Once a blog decides to allow comments, the editors have a huge decision to make: should the commenting be done through a system that already exists, like Disqus or Facebook, or should they hire an IT team to create their own system? Switching between systems too often requires commenters to learn new skills each time. It also often culminates in lots of complaining about change and having to learn said new skills.
Disqus is a java-enabled code that anyone can sign up for to add to their blog. Because its free and easily customizable, this is a very popular commenting platform–Disqus even showcases the blogs such as AV Club and Time on their site.
Once a user is logged into Disqus, she can comment on a number of sites. A profile is created, which allows other users to see every comment she has made. Trolls and those who wish to remain anonymous on certain sites dislike this feature, but an anonymous commenting option is available.
In 2011 (and much earlier for other sites), WordPress gave their users access to a plugin that allowed commenters to use their Facebook and Twitter accounts to log in and comment on WordPress-powered blogs. This connects comments to a user’s Facebook or Twitter account, forcing the user to commit to an identity or use her own name. While this seems to be popular amongst bloggers because it cuts down on time-consuming spam, most commenters hate it because they cannot be anonymous.
In fact, when Choire Sicha, the editor of the The Awl asked his readers for thoughts on commenting systems earlier this year, many of them pleaded “no Facebook!” Koko posted “Agreed on the no Facebook verification, though. I don’t like posting any personal info on Facebook, and I like being able to put anything in the comments here.” Anything a commenter posts about, say, their job, with the Facebook system, can be traced back to them. Therefore, if the comments are not anonymous a blog might not be getting the best and most useful comments it can get.
It’s not always smart for blogs to radically change commenting systems–they might lose readers who come for the commenting, even if they don’t care about the commenters themselves.
While the AV Club does use Disqus, they have customized it by attaching it to their own notification feature. Right now, this feature is only available for TV shows*, but users can sign up to receive notifications when shows they like are mentioned in articles or reviews. This helps increase blog traffic, comment numbers and allows users to find information on their favorite shows quickly.
The notifications add another layer of humor to the already-hilarious TV Club commenters. Even when a show is mentioned in passing in a article, the editor often sets up a notification for it. For instance, for this interview with the creator of Get a Life, I got notifications that four shows I follow were mentioned in an article: Louie, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock and Community. All of these were David Mirkin mentioning current shows he likes.
This comment thread, which extends on either side of the screencap I posted, shows both commenters’ ire towards the notifications but also their sly humor.
*I don’t know why this does not exist for the other AV Club topics. I believe it’s because TV shows are written about and reviewed with someone regularity, unlike a movie, which is covered the week before it opens and then when the DVD is issued. They could have directors and actors as people to “follow” but that would require some code changing.