Some of you might have noticed that there have been some changes in the way readers can interact with g-loaded.eu over the last month. Comments and trackbacks are being disabled 20-30 days after the publication of a post, while a new facility, a discussion board, has been set up in order to compensate for the loss of this functionality. The bbPress forum software has been chosen to serve as the bulletin board. In this post I will try to outline the reasons that lead to this policy change and also explain why bbPress was chosen among many other forum software.
One might think that integrating a forum in a blog is pure nonsense, since the blog platform, WordPress in our case, already includes a comment system. I would agree with that for those blogs which serve as diaries or as a place where one can freely express his/her opinion about various topics or events that are all over the news, but, for a blog which hosts technical or howto articles, tips, software etc, I would say that the comment system, not only is inadequate, but also, under certain circumstances, it can harm the web site in a variety of ways.
- A blog that hosts articles or software needs to provide the reader with a way to report problems, make suggestions etc. The WordPress comment system may seem adequate for this type of communication, at least for the first 20-25 comments, but, when their number grows bigger than that, then various problems may rise. The page length might grow to an unexpected amount of bytes, which, not only adds unnecessary load to the server, but also, it gives the readers a hard time while the webpage is loading. Moreover, depending on the quality of the comments (language, duplicate feedback, etc), it might make the article page less attractive to a search engine. One could suggest to use the alternate
comments-popupWordPress template, but this would not improve the comments page load time. A possible solution would be to use a plugin that displays comments in pages, but, admitedly, from the reader’s perspective, this would not be a convenient way of following the discussion. All these, combined with the fact that wordpress does not provide a facility to search comments by default, make the idea of adding a forum to the blog not seem that nonsense after all.
- Another reason for integrating a forum in a technical WordPress blog is that it makes dealing with spam easier. As I have written earlier, disabling comments in such a blog is not an option. Readers need to leave feedback. So, comments need to be left enabled practically forever. On the other hand, it is well known that there are numerous spiders that crawl the web on behalf of spammers. Once your website has been indexed by those spiders, then the usual automated comment submissions are what consumes your bandwidth and ruins your web site access statistics. By adding a discussion system under a single path, eg g-loaded forums makes it easier to control spam attempts or isolate them when analyzing the web site traffic. Even if a spam message sneaks into the forum, which is very unlikely as I will explain later, it will definitely won’t be under your published article, but under the less important forum path. Last but not least, forums usually require that users register with the web site in order to post, which is another important measure against automatic message submissions.
So, after some thought I decided to proceed into writing a small plugin for WordPress which gives the administrator the ability to control whether comments and pingbacks are enabled or not on all posts that have been published before a specified number of days. This plugin is in alpha stage, so I haven’t made a release yet. It is too bad that WordPress does not provide such functionality by default. I could discuss further about the possible reasons for this behaviour, but this is not what I’d like to do right now.
From now on, comments on the blog, without the requirement of registration, will be left enabled for the very first days after the publication of a post. Further discussion will take place in the forum, in which you will need to register. This will be permanent.
I have chosen bbPress as the forum backend application. This might change in the future, but for now it seems to serve quite well.
Here are the reasons why I have made this choice:
- bbPress is extremely lightweight with only the absolutely necessary feature set. On the other hand, like WordPress, it features a flexible plugin system which makes the addition of new features easy.
- bbPress is being developed by those people who are involved in the WordPress development. This gives some assurance that the integration of bbPress into WordPress (users, theme, etc) will be rather easy.
- It supports Akismet. All posts that contain hyperlinks or are identified as spam are held for moderation.
- Based on some internal rules, it automatically marks some registered user accounts (mainly accounts intended for spam) as bozos.
- It supports adding tags to posts.
- It supports the editting of a post by its poster after it has been posted.
- All hyperlinks have the “nofollow” relation, thus discouraging potential spammers or those who care only for promoting their own websites by posting stupid messages.
Note: Actually, hyperlinks inside posts do not have the nofollow relation. I have written a very small plugin for bbPress (this is an one-liner) that adds nofollow to all hyperlinks inside posts when the latter are publicly displayed.
You can download it here: nofollow-posts.zip
How to install: create a directory named “my-plugins” under the root dir of your bbpress forum and throw
nofollow-posts.php in this directory. Enjoy!
The bbPress for WordPress by George Notaras, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.