A few weeks ago I wrote the first part of this article which you can find here. Hopefully this is lighter and less boring than the previous one! :D
Most of the plugins I mention in this article are used by me personally. There are also a few that I don’t use personally but feel that they may help you; I list them separately in this same article. Note that not every plugin I mention here is used on this blog; I have a few other blogs as well where I use them. ;)
4. Comment Plugins: There are different types of plugins you can use for your blog’s comment form; some enhance the comment form’s style, others add anti-spam captcha code to it in order to stop hackers, and yet others offer SEO benefits (to the commenters).
Regardless of what plugins you choose to use, I suggest that you avoid the ones that ask you to manually add PHP codes to your core theme files. The one big disadvantage of this method is that you would never be able to upgrade your theme in future; if you do, you would certainly lose all the theme customizations you have done and you would have to redo them all again! Talk about big waste of time! :D I have to confess that I have "missed out" on some of the coolest plugins out there, simply because they require theme code editing and I am too obstinate to budge! ;)
Instead, I would suggest that you look for plugins that work through widgets (best option) or shortcodes; while widgets work great in adding content to the sidebars (such as recent posts, calendar, archives, etc), shortcodes are great if you want to include "post-specific" stuff. For example, you may want to add a "Buy Now" button to some of your posts, but not all. In this case shortcodes can be of great help.
To add, you can find a huge list of plugins with "widget support" here.
One of the very first things you could do (and this is not specifically related to "blog comments" only) is to make all URLs in your blog content turn into hyperlinks automatically; this would save you tremendous amount of time that you might have otherwise spent on manually hyperlinking each URL.
There are basically two plugins for this job (as far as I know): Autolink URI (which works especially good on newer versions of WordPress), and Auto-hyperlink URLs (which can work on WordPress 2.0+, 2.1+, 2.2+, 2.3+, and 2.5+; I have not been able to make it work on a blog running on WP 2.9, but feel free to test it yourself; personally I am biased in favor of Autolink URI ;) ).
If you DO NOT want the links in comments to be automatically hyperlinked (you might want to do it in order to reduce comment spam), you can use the Remove Links in Comments plugin side by side. As an example, Youtube.com is one site which turns all links you put in the comment body into plain text URLs (AFAIK).
If you want all external links (applies to both the links in your posts and comments) to open in new browser windows, you can use the Target Blank In Posts And Comments plugin. I don’t think it has been updated for a while, but anyway it works fine even on my WP 2.9 blog. ;) If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that all external links of this blog (that is, links to domains other than ArindamChakraborty.com) open in new browser windows. ;)
WARNING: However, I ask that you read the web accessibility guidelines on NOT opening new windows and also make sure you know about your country’s laws on the same, BEFORE using the plugin! For example, recently I read on a public forum that in Britain it is illegal to design a site which is not accessible to users with a disability; if the disabled visitor wants s/he can sue you and you might end up paying a considerable fine…!
If you are a UK citizen you may also want to read the following:
The Disability Discrimination Act, 1995 (this act actually mentions what I just said above)
The Disability Discrimination Act, 2005 (this is an updated version of the above act; feel free to check it out for any amendments)
And, some web accessibility guidelines (in case you have to follow them):
Worst case scenario, if you have to really remove the "target_blank" from all external links of your blog in future, it is as easy as deactivating the plugin! This is much better than manually replacing the "target_blank" attribute of each link in your post content with "target_self". ;)
They say that honesty is the best policy (of course, reality is very different, but that is quite another story), so if you want your commenters to know how their comments could be used by you, you can use the Comment License plugin. Despite the fact that it is supposed to be compatible only up to WP 2.5 (according to the plugin author) I have managed to make it work on a 2.8.4 blog; however, I am yet to use it on a 2.9 or 3.0 blog! :D
Once you install the plugin it would add the following license text at the end of your blog’s comment form (in fact, if you scroll down below you will see the same text here as well, provided that commenting is not closed for this article ;) )
"By submitting a comment here you grant me a perpetual license to reproduce your words and submitted name/web site in attribution."
