Commenting Systems

So recently, after writing my first post, it occurred to me that it would be rather nice to have a commenting system, so users could reply and interact. I originally thought I would use Disqus, a rather popular system, since I had used it before and it felt trivial to setup and use. However, I wanted to see if there was anything else.

I found quite a few systems, but my search was rather restricted as I wanted something that was hosted off of my server; something that was provided as an external service. I couldn't use something that required resources on my server due to potential future load issues.

After a bit of looking here and there, I noticed that most of the services that were available weren't very good at all. Then, I stumbled upon a curious platform named Muut.

At first, it all seemed rather nice. Automatic forums styled as comments, collapsible threads styled as independent conversations, and integrated search functionality. After going through it, I was hooked.

I immediately signed up, and as usual, started playing with all of the settings and configuration options until I felt satisfied. That's when the first issue came up.

Restrictive Payment Model

Their model meant that you really couldn't change much until you began on a paid plan. They had two "add-on" payment plans: Designer and Developer, meaning that you had to buy both in order to get all of the features of the platform. The Designer plan was 10 USD/month, or, if you billed yearly, 96 USD/year (a 20% annual discount). The Developer plan was 20 USD/month, or if you billed yearly, 192 USD/year.

To me at least, that seems like a ripoff.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have no issue with services that offer more when you pay. I realize that there are server and bandwidth costs to be paid, along with all of the hard work that people put in that ought to be rewarded. OTOH, I also believe that you shoudln't rip people off.

I think that services should provide a level of basic free service - but it should be something that really shows the value of your product. What you provide for free really ought to be a full product, with all of the standard functionality built in. It should integrate well with whatever it needs to work with, and it should feel seamless. You should be making money from providing unique, advanced functionality, in addition to the basic functionality.

In this case, that means the ability to select a color scheme that fits in with one's site or automatically matching the theme of the site. Integration is also key, but that's another issue on its own.

Bad Integration

So I setup Muut on my site, and added the JS embed to the footer. And it worked! At first, that is. After a while, I noticed all sorts of stupid errors starting to pop up. Here are a few:

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HTTP 403 Forbidden - excuse me? WTH guys?

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Muut requires jQuery 1.7+ - shouldn't you be including your own damn jQuery for these scenarios?

A Viable Solution

So I can't use Muut. Now what? Well, it's been a few years since I last took a look at the actual stuff over at Disqus. Damn, was I impressed.

I vaguely remembered that it was good, but I was impressed again. Not only is the entire platform free, they also have options to allow miscellaneous, mild advertising that you can make money from.

Also, the sheer configurability of the platform is astounding.

Anyways, so I decided to set it up. And it was trivial to set up, and it looks flawless. They even give special instructions that make it easy to setup with this blogging platform, Ghost.

Also, their embed code is written cleanly and clearly. This makes it easy to see what is happening and to make changes that affect the code.

All in all, Disqus is doing well for the simple reason that they provide an excellent platform. They are literally the only competent service provider for embedded comment and forum solutions, and they will likely remain so for the forseeable future.

Even if Muut does shape up in the future, I think it will be too late, because the simple concept of legacy means that everyone will already be using Disqus and because in that time Disqus will have added additional features and so forth.