Today there’s been some discussion of commenting in the Drupal, and tech, communities - with a consensus that 3rd party comment systems may be the route to better user contributed content.
Dries Buytaert, Drupal project lead, started the discussion with a blog post What I Want For My Website, in which he laments the poor quality of many comments, let alone the spam:
My favorite websites are those where the quality of the comments exceed the quality of the actual posts. I think there is much more that can be done to improve the quality of content on websites.
For example, I often wish I could tell people that their comments are poorly written or formatted before they even submitted it. It would be nice if more comments used proper capitalization and punctuation like we learned it in school. Or better yet, imagine having a service that estimates the added value of any new comment, or that somehow encourages thoughtfulness and constructive debate.
He says this may be a future service that Mollom could address, providing an external API that websites could feed comments through to get a rating of quality:
we already compute an overall quality score for each comment. It is also exposed by our APIs but we don’t use it in the plugins/modules yet (it is too experimental still). If you want to play with it though, let us know.
Boris Mann, just a few days before, blogged a detailed review of some existing Distributed Commenting Systems: Disqus, Echo and IntenseDebate.
He says his favourite system is IntenseDebate, from Automattic - but that a module to integrate it is not yet available for Drupal. (Anyone interested can see the IntenseDebate developer docs). There are Drupal modules available to integrate both Disqus and Echo.
By the end of his review Boris was frustrated at the lack of a good distributed commenting system for Drupal:
I just realized after re-reading the Disqus module description, that it will *import* comments from Drupal, but it does not then write those comments back to the native comment system. So, in Drupal, we have zero options for a distributed comment system that writes back / syncs with native comments.
In the comments there’s also a reference to the Salmon protocol. The project’s homepage says:
Salmon aims to define a standard protocol for comments and annotations to swim upstream to original update sources – and spawn more commentary in a virtuous cycle. It’s open, decentralized, abuse resistant, and user centric.
It sounds ideal for a project like Drupal - including the fact that it is open source, but it’s just a protocol and needs a lot of work to develop a commenting system on top of it.
But another distributed commenting solution is on its way. TechCrunch reports that a startup called Livefyre plans to launch a distributed comments service, and it looks like a smart solution. Built on top of the Tornado system open-sourced by Facebook after acquiring Friendfeed, the service uses the XMPP standard to enable realtime distributed commenting.
But where it gets interesting is not just in the distributed nature of the service, but in the way that it goes further to solve the problems of bad comments. TechCrunch writes:
Like other commenting systems, Livefyre is using up and down votes on individual comments — but with a twist. Each commenter has a Livefyre account (which they can set up using Facebook Connect, Twitter, etc — it’s simple), and tied to that account is a point system. When a user leaves a comment that others deem to be good, they earn a point. If it’s bad, they may lose a point. These point totals are kept across the system.
But here’s where things get interesting. In order to dish out a down vote, you give up one of your own points. This is how they will stop commenters from flaming other commenters, Kretchmer says. And it’s not just that. There will still be the ability to leave anonymous comments, but these comments will still be tied to your Livefyre account (users just won’t be able to see who the commenter is), so the point system will still be in place behind the scenes.
Paul Carr from TechCrunch interviews Jordan Kretchmenr, the CEO of LiveFyre:
The private beta of Livefyre opens on the 14th July, and you can find info at www.livefyre.com.
Social media is all about the discussion, and Drupal is positioning itself as the ideal platform for this - so it would be great to lead the way to a better commenting system, something that Wordpress currently seems to have a lead with, through their acquisition of IntenseDebate.