Needless to say, you can change the above text in any way you like by clicking on "Settings=>Comment License" in your blog, or just keep it "as is" :)
Coming to SEO, Lucia’s Linky Love is a good way to reward your loyal commenters by removing the Nofollow attributes from their links once they have posted an "X" number of comments on your blog (YOU define the "X"). You can be very generous and Dofollow a commenter once they have posted a comment, or you can be a bad guy like me and ask for 3 nice comments before you give them the dofollow. ;) Pretty neat, and needless to say that I use it on this blog. However, note that this is an UNSUPPORTETD PLUGIN!
Later on I would discuss an SEO plugin which also includes the functionality of Linky Love (although I am yet to experience it in action, coz the blog where I use it is very new, with no comments :D ).
BTW, one way to keep away comment spammers is by NOT rewarding commenters with DOFollow, haha => read this post from the author of that plugin. :D.
Two plugins which can attract both spammers and genuine commenters (I used to get more spammers than genuine readers anyway, the reason why I stopped using them) are CommentLuv and KeywordLuv. Use them at your own risk! ;)
Don’t believe me? Just type keyword luv in Google. The following site should come up in the results page:
Click on the link and you will see the following notice:
"COMMENT WARNING: Please read my comment policy below
This blog is no longer DoFollow
You are seeing this message because you arrived at this site from a webpage containing "keyword+luv" in the URL. Although this may be a valid, it may also be an indication that you are a potential comment spammer…."
Here is a screenshot of the warning, in case things change later on (click on the image for a larger view):
Now if you want to know the name of the plugin that blogger is using, then you MUST read this entire boring article! :D However, one thing worth mentioning is that if the plugin author is facing the problem of spam, apparently because of that plugin, who are we anyway (kidding)? ;) In my humble opinion, the easier solution is to nip the problem of spam in the bud by avoiding those two plugins. :)
No Curly Quotes is one plugin which is a MUST-HAVE, regardless of whether you allow comments on your blog or not. WordPress has a bad habit of turning commas and double quotes into "curly quotes" (kinda like the smart quotes of Microsoft Word™, in case you are familiar with them).
These curly quotes not only deform the post titles badly, but also mess with the content of your posts terribly. This plugin helps you get rid of these nasty quotes! :D According to the plugin author, it is compatible only up to WP 2.8.4; however I have tested it successfully even on a WP 2.9 blog!
NoOldSpamLinks might be useful if you are "paid" to post on your blog (for example, paid product reviews). From the plugin author’s description:
"Today brings a flood of announcements that Google has knocked down many blog Page Ranks. This is thought to be due to a number of factors including excess numbers of paid posts. So, it is natural that I should hurry up and update "No Old Spam Links", the plugin that lets you automatically "nofollow" sponsored posts after your contractual obligation to "follow" has expired. In principle, this plugin may help protect your PR. In practice? Matt Cutts has never commented on "Text links and PageRank" and is likely unaware of it. So, who knows?"
Personally, even I am not sure how far would this plugin help "save your website’s pagerank™", but hey I have never actually used the plugin as "getting paid to post" is not my cup of tea! ;)
Install Subscribe to Comments plugin and let visitors follow your blog comments (whether or not they have commented on your blog). From the plugin’s description:
"Subscribe to Comments is a robust plugin that enables commenters to sign up for e-mail notification of subsequent entries. The plugin includes a full-featured subscription manager that your commenters can use to unsubscribe to certain posts, block all notifications, or even change their notification e-mail address!"
Note that this works only on a "per-post" basis. To see a demo, click here to comment on this article. You will find a checkbox on the comment form: "Notify me of followup comments via e-mail". If you wish to comment AND also follow all the subsequently comments to this entry, then check that option!
