Drupal Comments: A Look at the Options

Posted: March 11, 2013 under Drupal

The comment system that is included with Drupal, while getting the basic task done, isn't really the best solution for most sites that accept comments. Fortunately, there are some very good alternatives.

Now you may be saying to yourself, "I love Drupal comments! What's wrong with them?" If you're in that crowd, that's cool. You don't have to change anything. Like I said, the comments that come with Drupal are perfectly adequate as a basic commenting system. 

But if you're looking to upgrade the comments on your site, then I have some suggestions for you. 

The Basic Problem with Drupal Comments

How many accounts do you have on the various websites that you have visited? Loads, I'll bet. You've probably forgotten about more of those accounts than you actually use on a regular basis.

For each Drupal site using the built in comments, users will likely need to create yet another account if they want to contribute their thoughts. For someone groggily reviewing your post over their morning coffee, this might be a bit too much. So, a potential comment lost.

For me, this is the main downside of using Drupal comments, but there are other issues as well. Social media integration, spam control and resulting low user engagement are some other problems that come to mind.

Let's start with a couple of really easy ways to improve your comments and then get into other options that require a bit more work, but may be the right choice for your site.

Disqus and Livefyre

These two services each provide modules that allow you to add their comment system to your site. They solve the user login issue by allowing commenters to sign in using social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and Google.

When a user logs in using a social media account, their picture appears in the comments along with a link to their profile and a history of other comments they have made, even those on other sites. In essence, it provides great context to anyone reading the comments.

Instead of anonymity, your readers will be able to understand who exactly the commenter is and how much weight to attribute to what they said on the topic (at least for those using social media to login, more on this later).

Below is a screenshot of a comment I made recently on the SystemSeed site which uses Disqus. Notice the thumbnail and hyperlink on my name. I authenticated using Twitter and now anyone who happens by can see a bit about me as well as the others making comments. (Totally unrelated, but the post below introduced a cool Twitter module if you're interested.)

Disqus comments

Livefyre is a direct competitor to Disqus and its module (and service) offers very similar functionality. It has built in spam protection, social integration and a centralized dashboard for managing your accounts.

The bottom line is that both services make comment management easier while also increasing reader engagement. You get easy social media integration to boot. Pretty darn good, I'd say. Which one is best? It's probably a draw. If you like underdogs, maybe give Livefyre a try.

Other Options

While those two services are very popular, they aren't the only game in town. One really interesting service that also provides improved comments is Gigya. The module integrates with their service, which has a lot more to it than just comments. Definitely worth a look.

You could also roll your own solution. You'll likely need a collection of modules like Social Login, Mollom and Easy Social to get the job done, but it's definitely an option for those who don't want to use a third party service for their comments.

Who Are You to Talk?

Perhaps the irony of a post on comments appearing on a site that doesn't actually use comments hasn't escaped you. I should explain since I occasionally get contacted about this, usually from people who I'd really love to hear an opinion from. (Update: I now use moderated comments)

The best way to explain my views on comments is to point to a recent article by Jon Udell on Wired. It's a great post that you should take time to read. 

To date, I've made around 1400 tweets, a bunch of Google+ posts, stuff on Facebook, etc. In all that time, I've only had one person be blatantly rude to me. I wish I could say that about the comments I used to receive on this blog. Much worse was when trolls attacked other commenters. I don't know, maybe my blog attracts a bad element (present company excluded, of course).

But I think the real reason for the difference, which was explained in Udell's article, is that social media generally doesn't allow anonymous users. You have to identify yourself, thus providing a strong disincentive to exposing your inner troll. It seems some people are perfectly fine with being an asshole, they just don't want to be known as such.

The point in the article about commenters owning their content is also excellent. Talk about a way to radically improve the quality of online discussion! It's a really exciting idea.

Despite my own reservations about comments, I think they can work great for most sites, particularly those with an active blog. But keep in mind that services like Disqus and Livefyre, while encouraging self-identification, do allow anonymous comments. If you don't mind the occasional trolls, they're very good options that can save you time and improve your site.

About the Author

John Hannah

I’m John Hannah, a front end developer at Lullabot . When I'm not building websites, I travel as much as possible and enjoy hanging out with my wonderful family. My favorite place to spend my coffee breaks is Twitter, so please feel free to connect with me there.