Livefyre is a 3rd party commenting service that replaces the default WordPress comment system. It has many great features such as the ability to sync discussions from Facebook and Twitter, logging in through a variety of services and a great tagging system that encourages others to join in the discussion.
Like its main competitors Disqus and IntenseDebate, all comments are synced back to your WordPress website so that comments are stored on your own database too. This is an essential feature as it means that you are not tied to any one system and can revert back to the WordPress commenting system or switch to a different external commenting service at any time.
Livefyre has been live on WP Mods for around 6 days now. In this review I will be looking at its strengths and weaknesses and explain why I chose Livefyre over its alternatives. Before I do so, I would like to talk about why I removed the comment system that WordPress uses.
Why I A Changing The Comment System ON WP Mods
I reviewed the comment system used here around 4 months ago. At first I replaced the default WordPress commenting system with Facebook comments as I didn’t want to use the default system any more.
For a few days you could only leave a comment on WP Mods using Facebook but I changed this a few days later when the Facebook comment system went down completely, leaving readers no way of leaving a comment on Facebook. Since then WP Mods readers could reply using Facebook comments or using the regular WordPress comment form. This was something that I didn’t want to have long term as the discussion gets split up.
Over the last few weeks the same old problems have arisen with the default WordPress system. Spam messages have increased and many commentators leave their website name instead of their first name (even though no PR juice is passed). I love how easy it is for people to leave comments using Facebook however I don’t want discussions to be divided so I feel that one comment system rather than two is the best solution. Plus, it would be good to make it easier for readers to leave comments using Twitter, Google+ and other services.
Disqus, IntenseDebate & LiveFyre
I briefly looked at Disqus and IntenseDebate at the end of 2010. Disqus is arguably the most popular 3rd party commenting service online today, being used on many large sites such as Engadget. Despite IntenseDebate being developed by the makers of WordPress, it has never as popular.
I read a lot of reviews for all 3 commenting services. The vast majority tend to favour Disqus or Livefyre. The best comparison I’ve found for both these services was written by Adam Saverian a few months ago on The Online Business Hour. In his Disqus vs LiveFyre Review Adam looked at the strengths and weaknesses of both services.
There really isn’t much to separate the two. They both feature advanced notification systems, real time commenting that lets you see new comments without refreshing the page, mobile commenting and admin and 3rd party login via Facebook, Twitter, Google, OpenID and LinkedIn.
A few things attracted me to LiveFyre though. In particular, the ability to tag people from Facebook and Twitter is a great feature that encourages others to join the discussion. I was also swayed by how pro-active Livefyre have been with support since they launched. Livefyre staff such as Jenna Langer have been actively responding to suggestions and providing support to users via email and through blog posts and Twitter.
I have nothing against Disqus though. It’s a great system and I was very close to using it here. As I said, there really is very little to separate the two when it comes to features.
Livefyre Commenting System
Installing Livefyre on your website only takes a few minutes. After installing the Livefyre Realtime Comments plugin and signing up for a Livefyre account you need to export all of your existing comments to your account.
I initially had a problem with all comments syncing from Livefyre back to WP Mods however this seemed to resolve itself after a day or so. Directly after I installed Livefyre I contacted their support team with a question about syncing and a few other issues I was unsure about. Even though I emailed them on Friday night around 1am, I got a long detailed reply a few hours later. Over the last week they have emailed me a few times to help me understand how Livefyre works. I can’t think of many free services that offer this level of support.
One of the issues I raised in my email was syncing Facebook and Twitter discussions. Livefyre allows Facebook discussions and Twitter comments about your posts to be added to the comment area. This isn’t happening with WP Mods because of the way I have synced posts to Twitter and Facebook. In order to keep Twitter and Facebook fans up to date with the latest WP Mods I use TwitterFeed to update Twitter and RSS Graffiti to update Facebook.
The problem is that I use Feedburner to deliver my RSS feed. This means that the updates on Twitter and Facebook reply on Feedburner to post updates. Livefyre requires the WordPress permalink to sync discussions from Facebook (apparently Twitter will work with Feedburner though I’m not 100% sure of this). Unfortunately this means that the previous Facebook discussions that been going on here over the last few months are lost.
This is a shame though it’s not a major inconvenience as most comments were still being posted via the WordPress comment system over the last few months so everything is not lost. When I launched WP Mods I tried a few plugins that posted to Twitter and Facebook though I found the combination of TwitterFeed and RSS Graffiti to be the most reliable. Going forward, I will need to look into a replacement for posting updates to the WP Mods Twitter account and Facebook fan page.
The one thing that I hate about Livefyre is that by default all comments are ordered by newest first. This is very strange to me as in order to follow a discussion from the start you need to scroll down to the bottom of a comment area and then scroll back up. It’s not a major problem for posts with just a few comments however this would be a real pain for posts with dozens or even hundreds of comments (I realise that many top blogs post newest comments first though for smaller blogs I believe oldest first is better).
The order of comments can be changed though you can’t change the default setting. Livefyre have advised that they are planning to let users change the order comments by default soon (which I’m very glad about!).
I’m aware that some users don’t like using 3rd party commenting services however overall I am really impressed with Livefyre so far. I don’t have any more problems with Spam (as yet), the like option allows people to say thanks to those who have left good comments and similar to the CommentLuv plugin, the latest blog post is shown for those who sign up to Livefyre. The latest blog post option is a welcome feature though I noticed that my comment in my Useful WordPress Plugins For Changing To A New Design linked to edit category (http://blog.wphub.com/adding-metadata-taxonomy-terms/edit-category/). This is clearly a bug that needs to be fixed though it seems to work well most of the time.
Many users don’t like the fact that administrating comments takes place outside of the WordPress admin area though it isn’t a major problem for me as it’s very easy to use. It’s much easier than WordPress to find specific comments due to the vast number of filters. You can filter comments by their state (published, pending etc), flag (spam, off topic etc) and source (Livefyre, Twitter 6 Facebook). You can also search by keywords or by username.
For each comment you can see the comment ID, IP address and it’s history from submission to approval. Via the buttons you can delete the comment, add a note about the comment, ban the user or whitelist them so that their comments are always approved. I particularly like the whitelist option. If you actively whitelist comments from good commenters you can ensure that their comments are never marked as spam.
It’s very easy to change the styling of your comment area. All you need to do is download the CSS from this file and add it to your stylesheet. Any changes that you make to this code will override the default styling.
Whilst it’s fairly easy to override the CSS styling of the comment area, I think a user friendly style editor for users who aren’t comfortable coding would be a great addition. This would allow users to customise their comment area directly through their Livefyre account. A basic style editor that allowed colour changes, font style and font sizes would be great (and those who want to customise the area more could modify the styling via the stylesheet). For most people a basic editor is all that is needed as the default layout of Livefyre looks great.
There doesn’t seem to be any way to customise author posts to distinguish them from other comments though I’m sure this is something that will be introduced in the future.
I´ve been using Livefyre for less than a week however I am very happy with the service so far. Once I change how I update Facebook and Twitter with new posts I will have a comment system that shows the whole discussion – from WP Mods, from Facebook and from Twitter. It isn’t a complete service and there are bound to be things that you love and other things you hate though Livefyre have proven to be very responsive to suggestions from the community since their launch so I expect more great features to be introduced in 2012.
I haven’t used Disqus on a live website though from what I can see there isn’t much between the two services at this point of time so if you are swaying between the two I recommend giving both a try and seeing which one you prefer.
What are your thoughts on Livefyre? Do you prefer the in built commenting system from WordPress or another 3rd party service such as IntenseDebate or Disqus?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the commenting service so please leave a comment if you have time :)