On the other hand, if you want to follow all the comments of this post WITHOUT posting a comment, scroll down below and you will see the text "Subscribe without commenting" – enter your email address in the box located under that text and you are done! :)
Personally I would appreciate if you post a nice comment on my blog before leaving, but it is really up to you! ;)
Already bored? Wait, I have many more things to tell you before I let you go! :D
Have you ever thought of rewarding your loyal commenters? Sure you can manually count the number of comments posted by each commenter and list the top commenters on a separate page, but life becomes a lot easier for you if you automate the entire process by using the Top Commentators Widget plugin! :D
How you choose to reward the commenters is up to you. To get started, activate the plugin, then click on "Appearance=>Widgets" option to find and add the widget to your blog’s sidebar. As soon as you do this you will be presented with a set of options you can customize according to your needs! Below I will tell you about how I have customized some of the options of the plugin:
a) Show in home page only?: No
Reason: Self-explanatory. I want each and every visitor to know about my loyal commenters, not just those who visit my blog’s homepage. In other words, regardless of the page the visitor lands on, s/he WILL see the list of top commenters! ;)
b) Display Gravatar?: No
Reason: In the past, I had the experience of Gravatars messing with the layout of my blog! :(
These are just two of the several options the widget offers. Also, these are not hard and fast rules; let me repeat, you are free to customize the widget according to your needs! You don’t need to follow the Nuttie Guru. ;)
If you have ever commented/replied to a comment on a video at Youtube.com you will see four different options to choose from: "Reply", "Vote Up", "Vote Down", and "Flag for Spam". The "Reply" option is in-built in WordPress by default, and the Comment Rating plugin lets you add the other two functions: "Vote Up", and "Vote Down". Basically, this plugin makes "user moderated comments" possible. ;)
From the plugin’s description:
"If you’re tired of moderating readers’ comments on your blog, stop doing that and let your readers decide which comment deserves to be shown. If you’re getting outrageous comments on your blog, don’t get too angry yet. Let’s see how many readers feel the same. You can do these tasks (and more) with the Comment Rating plugin.
Comment Rating makes "user moderated content" possible…Poorly rated comments (too many Dislikes, not enough Likes) can be hidden in a click-to-see link, just like those on Digg. Highly-rated comments (a lot Likes and few Dislikes) can be highlighted. Hotly-debated comments (many Likes and Dislikes) can also be highlighted to draw more attention, to fan more votes and comments."
However, unlike the plugin author, I would not ask you not to moderate comments at all; if you are too lazy, at least moderate the user’s first comment (most of the time, you will know from the first comment whether the user is a genuine commenter or a spammer).
Comment Warning is one plugin I have not used yet, but this is what the plugin does (from the plugin description):
"Comment Warning is a plugin for blogs that currently use a DoFollow plugin, or have used such a plugin in the past. It detects visitors arriving from URLs that indicate that they are likely to be potential comment spammers and ‘warns’ them of the blog’s comment policy".
Just in case you were wondering, this is the same plugin being used at http://www.scratch99.com/wordpress-plugin-keywordluv/ to display that warning notice! ;)
Another plugin I have not had time to use yet is the Contact Commenter plugin. The plugin’s description says:
"This Plugin lets you send email messages to individual or a group of commenters.".
I am not sure if the plugin includes an unsubscribe link in the mailings you send out; if not, then you would be better off not sending commercial emails to your commenters. :)
I think you already know about Greg’s Comment Length Limiter plugin from the first part of this article. In short, if you want to stop folks from posting very long comments (in order to prevent the comments from overshadowing the main blog entry by virtue of their length), you can use this plugin. On one of my blogs I have set the comment length limit to just 2500 characters, but you may set any character limit you want!
Ozh’ Absolute Comments is a very neat plugin. It makes replying to users’ comments more convenient for you, the author of the entry. From the plugin’s description:
"Reply instantly to comments, either from the email notification, or the usual Comments page, without loading the post first."
Note that (at least in my case) the plugin does not add the @commenter’s name in the reply form when I reply to a comment from the main dashboard (that is /wp-admin/) but it does so when I reply to comments from the comments page (that is, /wp-admin/edit-comments.php).
WP-CommentNavi: From the plugin’s description:
"Adds a more advanced paging navigation for your comments to your WordPress 2.7 and above blog."
