Trying out IntenseDebate

It’s been some time now since I wanted to play around with IntenseDebate.  Something triggered an action today and now this blog’s comments are powered by IntenseDebate.  All previous comments are imported and fully synchronized, and the new comments should be working now (tweaking ahead though).  I’d appreciate if you could leave a test comment to this post just so that I could see if it is really working.  You could also tell me what you think of IntenseDebate – and that would make your comment so much better…

Comments are broken. Again.

Comments and a few other things are broken right now. I am aware of the problem and working to solve it.  Thank you all for letting me know.  I’ll post an update here once the issue is resolved.

Update: comments are fixed.  It looks like it was a misconfiguration on the part of the hosting company (incorrect permissions for sessions directory).

User registrations disabled

For a few years now, since I started to use real blogging software (such as NucleusCMS and then WordPress), anyone could register on this blog and become a member.  Membership didn’t offer much though.  The main feature members have that others don’t is that they can work with the archive of their comments on this site.  For the rest of the visitors, what was posted, was posted, and there was no way to change it.

Together with a few legitimate users, hundreds of abusers (SPAM posters, bots, etc) registered.  Sometimes their registrations were cleaned out by one of the plugins.  At other times, I removed them manually.  And then still a few of them stayed, masking as real human beings and not doing much damage.

As I mentioned recently, I have installed WP AJAX Edit Comments plugin, which allows comment posting folks to edit their own comments during a certain period of time (15 minutes). This works pretty well for typing mistakes, premature postings, and that sort of things, which appear to be 99% of all issues people have with their own comments.

Since there is no more need for user registration, I have closed it.  I have also removed all user accounts from this site that don’t have at least one comment.  If you think that you need an account, you can send me a message, including your email, username, and a reason for why you want it (I’m really curious).  I’ll make you one.   If you have an account, but forgot your credentials, drop me a line, and we’ll reset it together.  For the rest of you, just use the commenting form and you should be fine.

WordPress comment-related plugins

I went through a few comment-related plugins in the WordPress plugin directory.  It’s amazing how much cool stuff is written and uploaded over there.  Here are just a few to give you an idea of what you can find and install on your blog:

  • WP AJAX Edit Comments – this plugin can be used to allow people, who comment on your blog to edit their comments.  They don’t even have to be logged in, and they will still be able to edit their own comments for a period of time.  Also, this plugin provides some nice functionality for blog administrators and moderators, who can approve, delete, or mark comments as SPAM from the post at the blog, rather than from the email message or blog administration interface.  I have installed this plugin, and you, my dear visitors, should be able to fix your own typos now.  Let me know if it doesn’t work for you.
  •  CommentLuv – this plugins helps blog owners to give back some love to those who comment on their blogs. When a person leaves a comment on your blog, CommentLuv plugin navigates to this person’s web site (the one that was mentioned in the comment form), looks for an RSS feed of that site, and, if it finds the feed, gets the latest post from it.  It then appends a link to that latest post to the person’s comment. I tried this plugin and it works very well.  However, I decided to not use it here just yet – not because of the plugin quality, but because of the general way I see discussions here.  I’ll probably use this plugin on one of my other blogs.
  • Ajax Comment Posting – this plugin makes comment posting a little bit faster.  It avoids the page reload for when the comment is posted.  I’ve installed this plugin on this blog, but somehow I still don’t see it working.  If you notice that it works or, on the contrary, it breaks something for me, please let me know.
  • Delink Comment Author – this plugin helps in those cases, when someone posts a nice comment to your blog, that you want to approve, but don’t for the link that author of the comment used as their web site. With this plugin, you can remove the link to the comment author’s web site via comment administration of your blog.  I have installed this plugin too, and it seems to work exactly as advertised.

And now is a really good time to see if the comments on this blog still work for you.  I’ve tried to test things out and make sure that everything is OK, but to be on the safe side – you should too.  Please, leave a comment to this post and let me know if it works or if something is broken.  If comments don’t work at all for some reason, please drop me a line using any other way.

On blog comments

Mark Cuban asks an interesting question:

So the question is, is it worth it to allow unmoderated comments ? Or is babysitting comments just part of the job of bloggers ? Or are comments just a waste of time under all circumstances ?

Here is how I see it.

Your blog is like your house.  In your house, you have some rules.  You don’t have them written anywhere, but everybody follows them.  Like, do you take off the shoes when you come in or if you are allowed to smoke inside.  How loud can you speak and can you bring kids or animals with you.  You know your rules.

People, who are coming in for the first time, they don’t.  There are some etiquette rules, generic for everyone, that will almost always keep you on the safe side.  Like, don’t swear until somebody does it first.  Or ask for the permission to smoke.  Stuff like that. When people come to your house for the first time, they keep it on the safe side.  They observe how you and others behave.  They ask if they need something.

