So You Deleted Your Comment… #TrueStory

Reddit captionIt really gets my goat when I write an amazingly witty retort to a comment on Reddit, only to find the comment I’m replying too has already been deleted by the time I hit “save”.

The world will never be able to appreciate the sheer genius of those replies. They simply don’t have the same impact when read out of context.

All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain…

#TrueStory #FirstWorldProblems

Explicit ‘href’ Problem With Facebook Comments

On all of our sites which are using Facebook comments we’re currently getting the following warning:

Warning: this comments plugin is operating in compatibility mode, but has no posts yet. Consider specifying an explicit ‘href’ as suggested in the comments plugin documentation to take advantage of all plugin features.

Facebook has (again) changed the code for displaying Facebook comments and wants it to look like this:

After the <body> tag:

<script>(function(d, s, id) {
  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];
  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;
  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;
  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1&appId=OURAPID";
  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);
}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Where you want your comments to appear HTML5 OR XFBML:

HTML5:

<div data-href="http://geekisawesome.com/2309/super-mario-earrings/"
data-num-posts="20" data-width="610"></div>

XFBML:

<fb:comments href="http://geekisawesome.com/2309/super-mario-earrings/"
num_posts="20" width="610"></fb:comments>

This is what we are currently using where the comments appear (XFBML):

url="http://geekisawesome.com/2309/super-mario-earrings/" numposts="60"
width="610" publish_feed="true" migrated="1">

If we move to the newer code it becomes:

<fb:comments href="http://geekisawesome.com/2309/super-mario-earrings/"
num_posts="20" width="610"></fb:comments>

It’s fairly obvious that FB is moving away from having the XID as the post identifier in favor of “href” but if we move to the new code then all of our comments disappear.

I’ve tried replacing the “url” with “href” in the old code, and passing “href” alongside “url” in the old code to no avail. It did result in the warning disappearing but at the expense of all the comments disappearing as well.

I’ve also tried passing the XID to the new code, XID with the post ID, adding the XID with “migrate=’1′” and numerous variations there of.

It appears to me that the only way to make the warning disappear is to switch over to the newer code which uses “href” instead of “url” and lose our comments in the process.

Obviously we don’t want to the lose the thousands of comments we’ve built up since switching to FB comments and we don’t want to move away from FB comments as they’ve provided a massive increase in interactivity on our sites, but this is an annoying problem.

Has anybody else come across or developed a solution for this yet? Am I missing something glaringly obvious?

Facebook’s Pattern Matching On Comment Moderation Sucks Ass

We’re using Facebook comments on some of our sites and it’s working great, commenting on those sites has increase immensely but I must say that the pattern matching for blacklisted words sucks royal ass.

We’re using the “standard Facebook restrictions” to keep things relatively clean but I have to wonder about that when I need to moderate comments that get caught by the filter because they contain words like (real examples): glasses, mass, pass and classic.

The problem? Each one of those common words contains the term “ass” somewhere inside the word. Surely Facebook could code a fix for this for this?

Forced Conformity: The Argument For Anonymity

Since TechCrunch switched to Facebook’s  revamped comment system, tech writers have been lining up to decry anonymity, heralding the (frankly, piss poor and mediocre – but that’s a subject for another post) commenting system as an end to trolls and suggesting that people are all cowards for wanting to comment anonymously.

I for one dislike anonymous comments. I’ve called many people cowards for not having the courage to post under their real names, but in my defense they were usually being offensive and trollish. I’ve never really had a problem with anonymous commenters that put forward solid, well thought out arguments. It’s the anonymous fuckwads I’ve always had a problem with.

I’m lucky. No seriously I am. I’ve always posted and blogged under my own name. This has been facilitated by a huge ego and superior attitude which makes harsh commentary ignorable without a second thought – like water off a ducks back, so to speak.

I have very rarely had to worry about a corporate overlord doing a search to find out if I’m politically aligned with their ideals before hiring me, and quite frankly am not worried about such things, I don’t say anything online that I wouldn’t say to your face. For years I have been fortunate enough to work on my own clock.

Unfortunately most people aren’t like me. Most people don’t have egos that dwarf common sense. Most people have to worry about what their employers might think. Most people aren’t forward/loud/egocentric enough to really feel comfortable saying what they really think. They worry about who they might offend or how their friends, family and co-workers would view them if they found out that they had a Furry fetish and wanted to be Justin Bieber.

There are a million legitimate reasons why people would feel the need to comment anonymously.

  • They don’t want family to find out about their illness.
  • They are trying to figure out their sexuality and aren’t yet ready for others to know or pass judgement
  • Their employers are Nazi’s
  • Abusive spouses

The list could go on and on. I’m sure you could think of 20 reasons why you might want to post anonymously.

Funnily enough, I think the reason most people want to post anonymously has nothing got to do with possible reprisals, it’s got to do with comfort.

