The perfect WordPress commenting plug-in is one of those mythical creatures that you only hear about, but never see. I’ve illustrated my issues with third-party plug-ins like Disqus and Livefyre before, specifically when it comes to how hard they make it for anonymous guest posting with the option for the commenter to leave their own URL. For this reason alone, I’ve given Disqus a pass even though I really love its other features. If there was only some way by which I could have a Disqus like commenting system, but one which ran on my own blog instead – that would be perfect!
And it seems that a new plug-in called de:comments might just fill the gap in the near future. It’s still new and a bit rough around the edges, but my interactions with the author of the plug-in have been extremely positive and he seems very open to new ideas and very quick to fix bugs. Unlike the other WordPress commenting plug-ins, it’s paid – $50 for one year of support and updates. But that doesn’t mean it will stop working if your subscription expires. You’ll be able to continue using it, just without receiving further updates.
So without further ado, let me jump into the various features and benefits of de:comments and also highlight a few wrinkles that need ironing out. But overall, this is a remarkable effort and it definitely fills a niche that is currently unoccupied.
Many Plugins Rolled into One
You’ll be surprised at the number of plug-ins I have just to support my commenting area. I strongly feel that the true value of my blog comes from user generated content. So I have plug-ins to collapse/expand long threads, two antispam add-ons, a huge number of modifications in my functions.php to tweak things like reply links, parent comment links etc.
What’s more, there are a lot of features that I deliberately choose not to include because I don’t want to unnecessarily bloat up my WordPress blog. Examples for this include implementing a “voting” system for visitors to like or dislike comments as well as having a comment reward system where frequent users get badges based on different types of participation.
To be sure, third-party commenting systems like “Disqus” have these features but without seamless anonymous commenting, they’re useless to me. De:comments however aims to provide me with all of these features and yet allows me to keep them under my control. I don’t have to sacrifice easy guest commenting, and neither do I have to put up with a comment system that doesn’t neatly integrate into my website with its color schemes and CSS.
In addition, some people are concerned about storing their comments on a third-party server even though systems like Disqus and Livefyre create duplicate comments in the native WordPress database – so you still retain a copy in case you choose to revert back. But it’s the principle of the thing. Some individuals just like to retain complete control of their data. De:comments provides that by being a complete replacement for the native WordPress commenting system. Let’s take a look at its features.
Straight off the bat, de:comments significantly improves the commenting user experience by implementing Ajax-based comments – which means that visitors don’t need to refresh the page for their comment to appear. I’ve already written earlier about how to “Ajaxify” WordPress, particularly the comment section. But why have an extra plug-in that can potentially conflict with another component when it’s already built into the existing system?
As you can see in the screenshot above, submitting a comment generates a little circular scrolling icon during the posting process and after that, the page automatically scrolls down to the newly generated comment. Honestly, I don’t know why the WordPress platform hasn’t already built this capability into its native structure. But de:comments handles it very elegantly.
The Ajax capabilities also extend to comment moderation right on the page itself. Those with the requisite permissions, will see a gear icon on the bottom right of each comment allowing them to take appropriate action immediately from a quick list of drop-down options:
As before, none of this will lead to a page reload. It will simply happen magically on its own without any further action on your part.
Here’s yet another example of an inbuilt facility that would normally require a plug-in to implement. Over a year ago, I’d written about comment editing capabilities and how they would work with WordPress. De:comments however has them built right in without the need of any additional code.
In the configuration of the plug-in, you can choose the number of minutes within which a comment can be edited.
Unfortunately, this currently works only for logged in users. However, the plug-in author assures me that he’s working on including support for anonymous guests as well. Given what I’ve seen so far, it’ll be a very short time before this facility is available.
Still one more functionality that comes built-in. De:comments allows users to “+1” and “-1” comments that they like and dislike respectively. In addition, you can also turn off the negative voting feature in the configuration options. The interface for voting on comments is quite elegant:
De:comments has three options for pagination – “Previous/Next” buttons, a “Load more” option, and infinite scrolling.
In addition, a drop-down box at the top of the comment section allows you to sort comments by “Oldest”, “Newest”, and “Best”. It doesn’t always play well with the default sorting order that you set in the “Discussion” section of WordPress.
In order to really reward your community, de:comments ads badges for loyal commenters depending on the parameters. Currently, they are handed out for three types of activities – garnering likes, garnering dislikes, and writing a certain number of comments. You can see below that you can upload your own images as badges:
Like comment editing however, these are so far restricted only to logged in users, with facilities for guest badges coming soon. When this feature gets working properly, it will really make de:comments stand out from the other run-of-the-mill comment plug-ins out there.
De:comments has lots of components sharing the similar color – the divider, the text displaying the number of comments, the comment and reply buttons etc. If these don’t fit in with your theme, you don’t have to write your own CSS for each of them. Rather, a single control in the settings options changes the color for all of them at the same time.
By default, the color is a shade of yellow. But making the single change switches all components to your choice in one go:
This makes de:comments look like part of your site and not a plug-in that has been slapped on willy-nilly – unlike third-party commenting systems. The value of complete control and flexibility of a native plug-in with full CSS customization capabilities cannot be overestimated. After all, you want your comment section to look attractive – a place where people feel like spending time penning down their thoughts.
De:comments is rapidly on the road to replacing my default comments section as soon as the few wrinkles I’ve mentioned above are taken care of. A one-time fee of $50 gives you a permanent and sophisticated commenting plug-in that has the capability to replace at least 4 or 5 existing plug-ins in one go. It’s excellent value and I hope the author keeps up the momentum of his development efforts.
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