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Friday, June 9, 2023

New Comment System For Search Engine Land

Back when Search Engine Land launched, we used
TypeKey to manage our comments
system. Some people hated the system, but I
promised from the
start that it would eventually be replaced by something better. Today, that
finally happens. Comments at Search Engine Land are now being handled through
our own Sphinn discussion site. More about the
change below, which I hope people will like.

I love getting comments and feedback on stories here. Praise is great;
criticism tells us where to improve and contributions of facts and information
make our stories better. Whatever the comment, it shows someone cared enough
about what we do to say something. It is deeply appreciated.

We would get more comments if we didn’t have registration. I know this.
Unfortunately, without registration, there’s a spam issue. As I wrote about

I know how great it is to go to a blog and be able to comment quickly
without having to register. I know registration cuts into participation. I
know that there are systems to automatically catch comment spam. But I also
know registration is the absolute best way to keep comment spam under control.
I want to spend my time talking with people and ensuring they can contribute,
not policing the comment spam.

Since I wrote that in January, registration has indeed worked very well. We
only get a tiny amount of spam. Yes, I do know about filtering systems like
Akismet. Indeed, I know very well how over the past year it
has flagged comments I’ve made on a wide variety of blogs as
spam. The false positive rate may be low, but using that type of a system means
good stuff might get drowned in the flood of spam being held back. Registration
kills the spam dead without the false positive issue.

In addition, I feel like registration makes people more responsible. Want to
do a drive by slam against someone in a discussion? Sure, you could register an
account using a disposable email address. But having run discussion forums over
the years, I’ve also seen how people want to build their reputation as a
contributor or commenter. To me, registering for an account aids that.

Enter Sphinn. This is our social news sharing and discussion forums site that
we launched in beta last July. As I explained
back then, one of
the roles for Sphinn was to allow those on Search Engine Land itself to better
comment on our stories. We didn’t want to have conversations happening in the
Search Engine Land comment system that were disconnected from conversations
happening on our discussion site. It’s also hard for the editors to be
contributing in two different places.

What we’ve done today is shut off the old commenting system here. Instead, at
the bottom of each page, you’ll see a small frame that brings content from
Sphinn over to here. There are one of three cases you’ll see:

  • Not Yet Submitted To Sphinn: Not every story we write about
    warrants a submission to our Sphinn site. So, we’re not automatically putting
    our stories over there. We’ll largely leave it to the readers to decide if a
    story here is Sphinn-worthy. If you want to comment on a story, and it’s not
    yet on Sphinn, you’ll see a message inviting you to submit the story and then
    add your comment.
  • Submitted To Sphinn But No Comments: Some stories have already been
    submitted to Sphinn but no one may have commented about them yet. In that
    case, you won’t have to submit the story yourself. However, you will have to
    use Sphinn to leave a comment.
  • Comments On Sphinn: If a story is on Sphinn and has comments,
    you’ll see these flow inside a frame at the bottom of the stories here. You
    can see an example of this
    here. Using the
    frame isn’t the best system in the world, but it was the easiest way we found
    so far. We’ll keep looking to see if there’s a better way to flow comments
    over. If you don’t want to read comments by scrolling in the frame, just click
    on the Sphinn button, and you can jump over to see the comments more easily at
    Sphinn itself.

Comments made on the blog before the change are still being retained. What
happens is that you’ll either see them still on pages or you’ll see them first,
then any new comments made on Sphinn will appear below them.
Here’s an example of
that happening, for the curious.

As part of the change, we can’t show the number of comments received for a
story on the home page of the site, as we’ve done in the past. We’re looking to
see if we can restore this. Similarly, we can’t show a count in the author/date
area of story pages themselves, as we used to do. However, it’s less an issue
there. A very short scroll (or use the Jump To Comments link), and you’ll see if
there are comments posted.

My thanks to all of those who previously registered with the old commenting
system to contribute here, and my sincere apologies that you’ll have to register
again through Sphinn. There was no easy way to flow the old registrations over.

Finally, since we launched Sphinn, we’ve had a number of members there
wondering if there’s a way for comments at Sphinn to flow back to their own
blogs, similar to what we’re now doing here. We’re still working on that. If we
can do it without bringing down the Sphinn site, we’d certainly like to enable
that for everyone who wants it.

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