Do you know why people like to wear masks? Do you know why people like to play World of Warcraft and other MMO’s where they have an avatar that they design representing them? It’s comfort. It’s escape. Most people aren’t comfortable being themselves.

By playing as an avatar or commenting under a pseudonym they get to escape reality. They get to say (and do) what they think and feel. They can express themselves in terms of the person they want to be, rather than who they are.

Admittedly for some people that person is a complete asshole, but that’s besides the point.

When people don’t feel comfortable they tend to conform.

The removal of anonymity actually creates a new kind of anonymity. The anonymity of conformity. Keep your head down, work hard, don’t get noticed. Conform. Be just like everyone else and your employer won’t notice, you won’t be embarrassed, you won’t stand out.

There’s very few of us who are actually put together mentally to deal with standing out. For those lacking egos the size of small moons, what’s left when you can’t be anonymous? To become a member of circle jerk, echo chamber of agreement? After all, what else are you going to do? If you dissent you’ll be noticed, so either agree and praise or shut the hell up.

That’s exactly what TechCrunch is seeing happening  to it’s comments section:

Many people are now leaving comments that gush about the subject of the article in an overly sycophantic way. It’s quite odd. The cold pricklies have turned to warm fuzzies.

I don’t know about you guys, but the idea of forcing everyone to comment with their real identity sounds a lot like forced conformity to me.

I hate trolls as much as the next blogger, but I’d rather put up with them than be faced with an internet full of insincere, scared, kiss arses.

Intelligent, free conversation is worth the price of a few bad apples.

Sorry Facebook. Paddy Says – No Can Do!

Irish Paddy“How’s it going there FB? How’s the health? Wife not getting you down? Good. Good.

C’mere to me FB. I’ve been looking at all them new buttons and wigdets and “like” things you sent us t’other day and I wanted to run a few things past ya. To yer face as it were, coz, ya know, I didn’t want you getting the wrong idea.

We’ve always had a fairly descent friendship you and I. I’ve scratched your back and you’ve scratched mine, so to speak. I’ve given you my personal details, me pictures, videos, duck eggs when you wanted them and encouraged folks to go join that club of yours. I’ve even spread the word about your club with fliers and with them wee share buttons and “follow” buttons for the pages I have and I’ve even looked at all that daft advertising on the wall and the side of the page to, you know, offset your costs for all them waiters you’ve got working for you. What? Oh Servers? Servers…  Sorry.

In return, well, you know I’d ‘ve been happy with a few pints, but instead you’ve sent me the bit of traffic here and there. You know, the old eyeballs that have followed them share things to my sites. ‘N that’s been grand and all. Don’t get me wrong, but this new comments box?

Seriously, ‘tween yourself and meself – Your having a joke right? A bit of a lark? Yer taking the piss expecting folks like meself to stick that up on me site?

Don’t interrupt will ya. Let me finish. I know that Aussie, Duncan Riley at the Inquisitr, has done it, but what do ya expect? He’s not from around here.  He’s Australian, what do they know ya bleedin eejit? It’s all them barbecued Koala’s they eat. Does funny things to a man… Not like a good leg of lamb and some spuds.. Anyway.. where was I? Oh yes…

Do ya really need all the comments that Geraldine and Patrick leave on the internets being pumped in to your system there? Don’t ya think there’s a better way, I mean, I put a lot of work into my site. Had some bloke says he knows S&M and A.D.D. tell me the work was top notch ‘n all. He also told me that I could use some weird Japanese yoke, an “import” of some sort,  to get the XXL and move my stuff and all of Ger and Patricks words to a new site like Touch Pad, er, Type Pad? Although why he’d be thinking I’d want to give me stuff to one of those womens products companies is beyond me?

Anyhow, if I did use your commenting thingy, would the XXL still work? Would the Japanese fella be able to get the lads writin out and put it elsewhere?

Don’t look at me like that boy! I know I’m just a thick, shimple, country Paddy to you. But this Mick doesn’t like givin’ up control of what he’s worked bloody hard to develop and foster. Just like I won’t be sellin ole Maureen over there. Hand reared her I did. Good milkin cow…

So seriously. Are you takin the piss or what? Coz, you know I like you, always has a few pints with yerself and the misses, but I can’t be doing that if I have to give up me data and can’t get it back. ‘Twould be like when we gave Ma to the nursing home and they lost her. Still paying for the room we are, and a bloody year gone by since they lost her.

And the S&M fella would feckin kill me…”

Why Ask A Question If People Can’t Answer?

gagged I’ve always believed that blogs were about conversation.

You put your ideas out there and people give you feedback. Sometimes they agree, sometimes they disagree, sometimes they end up ranting like a loon but you always have conversation.

Needless to say I’m one of those people who believe that a blog without the ability to comment, isn’t!

Sara posted a link to Psychology Today, where Satoshi Kanazawa was spouting conspiracy theories about the Joe “You Lie!” Wilson photograph published after he embarrassed himself during Obama’s recent speech.

