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This article was published on May 21, 2010

Are you chasing your blog audience away?

Are you chasing your blog audience away?

SoapboxI was reading a blog post today and was wanting to comment when the site asked me to register. To register? Create an account? That’s a bit 2000, not 2010. ZDNet’s Tom Forenski will never know what I thought about his piece on corporates and social networking. The registration hurdle stopped me in my tracks.

Commenting is at the very essence of blogging. The jump from publisher of content (“Here’s an article”) to curator of a content community (“Here’s an article, let’s discuss”) heralded the beginning of today’s social web.

In this post I will explore half a dozen “back to basics” features that your blog’s commenting should include to encourage engagement amongst your reader community.

Make commenting a single step process
This is the single most important point in this post. I don’t want to create another account with another set of credentials. A few fields and a “submit” button and I’m willing to share my insight with you. More than one click and some popups, and I’ve left your site before I’ve posted my comment.

ZDNet popup
When I hit this popup, I browsed onwards.

Actually, I tweeted a link and commented in the tweet – good for me, bad for ZDNet who lost out on the opportunity to engage with me.

Let me authenticate using existing web services
Let me identify myself using my Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo or OpenID login. A lot of users already have these and, in a lot of cases, may already be logged into those services. Quick click click and I’m commenting.

The Next Web comments
The Next Web

Encourage conversation
A long string of comments under a single article can be interesting, but some of the nuance that exists in conversation can get lost. Introduce threaded replies and all of a sudden the comments forum resembles a real conversation. Much better.

Use Gravatar
Gravatar is one of the unheralded workhorse services of the web. Use my email address to pick up my gravatar and the comments look better already. WordPress even integrates Gravatar into the package, there’s really no excuse.

Threaded comments, Gravatar
Threaded comments with Gravatar avatars beside them.

Share comments more broadly
Obviously I want the world to see how insightful I am, otherwise I wouldn’t be commenting in the first place. Make it a simple click for me to post my comment into my Twitter stream, Facebook profile or LinkedIn profile. As an added benefit, I become an advocate of your content and drive traffic to the article.

Get rid of the spam
I don’t want to see dozens of spurious comments which are generated by bots to promote their links. Or long ASCII text comments punting pharmaceuticals. Filter them out or delete them – just get rid of them before they get rid of me.

There are already web services which do a lot of these things, which leads me to…

Use an existing web service
Why are you building something that someone else has already built anyway? Disqus and IntenseDebate have ready made widgets that you can embed into your blog. You get all these features, and a few more. Readers get a place to aggregate comments they’ve made across the web. Give considerable thought as to whether these services meet your requirements before building your own.

Disqus comment form, the picture is sourced from Gravatar and I can choose to share via Twitter

— oo —

For Tom Forenski’s benefit… I thought your article was interesting. Sir Martin’s concept of the “right thing” was a bit sentimental. We live in a capitalist world and someone has to pay for Facebook. I’m willing to accept some marketing in return for the service. If the marketing gets too invasive, I’ll leave the service. That’s the balancing act that Facebook, and other services, need to get right.

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