I’m sticking with Disqus. Here’s Why

Posted on Mar 7, 2011 | 262 comments


I’ve written before about my love for Disqus. I’m not an investor – I just love the product.

So now Facebook has a new commenting system. They’ve been around for a while and when they first announced this initiative I knew the day would come when people would start saying, “should I replace Disqus?” I started telling people privately that I thought Google should buy Disqus for the same reasons Facebook wants to own commenting in the first place. Commenting on topical blogs is a form of topical social networking in the same way that Quora is. It’s a highly engaged audience and the content generated from many of the blogs (not all) are highly valuable.

TechCrunch switched from Disqus to Facebook. This had generated a ton of posts both for and against. I’m too busy this week to find all the links for you but a quick Google or TechCrunch search should reveal many.

So should I switch? Me thinks, not. Here’s why:

1. I still heart Disqus
If you use any standard commenting system on your blog or website you’re sub-optimizing engagement. What I get at Disqus (longer explanation in the thread linked in first sentence) is a highly engaged audience that can respond to me or each other in a threaded conversation with real people. Many of the people who post use real names, real pictures and have links back to a website. I think it’s something like 40-50% of all respondents are registered with Disqus. The reality is that I’ve gotten to “know” many people who comment on my blog when they are registered. I see their faces all the time and their names. I often click on a link of somebody new to see who they are.

Disqus emails me when somebody puts a comment on the blog or when I put a comment on somebody else’s Disqus blog and if somebody responds to me. So I never have to go back and check.  I have a log of these. Disqus gives me other things like the ability to shut off commenting after a set number of days. I like this because I don’t want to constantly go back and check comments for articles I wrote a year ago and to be honest if I leave them open for longer than 30 days is when spam starts to creep in.

2. I’m not looking for comment links out of context into my or anybody else’s Facebook stream
I don’t like the idea of pushing my comments into Facebook or Twitter. I know Robert Scoble says people don’t care whether they do or don’t. That may be. But I’m not one of the people who “doesn’t care.” I’m one of they guys who signed up for Facebook when they told me it was a private place to communicate with my friends & family. I set up a BothSidesoftheTable Facebook account so that I don’t have to “spam” my F&F with business stuff. They want to know about when my son scores a goal (ok, probably not) not when I’m debating somebody online about the future of social networks.

And I am one of those who is concerns about Facebook overreach into the rest of my life. I’m not a Facebook hater, to the contrary. But I don’t want it becoming the web. I want it to be a part of the web. Not the part that has its tentacles into my blog and is linking comments back into social graphs. I’ll skip any extra traffic that might have generated for me to preserve my reputation of not spamming people inadvertently with comments.

3. Yes, I hate anonymity
I understand the TechCrunch problem. I hate seeing all the trolls there, too. I personally hate when people hide behind anonymity. I occasionally take on controversial topics or make bold statements. I try not to be too offensive when I say something that friends might disagree with. But I will say them under my personal name and stand publicly behind anything I do say. If I have an opinion I’m both willing to share and willing to be challenged. I’ve written about this topic before.

I’ve been persuaded recently that there is a middle ground. I’m interested in the topic of “reputation management” as espoused by Honestly.com.  The idea is that people may have reasons for being anonymous (e.g. some employers don’t want employees leaving comments on some topics) and yet we could still know that a commenter has a high reputation. Maybe commenting systems could sort by reputation? Maybe Disqus could integrate with Honestly? Maybe we could filter at a blog level to say, “no commenters who don’t expose their names OR have a honestly reputation score above X.”

4. But I don’t currently have a big troll problem
In the rare instances where I get a troll I’m able to delete their comment and block them by email address or IP address. I’ve done this 3 times in 2 years. I get that TechCrunch had this problem, I don’t think most of us do. So I’m willing to live with the benefits I get of my beloved Disqus commenting system rather than throwing more to Facebook.

5. If I did I’d prefer to see Disqus solve them
I think if I did start to develop a problem I’d rather get Disqus to fix the problems with new tools (easier to block people, new rules for who can comment, integration with reputation management systems, whatever). I want to stay independent. I hope others will, too.

