Interacting with your readers is an important part of running a blog. Which is why I am always looking for ways to encourage readers to give feedback on articles I have written. One way to do this is to make it easier for people to leave a comment.
A popular way of doing this is to install the DISQUS commentating plugin, which is being used by many top blogs such as Mashable. Whilst I do like the DISQUS system, I’m reluctant to use an external comment system like this on my blog as there are a lot of limitations (particularly with integrating comments with other plugins on your site).
Comment using Facebook and Twitter
Recently I’ve seen a lot of blogs add an option to the comment area which lets users leave a comment using their FaceBook or Twitter login. This is a great feature to add as if the user is already logged in to FaceBook or Twitter (active users usually are) they only need to click on the authorise button before leaving a comment (rather than entering their name, email and website).
The plugins come with a main authorisation plugin and several additional plugins. Each additional plugin gives you more functionality and uses the main plugin file to connect to either Twitter or Facebook. The plugin which lets users comment using Facebook or Twitter is aptly called Comments.
Simple Twitter Connect
Simple Twitter Connect is easy to set up and comes with several add on plugins such as a Twitter user login, Tweetmeme button and an auto-tweet new posts function.
The settings area is very easy to setup. All you need to do is enter your Twitter Consumer Key and Twitter Consumer Secret. To get these you need to register an application at Twitter. It’s relatively easy to follow though if you are unsure I recommend checking out Shannon Whitleys short guide on filling out the application form.
Simple Facebook Connect
Simple Facebook Connect works in the same way as Simple Twitter Connect. It has several add on plugins such as a bookmark widget, a share button and fan box.
For Facebook connect you need to enter the Facebook Application Key, Application Secret and Application ID. To get these you need to create a Facebook Application so that people can login via Facebook through your site.
Notes on how you integrate both of these plugins with your site can be found in the readme files. Essentially, all you need to do is activate the plugin, make sure the settings are correct, and enter the following code in your comments template:
<div id="comment-user-details"> <?php do_action('alt_comment_login'); ?> </div>
I’m glad they set it up in this way as when you hard code it into your template you can place the links exactly where you want them. What’s even better is that the code above will add both the Facebook and Twitter login links to your comment area. So whether you use the Twitter Connect plugin, the Facebook Connect plugin, or both; you still only need to enter the code mentioned above.
Once you have done so you will have something like this:
Limitations of Simple Connect Plugins
I was really impressed with how easy these plugins were to setup and how easily they integrated into the comment area of a WordPress website.
I played around with the plugins for an hour or so but in the end I decided not to use them on WP Mods because of one major limitation. Unfortunately, in order for these plugins to work correctly you need to go to your discussions settings page and uncheck the ‘Comment author must fill out name and e-mail ‘ box. Doing so allows the connection plugins to work correctly. If this is not done the comments will not be processed as WordPress will ask for a name and an email address.
However it is not advisable to allow people to comment without entering their name and email address. You will get a little spam from humans but you will likely get a lot more from automated spam scripts.
Strangely, the main problem I had with this setup was comment spam. The main problem was that all of the test comments I submitted when signed in through Twitter or Facebook went straight to the WordPress spam folder. This effectively makes the plugins useless as all comments from Twitter and Facebook users will go to the spam bin unless you manually override them.
Nevertheless, I wanted to share both of these plugins with you all today as I believe that once this small problem has been addressed they will be an incredibly useful addition to anyones comment area.
Many users appear to be using these simple connect plugins with no problems so I encourage you to try them out yourself if you have time.