I’ve changed a few things about the comments around here.
The regular WordPress policy is to put a “nofollow” tag on the comments so that search engines will not give “credit” to the website of the person who left the comment. The idea is to take away a lot of the incentive for spamming comments. It happens anyway, but at least the process is made less rewarding for the spammer. In theory.
But this means treating all commenters like spammers, which I dislike. In any case, it’s a needless policy on my site, since my anti-spam measures block 99.99% of it, and I manually delete the rest. The upshot is that I don’t have spam comments, and so treating all commenters like spammers because some of them might be spammers is silly. So, I turned off the “nofollow” thing. This means that if you leave a comment and provide the URL to your website, you will get “credit” for the link.
The other thing I did this weekend was add support for Gravatars.
I saw Gravatars in action in the comments at Terminally Incoherent, and thought it looked really cool. Long threads can get confusing when you’re trying to keep track of who said what. I’ve found I remember “faces” better than names (even if the faces are just abstract icons or logos or whatever) and so when everyone has their own icon I find the whole thing easier to follow.
This is one of those things I’ve been waiting for someone to invent. I hate how you can’t have personalized icons when you comment at a blog, and I hate uploading the same user icon every time I join a new forum. Gravatar can, in theory, solve both problems. Once you set up a Gravatar it then becomes a “portable” avatar that you can take with you to other websites and forums – provided they support Gravatars. If you change your Gravatar, you don’t have to go to a half dozen different sites and make the change manually. It just happens.
It sounded really cool. It was very easy to code. It’s based on email, so (in theory) if a user has a Gravatar all they need to do is supply the email address when they leave a comment, and their avatar icon will show up.
Sadly, after setting it up and putting it into place I realized that nobody uses it. At least, nobody around here. I checked some of the old comment threads (from back in the days when I used to get 100+ comments) and not a single avatar showed up. Sigh.
I’ve left Gravatar support in place to see if it catches on. We’ll see.
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