6. Maybe Google should just buy Disqus?
More broadly I’ve been saying since the date of the first Facebook announcement about commenting systems (maybe a year ago?) that Google should just buy Disqus cuz I saw this battle coming. Disqus is a “social network at the blog or topic level” in the say that Quora is. Disqus has tens of millions of registered users. Disqus communities are highly engaged. Disqus users talk to each other frequently around similar topics. Disqus is my vision for the future of social networking in which we gather around audiences to have social networks rather than one big blob where I mix pictures of my kids with debates about NoSQL vs. MongoDB.

What think you, oh loyal Disqus / BothSidesoftheTable commenters? Feedback welcome. In my Disqus comments system.

  • http://www.michaellockyear.com michael lockyear

    # 7 – If you access the web from behind a corporate proxy, there is a good chance that FB is blocked, in which case it is not possible to make a comment or even see other comments.

  • http://obscurelyfamous.com Daniel Ha

    Agreed! The best tools can’t substitute for a nicely maintained community. I think where tools help is to provide best practices. When volume becomes an issue, on very active communities, the tools of the platform makes the difference to cultivating the right community.

    Love the thoughts; much appreciated. :)

  • http://obscurelyfamous.com Daniel Ha

    yup, we do. :)

  • http://hirethoughts.blogspot.com Donna Brewington White

    Major Disqus fan and happy to see this becoming more of a social network platform in itself. It’s been quite a pleasure to watch the product’s evolution over the past couple of years. Daniel and team are doing a lot of right things right and one of these is their responsiveness and engaged presence.

    The other day I commented on your TC Bieber post, but immediately deleted the comment when I realized I could comment on Disqus instead over at Both Sides!

    BTW, was nice to see you at the Montgomery Tech Conference if only from a distance.

  • http://hirethoughts.blogspot.com Donna Brewington White

    But they don’t know what you look like and neither do I! I’m half-expecting you to look like your avatar when we finally do meet. Won’t matter. Hi Dave.

  • http://hirethoughts.blogspot.com Donna Brewington White

    Does anyone know how Disqus earns revenue?

  • Anonymous

    Mark I totally agree with you about the Facebook Stream. I still see Facebook as a place for my personal friends not business associates. Some business people have becomes friends and get added but vary rarely. Linkedin and Twitter seem to be business tools so if I did want my comments to appear somewhere it might be there but then again I would want that to be my choice. Thats what Disqus gives me. A choice. I can login with a random Disqus account to login with my Twitter account to stand by my statements.

    To overcome this I know Facebook is trying to add the grouping function where you get added to a group if you like it or not and can create you own so only certain updates go to certain people but all that admin on most profile with already 300+ friends is tedious and annoying.

    At the end of the day if a user wants to hide their name then its up to them. Not everyone is in a position where they can risk their job to stand up for their values but even doing it anonymously is at least better than doing nothing.

  • http://www.victusspiritus.com/ Mark Essel

    Is your new startup related to Jellyfish :)?

    Reference for those that haven’t seen it:
    http://twitter.com/dalmaer/status/39741872914046976

  • http://lmframework.com David Semeria

    Hi Mark. Yes, Jellyfish is the tech platform for the startup. I wanted to do the opposite of “fail fast” !!

  • http://www.victusspiritus.com/ Mark Essel

    It took me a little time to get my head around, armies of web workers. Now to guessing the need it will best nourish

  • http://lmframework.com David Semeria

    No need to guess – just drop me a line!

  • Dave W Baldwin

    Ah Luke, we do have the answer. Simple matter of a few generals getting their brain around it…. forest thru the trees.

  • Dave W Baldwin

    You are right Rich. At this point, Disqus does archive your comments. If we support Disqus, maybe that will enable them to reach that next pinnacle which falls into the category of communicative/collaborative in real time.

    Back when, I drew a simple graph that uses my product moving toward the ‘Plaza’. In the Plaza, you have the Newstand (Media), Coffeeshop (Speakeasy) and Storefront (Retail).

    Those that cannot see forward wouldn’t understand the Coffeeshop represents connecting comments (random) made about keyword (you, other, subject) that would be presented to you and/or searched for. This ‘rough’ idea insinuates tentacles that match the User’s habits, some want gossip, others info on a product and so on.