The title of Kanazawas post was “Who took the picture of Joe Wilson? And how?” and the final sentence of the post was also a question. Yet for all their questioning, they don’t have anywhere for readers to respond. They don’t have a comment form.

My question is simple: Why ask people a question if you’re not going to give them the opportunity to respond?

Is it that they are:

  • Afraid of being wrong?
  • Afraid that someone will question their assumptions?
  • Too lazy to engage readers in conversation?
  • Pretending to be involved in social media while simply talking at, instead of to people?

Am I missing some other possible reasons?

Are you losing money because of your sites comment system?

Even though I’ve had some pretty strong (and not so strong) opinions to express, I’ve not been commenting on a lot of sites lately because they won’t let me leave my URL when I sign up to comment.

For example, I was going to comment on Urlesque today, but when I scrolled down to the comment form I was confronted with the following and promptly clicked off to another site:

PaulOFlaherty_com Image Capture #9 - 'Last Shot - Ninja Hamster - The Web Photo I Can't Stop Looking At - Urlesque - Internet Trends, Viral Videos, Memes and Web Culture' - www_urlesque_com_2009_06_24_ninja-hamster

Now that kind of a log in process in order to leave a comment, just pisses me off because I’ve always thought that the idea was to make it as easy as possible for readers to leave a comment.

Instead, the people at Urlesque (and others who have a similar system) expect you to jump through the hoops of not only leaving a comment, but then waiting for a verification email and that is probably before you hit the first time moderation queue.

I can understand why sites may implement such an archaic and difficult commenting process. They want to reduce spam levels and the more difficult they make it for someone to leave a comment the more likely it is that the comment is genuine and the less work they’ll have to do moderating.

However, this kind of system, especially one that doesn’t allow you to leave a link to your own website when you comment, is a cop-out of the lazy and fails to realize that user comments are worth money to a publisher.

As I see it, when you publish a blog post you enter into an exchange with your readers.

Imagine that your blog is a bar and that every Thursday night for 1 hour you offer either free or half price beer to your customers in order to entice them to come in.

Your blog itself is the premises.

Your post is the free or cheap beer which you are using the bring the customers in.

The idea is that you want them to come in and click on your advertising or in this case to buy shots to complement the cheap beer they are having.

So, at this point, it’s easy to get people to come in and drink your free beer, but what you really want is customers who will come back during the times that you’re not running promotions and will become regulars in the bar.

These customers are what makes every bar it’s real money and whether or not you realize, these customers are actually the people who leave comments on your blog.

Nobody wants to drink in an empty bar and a lot of people feel disinclined to comment on posts where most other folks haven’t. A blog with few comments looks un-trafficked and gives the impression that (despite the reality) it is of low-quality content.

The customers who come in when there are no promotions running may not spend a lot of money on shots (or in this case click adverts), but they make the place look busy and that entices others in who will buy the shots.

From a website point of view every comment left is yet another piece of text for the search engines to crawl which may also bring you long tail search engine traffic, leading to increased page views and increased revenue over time.

See where I’m going with this? The harder you make it for people to comment, the less likely they are to leave a comment. It has a knock-on effect. Less comments, less commenter’s because there is no sense of community, also less content for the search engines which means less search engine traffic, all of which leads to a decline in your long term revenue.

It’s not alcohol that keeps people coming back to the same pub all the time. Alcohol can be purchased in any pub and cheaper in a liquor store. It’s the community. It’s the people that they get to come in to after work and hang out with. It’s the people that they get to talk to.

This talk ranges from sports to personal life, but invariably these people share things with each other and get to know each other. Jim got a new car, Teresa shows of pictures of her sisters baby etc…

Except, on blogs where it is difficult to comment, there is very little community and on blogs where you can’t share your URL, those who do stick around long enough for a quick “nippy sweetie” after work can’t show off those pictures of their niece’s and nephews or grand kids.

By making commenting difficult and cutting off peoples means to share info about themselves (their URL) you reduce the level of community and stop people from becoming regulars before they walk in the door.

Empty seats don’t entice people in.

Bars can’t live without their regular customers and blogs can’t do it without their community.

My Biggest Flaw As A Blogger

My biggest flaw as a blogger is that I don’t comment enough on other blogs.

I read hundreds of blog posts a day and while I may have a reaction to them, I am usually too busy to comment on them.

Instead I either share them on my link blog and / or Twitter with every intention of revisiting them to comment.

I rarely get around to it.

Not commenting on other blogs is hurting me as a blogger.

While I may be sharing and twittering the content of bloggers that I follow and find interesting, I’m not a part of the conversation.

By not commenting, I’m not exposing myself to (no pun intended) the readers of the bloggers I follow. They, and the bloggers I follow, have little or no motivation to come to my blog because they don’t really know I exist.

After all, if you don’t speak up in a crowded room you will never be heard.

I’m also damaging my blog from a SERP point of view as ever comment not posted on another blog is one less incoming link for O’Flaherty.

Now I’ve shared my biggest flaw as a blogger with you, what’s yours?