Blog Comments and Experimentation – Or Why @Livefyre Is Here to Stay

So, if you’re a regular reader of this blog (and thank you!), I think I owe you an apology for any dizziness I may have caused you in the last couple of months.

As a regular visitor, you’ll know that I’ve been experimenting with what comment system to go with – native WordPress (in use for the last couple of weeks), Disqus (in use for about 6 weeks prior to that), or Livefyre (in use again now, and a system I’ve raved about many a time).

The reason for this was simple – user experience here is key. You take the time out of your day to come and spend some time here, when you could be choose from a million other blogs at that given time.

For that, I thank you. And to extend that thanks, if you like, I want to try and make your stay here as enjoyable and user-friendly as I can.

That’s the reason behind choosing the Genesis framework and the Optimal child theme (affiliate links). Since activating them a few months back, folks have been kind enough to comment on the easy navigation, and the responsive design makes it very easy to read on mobile browsers.

That user experience extends into the comments – I want to encourage you to share your thoughts, and extend the conversation beyond the post and with each other.

This is kind of where native WordPress comments falls down, and leaves both Livefyre and Disqus ahead. All you need do is compare a post where there are a lot of comment threads, and you can soon get lost with native WordPress, wondering who’s replying to who.

Not so much Livefyre and Disqus, where you can clearly see the thread and who the conversation is aimed at.

And, for a while, I was thinking of sticking with Disqus as I experimented with the new 2012 version – it’s very slick. Community comments, popular conversations elsewhere and a beautiful interface make it a very tempting platform. And yet…

Here we are, back with Livefyre, and this time it’s for keeps, for a few simple reasons.

Livefyre Support is Awesome

If there’s one area that Livefyre excels at, it’s their customer support and community support team. It must be a culture they have over there – from Jenna Langer to Jeremy Hicks, and current Community Manager supreme Dhara Mistry, Livefyre clearly encourages interaction at a very high level.

While I was experimenting, I had some issues on switching Livefyre back on, due to a minor conflict with Disqus and some WordPress avatars. I also couldn’t fully sync comments over that have been left during my activation of Disqus.

Step up Livefyre, and Dhara and her team of engineers.

Dhara Mistry

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They worked way beyond what any support would normally offer and ensured all the glitches were fixed. Not only that, Dhara kept me up-to-date at every touchpoint, and even recommended I hold off until they locked down a fix for my specific needs.

All this while rolling out a brand new version of their commenting system, as well as fielding questions and support tickets from users with Livefyre currently installed on their sites.

This kind of service and constant communication is a huge factor for me when it comes to any business, and the fact Livefyre don’t even charge the majority of its users, yet still offer that kind of support? I’m sold.

Livefyre Is The Natural Evolution of Blog Commenting

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been a rabid fan of Livefyre since it launched, and was one of the early users of the platform.

I love its real-time chat system as well as the social media integration of conversations from Twitter and Facebook, as well as the ability to share across multiple networks.

But that was Livefyre back then – the recently-released beta version of Livefyre 3 shows you exactly where this platform is heading, and I love it. You want your blog comments to be truly social and interactive? Check out what Livefyre has for you.

Social Comments Integrated

Livefyre social comments

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With the previous version of Livefyre, they already had a pretty cool way to bring conversations from Twitter and Facebook into your comments section. If someone tweeted about your post, and added extra commentary, or it was shared on specific Facebook Pages, these would be pulled into the post at the end of the comments.

Now, however, they fall neatly into the comment stream itself, based on timestamp. And, if you reply back via the comment, it goes back to Twitter automatically, to answer the person that shared. Further conversations continue to fall back into your comments – very cool.

Rich Text Editor

Livefyre rich text editor

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One of the biggest “gripes” of the previous version of Livefyre was the inability to make your comment more dynamic. While the likes of WordPress and Disqus allowed you to drop HTML in to add bold, italic or other font edits, Livefyre was stuck with its standard font.

