Several months ago, I switched to a new blog commenting system called LiveFyre. It didn’t go over so well with readers. The main concern revolved around being required to create an account with LiveFyre, and with that came a few smaller issues, such as sign-in problems and difficulty figuring out how/why to create an account.
Shortly after installing LiveFyre, I removed it, even though I happened to really like the system personally. I was concerned with the hassle it seemed to be causing people who were dedicated readers here at bizchickblogs. However, I did state that I was going to bring it back at some point.
Last week at Blogworld, I had the chance to talk at length with Jordan Kretchmer, founder of LiveFyre, about the system and the improvements they have made over the past few months. LiveFyre had literally just been released when we installed it here (which surprises me; I can hardly be considered an early adopter when it comes to technology). Naturally, there were kinks to work out. They’ve been worked out now.
The time has come to switch back to LiveFyre, and this time I want to explain clearly why we are switching. This will likely be a permanent change here but I believe that you will come to love it. I think LiveFyre is headed in the right direction.
Please note, I am not encouraging you to switch to LiveFyre. I am explaining why I am doing so here.
The Main Factors in the Switch: Quality and Discussion
bizchickblogs is getting older, getting different, and while the readership in terms of traffic numbers is higher than ever, the quality of conversation is sliding. Not what you see, but what you don’t see.
- You don’t see all of the garbage comments that don’t get approved. I’m not talking about spambots. Just crappy comments for back links.
- You don’t see all of the conversation that could be happening but isn’t, and neither do I.
Although the poor quality comments are annoying enough at times to turn off commenting altogether, it’s the second point that’s most important to me. I want everyone to use the comments section, not just bloggers, and not just SEO-types looking for links. Commenting is discussion. That should be the primary focus, right?
One-time, drive-by commenting is not conversation. It doesn’t build relationships or really do all that much for us as bloggers, either. The whole point of LiveFyre is to facilitate a dialog between people. It’s quite unique in that way.
If you want to see an example of LiveFyre at work, check out Spinsucks.com, TheNextWeb.com, or Plagiarismtoday.com. Jordan told me that at first, he did have to convince blog owners to stick with it, because readers don’t like changes, especially changes in comment systems. But as you can see from those two blogs, LiveFyre truly is a great system for discussion and quality comments. Nothing more, nothing less.
Upsides and Downsides
Figure out what you want out of commenting. I know what that is.
I really like some of the things that the guy from whoishostingthis.com had to say about LiveFyre. There are some downsides. In his “Drawbacks of LiveFyre” section, Jonathan includes the sign-in requirement, moderation, and emphasis on real-time conversations as downsides (among a couple of other things). I’m with him on sign-in. It does suck to have to create an account or sign-in with Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. to leave a comment. That’s one thing that Disqus has over them, since Disqus does allow people to comment as guests.
However, even though it sucks, I consider the sign-in thing an upside. I don’t want bizchickblogs to be just like any other big blog. If you look at some of the larger sites, they are communities. People don’t mind signing in, because they consider themselves a part of a community. Some sites don’t even allow commenting by strangers – you literally have to audition to comment on them. I don’t want to take it that far, but ultimately bizchickblogs is headed in a different direction than a regular blog. We’re not close to there yet, but we’ll get there one change at a time.
Soon, we will be using the LiveFyre API to have a single sign-on. This means that you will be able to use LiveFyre to sign into bizchickblogs, so you won’t have to wrestle with two different accounts. Contributors, this is good news for you.
You should note that like Disqus, once you’re signed into LiveFyre, you can comment on any LiveFyre blog without having to sign in again. And, you don’t have to have a LiveFyre account. You can comment with your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, or OpenID accounts as well.
Thoughts on the future of blog commenting
Generally, I think you will start to see more and more bloggers switching from native commenting systems to external services like LiveFyre. A number of bloggers already use great services like Disqus. Switching commenting systems is a painful experience, especially for an established site (case in point: when Techcrunch switched to Facebook comments). There will be some kicking and screaming and some people may even leave.
The tough goodbye to CommentLuv
I LOVE CommentLuv, but I love discussion and quality comments more. LiveFyre doesn’t integrate with CommentLuv, so I had to choose between one or the other. There are some bloggers who will refuse to comment on blogs without CommentLuv. That’s unfortunate, and to that I just have to say, so be it. I used to strongly prefer CommentLuv-enabled blogs, too, and I believe that CommentLuv is a powerful resource for blog promotion. However, I am ultimately making a decision to improve comments, not to increase them.
I welcome your thoughts and comments on how the switch impacts CommentLuv, specifically. Also, your thoughts on Keyword Luv, something I have a love-hate relationship with.
With change comes the inevitable shift in readership
I want to encourage you who are regular contributors to stick it out during the change. This first half of 2011 (nearly over, hard to believe) was an incredible experiment in online publishing. I’ve learned a number of things about what drives traffic and what drives discussion and the two are not one in the same. For example, you don’t get to see the literally thousands of visitors we got from the post on LinkedIn, or how the silly post on pictures of Kate and Prince William’s wedding drive over 800 visits in just a few hours. I know now how to drive a ton of traffic. But traffic isn’t everything, it’s just one half of the goal.
The latter half of this year will be experiments in the marriage of traffic and discussion. Content is and will remain the most important part of this site. Without good content, there is no consistent readership anyway, so encouraging discussion would be a moot point. Starting in June, there will be an even stronger focus on content that entertains, encourages, and educates us.
With content taken care of, what’s left is the discussion part. I believe that LiveFyre is better than other systems at facilitating conversation. And, for a long time now, I’ve believed that the native WordPress comment system is inhibitive to readers who are not bloggers or website owners. I want everyone to feel like they have something to contribute, and to not be baffled by the ‘website’ field or various check boxes and things that make the comment section look too technical.
Final Point: Comment systems don’t drive comments. Content does.
At the end of the day, people will comment when they feel like commenting and not when they don’t. On sites that effectively squash trolls and selfish link seekers, you will notice hundreds of comments on some posts and hardly any on others. That’s the way it is.
Haven’t you ever been to a happy hour where some topics spark twenty minutes of dialog and others leave the table silent? I have. That’s the nature of discussion. Some things are worth talking about and others aren’t.
Certain systems inhibit comments and make it difficult to leave them and find out when others have left them. Others make it easier. I think LiveFyre makes it easier.
Contributors, you already enjoy great comments on your posts. I think you will come to find that LiveFyre will only enhance the conversation that is currently happening on your posts.
I welcome your thoughts and opinions! Thanks for reading and listening.
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