Back when Search Engine Land launched, we used TypeKey to manage our comments system. Some people hated the system, but I promised from the start that it would eventually be replaced by something better. Today, that finally happens. Comments at Search Engine Land are now being handled through our own Sphinn discussion site. More about the change below, which I hope people will like.
I love getting comments and feedback on stories here. Praise is great; criticism tells us where to improve and contributions of facts and information make our stories better. Whatever the comment, it shows someone cared enough about what we do to say something. It is deeply appreciated.
We would get more comments if we didn’t have registration. I know this. Unfortunately, without registration, there’s a spam issue. As I wrote about before:
I know how great it is to go to a blog and be able to comment quickly without having to register. I know registration cuts into participation. I know that there are systems to automatically catch comment spam. But I also know registration is the absolute best way to keep comment spam under control. I want to spend my time talking with people and ensuring they can contribute, not policing the comment spam.
Since I wrote that in January, registration has indeed worked very well. We only get a tiny amount of spam. Yes, I do know about filtering systems like Akismet. Indeed, I know very well how over the past year it has flagged comments I’ve made on a wide variety of blogs as spam. The false positive rate may be low, but using that type of a system means good stuff might get drowned in the flood of spam being held back. Registration kills the spam dead without the false positive issue.
In addition, I feel like registration makes people more responsible. Want to do a drive by slam against someone in a discussion? Sure, you could register an account using a disposable email address. But having run discussion forums over the years, I’ve also seen how people want to build their reputation as a contributor or commenter. To me, registering for an account aids that.
Enter Sphinn. This is our social news sharing and discussion forums site that we launched in beta last July. As I explained back then, one of the roles for Sphinn was to allow those on Search Engine Land itself to better comment on our stories. We didn’t want to have conversations happening in the Search Engine Land comment system that were disconnected from conversations happening on our discussion site. It’s also hard for the editors to be contributing in two different places.
What we’ve done today is shut off the old commenting system here. Instead, at the bottom of each page, you’ll see a small frame that brings content from Sphinn over to here. There are one of three cases you’ll see:
- Not Yet Submitted To Sphinn: Not every story we write about
warrants a submission to our Sphinn site. So, we’re not automatically putting
our stories over there. We’ll largely leave it to the readers to decide if a
story here is Sphinn-worthy. If you want to comment on a story, and it’s not
yet on Sphinn, you’ll see a message inviting you to submit the story and then
add your comment.
- Submitted To Sphinn But No Comments: Some stories have already been
submitted to Sphinn but no one may have commented about them yet. In that
case, you won’t have to submit the story yourself. However, you will have to
use Sphinn to leave a comment.
- Comments On Sphinn: If a story is on Sphinn and has comments, you’ll see these flow inside a frame at the bottom of the stories here. You can see an example of this here. Using the frame isn’t the best system in the world, but it was the easiest way we found so far. We’ll keep looking to see if there’s a better way to flow comments over. If you don’t want to read comments by scrolling in the frame, just click on the Sphinn button, and you can jump over to see the comments more easily at Sphinn itself.
Comments made on the blog before the change are still being retained. What happens is that you’ll either see them still on pages or you’ll see them first, then any new comments made on Sphinn will appear below them. Here’s an example of that happening, for the curious.
As part of the change, we can’t show the number of comments received for a story on the home page of the site, as we’ve done in the past. We’re looking to see if we can restore this. Similarly, we can’t show a count in the author/date area of story pages themselves, as we used to do. However, it’s less an issue there. A very short scroll (or use the Jump To Comments link), and you’ll see if there are comments posted.
My thanks to all of those who previously registered with the old commenting system to contribute here, and my sincere apologies that you’ll have to register again through Sphinn. There was no easy way to flow the old registrations over.
Finally, since we launched Sphinn, we’ve had a number of members there wondering if there’s a way for comments at Sphinn to flow back to their own blogs, similar to what we’re now doing here. We’re still working on that. If we can do it without bringing down the Sphinn site, we’d certainly like to enable that for everyone who wants it.