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Trial of possible new commenting system on RichardDawkins.net

Trial of possible new commenting system on RichardDawkins.net

As you know, we are planning a major redesign of the site over the coming months, but in the meantime we are keen to improve the commenting system to make it more user-friendly.

We know that you have strong views on what does and does not work for you, so we are planning to trial a possible alternative commenting system and get your feedback on it before making a final decision about it.

The system we will be trialling is called Disqus, and you can find out more about it here. It is used by many other major websites, including TIME and CNN, and it offers much of the functionality you requested in the site redesign input thread.

In the course of the next day or so we will be posting a couple of trial articles to allow you to try out the Disqus system. Only these trial articles will use Disqus for now: all other threads will continue as they are. Please try them out, experiment with the formatting, quoting, linking and other features, and please post on those threads to let us know how you get on with it (we won't worry about Off-Topic comments for once!)

The Disqus system offers, among other things:

HTML tags for flexibility and control in formatting, linking, etc
A number of html tags are supported. For the complete list of permitted html tags, please click here. Also there is automatic formatting of url’s to turn them into links. For example if you type http://google.com you’ll see that it is automatically translated into a link.

Subscription
You can subscribe to e-mail feeds and be notified when new comments are made on the threads of your choice. The subscription system is quite flexible, and you can set it up so that you are notified of a range of different activities on the site.

RSS feeds

Support for Gravatars
If you already are using a Gravatar it will automatically be incorporated.

Other
Some of you are probably familiar with Disqus from other sites, in which case you'll know that it can offer the facility to have nested comments. We know some of you were very keen on this idea and others hated it. We have thought about it very carefully and have decided not to go down the nested comments route. Nested commenting makes it very difficult to spot new replies to earlier posts, even when the thread is relatively short. On a site like RichardDawkins.net, where threads often extend over several pages, we think it would just be unmanageable: a new reply posted to comment 12 on a thread which was already up to comment 369 would be completely lost. It would also make the task of moderating the site much more difficult. We did consider offering it as a user-controlled option but in the end decided against that too: users phrase their responses differently in a nested environment, where it is obvious which post they are replying to - they can be less assiduous about quoting specific parts of the original post, for instance; but if that response is being viewed by someone on the chronological setting, it will no longer be clear exactly what is being responded to, and great confusion could result. We know some of you will be unhappy with this decision, but we hope you will understand our reasons for making it.

Finally, we must stress that this is just a trial and we have not yet made a decision to proceed with Disqus. There are some issues with it which we would need to find a way of resolving before going ahead, and we are also very keen to receive your feedback about it. Even if it turns out that we don't proceed with Disqus, it will still be useful to get your feedback on the functionality it offers, as that would be helpful in identifying an alternative system if necessary.

So once the trial articles are up, please play around with them, test the system, and let us know your likes and dislikes. Also, of course, if you have any difficulty using it, please let us know that too and we'll try to help.

NOTE: this article post DOES NOT use Disqus - the editor that you've been using on this site is still in place for comments here.

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