Not any more. Now you have a rich text editor that allows you to choose bold font, italic, underscore, insert a hyeprlink, bulleted lists and numbered lists.

Additionally, and one that a lot of commenters and bloggers were asking for, is the ability to edit your comment if you make a mistake. However, this only works if the blogger with admin duties enables this feature on Livefyre.

It may be small changes, but these features make comments more dynamic and highlight the parts that need to be highlighted.

Livefyre Supports Rich Media

Probably one of my favourite new features is the way Livefyre 3 truly turns your comments into a fully-fledged multimedia experience.

Normally, when you leave a comment on other blogs that don’t have Livefyre, and you want to show a video or image, you have to grab the link to YouTube or Flickr, and then the reader of your comment has to click through to see what the video or image is.

Not with Livefyre.

Instead, they keep your readers engaged on your blog by embedding the rich media directly into the comments area.

Livefyre rich media embed

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Currently supported platforms include YouTube and Vimeo (video), Flickr and Instagram (images), Slideshare (presentations), SoundCloud and Spotify (music), animated GIFs from MySpace and Wikipedia (the articles appear in-stream).

To show this media content, simply grab the URL of its parent page and drop alongside your comments, and Livefyre does the rest. It’s pretty damn cool and can make for a very entertaining comments section.

Livefyre and Multi-Site Admin

One of the new features that came out before the current beta version of Livefyre 3 was the revamped admin area for bloggers.

Livefyre Site Moderation

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Now, instead of having to hunt through reams of comments to filter one out, you can search directly by username, IP address, if it was a user logged in via Twitter or Facebook, keywords, and much more.

You can choose to do this while having all your sites open, or just one domain at a time. You can also quickly check if any comments have been filtered into pending or spam, ensuring all comments you want approved are done so.

It’s a slicker version of the previous admin area and a very welcome addition to the product.

So Is Livefyre Perfect?

Is anything? Okay, I know, glib answer and I apologize, because we all know Jessica Alba is perfect… Moving on!

As I mentioned, Livefyre 3 is currently in beta, so the version being used on blogs currently is one that will experience some hiccups as the platform moves into a wider public release.

Some of the current glitches, from my own use and conversations I’ve seen online, include:

  • The SocialSync tagging doesn’t always work the way it should, meaning you can’t tag your friends on Facebook and Twitter (by using the “@” symbol and then typing their name until it appears). For a social commenting system, this is a core part of Livefyre’s appeal.
  • Sometimes it looks like there’s no comment box, whereas it’s just Livefyre rendering. The load time has been improved from the previous Livefyre, but could sill be optimized further.
  • Styling Livefyre to suit your blog design requires CSS, and not every blogger is comfortable with this. The advantage of Disqus in this respect is it inherits the font, style and design from your blog, so should match up every time.
  • It’d be great to see your commenters’ activity across the web without having to click on their profile. A lightbox when hovering over the username would be great, and encourage commenters to visit other blogs in the Livefyre family.

In fairness, the last two are personal choices as opposed to glitches, but I feel they’d make the platform even more complete than it is currently, and its current iteration is pretty damned impressive.

So, Livefyre Is Here to Stay Then?

As I mentioned at the start of the post, if you’ve felt a little dizzy recently with the comment system changes, I apologize. But it’s the last time it should happen.

I’ve been an early supporter of Livefyre and the platform has continued to grow way beyond its potential from its early days. That continues to be the case as new features and slicker processes get added, and it’s definitely my commenting platform of choice.

Mind you, I have to take my hat off to Disqus – they’ve really upped the game with Disqus 2012, and the interface and integration is very slick. Plus, they also sent out a very fun Welcome package of Disqus goodies – thanks, guys!

But, I have to say, Livefyre just feels what a comments system should be – live, interactive, media-rich, socially-enabled and much more. Simply put, it feels like home.

And, as a blogger, that’s all I can ever ask for from a comments system. Here’s to the conversation.

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