Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Disqus Comment Platform Review And Why I Switched To It?

I build my websites with the Drupal CMS which has its own native comments with additional modules to support spam control, notifications etc. In this post, I explain why I switched from native comments to Disqus and my review of the Disqus platform.

Ease of maintenance: I run multiple websites on a single shared hosting account. I am always looking for ways to reduce Database load. With native comments, DB queries are run everytime a new comment is posted. User registration, comment notifications, comment moderation etc., all are a load on the Database. Tons of spam user registrations and comments don't make it any lighter for the DB. Disqus being a hosted platform takes away all this load from the Database.

User registration, comments posting, moderation, spam control, notifications etc., all are handled by Disqus. With Disqus doing all this heavy lifting, I can spend lesser time 'maintaining websites' and more time 'blogging'.

Spam Control: Surprisingly, there has been almost no spam on my websites even after enabling guest posting. Prior to Disqus, I have experimented with different kinds of spam control like honeypot, captchas, content monitoring services (like Mollom). But none were as effective as Disqus in dealing with spam. I do not have to play this game of one-upmanship with spammers anymore.

SEO: I am not very sure about Disqus comments' SEO value. I find that comments in some pages get indexed pretty quickly, but comments on some pages are indexed after many pages. In some pages, comments do not get indexed at all, even after manually submitting them in Google Search Console. It is not clear to me whether the issue lies with my website or with Google or Disqus. I will observe this for a few more weeks and give an update.

Engagement: I did not see any drastic improvement in the number of comments. But one website that has never received any comments has started receiving some. It could be due to the website's traffic increase in general and not necessarily because of Disqus.

Commenter's Privacy: I have noticed people complaining on other blogs about a lack of privacy in Disqus. Some people may not want others to be able to see all the comments that they post on the web. Disqus offers two not very well-known privacy options – a) Private Activity and b) Post as Guest. I think a lack of awareness of these two features could be one reason that Disqus has lower spam.

a) Private Activity: Users can make their activity private from their Disqus 'settings'. When you make your activity private, no one can follow you or see all the comments made by you.

On a side note, if you are making genuinely useful comments and leave a link, there is no need to make your activity 'private'. People will judge you only if you are not making any useful comments but leave a link on every website and blogpost.

b) Post as Guest:

You can also post as a guest if the publisher allows it. Most commenters are not aware of this feature. As of now, I have enabled posting as guest in my websites. Based on how much spam I get, I will take a decision on either continuing or discontinuing it.



A few enhancements required in Disqus:

1. Open links in a new window/tab: Links posted in the comments open in the same tab. This takes the visitor completely away from my site.

2. Sometimes slow to load: At times, Disqus is slow to load. I am guessing that this is an infrastructure issue which will get resolved with time. Slow load times could be the reason why comments in same pages do not get indexed.

3. Assured Comments export: Even if service delivery assurance lies with a third party platform like Disqus, I always prefer to have a backup of my data. As a publisher, you can outgrow the platform and want to migrate to another platform. Or the platform could terminate your account because you have violated some terms in their opinion. Though Disqus allows you to export your comments, it is not guaranteed to work. Disqus has given a disclaimer that 'export' may not work in some cases, especially when the site is large. Now 'large' is a very vague word. It could mean a 1000 comments or a million comments. I hope Disqus resolves this issue or at the least provides a 'guaranteed export' at a nominal cost.

Conclusion:
Disqus took away a lot of pain that I have in website maintenance and moderating comments. I prefer to overlook those few drawbacks like the slow load times and focus my time and efforts on doing what I do the best - 'writing useful content for my visitors'.

Your turn: Please post your queries regarding Disqus in the comments. I will make my best effort to help you.

As a publisher, have you used any comment platform like Disqus, Livefyre, IntenseDebate? I would love to hear your experiences with these platforms. And if you are considering switching to any of these platforms, please share your reasons and concerns.

I am also curious to know if you like Disqus as a commenter. Do you find it easier to leave comments on a blog with Disqus?