    Doing this also delivers a different round of markateable data showing “what’s hot” along with (related to my bigger game plane) human data useful for the machine to learn.

    In the end, not to piss off funders/developers, thinking Fbook has ownership of the User is wrong…

  • Dave W Baldwin

    Don’t know if you saw this Donna- Kaspar Robot for Autism http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110308/ap_on_hi_te/eu_med_autism_robots;_ylt=AtSM7ctqR99G4ARcsqa3imms0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFoMXFuZ3FuBHBvcwMxMjkEc2VjA2FjY29yZGlvbl90ZWNobm9sb2d5BHNsawNrYXNwYXJ0aGVmcmk- the cost on this is something that could be used throughout the nation(s) regarding income levels.

  • http://twitter.com/rrohan189 rrohan189

    Thanks for the tip, Mark! Will try it..

    And will keep you posted.. via Disqus! ;-)

  • Anonymous

    Totally agree!

  • http://www.kidmercuryblog.com kidmercury

    neither. i’m more interested in livefyre’s open source comment solution. comments have to run with deep integration with the CMS. when commercial ventures run disqus, facebook, or other 3rd party comemnt systems, they are giving away their most valuable asset. the usability these tools offer is great and important, but serious publishers (i.e. publishers building a business) need to consider ways to achieve the usability while still having deep CMS integration and control over the user profile. disqus’ API is sorely lacking (at least it was last time i checked, though that leads me to think tehir development midnset is not “API first,” which i view as a negative) but even if it was legit, there are still trust issues. really needs to start open source, and then build the cloud stuff later on an opt-in basis.

    but on the current trajectory, if it is going to be disqus vs facebook, both going for mass market and using javascript and owning the cloud, i think facebook is going to win. that is facebook’s game.

    disqus should launch their own CMS. i don’t know if that constitutes a pivot but they do need to switch gears on their strategy significantly in my opinion.

  • http://twitter.com/chapleywatson Chapley Watson

    Why hasn’t anyone just came up with a 1 stop shop for commenting? Like bringing in all of the social networks and allowing you to post from either one? I haven’t looked if there really are any solutions out there like that and, if not, then I probably just gave away a million dollar idea, but I don’t care… I’d much rather have this “disqus” like commenting iface with the option of signing in via twitter, fb, etc.

    I really dislike what Techcrunch did my switching over.

  • Anonymous

    I have grave reservations with Disqus and their management policy. When they operated the vote up and vote down policy on Endgadget it was great, Trolls would get voted out of existence.

    From what I understand about Disqus they appear to be hands off content wise. They, however seem to be okay with deleting someone when a request is put to them directly via phone without checking up on who the actual caller is, in my opinion.

    That leaves a very bad taste in my mouth personally and I will be avoiding all sites that they manage from now on.

  • http://technbiz.blogspot.com paramendra

    Google should buy Disqus. I said that not long after @Disqus launched.

  • http://rocrastination.com/ Ro Gupta

    Hi. To be clear, Disqus provides a lot of tools but we don’t make these decisions http://docs.disqus.com/help/25/. Our publishers manage moderation for their own communities.

  • http://rocrastination.com/ Ro Gupta

    Hi, Kid. We do allow integration with publishers’ own user reg/profile systems: http://docs.disqus.com/developers/sso/.

    Re: our API, we launched v3 a few months ago: http://disqus.com/api which is pretty extensive and growing, and we power our own site off it. Not sure if you’ve seen but let me know what you think is lacking.

  • http://hirethoughts.blogspot.com Donna Brewington White

    Hey Dave — Thanks. Not sure I follow — do you mean the cost comparison from UK to U.S. being translated over to COL differentials (translated to income differentials) between the two, and so forth?

  • Dave W Baldwin

    No, just an interesting tool that is low cost. Being able to produce it at a little over $2,100 is something that can be worked with.

    I’m going to share with our Autism Center at SEMO State University since we serve kids throughout the region, including the bottom of your state.

    The product I’m not pushing hard at this moment would fit more into Aspergers Syndrome, working toward the mid level Autism.

