Why I’m Loving the Livefyre Comments System

Livefyre comments systemRegular readers of this blog will have noticed the introduction of the Livefyre comment system.

While I’ve written in the past about my reasons to go back to the WordPress comments system, I saw Livefyre in use on a couple of blogs I enjoy and was intrigued enough to check the system out.

While it’s not perfect (and, to be fair, it’s still in beta), having used Livefyre for a week or so now, I’m really enjoying the experience.

So, what’s Livefyre comments all about then?

Comments and Community

On first inspection, Livefyre looks like much like the other main third-party comments systems (Disqus, IntenseDebate and Echo). Looking to combine real-time commenting with building a thriving blog community, Livefyre has all the usual requisites – threaded comments, voting, social sharing, etc.

But it’s when you start using Lifefyre that you can see the goal behind the company – to build a solid commenting community where everyone is “accountable” (this isn’t as Big Brother-ish as it sounds).

By not having the normal Name, Email and URL options, but instead letting you comment either by Twitter, Facebook or your own Livefyre account, the aim is to stop both comment trolls and spam, and improve the visitor experience to any blog with Livefyre installed.

At first, I wasn’t sure about this approach (and raised it in the comments over at the Livefyre blog). However, I can see what the Livefyre guys are trying to achieve with the non-open approach and I do applaud their goal.

And, I have to say, since installing Livefyre, my spam has been zero (I guess spam bots don’t have the patience to sign up for a dedicated account). So, in that respect, the Livefyre approach works.

Real-Time Chat and Replies

Similar to the system that both Disqus and Echo have, Livefyre offers a live comment stream that updates and refreshes as new entries are posted (using the same technology behind Friendfeed). Where Livefyre differs is with the “New Comment” notification bar that pops up when a new comment has been left.

As well as being a cool feature to let you know when someone’s left a new point of view, the immediate advantage this offers is the way that your comment system is now a true, live stream. Think of it as Twitter for blog comments.

When you see the notification, you can jump to the comment itself and hit Reply with your take. This looks similar to Twitter’s “@” option, and will reply directly to that person (or more – Livefyre supports multiple responses).

Livefyre real-time chat comments

If the commenter is still on the site, you can then start a back-and-forth debate all in real-time. Additionally, if the commenter signed in using their Twitter account, then the reply will ping back to them via Twitter and continue the conversation that way.

I’m already thinking of ways to implement this in some upcoming posts, but I think Livefyre’s onto a real winner with this feature.

Checking in to Comments

One of the very cool features that I like is the ability to check into a conversation. This is similar to being notified when a new comment is posted, but with one big difference – you can just follow the conversation without even checking the blog post out.

While this might go against the idea of blog commenting – how can you comment when you don’t know the topic? – it actually expands it. Think about it – you can be down your local sports bar and take part in a conversation about a game, without having seen it. That doesn’t matter – you know the topic and have your own views on the team, player(s), etc.

Livefyre’s check in option allows the same. Many bloggers (myself included) have bemoaned that the likes of Twitter and Facebook could be taking conversations away from your blog and over to these platforms. Sure, your post is being discussed, but unless you follow every outlet you won’t know where and who by.

With Livefyre’s check-in, folks that are connected to your readers can see the conversation that’s happening and jump in to discuss their point of view with their friends. While initially they might not read your post, the opportunity to do so grows with the conversation around it.

This, again, has the potential to be one of Livefyre’s defining benefits.

Other Features

As well as the three features I really like that I’ve highlighted above, Livefyre has a ton of other cool stuff up its sleeve. These include:

  • Comment voting and user reputation (and to give someone a negative vote, you have to use one of your positive votes – a great way to discourage flame wars).
  • Full SEO-friendliness.
  • On-page real-time moderation (Hide Comment or Delete – hide still keeps the comment, just not public, you have to click to open).
  • Ban abusive users.
  • Invite conversations with friends from other networks.
  • Multiple comment moderators and owners.
  • Ability to custom design your comments.
  • Live user count.
  • Email notification of new comments and replies.

So, by the sounds of it, Livefyre is the comment system everyone should use, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

Not Quite Perfect – Yet

Livefyre sign in optionsAs I mentioned earlier in the post, Livefyre doesn’t allow for generic Name, Email and URL commenting.

You can use Twitter or Facebook to sign up with if you don’t want to open a Livefyre account (though to get the best from Livefyre, an account definitely helps), but you can’t just use a name and email to comment.

While this is great for combating spam and trolls, it might put bloggers off (as well as commenters who don’t want to sign in with Twitter or Facebook, nor create a Livefyre account).

(To be fair, I had my reservations about a non-URL comment system, but so far I haven’t had any issues because of it.)

It doesn’t (currently) support the CommentLuv system either, which is a shame, as this is one of my all-time favourite comment add-ons. Having said that, though, Livefyre CEO Jordan Kretchmer has said he’d love to talk to Andy Bailey (the CommentLuv creator) to see what can be done.

Also, because you have the option to delete your comment (or restart it to correct mistakes), it can lead to duplicate comments. This is only in the blog dashboard, admittedly, but it can throw comment counts off until you delete the non-comment.

It also seems to share the same “bug” that Disqus often has, in that when you click on “Read Comments” (or similar) at the top of a blog post, you aren’t automatically taken to the comments area. However, this could be a bug that will be ironed out when Livefyre comes out its beta stage.

I’d also like to see some way that comments made on Twitter or Facebook (or other social networks) could be seamlessly transferred back to the blog post and into the bigger conversation for true social integration, as opposed to the social mentions approach that Disqus has. Livefyre have said they have some cool upcoming features, so who knows?

Should You Use Livefyre?

So, I guess the main question that’s left is should you use Livefyre when it’s out of beta?

As someone who’s previously spoken on why I don’t use third-party comment systems, I have to say Livefyre has changed my mind. Not only are all your comments saved to WordPress in case you want to change back, all the threaded discussions are saved as well, so the comments don’t look funky if you switch Livefyre off (something all too obvious when moving away from Disqus).

Also, while the idea of a velvet rope comment community seems at odds with “normal” open comments, Livefyre doesn’t actually feel like a closed community. With more than 500 million Facebook users, and 150 million Twitter users, even if you don’t want to create a Livefyre account you should be covered.

And the immediate effect on spam and comment trolls can’t be discounted (though I’ve been hugely fortunate with the great community here when it comes to comments and respect).

The system is also mobile-friendly, which isn’t always the case with other third-party systems (I tested with my BlackBerry browser and had no issues).

My take? If you like the idea of real-time chat and a comments system that fosters respect and accountability, as well as a ton of other cool features, Livefyre is the best third-party option around.

Even if you’re not a fan of anything but standard WordPress comments because of the “overkill” options that can happen with third-party comments, Livefyre offers a really clean solution that’s almost the next best thing to vanilla WordPress comments.

The service so far has also been awesome. Combine that with a pretty cool product, and you can’t ask for much more than that.

In that respect, I can’t recommend Livefyre enough.

If you’re interested in signing up for the beta of Livefyre Comments, hop on over to the homepage and you can request it there.

  • Note – Livefyre is currently available for the WordPress (self-hosted version) platform, with TypePad and Tumblr versions to follow.
  • Update: I’ve since reverted to the vanilla WordPress comments as part of my blog redesign.

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