification systems (that don’t seem to work or have been hacked by your own readers anyway)?

  14. I like this comment system the most. Please don’t go to Clown, I mean Cloud hosting like Disqus. It’s nice that you don’t do that currently – meaning the only one who have our comments (and other web browser spill data) is you.

    I also like the fact that I can comment anonymously.

    Thank you for changing back :)

  15. Remove some of the padding left and right from the comments to use some more space for the text. Removing or narrowing down the right column would be even better. It’s a little annoying to do all the reading on merely 1/3 of the screen width. 2/3 would be fine.

  16. 1) going back to an older but better system? yay!
    like someone else said, this is a web first!

    2) although i was glad to see we could still post without signing up for anything :)

    3) other then mentioned technical issues, i was disappointed at finding yet-another webpage infected with the facebook logo. (the small one @ the bottom) for that im thankful at reverting back to this system.

    4) excuse me while i FINALLY bite the bullet and add facebook.com to my hosts file for system-level blocking. PS: its yet another slowdown of your system, too many entires in list i was told…

    1. EDIT: there already WAS/IS a fb logo, i meant the new system’s large one in its own box along with others taking up a large portion of the page and drilling it self into one’s head. was taking up maybe 1/8 of the page! i mean its supposed to be a tiny OPTIONAL button in a corner

  17. i am glad that you are going back because the comments works and the big concern is if you stay upgraded then it is not much further of a step to go like zeropaid does using livefyre witch uses an external login system.

    i think you are better off using the gateway routers to handle the security as far as attack control (should a user go rogue and try to attack the site)

  18. From my end the intenseDebate function no better or no worse that the one that we returned to. The name intenseDebate gave me a moment to pause though, as never felt comments where a place to have a debate. The comment dividing bar could have used a little trimming but complaining about that, is as silly as complaining about the use of avatars/gravatars, voting comments up or down. While I hate facebook’s intrusion everywhere on the web, I don’t mind seeing an icon that allows those who want to,use their facebook(or any other social login) the posts comment, if I’m not force to to do so, to be able to leave comment. Personally I don’t apply the axiom “if it isn’t broke don’t try to fix it” to discourage trying new things, so it wouldn’t bother me if Hackaday decides to try out other commenting systems.

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