  • http://www.kidmercuryblog.com kidmercury

    Oh wow i did not know you offered integration with publishers own reg
    system. That is a huge deal for me, glad to see you guys offering it. Will
    check it out.

  • http://hirethoughts.blogspot.com Donna Brewington White

    My bad — was way off — working late at my desk on a compensation director search so that’s where my head’s at.

    Did think the robot seemed pretty amazing.

    Interestingly, a previous client (was CTO/co-founder of startup) has developed a robot to provide companionship to the elderly and is billing it as a medical device.

  • Dave W Baldwin

    Good. That other thing mentioned above would place an unbelievable amount of intelligence in conversation, no matter how random… plus it would be a lot less in cost at the start.

    Good luck with director thing…

  • http://www.eqentia.com William Mougayar

    It’s interesting that we’re using TC as a leading indicator of the “battle for the commenting systems”.

    There are 2 different issues. 1) Facebook over-reach, 2) TC’s commenting problems. Both are problematic and put together even more troubling.

    Facebook is extending their reach, flexing their muscles and showing their ogre appetite. For some, the Facebook commenting extension will make sense, but TC was the last place I thought would implement it. I honestly did a double-take when I first saw it. I thought (or perhaps wished) that Disqus was down, and they had switched to FB commenting temporarily.

    Second, we know TC’s comments used to be a bizarre bazaar, to say the least. You couldn’t make a half-decent comment without being attacked by trolls on silly things.

    So, TC wanted to silence the trolls (MG Siegler admitted it http://techcrunch.com/2011/03/06/techcrunch-facebook-comments/), but switching to FB was the wrong decision, akin throwing the baby with the bath water. The comments there are now so sterile, it will probably start to hurt their traffic soon.

    I know that Daniel values anonymity in commenting (as he mentions here), but isn’t there a way to force real identities if the site owner chose to in Disqus? That way, hyperactive sites like TC could still use Disqus, preserve the authenticity of commenting, while keeping the trolls at bay.

  • http://twitter.com/Joshen5252 JoshuaAnsellMcKinnon

    Well put. Keeping different networks separate is important. The merger of our networks is a building blob ready to explode. When engaging online we communicate different messages with different people. Separation and management of multiple networks online is going to be a huge step in social media.

  • http://kristian.tumblr.com/ KristianHansen

    Its been an awesome couple of years watching Disqus grow its user-base and product.

    I am happy that I was able to work with Jason at the point of their initial financing post-Ycombinator. The concept has evolved in my understanding, but remains true to its core of providing a shared platform for airing opinions.

    Google would be an interesting twist – but I think the company can stand on its own without an acquisition. I do not see any other major competitor at this point which provides a more robust system.

    If and/or when it is time to sell, I hope the company sells on its own terms.

    Kudos to the Disqus Team!

  • http://twitter.com/korzhuka Billy Old

    cool

  • Dave W Baldwin

    Good job not mentioning the competition in your reply. Get the feeling some try to make things too complicated (not kidmercury directly)… just expand on your strengths and don’t get trapped in the fb pit.

  • Dave W Baldwin

    Agree with you Kristian… Disqus needs to do the M or A thing down the road on their terms looking forward.

  • http://www.missi.com/ Peter Beddows

    “but isn’t there a way to force real identities if the site owner chose to in Disqus?” Exactly the question that needs to be answered but has not been answered by their switch to Fb from DISQUS.

    Isn’t it odd how often we – as a culture at large -hastily co-opt solutions to “symptoms” without first fully considering the impact/consequences instead solving the actual problem? You’ve stated the situation well here.

  • Joshentg

    Awesome!

  • http://RichGriese.NET/about Rich Griese

    Dear Dave,

    Of course it is possible, since if you go to anyone “recent activity” page you basically the data I am talking about. BTW… the first step I might make to make the service more appealing is not delete a moderated post on a persons actively page. For example. If I make a post on blog X, and they don’t publish it on their page, it will not show up if you visit my Activity tab on my Disqus page. This seems like a very poor decision on Disqus part. It is part of my activity. This is indicating that Disqus is viewing the world not from the poster’s view, but from the owner of the blog you post on. It’s almost s if they are saying that the “owner” of the text is where you post them, not who posts them. Why should a post I make on a blog that the blog decides not to post on their page NOT show up on my recent activity? It is my activity?

