Category Archives: On the Web

various topics on the web

It’s Time to Disqus

Over the past month or so I have visited a few sites.  I commented on various articles and I couldn’t help but notice, they all had a pretty cool comment system. Normally, I wouldn’t have payed much attention but, I started noticing it was giving me statistics on my comments from other websites. After researching, it quickly became apparent that this comment system should be everywhere. It equally benefits the site admin and the site viewer.

The Admin’s Perspective

disqus moderate comments

The Disqus team really thought about the user and the admin with this product. Without exaggeration, I was able to apply for a Disqus account, configure the settings and install in under 10 minutes. Disqus supports the most popular blog platforms. My perspective will be from WordPress. After installing, all there was left to do was, add some styling to fit my theme a little better (not that there was much to change because the system is very clean and simple). Disqus even includes a custom styling section where you can add CSS of your choosing, with a built in preview. Unfortunately, the preview only seems to show positioning. Integration with the website is seamless. So seamless, it exports comments from your old comment system and imports it into Disqus with an automated system. Want your site to be mobile friendly? Disqus is now automatically enabled for it’s mobile version. Afraid of getting spammed? Disqus integrates with Akismet.  From comment moderation to following discussions away from your site, about your site (reactions), this system has it all.

The Commenter’s Perspective

disqus profile comments

As you go from blog to blog, you may become more and more involved in discussion. However, that discussion usually ends after you move onto the next article or you have to remember the page and go back to it. Not with Disqus. Disqus is a system that stores your comments in their system, as well as, each individual website. Don’t worry because “Disqus does not make any claims to the ownership or control of the comments.” This means that you can create a Disqus profile and then check out all of your comments from http://discus.com/username.  Here you can reply to your comment discussions to continue the discussion for all of the comments in once place, without ever having to go back to the individual websites. Even if you don’t want a profile, you can comment using your Twitter, Facebook and OpenID accounts. Disqus adds to the social by allowing other commenters to vote by “liking” your comment. This, in turn, allows comments to be sorted by popularity. Earlier, I mentioned that Disqus has an import feature. When sites import old comments it enables another useful feature. As a commenter with a Disqus profile, Disqus will search through comments from those old systems and allow you to link your old comments into this system.

Room For Improvement

Now that I have Disqus setup, I see a few issues that I would like to check out. Looking through the Knowledge Base, it feels like a glorified FAQ and is not very search friendly. I also wish there was better documentation surrounding how to properly handle your old comment system.  As previously noted, the custom code preview doesn’t show your theme and doesn’t appear to show pre-CSS3 code like -moz and -webkit.  Yeah, I know, I am nitpicking.

In Conclusion

In my opinion, this is a great product. As you can see this is an incredibly useful tool which is going to revolutionize the commenting systems available today.  There are too many features to list here and I am still digging through them all. What are you waiting for? Get over to Disqus.com and let me know what you think in the comments!

Are twitter hashtags dying?

I was using twitter recently and started to realize that I don’t use hashtags anymore. If you are not familiar with hashtags you can check out the hashtags wiki. I originally started using hashtags to fill the twitter search void. Since Twitter acquired Summize, twitter search has been just as good as hashtags, if not better, at tracking topics; so, one question remains, are hash tags a dying feature?

I started using Hashtags only a few weeks after joining Twitter because I quickly noticed its growing popularity. It was a good way to fill the search void and keep track of various topics. Whether you used it for an internet meme, natural disasters and/or major new stories/events, it was a great way to find popular topics and follow them.

Lately, I have been finding myself less and less likely to use hashtags. At one point, hashtags provided what Twitter didn’t; now, since Twitter acquired Summize, that void has been filled and contains all the benefits of hashtags and none of the drawbacks. Twitter search is an official, real-time search without the # clutter and #difficultytoreadtopics (difficulty to read topics), that hashtags bring. The real-time search is a great feature; especially, if you are going to track a frequently updated topic. In my testing around the recent frequently updated topic, #asot400, twitter search found much more tweets than hashtags.org found, giving you a more accurate up-to-date representation of the twittersphere. Also, you can run a search on your topic of choice and every new tweet on that topic gets dynamically loaded to the search results. Twitter search doesn’t require the ‘#’ symbol; so, you are not limited to what people #tag. Tagging keywords can also make tweets difficult to read. For instance, let’s take a look at the following tweet:

Went to the #worldseries #redsox #game with @seandfeeney and the #beer was way too #expensive. BTW, #yankeessuck

Without the ‘#’ this would be much easier to read. Not to mention, stringing multiple words together like redsox becomes incredibly annoying. Also, tweets only allow for 140 characters and saving on characters is very important. If you tweet regularly, you will find that you run into that character limitation all too often. Finally, Twitter search will allow you to search on a string with spaces like “Red Sox.”

In conclusion, are hashtags dying? What do you think? The once void filling addition seems to not have much purpose anymore. Hashtags seem to be nothing more than a character hogging, legibility inhibitor with more limitations than benefits. Twitter search has all the tracking with none of the limitations. Twitter search will track hashtags and doesn’t require you to be followed by another twitter account the way @hashtags works. There are too many people who use the ‘#’ symbol and don’t even know that they have to follow @hashtags then have to wait to be followed back (which doesn’t take too long) in order for your #hashtags to be tracked.

Digg’s Read Later Bookmarking Problem

When you have been using digg since 2005 (see my profile seandfeeney), you pick up a few things along the way that, in a way, ruin the experience. It is known that some content that reaches digg popular is, well, less than adequate. In order to really understand the point I will be trying to make, you must first understand why someone Digg’s a story on the popular social news site digg.com.  Some people digg to express their liking for the article, others try to drive traffic to their friends or their own website.  The overall goal of digg.com is to let the users decide what stories, articles, videos, pictures etc. should be seen by the masses.  The problem, is those who use the site as a social bookmarking tool to read an article or follow up with it later.

Back to the original point, unfortunately there are an over whelming number of articles that lack substance on digg popular.  Part of this is due to armies of users who push their friends articles for potential fame and fortune or for quid pro quo reasons.  This is an issue in itself but, it becomes a bigger problem when other digg users discover the post that appears to be getting a ton of diggs but, the server is down on that small website because of the digg effect. The result, digg users start digging the article to read it later, causing a broken submission that reaches digg popular with no real substance or value. Don’t believe me?  Next time you encounter an article that links to a crashed server with no mirror in the comments, refresh the page a few times and watch the diggs keep climbing.

For years now, digg users have been begging for an article caching service that is embedded into digg to help users keep on reading and digging even when the main server is down.  Lets face it, duggmirror.com had a lot of promise but, missed more articles than it caught. If the Google to acquire digg.com rumors are true we may just see Google’s website caching tool integrated with digg article submissions. This alone would be a win-win for everyone because Google be able to cache more of the internet without relying strictly on crawling the net and digg users will be much happier to be able to read the articles before digging them.

Since no one outside of Digg or Google really knows if the Google to aquire digg.com rumors are real, there may be an easier solution to help to keep the content on digg.com more substantial.  For this, I recommend that the guys/gals at digg.com add a “read later” option to every post.  This way people don’t have to digg an article in order to bookmark it for a read, later when the server comes back up or the user has more time to read the article.  This will significantly reduce the number of broken / lame articles that reach digg popular.