How Do You Handle Comments?

In the past few months, a couple of new Web 2.0 services have sprung up with the intent of handling your web site comments for you. These two services are Disqus and Intense Debate. The common goal of the two is to track comments across sites and centralize the conversation. This, in theory, creates a social network of sorts, or even just a community that can span corporate sites and personal ‘blogs.
I had seen Disqus in use on several other sites, and was intrigued. With the availability of a simple to install WordPress plug-in, I could not resist giving the service a try. The first hurdle to overcome at the current time is the inability to import current site comments into the Disqus system. The developers have assured users that this feature will be in an upcoming release, so that’s a good sign.

For now, Disqus provides the option to apply the system to all posts without comments and leave the existing comments intact. I selected this choice and all was well. Disqus has some other handy features, such as the ability to approve or remove comments via e-mail. After tinkering with layout options and the management dashboard, I was pleased with the implementation and I left the site to stew.

That is until I listened to net@night today and found out about Intense Debate. Aside from the misleading name, this service is almost identical to Disqus, with a big exception. Intense Debate can import your current comments and can also export comments at a later date should you choose to stop using the service.

So I decided to give Intense Debate a chance to impress me, and impress me it did. However, it was not enough to stay. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Intense Debate has quality presentation and clean looks. It also provides a management dashboard through the site and allows for user avatars, threaded replies, and my personal favorite — voting on posts with a thumbs up or thumbs down. Another thing that Intense Debate got right was the use of the “beta” tag on their service as it is most certainly still rough around the edges.

Since it is a hosted service, a JavaScript call is inserted into the site pages to load the comments. The drawback to this is that should the Intense Debate servers respond slowly, so too does your site load slowly, even with caching features enabled and tweaked. While this is not a constant problem, I did notice the Intense Debate was a bit slower to load than Disqus, but both added a second or two (and sometimes more) to the page load.

Web surfers have a short attention span as we all know, and a couple seconds added to a site loading can mean the difference between a user staying or leaving before the fonts even finish rendering on the screen. With that in mind, I decided to revert back to the basic WordPress comment system. It should suffice for now, but to put it through its paces, I’m asking for some feedback. How do you handle comments on your site? What have you found to be the most efficient and user-friendly?