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A guide to new commenting features on our website

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 31, 2013, 3 p.m.

The commenting system on isn’t much different than when we launched this version of our website four years ago. We’ve added a few small features here and there, but The Spokesman-Review development team is small, and we have a lot of projects vying for our time. As long as comments kept working, our development priorities have been elsewhere.

But toward the end of last year, we started considering how we might improve the commenting experience here. We want to raise the level of discussion, and the first way we’re going to approach that is by giving all our commenters a much more powerful tool. This afternoon we’ll be switching our comment threads over to a system called Disqus.

It’s one of the best commenting systems on the web right now, in use at large sites like CNN and NPR. We like it because it gives people far more control over the way they engage in discussions, and it provides some awesome features that we’d never have time to develop on our own. Here’s an overview of the change:

First, what stays the same

You can continue commenting on under the same username, with the same login you’ve always used. We’ve integrated Disqus with our site accounts, so if you’re logged in here, you’re automatically logged in for commenting, too. We’ve also transferred over all the comments ever left on — yep, more than half a million of them — so your old posts won’t disappear. (There might be a few hours’ worth of comments missing when we first flip the switch to Disqus, but we’ll pick those up, too.)

You’ll also find that features you’re used to, such as flagging inappropriate comments or using HTML tags in your posts, are still around. You don’t have to take advantage of any new features from Disqus. If you don’t, you won’t notice much difference beyond the comment box below stories getting a little shinier.

What’s new

The list of new features is pretty long, and if you want to dig in, there’s a great guide here. I’ll highlight a few things we think commenters will really like:

  • Disqus lets you reply directly to another comment, and your new post will nest right below it in that comment thread. This makes it a lot easier to follow (or hide) individual conversations, and is a feature that many readers have wanted for some time. You can even @mention other readers in your comments.
  • Readers have also asked for an editing function, so they can fix mistakes in their own comments. This is built into Disqus.
  • One more thing our readers have wanted: the ability to “like” other comments. That’s built in, too.
  • If you click the “Discussion” tab above any comment thread, you can sort posts in a few ways, starting with the traditional “newest first” and “oldest first.” You can also sort by “best,” which pulls the posts with the most upvotes to the top. Our comment threads will remember your preference here, so choose whatever you like.
  • The “Community” tab above every comment thread gives you an overview of discussions across this entire website, so you can see what’s getting talked about.
  • At the bottom of every comment thread, you can subscribe to alerts so you won’t miss any new posts on that page. Or you can “star” a comment thread to get the best comments from it added to an email digest.
  • If you click on another commenter’s name, you’ll see all their recent comments. If you like what they have to say, hit the “Follow” button and their posts will show up in your “My Disqus” tab.
  • Your Disqus profile gives you a dashboard for keeping track of the conversations you’re involved in. It also provides some powerful notification tools, so you can add email alerts for conversations that you care about.
  • If you want, you can add other social-media profiles to your commenting account, which makes it easy to share posts with your Facebook and Twitter friends.

How do I change my comment nickname or avatar?

When we switched our commenting system to Disqus, we imported all the comments you ever left so we could preserve that history. This created an automatic Disqus profile linked to your Spokesman account, using your current username and avatar. And if you’re happy with the name and photo that appears next to your comments right now, feel free to ignore the rest of this section!

If you’d like to take more control over the way your comments are presented, though, all you need to do is “claim” that Disqus account. Then you can change your name, photo, and plenty of other things.

If you’re brand new to Disqus

1) First, follow this link and click “sign up with an email address.” You’ll be creating a Disqus profile that you control, not The Spokesman-Review.

2) Create this profile with the same email address you used for your Spokesman account. You’ll make this next part much easier if you do. Your username here isn’t particularly important; it doesn’t need to be the same as your Spokesman name, and you’ll be able to change the nickname next to your comments regardless.

3) Disqus will send you a verification email; click the link inside of it and visit your new dashboard.

4) From your Disqus dashboard, click your profile image at upper right and choose “Edit Profile.” You’ll see a “Merging” tab and, assuming you followed Step 2, a message saying “We think we’ve found other profiles that belong to you…”

5) Click “Merge Profiles”!

Once that’s done, your Disqus profile will give you complete control over your commenting experience here, and at many other websites, too. If you want to change the nickname that appears next to your comment, click on the “Profile” tab and enter whatever you like under “Full Name.” Other tabs let you control things like email alerts and so on. Give things like name changes a little bit, because it may take a short time for your changes to move throughout the entire Disqus system.

I know that our comments transition has been seamless for some people, but not for everyone. If you’re having trouble with this, please email me and I’m more than happy to help you through it.

If you have Spokesman comments and you already had a separate Disqus account

There’s a guide to merging accounts here; the section about “Single Sign-On profiles” is what we’re working with.

If your existing Disqus account and your Spokesman account used the same email address, you’re halfway home. Just choose “Edit Profile” from your Disqus dashboard, and look for the “Merging” tab. To claim all your Spokesman comments, choose “Merge Profiles” and you’re done.

If your existing Disqus account uses a different email address, you can still claim your Spokesman comments with it. You’ll need to follow the “Guest comments” section here, temporarily switching your email address and then putting it back.

Again, merging accounts may take a short time move throughout the entire Disqus system. if you run into any kind of trouble with this, please email me and I’m happy to help.


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