Introducing Hybrid Commenting (Or Why You Need to Keep Experimenting On Your Blog)

For the last four and a half years, I’ve primarily used the Livefyre Comments system for conversations after each post.

It’s no surprise my usage of Livefyre lasted so long – after all, I’ve written numerous times about how their service is second-to-none, and how their social integration is bringing content creators one step closer to closing the loop on the fragmentation of social conversations.

However, as much as I love Livefyre, I’ve decided to change the way we interact with each other here. This isn’t to say Livefyre has any issues – far from it.

But, as I’ve written before, we need to be aware of changing trends and preferences when it comes to how people consume our content, and this comes down to the comments as well as the content itself.

Hence the decision to go with hybrid comments here, using a mix of Google+ Comments and Inline Comments. Here’s why, and how you can use it for your preferred interactions.

The Medium Is the Owner of the Message

A slight riff on Canadian media legend Marshall McLuhan’s famous “the media is the message” quote, the conversations around a blog post are no longer the sole domain of the blog post itself.

Instead of comments happening after the post, and after the post alone, now conversations and discussions are happening everywhere, from Twitter to LinkedIn Groups, from forums to Facebook, and – increasingly – on Google+.

While I wasn’t a fan of Google+ originally for thoughtful discussion, that changed around 12 months or so ago, as I cleared out a lot of the people I had been following, and made it a more eclectic collection of people, thoughts and interests.

Now, as much as I love comments on a blog post being on the blog so people can see everything in one place, I’m also seeing fascinating discussions around posts on Google+ – moreso than on Livefyre, where many comments would be from long-time community members.

Nothing wrong with this, but it did mean I was missing out on a lot of stimulating and challenging conversations on Google+.

Couple that with the fact that I’m seeing more traffic and interest from Google+ than before, it makes sense to switch out Livefyre for Google+ Comments, which is what you’ll see from now on at the bottom of each post.

But, like the post title says, I’m experimenting with hybrid commenting, so I’m not just limiting interactions to Google+ (given that many folks still don’t use Google+ regularly, if at all).

The Medium Approach to Comments

Ever since content platform Medium was launched in 2012, I’ve been a huge fan of much of their approach to content presentation and consumption.

For example, the design of this blog is very much an homage to the large feature image at the top of every post. The single column content approach here is also inspired by how Medium presents content, focusing the reader on the content and not distracting anyone with noisy sidebars.

But it’s Medium’s approach to comments that I probably love the most, and am implementing as the second part of the hybrid offering here.

Instead of leaving all the comments to the end of the post, Medium instead offers Notes which can be posted immediately alongside a paragraph or sentence. The beauty of this is the comment is instantly contextual, and about a very specific part of the post, as opposed to the more general comments that can appear in end-of-post comment boxes.

Given that my goal in 2015 is to make this blog an even more personal-led content channel, versus a marketing or social media-led blog, using this approach makes much more sense.

To that end, I’ve installed the Inline Comments plugin by Kevin Weber. This allows you to post a comment simply by using your name and email, and it’ll appear alongside the exact prose you’re leaving the comment about. An example can be seen below (click to expand).

Blog Comments and the Future of Social Conversations

As you can see, there’s a little comment bubble with the number “12” to the right of the main content. Click that, and the conversation happening around that specific paragraph is there.

Context is the connector between content and great comments. Make sure you're fostering contextual discussions.Click To Tweet

It’s a clean, elegant way to interact. Most importantly, it’s contextual which, for me, is what great content and discussions are all about.

So How Do You Choose Which to Use?

Which system you prefer to use – Google+ or Inline Comments – is entirely down to your own preference. If you’re a regular Google+ user, then the G+ Comments at the end of the post would probably make more sense.

If you’re more about native WordPress comments, and keeping things simple (without the need to have a Google+ account), then obviously the Inline Comments would make more sense.

Both will give you instant notification when I, or another commenter, replies. On Google+, you’ll get an email to your Gmail account, and with Inline Comments, you’ll receive an email from me notifying you of any new replies to your comment. You can also subscribe to all comments, if you wish – just choose that option at the bottom of the Inline Comments area.

There are some things to keep in mind while I experiment with this set-up.

  • Inline Comments and my theme have a slight conflict at the moment, which means you’ll be taken to the top of the post when you leave a comment, as opposed to staying where you are on the page, and the comment loading through Ajax scripting.
  • Inline Comments aren’t mobile at the moment, so if you’re reading this post on your phone, you won’t see the Inline Comment bubble.

Hopefully, these are just minor quibbles that don’t impact your experience here if you want to try Inline Comments. Kevin, the developer, has advised he’s implementing a major uphaul of the plugin soon, so issues like these can be addressed.

In the meantime, if you want to leave an Inline Comment, and you’re reading on a desktop browser, you’ll see the comment bubble fade in as you scroll down the page. Simply click that where you want to leave a comment (I’ll leave some examples for you to see).

I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes, and please, do share your thoughts on this hybrid approach (either in Google+ at the end of the post, or through an Inline Comment).

After all, you’re just as big a part of this blog’s ongoing growth and experimentation as I am – so don’t be shy in letting me know what you think!

Note: Due to a current glitch between my theme and Inline Comments, I’ve reverted to native WordPress comments using wpDiscuz for now. Once the glitch is resolved, I’ll switch hybrid comments back on – thanks!

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