    But, this is an additional idea that what I am trying to put forward in my original comment. It is critical that Disqus allow someone to access their own posts, so that they can display them on their home page, or back them or, or… do whatever you feel like doing with your stuff.

    Cheers!

  • Dave W Baldwin

    True and the tech is coming that way allowing ease of storage, manuveur, send and reverse. From my side, it is advanced AI that can do things faster than humans and learning from their ‘human’ what he/she intends.

    IMO, Disqus needs to simply start engaging with the customer and, HEY(!)why not establish a ‘File 13′ that is your posts that didn’t get published…calling it that adds some humor.

    We’ll keep in touch.

  • Dave W Baldwin

    Ro, a fellow named Rich below is concerned with making sure all posts submitted to Disqus are archived, published or not… here is part of my response-

    “IMO, Disqus needs to simply start engaging with the customer and, HEY(!)why not establish a ‘File 13′ that is your posts that didn’t get published…calling it that adds some humor.”

  • http://www.eqentia.com William Mougayar

    Thanks. Maybe Daniel will chime in.

  • http://www.crashutah.com/about John

    The thing I hate most about Disqus is the reason you have 2 Facebook accounts. Disqus assumes that we have one online profile that we want to use everywhere. However, I don’t want my VC/Entrepreneurship comments mixing with my favorite TV show comments, etc. So, it’s not necessarily an argument to use Facebook instead of Disqus, but an argument against using either of them.

    Thus, why I don’t use any of the multiple Disqus accounts I created. At least until me Fast User Switch between my the various online profiles that I want to use.

  • http://rocrastination.com/ Ro Gupta

    Hi John – we’ve considered something like this. How exactly would you want it to work

  • http://rocrastination.com/ Ro Gupta

    hm; where and how would you see this showing up

  • Dave W Baldwin

    If there is an actual volume of turned down posts per moderator/blogger, then you need a place for those posts to go.

    I used ‘File 13′ as an off the cuff example using humor… “You’ve been 13’d”…

    As you move forward, there is a likelihood of some bloggers posting something that will get turned down and then they’ll brag about it on their blog… “I’ve been 13’d”. It shakes things up a little AND will increase your customer base since those ‘malicious’ bloggers will probably want to use Disqus also.

    As said above, off the cuff.

  • http://x.co/J9cm PortablePay – PhoPay – PhoPal

    I prefer Disqus over the FB comments’ system just adopted (e.g.) by TechCrunch

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  • http://www.webbizideas.com/services/web-design/social-networking.html John Baldwin

    Well, Disqus is much more user friendly, IMO. Disqus comment engine’s development for the past few years are quite good as well. As if to prove Disqus’s popularity and dependability, a lot of websites and social network sites are starting to switch to Disqus. In my personal experience, it’s much faster and less hassle for me, compared to other comment boxes. It’s much easier for me to join a conversation if the blog comments are powered by Disqus.

  • http://www.scanman.com.au/ ground penetrating radar

    I really don’t mind if Disqus dev join hands w/ Google they would work together and could surely bring in some awesome stuff.

  • John Smith

    Disqus has my vote.

  • http://twitter.com/ToottiFrootti ToottiFrootti

    MongoDB is NoSQL

  • Doppelganger

    Interesting…I had the same reaction when I used the facebook commenting system on TechCrunch and had a couple of random peoples’ replies post on my fb wall. They weren’t rude or anything, but it was kind of…creepy…to have these strangers pop up on what fb once promised was a place just for your social network; it’s like walking into your house and seeing a strange (albeit friendly) dude unexpectedly sitting on your sofa.

    Regarding anonymity: I think you could do a reputation/non-anonymous filter IFF you start all new users as a 5 in reputation and make it theirs to lose. Otherwise you pretty much force people to post non-anonymously, and I think (despite popular opinion) there are still many reasons to be anonymous online outside of trolling. As long as comments can be read anonymously, then I think that is enough justification to allow posting anonymously.