This blog is, by no means, a heavy traffic blog that receives hundreds of comments. So managing comments is not one of my headaches! Akismet does a good job of filtering spam, and that is pretty much what I need for this blog.
I’ve been learning PHP lately (sounds off topic, but stay with me here). The project I’ve started, as a tool for learning PHP, is a blogging platform. Being just a study project, it is as simple as it can get. Posts are saved in text files – a la blosxom. PHP merely displays the posts in a readable/navigable manner.
In order to keep the project simple, I had no plans of implementing comments in the blogging platform. No database. I called it OnlyBlog.
As I became more and more familiar with these comment systems, I thought this WordPress blog could use enhanced comment system too. Immediately, the question was, IntenseDebate or Disqus? Since IntenseDebate is owned by Automattic, who also owns WordPress, I figured that IntenseDebate should be the best choice. Since then, comments on this blog are managed by IntenseDebate.
However, like many I came across the internet, I still haven’t found a good answer to the question IntenseDebate or Disqus? So I decided to read a little about both and do a fair comparison. Here’s what I found (note – this is in no way a comprehensive review or comparison of the comment systems):
I’ll start with the point of view of a blogger who uses one of the popular blogging platforms. Next, I’ll deal with the point of view of a developer who wants to integrate these comment systems into an unsupported blogging platform.
Blogger/Commenter point of view
Both Disqus and IntenseDebate have plug-ins for most of the popular blogging platforms – Disqus supports WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, MovableType, while IntenseDebate supports WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, and Tumblr . This makes installation and management of the comment system very easy.
I tried both on my WordPress blog. Both Disqus and IntenseDebate add elaborate configuration panels to the WordPress Dashboard, where you can customize their behavior in great detail. Both Disqus and IntenseDebate also imported the existing native WordPress comments into their own systems. In my case, IntenseDebate imported the comments flawlessly. Disqus, however, had some (unspecified) error during import and could import only a handful of comments – but that may just be the case with my blog. I’ll give Disqus another shot sometime soon, hopefully with better results.
Features of both comment systems are listed on their respective websites – Disqus / IntenseDebate. As you will find out, the features are comparable for all practical purposes. Both systems support threading of comments, notification when someone comments on your thread, the ability to reply by email, even moderate by email.
One of the things I like about both Disqus and IntenseDebate is that they provide a variety of ways to authenticate a commenter. A Disqus/IntenseDebate account is great, but not required – being registered on your blog is definitely required. Visitor can use OpenID, Twitter or Facebook to authenticate. I do prefer some kind of authentication, to a guest comment.
Here’s a couple of screenshots that show how the comment entry interface in the two comment systems looks when you are not logged in.
Pretty similar, isn’t it!
Even a not-so-busy blog like mine accumulates thousands of spam comments over period. Both Disqus and IntenseDebate have effective spam filters. I was happy to know that Akismet can be used on both the systems – since I was already using it before I switched to enhanced comments, and was loving it.
Again Disqus and IntenseDebate sport a similar comment moderation functionality. Comments can be edited, deleted, marked as spam, etc. They both support having multiple blogs under one account. This is very convenient if you manage multiple blogs. Like I mentioned before, comments can be moderated by replying to notification email with appropriate moderation command also.
For visitors who have a wide social presence, both systems allow cross posting to different social networks – a comment can be sent to Twitter, a comment can be put on your Facebook wall, etc.
From my experience, IntenseDebate only allows you to tweet your comment if you used Twitter to sign in. Disqus always provides you with this option, no matter how you signed in – I like that!
Both these comment systems are extremely feature rich, to the extent of being complicated. However, the documentation on both websites does not scale up to the level of complexity of the features. All features are listed with very few details. Specifics are left for you to figure out. It would be nice if the Twitter connection and the Facebook connection was documented in a little more detail – for the not-so-Web-2.0-savvy folks!
Developer point of view
I am not a hardcore developer, merely a PHP newbie trying to get my hands wet in the web-tech. So the developer point of view I present is specific to the little project I described above.
There are two aspects of commenting that I want to incorporate into the project – how the visitor enters comments and display of comment count on the index page.
It is neat to have a little comment count next to the blog post title on the index page. Both Disqus and IntenseDebate have ways to do this. This is one place I think a little more detailed documentation would greatly help. I could somehow get Disqus to do what I want. But I am still struggling with IntenseDebate. Both sites don’t make it clear on how to achieve this – what happened to good-old examples??
Asking IntenseDebate or Disqus? is like asking Coke or Pepsi?. People have their reasons to pick one over the other (although I don’t get why people drink Pepsi when there’s Coke!… well, see? ).
It is a matter of personal choice. What may seem like a minor feature missing may be a deal breaker for someone else. I use IntenseDebate on this WordPress blog, just because it worked out best. I don’t know how long it will stay – as new versions come out from Disqus and IntenseDebate.
If you are trying to decide between the two, it behooves you to at least try both. They are both free and easily available on most blogging platforms. And they are both awesome!
Incidentally, is there a third (or a fourth) hosted comment system out there waiting to be discovered?