This is one plugin I have not used yet, because I am not sure what extra functionality it adds to the default comment pagination offered by WordPress (look under "Settings=>Discussion=>Other comment settings" for options to customize your default comment display settings).
In spite of this I mention this plugin because I don’t claim to know-it-all; maybe there is some cool functionality in the plugin that I might have missed out on – after all it is one of the most popular comment plugins if the stats of Wardress’s official plugin directory are to be believed. Of course I would certainly appreciate if you could point me in the right direction! :) Perhaps the clues are here? ;)
Some plugins that did not work for me:
On one of my blogs I wanted to let commenters edit their own comments. For this I tried 3 different plugins. Unfortunately however, none of them worked for me:
Especially for AJAX edit comments (which probably you won’t find in the officially plugin repository of WordPress, for it has recently become a "paid plugin"; btw, here are I am talking only about the "free" version of the plugin, as I have ZERO experience with the paid version), the jquery takes a considerable amount of time to load, so that you won’t even notice the link to edit comments as well as the countdown timer, until a few minuets have passed!
This would not have been a bad thing if the plugin showed some sort of "Ajax loading gif" image while the jquery would load, so that people would know that their comment would be loading in a few minutes.
From what I have experienced, if I (as a registered user) post a comment and leave the blog immediately or browse to some other posts of the same blog, I would never see the comment editing screen (it could be a plugin bug or a problem specific to the theme I am using), and thus would not know that I have the option to edit my comments for a few minutes! :(
Ajax Comment Preview is a different avatar altogether. I can only speak from my experience of installing it on WP 2.9. As soon as I activated it the admin dashboard went blank! I had to delete the plugin via FTP in order to get my dashboard back. :(
I don’t really want to badmouth any of the free plugins, because I believe the developers spend considerable time in developing a plugin, and then it needs to be updated constantly in order to make it compatible with the newest version of WordPress. Not a very easy job for them, I am sure; to add, they don’t get paid for it either!
However, I thought that when I am telling you about comment plugins I should also tell you about these two for they are very popular in their own category, and when I mentioned them, it would be unfair if I don’t share my experiences regarding the plugins with you! ;)
Another plugin that is supposed to serve the same purpose (but did not work for me) is Edit Comments XT plugin; however, it can be "excused" based on the fact that it is compatible only up to WP 2.2.1!
NOTE: One thing I would like to warn you about is: apart from your core theme files (not all themes are made equal, however), comment plugins are often the major culprits behind the slow loading of a blog. Building a beautiful blog is of no use if it takes excessive time to load! You would lose at least half of your visitors because online surfers have very little patience (and to add, not every household is lucky to have a broadband connection either).
Also I have heard that Google™ may lower the quality score of a landing page if it loads too slow (if you want you can read the article here, but it won’t apply to you unless you are an Adwords™ advertiser)
If you think your blog is loading too slow, here are some of the things you could do to troubleshoot the issue:
Step 1: If you have the Bad Behavior plugin installed on your blog, deactivate it temporality, else external bots won’t be able to access and check your blog! Once you have tested your blog’s speed, you can re-activate Bad Behavior again!
Step 2: Visit http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/, enter your blog’s URL in the "Enter URL to diagnose" box, and click on "Submit Query"!
You can then visit your blog’s home page and click on "View=>Page Source" (I suggest Firefox for this as it shows the source code in an easy-to-read, colorful format), check for the scripts that are causing problems by using the "Find" function (to display the "Find" box, you can press CTRL+F on your keyboard).
Maybe I did not make any sense to you? :D
Let us say that the name of the culprit script that is causing your blog to load slowly is: xxx.js. So you visit your blog’s homepage as a guest and click on "View=>Page Source" option from your browser’s menu bar. Once the source code is displayed, click on CTRL+F to display the "Find" box. Next put "xxx.js" (without quotes) in that box. The script’s name would be highlighted in green color. Thus you would be able to pinpoint the culprit plugin and get rid of it easily! :)
Step 4: Log back into your blog as admin, deactivate the culprit plugin and re-activate bad behavior plugin again!
Hopefully you won’t mind posting a nice comment below. ;)
To be continued…