This  is pretty much how comments on the blog are.  When people come to the blog, they would usually read others comments before posting their own.  They start with simple, straightforward ones.  They grow slowly.  If they do something that you don’t like, you let them know.  It’s OK.  Most good people won’t need more than one correction.  They can understand and feel the atmosphere of the blog and of the discussions.

Of course, the more popular the blog gets, the more morons will come.  Inconsiderate idiots who will feel an obligation to annoy and offend the heck out of everybody else, they will post insulting comments to a few entries in the archives.  They will come back for more…

Give them a warning.  Once.  If you are in a good mood – twice.  If it’s not your day, you can skip the warning altogether.  Then just ban the troll. Filter them out. They aren’t worth your time. They aren’t worth the time of your blog’s visitors.  The sooner you’ll get rid of them, the better.  Don’t be afraid to hurt their feelings – they don’t have any anyway.

I like the way WordPress handles comments.  It gets rid of SPAM automatically.  It sends me comments from unknown users for moderation.  If I allow a comment from someone, all further comments will be automatically approved, unless I ban the user.  If I will ever be overwhelmed with moderation of comments (not likely), I always have an option to go for “only registered users are allowed to comment”…

As to the Mark’s question of the value of comments – yes, I see plenty of value in comments.  Comments is not the main reason for me blogging, but it’s a pretty important one.

How to handle web rudeness?

Web Worker Daily asks an interesting question – “How do you handle web rudeness?

This is probably a nobrainer for people who have been on the web for some time, but newcomers, especially those to the blogosphere and the world of forums, are often puzzled.  It’s very easy to insult someone on the web.  Pick a forum or a blog.  Write a comment.  You’re done.  And sad fact of life is that many people do just that.

Having a blog (albeit not the most popular) for a few years now, I’ve seen some of that rudeness and some of those insults.  Both private and public.  And here is how I go about them.

First of all, I treat both private and public insults equally. I don’t differentiate.  If I can think of the way to make fun of it, I respond publicly. If I can’t, I just delete and ignore the comment.  If I get two or more insults in a row  from the same person, I ban, blacklist, and filter the originating username, IP address, and email.  And then I don’t care.

My thinking is that there is enough crap going on already, to take some more from the Web.  I consider the Internet to be the best thing since… since… since… since the beginning of times.  If something bad is coming out  of it, I either convert it into good (humor, smile, good mood), or I totally get rid of it.  It’s as simple as that.

P.S.: Just to make something crystal clear – with non-insulting comments I respond in the same scope.  If the message was private, I reply in private. If it was public, I reply in public.  Sometimes, if I feel like the public can benefit from a private discussion, I’d ask the permission of the other party to publish the conversation.  To be on the safe side, I’d often forward the preview of the post too, to clarify what exactly will be published.  Insulting comments never get a private reply – it’s either nothing, or a public joke.

Beautifully worded

Slashdot is well-known for the quality of discussions.  Minus, of course, trolling anonymous cowards.  Here is a quote from the comment to give you the sense of how clear some Slashdot users can express themselves:

Did you actually try to develop anything for Symbian?
Well, I did. And let me tell you this: Windows APIs, complete with their haphazard organization and historical baggage, lunatic bugs and arcane undocumented extensions are an example of Reason and Logic, when compared to this positive 10 day old vomit which is Symbian. Any ole Linux API is like an Extatic Symphony of Cosimic Joy, Eternal Purity and All-Encompassing Sanity, next to this 10 day old vomit which is Symbian.

I would have a lot of hard times, if somebody asked me to translate this to another language…

SPAM protection review

It’s been less than a month since I installed SPAM Karma 2. It didn’t take me long to see the benefits. Just four days later I wrote this post.

Today, looking through the plugin statistics, I thought – “Why don’t I post them?”. So, here they are:

  1. Total Spam Caught: 1002 (average karma: -102.87)
  2. Total Comments Approved: 141 (average karma: 14.74)
  3. Total Comments Moderated: 13
  4. Current Version: 2.2 final r2

So, in less than a month SPAM Karma 2 saved me more than a thousand contacts with SPAM. At the same time, it stood out of the way almost 150 times when legitimate comments were posted. And only 13 times it didn’t know what to do and left comments for me to moderate. Pretty good numbers, I have to say.

False positives? None of the legitimate comments were marked as SPAM. About 20 SPAM comments got through and I had to marked deal with them manually. The shiny 2.2 update came out a couple of days ago to deal with the new wave of “smart” spambots.

As for me, I am very very very satisfied with the results. I just hope that this plugin will continue to work the way it does now. I’m willing to install upgrades.

Thank you all who participated in this work!

Daily bookmarks

I came across a couple of really good programming resources. The first one has an excellent collection of links to websites and articles about designing good user interfaces and improving accessibility. The second one is a great article about commenting source code. It also links to some nice works on the subject.

These were shared bookmarks for user tvset on 2005-08-31.